Cindy Berry Sullivan entered Fika Coffeehouse on Mainstreet in a swirl of color. She wore a floral shirt wrapped in an orange shawl, and her dangly green earrings hung alongside her face-framing curls. She saw my black Moleskine notebook open on the table, full of questions waiting for her to answer, and enthusiastically asked, "Do you journal?"
That’s how the interview went. I actually didn’t end up referring to my questions in the journal at all, as we chatted about life and art for about ten minutes before diving face first in her creative process. She opened her iPad and revealed image after image of her work—vignettes of bustling downtown streets, tender images of her six-year-old step-granddaughter, and life-sized renderings of Elvis. Though she has a background in traditional painting and drawing media, now she focuses on digital art.
For Cindy, the arts are a way of connecting and being present. She spent most of her adulthood popping through different parts of the United States due to job transfers. As a voracious learner, no time was wasted. In Connecticut, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Education. Pittsburgh provided her with the museums galore, creative writing classes, and an enlightening group of filmmakers. In Florida she found the Armory Art Center, as well as some incredible teachers. In Las Vegas she shed her fear of performance arts by doing public paintings on enormous canvases. Though Cindy is especially inspired by movement (more on that later), she was grateful when Annapolis, Maryland, taught her how to put down roots.
In Annapolis, Cindy started to do live drawings. She would park her truck and draw what she saw on site. She would attend concerts and draw the musicians as they performed. Coffee shops became potential canvases, as every person present was a possible muse.
So, when Cindy and her husband moved to Parker exactly one year ago, she had a system for connecting with the community:
Step 1: Go where the people are.
Step 2: Draw them.
As an artist who focuses on people and places, movement is a key feature of Cindy’s artwork. Her expressive style uses mark and color to convey emotion. From squirmy kids to jumping crowds, she has mastered the art of capturing invisible energy.
Cindy was born with an essential tremor that causes involuntary shaking in her hands. However, the tremor translates to an energy in her work that couldn’t be fabricated. She doesn’t bemoan the lack of control. She harnesses it. In doing so, her work takes on a life of its own. In other words, it becomes more human.
“I’ve found that weaknesses in everyday life are strengths in art,” Cindy says.
As she shared more about her technique, I began to see the world through her eyes. In the coffee shop where we sat, a little boy was playing with race cars. He added the occasional “Beep! Beep!” for effect as his mom worked and sipped espresso.
“Cindy—that scene would be great for you to draw,” I said, hoping she’d take the bait. Cindy pulled up her canvas with a flourish and began to draw, verbalizing her process every step of the way. First the shapes, followed by the shading, and—at last—the color. Within ten minutes she was sharing her image with the boy’s delighted mom.
“Sometimes the art world can get pretty angsty. I’ve realized that there’s nothing wrong with making people happy,” Cindy says. “I focus on elevating the ordinary–if I serve as one person’s inspiration, that’s enough.”
You can find Cindy’s work for sale at www.cindyberrysullivan.com. She is also available for commissions.