Artist Cindy Berceli shares a collection of captivating pastel paintings that reflect her bond with the animal world. See more of her work by visiting her website.
I have always connected with animals.
As a child, I was quiet and shy around people, but comfortable with animals. I would be off by myself playing with my pet rabbit, our dog or cat. My first job, at age nine, was letting our neighbors’ German shepherd out at lunch time and walking her after school.
I also loved helping people. From the age of four, I was applying band-aids to friends’ skinned knees, and wiping runny noses. It is no surprise that I became a pediatric nurse, and my art focuses on children and animals.
I believe that we are all connected and I feel this connection every time I look into an animal’s eyes, which captivate me. It is fascinating to explore the words we use in describing these incredible creatures. Words conjure up many images. What do you think of when you hear “hungry as a lion,” or “timid as a mouse?”
Different cultures have different interpretations of animals. In Japanese symbolism, foxes are associated with intelligence—they are considered smart and wise creatures, while we describe them as “sly and cunning.” In our culture it is common to use phrases such as “strong as an ox,” “free as an eagle,” “slow as a tortoise” and “quick as a hare.”
When I’m painting, these words and attributes flow through my mind forming bridges between me and my subject. I feel that we share similar and often common emotions which are easier to recognize in animals than in ourselves.
Soft pastels come in sticks similar to chalk pastels. They are made of pure pigment with a little binder, not limestone. Pastels are great for painting the life like qualities of fur, skin and hair. I start with thumbnail sketches as I plan the composition. Once I have the sketch on my surface, I develop the darks and lights like an abstract design with no detail at this point.
Typically, I apply several layers of pastel to build up rich color and to create depth. Within these layers the pastel beautifully represents the opalescent quality of natural light. This allows me to depict animals realistically in rich luxurious tones.
Eighteen of my paintings of animals were chosen by a large pediatric practice in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to welcome children into their office. Each painting was enlarged and placed on the walls in the waiting room, exam rooms and hallways.
The animal images allay fears and decrease anxiety. They provide a connection with a fellow being, thus creating an appreciated diversion. I gratefully welcomed this opportunity known as Animals on the Walls. I was honored to be part of this collaborative project benefiting children and their families while also highlighting my passion of focusing on animals and their place in the environment, connecting us all.