Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Interview with Cherry Baumbusch

Scottsdale Valley by Cherry Baumbusch

Cherry Baumbusch is currently on travel. She divides her time primarily between Scottsdale, Arizona and her home studio in Washington, DC where she paints while usually listening to jazz or Spanish guitar. Among her work are abstracts, animal portraits, florals and landscapes - inspired by places she's visited and lived, including Dubai. She is a native to the DC area, having been raised on a farm in a small town just outside the capital.

She completed this interview from a restaurant in Sedona, Arizona. Her website is and you can also find her on Facebook. We interviewed Cherry about her approach to painting, and how art can inspire us to conceive a better world…

Arts Community Connection: One thing I notice about your work is the diversity of it: diversity of subjects, color, style and materials - from animals to landscapes to floral art... What did you paint when you first began painting? 

Cherry: I first started painting about 15 years ago, and one of the first things I created after taking art classes was a landscape of the Potomac River with the cherry blossoms in bloom using watercolor and ink on paper. It was abstract and had a very Asian feel. The painting was shown during a student exhibition, and it was the first painting to sell. After that, I was hooked on painting...especially nature.

Rottweiler by Cherry Baumbusch

ACC: You create some very realist images (such as your dog paintings and some landscapes), as well as - self-described - abstract images. And it seems that sometimes your work sort of bridges, or plays in the area between the two categories. Could you elaborate on your style? 

Cherry: Great question. I choose a subject to paint, sketch it out, and then paint in whatever style seems to speak to me from the canvas - or the panel sketch - and the nature of the subject. For example, I was just commissioned to paint a great white pyrenees, and I told the client I would do it in oil. It was a large canvas, and as I started sketching it out on the canvas in charcoal, the large white dog just took on its own charcoal. So I called the client and told her to come over and have a look, since that dog needed to be in charcoal, with a touch of pink pastel for the tongue of course! I always paint to music in the background, generally jazz or Spanish guitar. The painting takes on the beat and spirit of the music I am listening to at the time.

ACC: I know you travel frequently and this must inspire your work. Is there one place that feels the most inspiring? 

Cherry: I have been in the desert the most in my recent travels away from Washington, since we lived in Dubai for a few years and we now have a winter home in Scottsdale. In Dubai, I painted using a lot of color, as I needed to bring color into my life amid what - to me - was a fairly stark landscape. I was raised on a farm outside of DC with a large flower garden in the back yard. I am used to living in a colorful environment, so painting is my opportunity to create my own color wherever I am. In my studio in Scottsdale, the first thing I painted was “Raki", a colorful camel whose name actually comes from the licorice-flavored Turkish liquor we drank in the Middle East. 

My next painting in Scottsdale was "Phoenix", a giant red cardinal that hangs over our bar in the living room. The Phoenix Cardinals are the local NFL team, and since the cardinal is also the state bird of Virginia, one of my first bird paintings in Virginia was a cardinal. I am learning the new colors of the Arizona desert and mountains, especially the gorgeous sunsets over our valley view, that are very different from the east coast sunsets. 

Before my desert experience, I painted a lot of water scenes, from my travels to beach areas in Delaware and California. The moving water has it’s own spirit, but the desert wind and bird calls do too.

ACC: I saw, online, a watercolor you'd done of a pink flower with a Rumi poem written beside it. It's lovely. What insight does this give to your methods? Was this planned...contemplated, or did you create it on a whim? How often do you paint spontaneously? 

Cherry: Unless I am commissioned for a piece, I almost always paint spontaneously. I created two abstract landscapes in Dubai with Rumi’s poem “The Breeze at Dawn” in the Asian style of my first Potomac river painting, as I was a bit homesick for DC. The paintings sold in Dubai, and I wanted another Rumi word/art painting in DC with that specific poem, so I painted the one on the website while looking at a flower in my Georgetown garden for an exhibition we had at the Arts Club of Washington's Spilsbury Gallery. I was introduced to Rumi’s spiritual poetry in Dubai, and I tend to wake up early in the morning and meditate outside for a while. The first line of his poem is: “The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you, don’t go back to sleep". Very appropriate for me!

Atlantic Reflections by Cherry Baumbusch

ACCWhen you do plan a painting, what is that process like? 

Cherry: If commissioned, I talk with the client to determine what they want and what feeling they hope to get out of the painting. If it is an animal painting, I like to meet the animal if possible, look into its eyes and get a feel for its personality. I do some research into the subject, sketch it out, then decide what medium to use, and whether it should be on canvas, paper or panel. I use photographs for reference, so I like to have several photographs of the subject to look at it in various environments and positions.

ACCDo you have a favorite work? 

Cherry: They are all my babies, but I am partial to “The Square”, which I painted in Dubai. I was concerned about the workers’ rights in Dubai, and I was touched that no matter how hard they worked, they still wore neat uniforms and seemed cheerful while waiting in line for the abra boat taxis at the Dubai Creek to take them to their destinations at the end of the day. They sometimes would hold hands and carry their lunch boxes as they walked, and they blended into the crowd as a mass. I photographed groups at the Dubai Creek harbor, and painted several versions of these human masses. The Square represents pride, and I first called it “Moving Positively Forward”, when I sold the original small watercolor in Dubai. When I sold a large giclee of it in DC, I named it "The Square". I can make giclee prints of any of my paintings in various sizes, but I prefer to paint from scratch.

ACCIs there a question you've always wanted to be asked? 

Cherry: How can you use your art to help the world?

ACCWhat is your answer?

Cherry: I was involved in a humanitarian project a few years ago which we called "Picture a Better World", and I designed greeting cards and textile art for my Rotary Club’s exchange program in Southern Africa raising money for AIDS orphans. That project has evolved into the current MicheLo project, started by my friends and fellow Rotarians Dr. Lois Wilson and Michelle Peters, and which is shown on my website. I would like to do something like that again, to use the beauty that I find in art for goodwill and to promote peace in the world.   

(Jameson Freeman interviewed Cherry Baumbusch on behalf of the Arts Community Connection)

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