15 Terry Strickland

 “I like for people to look at my work and say, ‘Yes, I have felt that. Yes, that has happened to me.’” 

 “It’s a challenge to me to evoke emotions in my figurative pieces. I sometimes wonder if it’s always going to be endlessly fascinating, because I spend hours and hours painting the figure and the face every day, and I am never bored.”

Terry Moore Strickland is a phenomenal painter from Birmingham, Alabama (AL). She teaches at the Forstall Art Center in Homewood, AL. She's exhibited around the US. She's won first place from the Portrait Society of America, where she's a member, the Chairman's Prize and a Staff Award from the Art Renewal Center. And, she's won the Oil Painters of America's 'Most Original' award. She won first in the Prof. Artist's Magazine's Portrait Cover Contest. She has been featured in The Artist’s Magazine, Drawing Magazine, American Art Collector, International Artist Magazine, and The Huffington Post. Terry published a book of her portraits, The Incognito Project, in 2012. She also gave this TEDx talk in 2016:

'Self-Portrait with Beard'

Terry was born in Florida. She first discovered her love for art in high school, where according to this article (Southwest Art, 2011), she was surprised at how time flew by while she worked. She earned her BFA from the U of Central Florida, with a degree in graphic design. She's worked in publishing, gaming, sportswear, and as a courtroom sketch artist. In 2005 she quit commercial art to paint full time.

'Stake Out (Self-Portrait)

Terry tackles difficult themes such as 'coming of age', heartache, and the 'midlife crisis' and makes them less painful with her signature sense of humor. My dad always says, life is a test of your sense of humor, and Terry passes that swimmingly in her work. Even the label she gives her work, "post-contemporary realism", shows her wit in action. Terry  talks about her art on her website:

"My paintings begin as personal inspirations and narratives, but I have discovered that once they are translated with paint, they become universal stories, and my models become stand-ins for everyman. When people from different backgrounds respond with empathy to the situations in my paintings or when they identify with the models, I realize how much more alike than different we humans are."

'Dame Was Trouble from the Get-Go'

"I explore the idea that change is turbulent and painful and is the one constant in life. This can be seen in evolving personal relationships, dramatic weather pattern shifts, and during times of social upheaval and cultural change. The ongoing Incognito Project is at the heart of much of my work. I play with the concept that a choice of costume can reveal or conceal. Other themes include thoughts on relationships, love, and death. Many times I will use fairy tales, myths or pop culture references to get at those themes."

'Like Breath on Glass'

"The one constant in my work is human connection. My favorite way to paint a model is boldly and unabashedly making eye contact. There is a magical point in every painting process when the paint becomes a person. Oil and minerals slathered around the canvas are transformed into a person looking back at me. Since eye contact activates the dopaminergic centers in the brain, whether it is eye contact with a real person or a painted image, I admit it must be an addiction with me."

'Ode to Melancholy'

"My ideas start with a wisp of something provocative to me. It could be a sentence from a conversation, a book, song lyrics, or a visual cue from a person, or nature. I journal thoughts and ideas so that they don’t slip away. The ideas build on each other, associations are made and concepts come together in my mind. This process doesn’t seem to want to be hurried and will present itself with time. Next I find a model to match a concept then I begin the long process of designing the piece, collecting props, putting it all together and finally get to the painting stage."

'Love is a Force'

Terry Strickland has been so kind as to answer some questions exclusively for this blog, so I'm very excited, and honored to present it here:

1. Can you tell us about your childhood? What did your parents do for a living? Did you have any siblings? Are there any other artists in your family?

"I grew up in Florida, on the Space Coast where my dad worked at Kennedy Space Center. We were “Rocket Kids” getting to watch the launches and visiting the Space Center on family day. Probably where I get my love of Sci-fi. My mother was a devoted stay-at-home mom. I have one sister. My dad was a bit of an artist, and my parents were very supportive. Mom did many artistic things like making clothes and DIY projects."

'Love is an Action'

2. How were you introduced to art, and when did you realize you have a skill for it?

"We never went to museums or had art books around, but my mom would buy us craft kits to work on, and I enjoyed those. We were avid readers, and I worked my way through all the mythology books at our local library, and of course Nancy Drew. In 9th grade, I took art and loved it. I experienced that sense of losing time, of being completely in the flow when drawing and painting, and I was hooked."

