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Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016

Sikeston woman answers her calling in art world

Monday, March 29, 2004

Catherine Camden and some of her works
SIKESTON - Catherine Camden knew what her calling in life was from an early age.

"I started drawing when I was four on the back of the hymnals in church until I was busted," Camden recalled.

"I realized I had a gift, and I began teaching myself the art of drawing. And that's when I realized that art is about trial and error. If you want to succeed in something you have to swim in it to get somewhere," Camden said.

There was only one thing she prayed for when she began drawing.

"I said Lord please don't let me draw portraits for a living. When I knew I wanted to draw that's the one thing I prayed for is not to draw portraits. But I loved people so much guess what I ended up doing?" Camden said.

Camden has been a professional artist since 1976.

"There wasn't anything else in life that I wanted to do career-wise, and I knew that I had this gift. Another point to make is I was starting to get paid for my portraits, and this was my livelihood and will always be," Camden explained.

She creates her works using pastels which are made up of pure pigment. This pigment is the same that is used in oil paintings but pressed into dry crayon form.

Her drawings, she said, reflect her passion for people and the qualities they have.

"I see good in everybody and you have to see the good in order to draw a person. I bring out the positive qualities in the person I'm drawing, along with the emotions they present. I show the person within," Camden said.

"These portraits give me the opportunity to say and give all the good qualities to whom I am drawing," Camden explained.

The works reflect herself and her views as well.

"I have always had a passion for drawing and have been very true to my moral and ethic values, which I sometime bring out in my pieces," Camden said.

"In California they are trying to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance. So I did a painting of a little girl in front of the American flag and under her it says the Pledge of Allegiance, but at the end it has the phrase, 'Under God, Got It,' and that is the title of the piece." Camden explained.

Not only was this piece displayed last fall at the Jo Ann Emerson Rally in Cape Girardeau, but it was also placed in the hands of the President of the United States, who wrote a letter of appreciation to Camden.

"I have my opinion on the issue and what my art portrays are my ethics," said Camden who then pointed out another work nearby. The drawing, called "America's Future Heroes" was also presented to Bush. The piece featuring a child dressed up as a fireman waving the American flag with his friends.

"America's Future Heroes" is about 9-11. This is the way children play today. And I wanted to show who our future is, and what they represent in life," Camden said.

Camden's work won best in show at the Cherokee National Museum and her art was part of a Native American exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute.

Since moving back to Sikeston to help take care of her mother, Camden has made many friends, but she explained there is one who has helped put her art on the map.

"Shirley Anderson is truly a remarkable person, and has been a true inspiration for me. She has helped me get my art out on the market," Camden noted.

Anderson founded a company called Artist United which annually hosts the One-Of-A-Kind and Small Edition Sculpture Exhibition in New York City. This year Anderson and Camden collaborated on a way to bring Camden's portraits along.

"Catherine contacted me to see if I could help her, being mainly involved with three-dimensional (art) I wasn't so sure. But once I saw her work it blew me away. I have seen a lot of work over time, but she is truly phenomenal," Anderson said.

Camden took a few of Anderson's sculptures that would be on hand at the show and drew them into her work to form an elaborate piece. From this work Anderson and Camden made note cards and presented the piece on the flyer for this year's show.

Recently Camden began the "Executive Series." These are portraits of legislators, bankers and prominent business people.

Already one of the pieces is hanging in the office of U.S. Representative Jo Ann Emerson, in Washington, D.C.

"The idea started out of just doing a portrait of Emerson, but when asked how she wanted o be portrayed she said with the new bridge in Cape honoring her late husband Bill Emerson." Camden explained.

The piece was introduced at the reception held on the bridge the day it was opened.

As her work gains popularity, Camden offered some advice to other aspiring artists: "If you know that something is your calling, don't ever quit," Camden said. "Keep on. Follow your dreams and never stop. Because this was always my dream and I haven't ever thought about stopping."