It doesn't matter what medium she uses, the animal portraits Sheri Garner produces look like photographs.
In the style she calls “classical realism” — she captures the realism of the old masters using a combination of old and modern media — Garner is proficient in pencil, pen and ink, paint or pastels. She does still lifes, landscapes and portraits. But her true passion is the animal artworks she creates. Dogs, cats, birds, big cats, giraffes — all are lovingly reproduced on canvas, paper or suede board.
The 68-year-old showed abilities early in life.
“I've been gifted since I was a kid,” she said.
Family and teachers began to take notice when Garner was in second grade. “I drew a dog from memory, and I didn't stop there.”
She had her first solo show at school when she was 12 or 13, she said.
Her art teacher at Omaha Central High School urged her to apply to the Chicago Art Institute. She didn't do it. Instead, after graduating in 1963, she attended secretarial school so she could support herself.
“Art took a back seat,” she said.
She got a railroad job that took her to Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles. It wasn't until 1992, when she was living in L.A., that she picked art up again as a hobby.
Garner returned to Omaha in 1996 and in the early 2000s she began taking fine arts classes at Metropolitan Community College. One of her instructors told her she should try colored pencils.
“I was insulted,” she said, explaining that she thought they were only for grade school art classes. “But I was hooked after the first try.”
"Kitty in the Sugar Bowl," pencil with painted enhancement.
She said she taught herself techniques with the pencils such as realistic shading, highlighting, using texture, wetting paper or pencil points, something she also had done with other media. After she produced a realistic likeness of a husky dog with the pencils, “I knew I had it.”
Painting with pencils has become a signature style for her.
She got into the pet portrait business at the urging of local artist Steve Roberts. He pointed out that would be a great way to market herself.
He was right.
Garner works from photographs — animals being notoriously bad about standing still.
Eventually she earned a bachelor of arts degree in continuing education from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. In 2007, while she was living in Salk Lake City for two years, she taught her first art class. She discovered she had a knack for teaching, and since returning to Omaha in 2009, she has taught private art classes or classes through community programs.
“It was a great class,” said Omahan Deb Bruhn of Garner's “Paint With Pencils.” “She puts a lot of herself into it.”
"Through the Window," oil on canvas.
Bruhn, who had worked in pastels and some watercolor before taking the class, felt that she was able to learn quite a bit. “I improved a lot.”
It should be noted that during the years of attending college classes and working full time, Garner was a single parent raising four children. They're adults and have moved on, so these days it's just her and a sheltie named Tango. And a horse that currently lives in Columbus, Neb.
She still takes on administrative assistant jobs, she said, because what she earns from teaching art classes and selling her art doesn't pay all the bills.
So she keeps creating, always experimenting and expanding her knowledge of working with different media. But Garner never strays far from her classical realism style.
Contact the writer: 402-444-1067, firstname.lastname@example.org