Look up “businesstry” in the dictionary and you’ll not find it. But ask local artist Cheryl Wallace, and she’ll define it for you.
“It’s a combination of business and ministry, and defines my business, Prayers and Paintbrushes,” explained the Ahwatukee watercolor artist, who has a plethora of commissioned works throughout the U.S. and Europe and illustrates adult and children’s books. “I feel my business is as much a ministry as a business.”
Wallace didn’t seriously pick up a paintbrush until the loss of her 30-year career left her “so much unstructured free time.”
At 66, she had accepted an invitation to a local painting party and art once again entered her life, changing it drastically.
A passion for art had long been a part of her life. As Wallace explained, she’d “loved all things artistic” from a young age.
“Crafts, painting, sewing, music, piano, singing; and I’d switch from one to another for many years although I’ve always been a musician,” said Wallace who plays piano and sings in the traditional service at Sun Valley Community Church in Tempe.
“I started teaching piano when I was 18, and graduated from San Fernando Valley State College with a degree in vocal performance in 1971. I married the same year, had my son and daughter and moved to Tempe in 1979. I became a dental office manager in 1984 and continued in the field for 30 years.”
Her personal faith got her through many difficult years and more recently in dealing with the loss of her job and the unexpected onset of retirement.
“I found faith and hope in Jesus Christ when I was about 24,” Wallace said. “He’s always proved faithful to me throughout the many struggles of my life. In 2005 my very painful marriage ended and everything in my life changed overnight.”
Eight years later, at her church, she became acquainted with fellow parishioner Joel Wallace. They married in 2013. She was 65.
“After six years, we still consider ourselves newlyweds,” she said.
Joel had encouraged her to accept her unplanned retirement and enjoy pastimes she’d been too busy to enjoy while pursuing her career.
“I was invited by my friend Lisa to a painting party at My Wine Cellar in Ahwatukee,” she recalled. “After the fun I had in class, I purchased watercolor paints for the first time. It was near the holidays, so I decided I’d paint Christmas cards for my friends.”
Wallace took to the web to view watercolor tutorials.
“I began to paint and started sharing my paintings on Facebook. People started asking if I would paint for them, and suddenly, I seemed to have a business,” she said.
“I realized I needed to give my painting business a name and Prayers and Paintbrushes was born. I chose the name because I felt a need to connect my faith and love of God with my art.”
On Facebook, Prayers and Paintbrushes is more than a display of art and a retail shopping site. Wallace offers chatty videos about her paintings and provides words of encouragement to augment illustrations of her watercolor paintings, of which she now has hundreds.
A November posting of “Up the Stone Staircase” begins with “I am lifting you up in prayer. Your struggles may be exhausting and stressing, making every part of you ache for peace and rest...Regardless of your battle, I am praying peace and His comfort over you.”
She explained, “It seemed very important to me to use my paintings as a springboard to offer hope to my followers, mostly women, with encouraging messages from a Biblical perspective.
“My heart’s desire has always been to encourage and offer hope and it has given my life great purpose and value.”
She said each Monday she sits with her iPad and Bible, praying and waiting to see what she’ll share on her FB page that week. She then selects one of her paintings to accompany the expository topic.
And she often hears back from followers who are touched by her images and words.
“I’m always so blessed to read the comments people make on my Facebook posts. They are encouraging to me,” said Wallace.
At about the same time she created her Facebook page to share her artwork, she discovered Fine Art America, where her paintings are sold.
Besides canvases and prints, they can also be transformed into home decor including throw pillows, tote bags, duvet covers, even shower curtains.
Her paintings, which can also be ordered as greeting cards, are themed and include Furry Friends, Arizona Dreaming, Celebrating Europe, Ocean Breezes and more. One of her paintings, “New Every Morning,” was printed as a tapestry and now hangs in her home church.
Book illustrating has also kept Wallace busy.
Her paintings grace two book covers, done for her sister, Kara Louise, author of a dozen books, including “Mr. Darcy’s Magpie” and “Chance and Circumstance,” both Jane Austin-inspired tales.
Locally, she has worked with Gilbert author, Trudy van der Knoop, who had Wallace illustrate “Fairies and Friends Count,” a children’s counting book written in both English and Spanish.
Wallace also illustrated van der Knoop’s third children’s book, “T is for Trouble,” due out in January.
“Cheryl brings my stories to life with whimsical characters of fairies in beautiful settings such as tea parties and storytelling in nature, but also adventure with a few naughty fairies misbehaving,” said van der Knoop. “It is a joy working with her, she’s professional and delivers a beautiful end product.”
Wallace is also involved with Young Living, a company offering therapeutic-grade oils for which she creates her own personal care and wellness products, and serves as a representative and team leader for the international company.
She says her life after retirement has been some of the best and busiest years of her life, not including raising her children.
“I found love again at the age of 65. I began a totally new career as an artist at the age of 67, and then added my venture into Young Living about the same time,” she said.
“I never could have imagined at my age and at this time in my life, I would have so much blessing and joy. My life is totally different than it was 10 years ago,” Wallace said. “I consider my life an amazing adventure."