Mastering The Art Of Change

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The most incredible detail of Cherie Cloudt-Powell's career in oil painting is not that she was one of only 19 artists in the country asked to contribute some of her artwork to one of the most prestigious charity auctions last month.

The incredible part is that Cloudt-Powell first started putting paint to canvas only four months ago.

The glitzy $10,000-a-table event held March 31 at the Merv Griffin Resort in Palm Springs, Calif. was the Inland Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation's annual Fiesta de los Artes benefit auction.

Coincidentally, Cloudt-Powell was not the only Payson artist in the hand-picked crowd. Local artist Douglas Thorne also was present and accounted for. But since Thorne has been painting a bit longer than four months, he gets the back seat on this bandwagon.

Truth be known, it wasn't just pure talent that got Cloudt-Powell into the major leagues. There was a teensy bit of nepotism involved as well.

"The director of the Inland Chapter, Linda Steinbeck, is my cousin," she said. "When she saw some of the pieces I was working on, and she said, 'Cherie, your paintings are great! Would you please contribute something?' I was just amazed by her offer. It was wonderful. They paid for my trip over, and I served as an art consultant as they set up the displays."

Although new to this particular form of creative expression, the Prescott-born and Arizona-raised Cloudt-Powell is hardly a freshman in the arts.

"I'm originally a potter," she says. "I also do silversmithing. The only things I ever sold were pots and jewelry."

Her interest in the arts apparently is a genetic thing, handed down to Cloudt-Powell by her grandmother.

"She graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago at the turn of the last century, when very few women were enrolled there. She painted her whole life, every day, until she couldn't see anymore. I remember helping her to mix paints. I grew up with the smell of turpentine and oil paints.

"I actually went to school for physical anthropology; I have a double degree. But toward the end of my college years, I decided to take a few art classes and I got very involved in petroglyphs and Native American art, which tied in with my anthropology."

What led her further and further into that creative realm, she said, is a cold, hard fact: "It's really hard to do anything in anthropology if you don't have a Masters or doctorate; but you can do anything you want in art. And I really felt like I had found myself in pottery."

Her entry into the world of oil painting is a Christmas story unlike any other.

"At Christmastime, I had no idea what kind of a gift to get for my mom. So I decided to paint her a picture. A big picture. It took me about five days. That was my first. And I've painted 15 canvasses since then.

"I still like pottery and I miss it, because I like working with my hands. But painting is like a whole new arena for me. I might start painting on pots."

Like most artists, Cloudt-Powell has difficulty describing what it is, exactly, that motivates her to create.

"It's just kind of a drive to finish. I think that's what sets artists apart from normal people, ordinary people. I find myself thinking of details in the middle of the night, and getting up to work it into a painting. It's a compulsion. Or maybe a disorder."

Now that Cloudt-Powell has joined the Payson Art League, local art aficionados will be able to see her work up close in the organization's May show.

"That's why I'm painting like crazy right now," she says. "I have to have some paintings to show."

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