Portraits of her inspirations are on display in her exhibit "Every Picture Tells a Story" at BAMA Gallery, 946 Bloomfield St. in Hoboken, from Jan. 13 to Feb. 9. Then, this spring, she will launch her show "Painting with Sheri," teaching cable and Web audiences to create portraits in her neoclassical style with a new approach to traditional painting.
'Every Picture Tells a Story'
When examining Small's artwork, one is reminded of the Renaissance - a period of art defined by realistic depictions and portraits of familial and religious subjects, and embodied by Italian painters Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
Small's work bears this romantic aesthetic, from joyful children to weary women to the face of Christ captured on "Veronica's Veil."
Paintings like these are a departure for the BAMA Gallery from the contemporary art scene. But Small's traditional exhibit is symbolic of BAMA becoming a more traditionally run gallery, according to Chris Burkhardt, artist and owner of BAMA, though they aren't changing the type of art they show.
Burkhardt said that Small, who moved to Hoboken from Central Jersey to get involved in the art community, is delightful to work with and has a great talent that stems from traditional painting.
"That tradition is mostly rooted in classical, Renaissance, and Christian, and that appeals to people," said Burkhardt. "That's why people go to see the Sistine Chapel."
And like most traditions, Small's work has rich background.
Her story is one of art, motherhood, and faith.
"The whole exhibition itself is a story," said Small in a recent interview. "It's the story of an artist who, at age 4, wanted to paint, started painting at 12 and didn't stop."
Just as Small knew art was her gift; she also knew she wanted to be a mother. Her love and devotion to her two daughters, Ariana, 14, and Julia, who will be 12 next month, is evident in "Angels," her masterpiece portrait of her girls on the day they were baptized.
"Julia is my stylist. Ariana is my art critic," Small said. "They're my strongest supporters. They believe in me when I don't believe in me. And the first thing I say in the morning is 'Thank you, God, for my children.'"
Another masterful piece from Small's heart depicts her grandmother, "Addie," a mural she painted live at the New York Art Expo in the Jacob Javits Center. Work on the mural took such a toll in preparation for the expo that Small cried.
"I'm painting and my tears are falling into the paint, and I'm literally now blending with my tears," Small described, detailing the emotion that went into the mural that forged Addie's facial expression. "The look in her eyes is how I felt that day."
"Addie" has evolved with Small, taking on her daughter Ariana's feet, her daughter Julia's shoulder, and the hands of a friend. "Addie" was stolen when Small moved, but turned up in the possession of a homeless man in Jersey City.
Such portraits are uncommon in the modern art world, and Small brings a twist to painting these classic subjects.
"It's all acrylic but using an oil painting technique, so you're using a specific brush technique, a specific paint technique," Small explained, continuing that this is a unique method of approaching portraits with acrylics.
This approach allows Small to turn out oil painting quality with a much quicker method - one she will demonstrate live during the exhibition as she finishes her portrait of comedienne and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, whose brave and good-hearted nature inspire Small.
'Painting with Sheri'
At the Sparkway Web site (www.sparkway.com), curious viewers can see Small's "Ellen" take shape on the canvas in the trailer for her show, "Painting with Sheri."
"Think of Bob Ross," said Alan Goldsher, vice president of business development for Sparkway Corporation. "[Ross] is still this icon of the art community. He made landscape painting something that the average person can do. Sheri is a multi-faceted artist, and she has taken a material - acrylic - which is not traditionally used for portraiture and in utilizing her skills and her techniques with acrylics, she is making portraiture more accessible to the average person."
Using subjects that have a story to tell, Small's lessons and techniques will be available to the global Internet community via Sparkway's site. There will also be a painting kit - like Ross' painting products that accompanied his show - with the materials anyone would need to do what she does onscreen.
"This is going to be totally new, totally funky, with portraits," Small explained. "The idea here is that we're going to tell a little bit about the person."
And each portrait, as with her other works, will most likely tell a little bit about Sheri Small.
The show will premiere in spring and is scheduled to air Sundays at 4 p.m. on the American Life Television Network on Time Warner Cable with episodes uploaded to the Sparkway Web site upon their broadcast.
Comments on this story can be sent to Mpaul@hudsonreporter.com.