Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles about artists in Greene County

The front-line question for nearly every recent article has been how has the pandemic affected XYZ? Local painter Chee Ricketts says the ability to focus on her artwork has been a positive outcome.

“I think everybody has been upset about what’s going on, worried about the health care workers and the frontline workers who are taking care of sick people and worrying about old people in nursing homes who can’t see their family… there are a lot of things to be concerned about,” said Ricketts, a Stanardsville painter. “Rather than the pandemic affecting my art, my art has lifted my spirits and kept me from being as worried and as focused on all the things that are going on that are potentially devastating.”

She hopes that by sharing her artwork, she will help to lift others’ spirits as well.

Ricketts, who retired as chairman of the Fine Arts Department for Hampton Roads Academy in Newport News in 2005, has produced artwork in a wide variety of mediums throughout her career. During 26 years of teaching in both public and private schools, she had the opportunity to teach art to students in every grade level. After all her years of teaching, her hope in retirement was to focus more on creation, which she is happy to say she has done.

These days, she focuses mainly on watercolor and also dabbles in acrylics.

Since the pandemic has forced her to spend more and more time at home, Ricketts said she has spent most of it in her studio working.

“I’ve never been a painter who’s wanted to do social commentary or things that have a dark mood,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to focus on subjects that sort of reflect the beauty of the natural world. When we moved here, we moved to a farm on a hill, so when I go outside there are mountains all around me and there’s also sky all around me. I became very intrigued by cloud formations and the colors in the clouds, and for me it was sort of a spiritual journey to be able to focus on that subject matter.”

Aside from having more time to devote to painting, Ricketts says the pandemic has enabled her to pursue new skills. After her husband passed away in 2019, Ricketts finally agreed to teach a watercolor class through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the University of Virginia. Now that all classes will be moving into a virtual mode of operation, Ricketts said she’s needed to spend a good amount of time researching the best methods for teaching art courses online.

As opposed to an academic course that can be taught by posting video lectures or having brief discussions online, for art courses it is very important to have the proper camera, lighting and setup in order for students to be able to adequately follow along and see the intricacies of the work being created. Ricketts plans to teach distantly from a local studio and says she never would have learned these unique teaching skills in her previous work as an art teacher were it not for the pandemic.

Ricketts’ work is represented in the Annie Gould Gallery in Gordonsville, the McGuffey Art Center (artists’ cooperative) in Charlottesville, and the Firnew Farm Artists’ Circle’s biannual shows. She is a member of the Virginia Watercolor Society and the Southern Watercolor Society, and has taught workshops for the Shenandoah Valley Art Center in Waynesboro, the Arts Center in Orange and the Central Virginia Watercolor Guild in Charlottesville.

Images of Ricketts’ work can be found at cheekludtricketts.com. For the past several years she has been focusing on cloudscapes, which you can see from the work she has displayed online.

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