Cherrie O'Hagan, wife, mother and artist, is the most recent recipient of the Verdugo Hills Art Association's Artist of the Year Award. Her watercolor portraits have earned her an honor that she says was most unexpected.
"I was really honored," O'Hagan said of the award. "I wasn't expecting it because there were quite a few other artists [considered]."
A native of the Philippines, O'Hagan began her career by studying architecture, but realized it wasn't the right career path for her.
"I didn't like the scientific side of architecture," she said. "I liked the drawing side. Back when we did everything by hand, I was doing interiors and perspectives, so my training was in technical mechanical drawings."
A sudden career change prompted O'Hagan to move to leave her home country.
"I went to Hong Kong to become a flight attendant. I was a flight attendant for about six years. I met my husband there and we've since been moving around the world."
O'Hagan's extensive traveling gave her the opportunity to begin pursuing her a career as an artist.
"Since I've been moving around, I've been joining art classes, workshops and life drawing sessions wherever we are," she said. "I attended oil-painting sessions and watercolor sessions. When we were in Hong Kong, some people wanted me to paint [pictures of] their kids, so that's how I started to specialize in children's portraits."
After living in various locations such as Vancouver, Dubai, Bangkok, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., O'Hagan and her family finally settled in La Cañada. She now focuses mainly on children's portraits.
"I love doing faces and figures, but not so much the background," she said of her work. "I wasn't very good with watercolor to start with, but I improved over the years."
O'Hagan calls her work "realistic watercolor" and enjoys the experience of meeting the individuals who will be the subjects of her work. "I've done a few commissions here and there. Every now and then someone will come up to me and say, 'Can you paint my child?' I prefer to take my own pictures because I get to meet the child and see their personality and get to know the child more. That's why my kids are always in the paintings, because I practice on them."
In an attempt to meet other artists like herself, O'Hagan joined the Verdugo Hills Art Association as well as the Pasadena Society of Artists. "That way I could meet like-minded people who paint as well," O'Hagan said. "That's the best way to meet friends, right?"
Right. In their September newsletter, the Verdugo Hills Art Assn. profiled O'Hagan as their Artist of the Year.
"Her landscapes are marvelous," said Joyce Peterson, exhibit chairman. "How she handles that medium of watercolor is obviously very well grounded and empathetic. All you have to do is look at any of her children's portraits. That's where her future will be."
As for her future, O'Hagan would like to eventually make a living doing what she loves. "I would like to probably make this some sort of living, or at least get commissions or maybe do an exhibit," she said. "I'm branching out into landscape and still life. A lot of people have been telling me to branch out, which I enjoy doing as well."
"She has a great future as a portrait painter," said Peterson. "I predict that coming out of our club; she may be one of the most well-known members that we will have because she is so young and so good."
Artist Cherrie O'Hagan can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.