"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Wenatchee artist roams and returns

By on January 27, 2020 in Arts with 1 Comment
Sharratt DeLong poses in front of three recent paintings that demonstrate his affection for Wenatchee’s dramatic skies and streetscapes. Photo by Mike Irwin

Sometimes, you have to go away just so you can come back home

By Susan Lagsdin

Small towns and even small cities have their share of high school graduates who ache to light out on their own, to leave home and seek their fortunes.

Some stay put, some stay away, and a fortunate few have the distinct pleasure of both experiencing the big world and returning to their hometown on their own terms and in their own sweet time.

Wenatchee artist Sharratt DeLong is one of those few. And, as his current oil paintings demonstrate, after a decade away he is unabashedly head over heels in love again with his town.

As a child, he played freely with his mom’s art school notebooks and paint box, but by his teens he’d involved himself wholeheartedly in the theater community. After graduation from Wenatchee High School, Sharratt said, “I realized I was full of other people’s opinions and I had none of my own. I had to get out of town, have my own experiences.”

At 20, he set out to immerse himself in the New York art scene, which became an “excruciating and exciting” urban fantasy of odd jobs, skimping and sharing to stay solvent, broken hearts, glutting on galleries, rooftop parties, arguing late into the night about serious art.

His roommates at one point were a painter, a stand-up comic and a philosopher. “You end up finding the people who care about what you care about,” Sharratt said. 

Ironically, high school theater friends who thrived in New York: Heidi Schreck, Clare Barron and Paul Hardy, became playwrights, but he found his place in visual art, experimenting first with photography. (He said, showing no regret, “All those photos I took were lost on the computer.”) 

New York served its purpose, but after a sojourn back in Washington and a breakup with his girlfriend that propelled him to independence, Sharratt yearned again for action, mystery and buzz and headed straight down to Los Angeles. By then he’d produced enough of a portfolio to qualify for acceptance into a colony/studio nicknamed The Pound in the gritty south bay industrial area.

Sharratt said of those four years, “There was a sense of freedom I’d never felt before, and that’s when I started painting and selling my first works.” 

Sharratt said, “I like capturing spaces that convey light and feeling and perhaps a bit of loneliness. “ Examples are the window he painted when he first moved into his apartment (above) and the sunshade next to a Moses Lake taco stand (below).

He still rhapsodizes about L.A.’s fog, the warmth, the flowers, the sunsets. “There’s still an old-time ’30s Hollywood feel to the city,” he said, and describes the wealth of art galleries and restaurants. 

Again, the city’s glamour and glitz ran its course for him, and so in 2015, the self-taught and confident artist returned to Wenatchee. He rents a tiny apartment in an old downtown building, a kind of homage to his out-of-town adventures, with a squeeze-in living room/studio space that can fit a few friends and many large oil canvases.

Now, he said, he’s committed to enjoying the relative quiet of life here and listening to his own thoughts. “The most important thing is the work,” Sharratt said, “and you can do the work wherever you are. I am very grateful to be where I am.” 

Sharratt said, “When I returned, I saw this place with a new vibrancy I hadn’t experienced before, and those fresh impressions still provide strong inspiration.” 

He enrolled at WVC for a college transfer degree and to hone his art, and he learned truck driving as a living-wage skill. (“Artists don’t really work at their best when they’re starving,” he said.) And he began to paint solo and unrestrained every day.

“I strive for four hours at a time,” he said. “If I’m stuck, I force myself to sit in front of the painting. I’m allowed to do nothing, but I can’t do anything else.” 

Even his choice of medium matches his mission. “I want to be in control of my own artistic expression,” he said, “and the restriction of the simple flat surface of the canvas is actually liberating.” 

Sharratt, at 32, feels he’s on the verge of supporting himself with his art. The success of two major exhibits last year, at Wenatchee Valley College’s MAC gallery and at Collapse gallery downtown, lead to private commissions. His plans involve an art-related engineering career and as well as dozens of possible painting projects, but for now he’s focusing on what he knows and loves.

It’s Wenatchee’s special beauty beyond orchard, cliff and mountain majesty.

With the expressive sky as a backdrop, his paintings highlight the drama of scenes we look at daily but may not see: an alleyway, a storefront, a taco truck, a stretch of lonely road ribbed with telephone wires. 

Sharratt is seeing and sharing our many-faceted, moody urban environment. 

Ten years away from home — immersed in the rumble and hum of the biggest cities bracketing America — can do that for an artist.

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  1. Linda Bennion says:

    Sharrat is a family friend and I am so proud and pleased with his joy in art. Love this man and wish him the very best.

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