'Near at Hand'

3. Many artists on this blog wanted to be artists but studied other subjects. Did you feel pressured to study something else, and was graphic design a kind of compromise?

"Yes, it was. My mom was adamant that I should be able to support myself, and I saw the sense in that. I did love graphic design and illustration. I did my best to bring a fine art sensibility to my illustration work. I always painted on the side. Turning forty had me questioning my life priorities. Was I doing what I was supposed to be doing? That’s when I decided to quit my day job working for a publisher of board games and books to paint full-time. I’ve never looked back."

'The Certainty of Youth and the Complexity of Wisdom'

4. How has being a graphic designer informed your work?

"In so many ways. 
Work ethic. Working in a commercial job makes you show up daily without considering if you are inspired that day. That’s a really crucial mindset and work ethic to cultivate for every self-employed artist and business person. 
Design. I still use things I learned doing graphic design work. A sense good design is the foundation for every painting I do. "

'The Three Fates'

5. Who were some of your best art teachers and what did they teach you?

"My first teacher in High School, Mrs. Cooley was wonderful. She was very encouraging and believed in teaching the foundations. I realize now what a good program we had for a school with only 1200 students. We had two teachers, a floor loom, pottery wheels, a kiln, and a lot of support. We did all the local sidewalk shows, so showing my work was part of it from the beginning.

"After I decided to focus on painting I took three classes with Gary Chapman at University of Alabama in Birmingham. I was looking for the stimulation of the academic atmosphere. He does large figurative work. He was also very supportive and encouraged me to start entering shows."

'The Silver Lining - a 25th Anniversary Wedding Portrait'

6. Your work shows a terrific sense of humor, which you rarely see in highly refined, realist painting. What led you to take this path?

"When I was trying to figure out what my body of work would look like as I went to full time, I remember thinking, now that I have some skill, what do I have to say? It had to be communicating with my fellow humans about different aspects of life. Sometimes it’s beautiful, ugly, sad, poignant, and at times funny. Thank goodness for that."

'Venus Speaks'

7. I often think of and appreciate post-modern artists like Warhol, Jeff Koons, and Damien Hirst as comedians, and I enjoy their work on that level. What do you think?

"I can see that, yes. I think we are in danger of playing the irony card too often in art, though. Yes, irony is great for pointing out ludicrous things in the world. But, irony can sometimes work hand-in-hand with cynicism and, if that becomes the norm, it disallows work about true emotions. I enjoy contemporary work made with unusual materials but still conceptually dealing with real human issues. I saw a show recently of work [by Kara Walker] made with silhouettes, where the image of the piece was the shadow being cast. The subject of the work was a serious commentary on racism and it was beautiful."

'Flight Plan'

8. In your TEDx talk, you said of contemporary artists, that too often it’s a case of the Emperor’s new clothes, where the joke is on the viewer. Are there any post-modern/contemporary artists you admire? And, if so, why?

"Great question. What could be more Emperors New Clothes than the recent Banana Duct Taped to a Wall, at Art Basel? And it sold for over $100,000! I remember others a few years ago of a black plastic garbage bag, and a barber’s chair similarly displayed and called art. Those are what I think of when I say the joke is on the viewer. They are the ultimate cynical idea that art, craftsmanship, and thought-provoking concepts are of no value.

"And how many exhibitions have we seen proclaiming that painting is dead? I remember one I saw at the Hirschhorn that was a gallery full of framed plywood. I felt for the people who came to see art that day and walked away shaking their heads. No, painting is not dead. Stop telling art lovers that. 

"Sure there are many post-modern/contemporary movements I admire. I’m drawn to the Low-Brow art movement, assemblage of found art objects, sculpture, and glass. I saw a beautiful glass exhibit recently of work done in the cameo method but of different subjects and colors.  With everything, I still look for craftsmanship and concept."


9. What does it mean to you to be a ‘post-contemporary’ realist? Wouldn’t it make more sense to say ‘post-post-modern’? Also, Dawn Whitelaw once said, “I consider myself a contemporary painter because I paint in reaction to the visual images of the world I live in. My paintings document the places I visit and the people I meet. What could be more contemporary than that?”

