The Beachside ResidentArticle Category: Skilled Labor
• Tobin Bennison •
For Cocoa Beach artist Terri McCutchan, nature is “God’s palette,” a gift to be appreciated in all its forms.
Terri was born in Miami to parents who encouraged her creativity from the start. Her mother, an artist herself, was particularly supportive of her interests, and it was she who taught Terri to see art in everything around her. To this day, Terri credits her mother with opening her eyes to the boundless beauty of nature, and her work is still informed to some extent by the landscape and architecture of Miami and the Keys.
Terri’s first after-school job was a position at the University of Miami’s Art Museum. “I was invited by the art instructor to help assist her with the pre-school art program,” she says. “This was my first up-close experience with a gallery and it was love at first sight. I knew back then that I always wanted art to be a part of my life.”
In 1984, at the age of 15, Terri and her family moved to Brevard. In college, she majored in art while working part-time in the graphic arts department at the Florida Solar Energy Center. During this period, she also found time to volunteer with an art therapist who worked with the elderly, many of whom struggled with Alzheimer’s. It was an experience that
opened Terri’s eyes to the healing properties of art, but one that also pulled her in a new direction.
“It was at that point that the spirit led me on a different career path into the nursing profession,” she says. “My art was put on hold for a time in my life when my husband and I were also blessed with the gift of parenthood and our children. Being a full-time mom and part-time nurse was the priority.”
A few years ago, Terri’s husband created a studio space for her in their garage and encouraged her to pick up her paint brush again. Once she did, she fell in love with painting all over again and knew she needed art back in her life. Now it’s the beauty of Cocoa Beach that inspires her.
“Living by the ocean and being surrounded by all the vibrant natural beauty of the barrier islands is such an inspiration for my art,” Terri tells me. “Painting is my passion. It frees my spirit to feel one with God’s abundant beauty in nature.”
“It’s still a challenge to make the choice to let go and carve time out of my busy schedule to paint,” she admits. “But when I do pick up my paint brush, I know I made the right choice. My artwork is what helps keep me balanced. It refreshes me, and I feel so connected to God and his amazing energy in our environment.”
Terri also says that once she starts painting, her mind shifts to “a very personal space” where outward distractions seem far away. “I wear hearing aids and usually remove them to enjoy the quiet. Painting to me is a lot like meditation. It enables me to slow down, center myself, and see with a different awareness.”
Many of her current paintings are acrylic or oil translations of personal photographs that capture this sense of heightened consciousness. Beginning with several rough sketches, Terri then combines them until the composition feels right. “I will do a slight sketch directly on my canvas, then just dive into the canvas with my paint. Usually, before I finish one painting I’m already throwing ideas around in my head about what to do next. The interesting part is taking an initial idea, developing your own interpretation, and then seeing if they develop and change as you work through the piece. The end result is usually somewhat different than how I first envisioned it.”
Two paintings that best represent Terri’s technique and vision also happen to be among her personal favorites. The first, called “Livin’ Easy,” was inspired by a photograph she I took of her bicycle on the boardwalk at Lori Wilson Park. “Riding my bike on Cocoa Beach has always been a great way to spend a lazy afternoon,” she explains.
The other, “Summer Breeze,” stems from a snapshot Terri took at Rockledge Gardens. “The pathway leading you into the painting is so inviting. I gave the owners of the Gardens a print as a gift and they told me that the big coconut palm in the painting actually wasn’t there anymore,” she recalls. “It had been lost to a winter frost. So I felt it was cool to have captured the palm while it was once still a part of the landscape.”
Over the past year, Terri has been honing her technique by working with Renee Decator, one of her favorite local artists. From Decator, she’s learned about using complimentary hues and working from a limited palette of color. The lessons help challenge Terri to enhance her current style. “I’ve learned that being in the presence of other artists is very important to nurture your creative side,” she says.
As a member of the Brevard Cultural Alliance and part of their ongoing “Art in Public Places” initiative, Terri has displayed her work at Holmes Regional Medical Center and Space Coast Cancer Centers in Merritt Island and Titusville. Recently, she was also invited to participate in the Fifth Ave. Art Gallery’s “All 4 Love” charity exhibit, the proceeds from which went to the local Sentinels for Freedom, which provides assistance to soldiers returning home with life changing injuries. Throughout November, a collection of Terri’s work will be on display in the Cocoa Beach Library.
To view more of Terri’s work, visit www.terriartwork.com