C Mercedes Walls

by Dana Kester-McCabe

Milford artist C Mercedes Walls, also known as Cathy Walls, creates bright joyful paintings in a style that is both representational and expressionistic. She has discovered that some of the most enduring imagery is can be found in everyday experiences we can all relate to.

Cathy came from a large family of six children. Her grandmother's family were opera singers and her grandfather was a shoe designer who encouraged her artistic talents as a youngster. After college she had a career as a probation and parole officer for the Delaware State Division of Corrections. But Cathy has painted throughout her life without much formal training.

C Mercedes Walls:
"I always painted on the side to make extra money, and whatever little commissions. Portraits of people's houses, pets, and that sort of thing. Christmas presents. And then when we decided to have our third child I said "You know, I can't keep working with three kids. You know? Cause, it was a about a fifty hour week, plus a commute up to Dover. Um, so I just quit and opened up my studio. And, thought I would miss it, but never looked back. I really enjoyed it. Felt real guilty having so much fun working. [Laughs]"

"I kind of get an idea of what I want to earn in a year. And then I work form there. I think it was, um, Monet who said "It takes two people to do a painting. One to paint, and one to say stop." [Laughs]. So my husband is really good at saying "Haven't you spent enough time on that?" "So I try to pace myself so I can, um, earn what I need to earn."

"And as far as going out… I use a lot of social media to get the word out that I am available for commissions. A lot of it is word of mouth. Somebody will get something done and they will let somebody know and they will come to me too. And, that seems to keep me pretty busy at times. Now during the recession things dropped off the map. I had very little work, very few commissions. And because I rely on commissions and not galleries, I was at a disadvantage."

"But, things have picked up a lot now. I think that I have often said that artists are the canaries in the economic coal mine. We're the first ones to feel the pain, and to feel that things are going bad. Um, but the good news is that I think that things are at even a better level than they were before the recession."

Cathy uses a large collection of her snapshot photography as her subject matter. She also uses Photoshop on her computer to compile and compose painting layouts. But she relies on the tried and true methods artists have long employed to maintain and grow her technique.

C Mercedes Walls:
"I sketch a lot. Pretty much every day. Because I am a doodler, if I am just sitting around I always have a pencil or something in my hands. So, to do my compositions, the first thing is to get that picture down there. I also meet every week with a group at the art league. We bring a model in, and that's good for me. I am pretty selfish because it keeps me going. I really like to have a live model to practice with now and then. Because it is really hard to get people to sit still for you. SO, yeah, drawing is a big part of what I enjoy doing."

Cathy says that she thinks that she arrived at her own style simply by trial and error since she has had relatively little formal art training. She has tried a variety of mediums over the years depending on what commissions called for. She says that currently she does equal portions of pastels, watercolors, and oils. Her color pallet tends toward hues that are true to life but fairly bright and saturated. This gives the work an upbeat light feeling which she uses to tell stories in paint that reflect her experiences.

C Mercedes Walls:
"Working in probation and parole gave me an opportunity to work with people. Doing my own paintings and being able to do my own subject matter, and being able to paint scenes of people. In that sense I think they are related. I think it's just that I've always been interested in people, and I am kind of an extrovert. A lot of artists tend to be introverts. I am kind of the opposite. I tend to thrive on human contact and human interaction. I like the scenes of kids playing with the dogs or people singing. I really love scenes of musicians."

"I have a series oh of an official name for it, but basically it's professions. It's people on their job. I had visited one of the crab houses, and the women were all there picking these huge mountains of crabs. I thought "This is a job that is probably going to disappear, cause they're already inventing machines that can pick these crabs." So I wanted to do a painting of these women doing this hard work. You know? And, the farmers in the fields, I have done paintings of that. But as careers disappear I want to document them."

"My genre scenes are sometimes showing you, you know, this is life in this location. You know, this is really what it is like. So, I like to represent what is around me. I like to represent my community. Um, so, I am a white person but my subject matter isn't always white because we live in a fairly diverse community here. And I want people to know that and to know we live in a diverse little community here in Milford. So, my subject matter I hope reflects that."

"I really like this little town. I grew up in cities and suburbs. Of course I've been here for almost forty years so, I've been in the country longer than I've been in the city in my life. But I just love this little town, cause it is diverse, and people do care. And, it's a great volunteer town, which has helped the Art League. A lot of what we do in the Art League is to reach out to the families in the community and bring them something to enrich their lives."

Cathy teaches classes to students of all ages and abilities and encourages anyone interested in art to make it a part of their daily lives.

C Mercedes Walls:
"The biggest thing, is to try new things. To do something every day; whether it's just scribbling on a piece of paper; or carry a little paint box around. I mean even if you just paint your breakfast cereal. You know, whatever you are doing, just do something every day. Because the more you do the better you get. Um, sign up for little classes, if you can take them. Paint with someone who does paint."

"But just expose yourself to art. Visit the museums. See what the masters were doing. You have to immerse yourself. It's like learning a foreign language. You just have to really immerse yourself and get into it."

"Artists should also be advocates for the arts. I think it's fine to be in your world and do your painting and do what you enjoy, paint, or write music, write books or poetry for the sake of that. But go out and see other people's art too. Spread the word. Bring a friend to a show. Go to a poetry reading. Bring a friend to a poetry reading. Go out there and enjoy all the arts. Don't get stuck in your studio or at your computer, or whatever. Just get out there and advocate and show people art and go see a lot of it yourself."

You can see Cathy Walls painting in person at the Mispillion Art League in Milford.