By Tori Phelps
Teresa Cline admits she’s a special kind of crazy. As in “It takes a special kind of crazy to spend days—sometimes weeks—stuck in a studio, talking only to your paints and dogs.” The self-taught artist seems perfectly content with the notion that something outside herself compels her to create. Luckily for her fans, these external forces coerce her into producing stunning pieces, which are being snapped up with increasing frequency.
Having been born with the “art curse,” as Cline calls it, this creative compulsion is all she’s ever known. Her family wasn’t exactly artistic, she recalls, yet she never thought about doing or being anything else. A supportive high school art teacher gave her the encouragement she needed to move forward with her art, though she discovered formal education wasn’t for her.
Cline attended college solely for the studio art and art history classes but quickly grew restless with being pushed to paint in the style of her professors. “Parroting their way wasn’t going to help me find my way,” she says.
Her brief collegiate journey at an end, Cline moved to Florida from the Black Hills of South Dakota in the mid-1990s. The nature of her pieces has clearly been influenced by this dramatic change of scenery, but the method behind her madness remains the same. She knows it’s time to pick up a brush when “I’m instructed by forces outside myself to stand in front of a big, scary, blank canvas and just get the heck out of the way,” she explains.
Cline detests any attempt to describe her art—at least using her own words—but she concedes that she uses media such as acrylic, ink, oil pastel, oil-based colored pencil, and charcoal (sometimes incorporating all the above into one painting). The result is not only a pretty picture but a peek inside her mind. “Painting, for me, is a way of processing an emotion,” she says. “Some people talk to other people about their feelings; I smear paint on a surface to get right with myself.”
Besides art, animals are the only things she’s ever been passionate about, which may explain not only her menagerie at home (seven dogs, a talking parrot, and a porch cat) but also a new series: HORSE. The series was directly inspired by the response from Alaqua Animal Rescue after last year’s tragic horse trailer accident. “The work they did helping the two surviving horses was nothing short of amazing,” Cline raves. “I wanted to do something to help bring awareness to Alaqua and raise money for them.”
Knowing the massive amounts of money it requires to keep Alaqua open—and that the organization operates solely through donations—Cline decided her artistic gift could be transformed into a concrete gift for the animals she loves so much. A lifelong horse enthusiast who spent her childhood roaming the forests on her own equine, Cline was hesitant to revisit the compulsion of her younger years, when life consisted only of drawing horses, painting horses, and reading stories about horses. “I’ve resisted the temptation to let the horse spirit back into my life for fear of having the addiction relapse,” she smiles. “But I’m getting immense joy out of painting the horse image again, and if I can help Alaqua even a little bit, it will be very rewarding to me.”
She created HORSE and other series, she says, for the same reason some people talk on and on about a subject: “Once you get started, there’s always something more to add or to explore.”
Cline admits that as a young painter she didn’t understand the place a series should have in an artist’s repertoire. Instead of finishing a painting and then continuing the topic with a new image, she would fiddle with the completed piece, most of the time ruining it in an attempt to get all of her inspiration onto a single canvas. “It just didn’t occur to me to carry it onto another canvas,” she says in wonder. “That ‘duh’ moment when the idea of a series hit me? I can laugh about it now.”
Art aficionados can explore both her originals and prints by appointment at her studio gallery, where she lives and works. Don’t expect a hard sell, however. Despite the attention she’s received lately, she insists she isn’t motivated by sales (“or else I would work harder at being a better promoter!”). Rather, what makes her “curse” tolerable is when someone else falls in love with a piece she’s created.
Being able to witness the occasional emotional response from a stranger comes with a hefty price in relation to the all-encompassing nature of an artist’s life. “You never ever get a break from it—not for a weekend, not for a day. The muse always has you by the earlobe.” On the upside, she considers with a grin, “I get to color outside the lines and get paid for it.”
The forces would approve.
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To learn more about Cline and her work, visit teresaclinegallery.com.