Cheryl-Anne Brown believes she was like a lot of kids; seemingly lost in the school system and unsure where to go and what to do in life.
Eventually, she found herself in a drop-in centre, in Murray Bridge, where she dabbled in art, and the people there who actually cared saw talent within. At 21, they encouraged her to go back to school to complete her matriculation in art, and took her for an interview at an acclaimed art school in North Adelaide.
Of course, Cheryl-Anne was accepted, and the rest is history; countless awards that she appreciates, but treasures most the reactions of people towards her work.
In a strange way, the circle is complete with Cheryl-Anne’s passion to encourage others to discover their artistic talent, and when she was recently asked to judge the junior art prizes at this year’s Port Elliot Show – the 139th at the Port Elliot Showgrounds on October 10-11 – there was no hesitation. Perhaps a minor event in a big show to some, but maybe the pathway to great things for others as it proved for Cheryl-Anne.
“The drop-in centre I went to was just a place where young people went to explore their skills, and where people never gave up on you,” Cheryl-Anne said. “I have always been very thankful for that being in place.
“My passion for art was always in there. Mum and dad had six kids; I wasn’t brought up around pencils and paper, and there was never any push to do this.
“In fact, dad asked what was I doing art for… ‘you need to pick grapes and make an earning’. That’s what it was like for so many. Art was never taken seriously except for people who did it.
“Unfortunately, art is not a big part of school like it used to be, which is sad. Some students who may struggle with other subjects need the creative outlet to find their talent. Art opens up other areas… it’s about craftsmanship using the other side like architects, boat builders, landscape gardeners… all that stuff when it comes to left-side creative play.”
Cheryl-Anne, who came to Goolwa 22 years ago because she wanted her kids to enjoy country life, and to absorb the cultural experiences the town presents, describes herself as a clean-air painter.
“I do sketches on the spot and then I come back (home studio) where I produce the painting off the drawing,” she said. “I get buried in my work.”
The passion to also give something back to art is noted with her work during the past seven years in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands with mothers and babies as part of a creative program called Anangu’s First Teachers developed by renowned artist June Crabtree.
During the past seven years Cheryl-Anne has encouraged the very young children there to get their hands dirty and yucky to bring out their natural art talent through watching their grandfathers create brilliant work in the red sands.
“It taught me patience; lots of patience,” Cheryl-Anne said. “It reminded me that art is there to connect with, and it should be encouraged more in schools. The Anangu’s First Teachers program comes from a different angle to see how effective it is with children to find their talent. It is a fabulous program – the children in the APY Lands are so creative; they are very left hand thinkers and so natural.”
Cheryl-Anne has every reason to be proud of her achievements, her brilliant work, including one of her more recent pieces that sends a political message about the impact of mining in the outback, but she hasn’t stopped striving since those in the drop-in centre in Murray Bridge told her to follow her art – and heart.
“I don’t keep many of my pieces,” she said. “I am always unsatisfied; I always think I could have done better; I push myself to the next level.
“Once you become content then you stop producing good work. If you think, oh, this is it, then what have you got to strive for next?”
Hopefully, the children who enter the junior art prize see the experience as their means of getting the left side of the brain working and discover they too can be the best they can in whatever they do later in life. According to Cheryl-Anne, that’s why there should be more art in school. It does paint a nice picture.
To enter in the junior art awards and other categories at the Port Elliot Show visit its website: