Reverse glass painter reviving ancient art form

Artist Cheryl Tocco likes to do things in reverse, or glass backwards, when it comes to her specialty, reverse glass painting.

The Pahrump resident browses local thrift shops for old frames, removes and cleans the glass, which becomes the canvas on which she paints her masterpieces.

Tocco draws her designs or patterns on the glass with a marking pen, paints it, adds a colorful background on art paper and then flips the glass over so the image is viewed looking through the glass. Painting a scene on the back of the glass acts as a protectant or sealant for the work.

“It’s real easy and it’s real quick and it’s for beginners, “ she said.

This art form has been around for centuries, dating back to the Middle Ages and the Byzantine Empire.

“They would paint icons for the church or for iconic art, and so that’s where it started,” Tocco said, adding there were all types of reverse glass paintings over the years.

She said in the 18th century and later, artists in England would draw beautiful coaches, for example.

“They were usually at that time, instead of the bright colors of the iconic paintings, in the English paintings they would have silhouettes like what I did here,” she explained pointing to her work.

There was a revival of this in the late 1940s and early 1950s while she was growing up in Covina, California.

“My mom and dad had some up on the wall and when I was a little kid, I was always just kind of, you know, enthralled with it; I just loved it.”

Even though Tocco has been painting since she was a kid, she had not tried reverse glass painting.

She was not an art major in college, but took some courses for fun and later worked in civil engineering in Washington and California for the U.S Forest Service. She helped design campgrounds, roads, drawing maps and doing other artwork before going to work for the Federal Highway Administration as an inspector.

After moving to Pahrump, she took a class on reverse glass painting about three years ago at the library and fell in love with it. Tocco took it to another level and started doing things that she liked with the technique, describing it as a “different method” of artwork.

During an interview, the artist demonstrated the process of reverse glass painting, featuring a desert landscape complete with Joshua trees. It took about 30 minutes from start to finish.

“It’s just very fast and very easy; I mean, you can see it’s not complicated,” Tocco said.

This form of art is good for anyone, including children and especially senior citizens.

“It’s very calming, very calming,” Tocco said. “Even the end result, if you look at those, they do kind of give you a calm feeling, don’t they?”

“Anybody can do it, like you see, anybody can do it, right,” Tocco said. “It has a lot of possibilities for creating things, but yeah, you could do a lot of stuff with this. You could go contemporary, you could do anything with it.”

She hopes more people will try reverse glass painting since it can be slightly different from years ago.

“You don’t have to do silhouettes, you could do a flower and it would be absolutely gorgeous. I’ve done butterflies and colored them all in and it’s really pretty. You use some metallics and that kind of thing in it.”

Tocco’s artistic talent is not just limited to painting on glass in reverse. She likes to do all kinds of paintings and portraits whether they be in oils, acrylics, or watercolors.

She and several local artists volunteer and teach classes in the Art 4 Seniors program sponsored by RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program). This organization provides a multitude of programs and volunteer services to the elderly and others needing assistance, including a break or respite care for individuals who are caregivers for a loved one.

Her next reverse glass painting class will held Wednesday, July 20 from 9:30 a.m. until noon at the NyE Communities Coalition campus, room 32, located at 1020 East Wilson Road. The $10 class fee goes to RSVP.

Call Sherry Rhine at 775-513-9343 to register for the reverse glass painting class or other art offerings since classes fill quickly.

Tocco can be commissioned to paint portraits and other works by contacting her at ctocco@juno.com.

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