Charron McFadden in her Rio Rancho art studio
Susie, colored pencil drawing, by Charron McFaddon
Future Builders, colored pencil drawing, by Charron McFaddon
Memorializing the moment
The drawings of Charron McFadden
There are many ways to memorialize a passing moment in time, but in today’s world, the most common one is to snap a picture. Photography isn’t like it used to be; smart phones and digital cameras allow us to carry these occasions in our pockets. It’s becoming rarer and rarer to print and display these memories, which oftentimes live permanently in a digital, non-tangible realm. Rio Rancho artist Charron McFadden has found a way to honor them appropriately. With great attention to detail and an artistic virtuosity, McFadden turns the photographic image into a fine work of art. She appreciates the snap shot, and finds that “there’s a story in everything, [that] that’s what makes a photograph interesting.” But since photographs are ubiquitous—the contemporary visual experience involves seeing thousands of images a day—those stories are often lost on the viewer. Working in colored pencil from candid, rather than professional, photographs, McFadden brings these hidden stories to the surface. She captures the energy inherent within the image and brings it permanently to life.
Though many of McFadden’s portraits are rendered in colored pencil, they assume a photographic quality. Says McFadden, “You can make colored pencil look like other mediums, you can do it so fine that it looks like oil or like watercolor.” She sometimes works from life, but most often uses the traditional grid system, employed by masters for centuries. After blowing up a photograph, she places a plastic grid with one-inch squares on top of it and eyeballs it to copy. She’ll take artistic liberties in an effort to highlight her subjects’ personalities, and make the resultant image even more dynamic and vibrant than the original photograph. Most of McFadden’s works contain a great range of colors, but sometimes, she relies on the sepia technique, in which she uses just four colors: white, cream, black and sepia. The subsequent drawing evokes nostalgia for a time since passed.
McFadden moved from Aurora, Illinois to Rio Rancho in 2010. In her brief time here, she has established her artistic merit, while becoming an integral part of the Sandoval County community. Last Fall, she won third place for a colored pencil drawing at the 23rd Annual Old Church Art Show in Corrales and has recently begun to show her work at Corrales’ Gathering Artists Gallery. She is also on the board and chair of publicity for the Friends of Coronado State Monument, where she puts her artistic talents to good use. Explaining her desire to become involved with Friends of Coronado, McFadden states, “The Kiva murals were a big draw for me—it is amazing that they were even found, and they are quite unique in the US.” In an attempt to raise money for and awareness of the Monument, McFadden designs the flyers and ads that publicize the Monument’s events.
McFadden has traveled extensively as an artist, visiting such art Meccas as Croissy-sur-Seine in France, where Renoir painted his infamous Luncheon of the Boating Party. McFadden visited Croissy during the city’s Impressionist festival, and ended up winning the city of Croissy prize for an en plein air landscape. She is currently working on a series that features women in Africa, inspired by a friend’s recent journey to Rwanda. McFadden’s friend spent time there in conjunction with a charity called Hands of Hope, which raises money to help women establish their own businesses, and brought back several photographs to share with McFadden. McFadden has studied the photos closely and feels as if she is becoming acquainted with the women as she draws them.
McFadden has only recently begun devoting herself to art full-time, since retiring in 2010, but has been an artist her whole life. She recalls her first encounter with art: “I got a paint-by-numbers set when I was in the fourth or fifth grade, and I said, ‘I really like this, and I don’t think I need these numbers.’ I had left over paints so I just started doing my own things, and I was fortunate enough to have very talented art teachers. I discovered I could mix colors and sketch and draw.” McFadden continued working on her art through high school, at which time she won a Scholastic Gold Key award for her paintings and drawings. She planned to pursue art in college as well, but life took her on a different path. “I wanted to be a medical illustrator, but life happens.” Her art career took a hiatus after she married, raised a family, and became an executive assistant. A couple of decades later, art reentered her life. “When I had an empty nest, and my mom had passed away, I decided to sign up for a class. The next thing I know, I had graduated with a BA in Organizational Communication.” McFadden went on to receive her masters in Media Studies from Northern Illinois University and has since taught classes at the college level in mass media and documentary production. “It was really a wonderful experience for me,” says McFadden. “It really fulfilled something I had always wanted to do. The filmmaking and the media just flowed right into my artistic talents.” Soon after achieving her degrees, she transitioned again into the realm of fine art. “I’m of the belief that when you’re ready to learn something, the teacher will be there for you.”
McFadden’s work can be viewed at Gathering Artists Gallery, 1000 Old Church Road, Corrales, and also online at www.cherart.com. McFadden welcomes commissions.