Henryville, Ind., artist earns
Sherrard gained fame when she painted
the Clintons’ ‘Socks’ the cat
(July 2014) – While much of Henryville, Ind., artist Sue Sherrard’s work reflects an appreciation of the past, her most famous painting was sparked by more current events. After seeing news reports of a young Chelsea Clinton mocked for her cat, she had a dream that she painted the distinctive black and white feline.
Photo by Lela Jane Bradshaw
Sue Sherrard inspires budding artists and sells her own work at her studio in Henryville, Ind. She only began painting seriously at age 50.
“I dreamed I sent it to the president,” she recalls with a smile.
While her husband, Darrell, was eager to see Sherrard pursue art as a full time occupation, he was less enthusiast about her idea for a painting. “A cat won’t sell,” he told her.
Undaunted, Sherrard, 71, painted “Socks, The Mischievous White House Cat,” capturing the presidential pet in a cookie jar. She sent the first print to the president, and the attention from the media and political figures helped to jumpstart her budding art career. In addition to hanging in a White House hallway, the picture found its way to Washington gift shops, Arkansas banks and a museum in France. “Socks was my baby,” she says of the 1994 painting.
Her work was soon in the art collections of many Indiana political officials including governors Frank O’Bannon and Evan Bayh. She was touched when former Indiana Congressman Barron Hill selected her picture of a log cabin to take to his office in Washington because it reminded him of his home state. Former state representative Elmer Hoehn told Sherrard, “Your art is just like looking at photos; it captures you and pulls you in.”
“When you’re painting, you’re in that painting; nothing else matters,” she said. Sherrard explains that being an artist impacts the way that she looks at the world. “You see more – a lot of people just look through things. I wish everyone would just not miss what is out there.” She smiles that after traveling with her so much her husband has started to mention the sweep of a mountain or the colors of the sky in ways that he never did before, “I’ve changed him.”
While Sher-rard loved art all her life and was rarely without a drawing pad when she was in school, it was not until she was 50 that she seriously began to pursue painting. She spent many years working in the medical field, setting her art aside thinking, “Someone from a little town in Kentucky can’t go anywhere with that.” She enjoyed her medical work and appreciated the opportunity to meet and get to know a variety of people, “But I still felt something missing, now I feel whole.”
Yet, despite her success, a chance accident almost ended Sherrard’s painting career. “I just got a splinter,” she says, and when she went to a doctor to have it removed, he “probed and pushed ‘til he tore all the nerves.”
The damage left her finger so sensitive she was unable to hold a paintbrush. She connected with a doctor “who wanted me to paint again.” When four major surgeries failed to repair the damage, he had her fitted with a prosthetic to protect her finger while she painted. After much struggle and many dropped paintbrushes, Sherrard finally completed a picture of a house in the snow. She titled the piece “Serenity” in honor of her accomplishment and that picture would later bring her to the attention of yet another enthusiastic collector.
Sherrard speaks at area schools, sharing her story and encouraging students to pursue their talents. “I just talk from my heart and tell them that you can have a dream. It seems like today they’re trying to take that away from people. I want the young people to know if you work hard enough, you can follow your dream.”
Over the years, Sherrard and her husband have traveled extensively as she sold her work across the country, with her art now in all 50 states. Her trips inspired her to bring back art and jewelry to her shop in Indiana to share the unique pieces with others. At her “Art by the Lake Studio and Gallery,” visitors can find not only Sherrard’s own oil paintings and prints, but handmade pottery and carved gourds by Arizona artists. Sherrard and her husband typically spend their winters in the Southwest, where she hunts at rock and gem shows for rare minerals and unique jewelry. Her shop has gathered many followers for the sterling silver jewelry set with opals, amethyst and topaz, as well as the classic turquoise.
“People looking for turquoise can’t find it around here,” she says. “It’s getting very scarce. A lot of the mines have closed. We have got the most beautiful country in the world,” she says reflecting on her travels, and appreciates that her shop allows her to share the work and stories of artists she has met on her trips with others.
Her gallery has proven a favorite place with many children, and Sherrard enjoys seeing their eyes light up when they come in off the school bus. She laughs that they study each rock carefully, intent on choosing just the perfect souvenir of their trip.
“I have been so blessed for years. I’ve had my dream, I’ve lived my dream, and I want other to live their dreams.”
• Art by the Lake Studio and Gallery is located at 21505 Hwy. 31 North in Henryville. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1-5 p.m. Sundays. Call (812) 294-4179.
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