"To me, Post-Contemporary is “that the aesthetic experience is universal to humanity, and that this experience can inspire understanding and transformation.” And “PoCo builds upon knowledge from all eras, and values quality, sublimity, and empathy above novelty.” And “PoCo emphasizes empathy for all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or creed.” These are quotes from the Wiki article about it. I became aware of the term through artist Graydon Parrish. I think it fits my work perfectly, but it sure causes a lot of confusion. The confusion arises over the dual meaning of contemporary. Contemporary (capital C) is tied to the Modernist movement of art in the latter 20th Century. Contemporary (lowercase c,) the one I believe Dawn is speaking of is the definition of having been created now. Lately, I have been explaining my work as Contemporary Realism, or Magical Realism, maybe easier concepts to grasp. I think history will have to sort it out for all of us."

'Escape Artist'

10.  How have critics reacted to your art? Have you ever heard anything outlandish or dismissive? And, did you get any blow-back for that TEDx talk?

"People have been very supportive and receptive. I think its simple message that art can remind us that we are more alike than different is one that resonates with many people. I only remember one ugly comment about how I was “sheep buying into the liberal agenda.” Oh well, I think of it the same way I do when I get a rare negative comment about my paintings. Those comments say more about the viewer than they do about the art."

'Home Maker'

11.  What do you worry about in terms of composition when you paint?

"I think of myself as a director, designing the painting as a vignette on stage. I try to have a clear focal point in mind and use edges, value, temperature, and color to direct the viewer through the painting. I like to have movement and arrange elements to keep the eye traveling with the use of line. I seem to naturally design on the rule of thirds, but sometimes I find myself designing with alignments on 1/4 or 1/2 notes."

'Lion Tamer'

12.  How do you define great art?

"We’ve been talking about it, craftsmanship, passion, and concept. I don’t know if that’s what it takes to be great art, but that’s what it takes for me to care about it."

'Call of Duty'

13.  If you could change anything about art education in the US, what would it be?

"First of all, that it gets put back into schools where it’s been cut and not cut from schools that are blessed with programs. I think the arts are being devalued and seen as fluff in curriculum, and that’s a shame. We are placing too much emphasis on our kids being productive and scheduled. Art education teaches problem-solving that’s important for all fields of study. It allows students into a quiet space that is a necessary respite in our world that’s bombarded with constant interruptions, and information overload. And for art programs, I think it's a great idea to see them tackle the foundations like drawing."

'Calamity Jane Rides Again'

14.  What advice do you give to young art students?

"Make art, draw, play, paint, experiment with new media. Try drawing from life."

'Yipee Ki-Yay'

15.  What do you tell someone who thinks that art doesn’t matter?

"It’s frustrating to hear that on occasion. I had someone tell me once that they were a scientist and they didn’t care about art. What? It made me long for the days when scientists, mathematicians, writers, and artists were seen as equals, and routinely met at the local coffee shop to brainstorm. If people don’t appreciate that art matters it’s got to be because they haven’t been exposed. I guess that is one of our jobs. People don’t realize how much of our modern world takes artists to make it happen. Think about designers of products, packages, movies, television, software interface, clothes, communications, writers, musicians, video games, and yes, even visual arts. The list could go on."

'Bram's Lullaby'

'Prof. Rattus & Her Royal Court', 2012



'Rose Colored Glasses'


'Voice of the Tiger'

'Shahrazade Illuminated'

'The Seamstress'


'It's a Man's World'

'Live Long and Prosper'

'The Conversation'

'If Music Be the Food of Love, Play On'

'Bountiful Life - A Wedding Portrait'

'After the Ball'

'Full Moon Flight', 2004


'Don't Blink'

'Cautionary Tale'


  1. What a beautiful article! Thank you for including me in this list of incredible artists. I'm honored and humbled.

    1. You earned it. Thank you for your inspirational art, and for your cooperation in making this blog better. :)

  2. Great questions and great answers, and I loved seeing so many varied paintings. Thank you for taking the time to introduce us to so many wonderful artists!

    1. Your'e very welcome. :) It's been an honor for me as well, and a pleasure.


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