Chattanooga Now Motion Pictures

Chattanooga Now Motion Pictures

July 31st, 2012 by Mary Beth Torgerson in Get Out - Features

Celeste Sneed doesn't have to look farther than her love of the outdoors to find inspiration for her work.

"I started cycling six years ago and the first things I started to paint were cyclists," says Celeste Sneed. "Many of the paintings I do now are things I have seen first, or seen better, while cycling. You see the world differently from a saddle than you do from a car window. "

Celeste Sneed

Celeste Sneed

Though she now spends less time biking in order to devote more time to her work, Sneed drew from her cycling background and found her niche in the Chattanooga art community by giving it something that it had little of before - sports paintings.

"I think Chattanooga is a unique spot in the world - geographically and psychologically. I have seen the cycling culture become gradually more pervasive since I moved here eight years ago," she says. "I can only talk about my own experience, but it seems very clear that the trend is towards more encouragement for outdoor things.

"For example, when I started mountain biking, there was Booker T. Washington State Park and the new trails at Raccoon Mountain. That's pretty much all you had. Today we have Enterprise South, 5 Points, Stringer's Ridge still under development, White Oak Mountain over in Collegedale, as well as more mileage at both the trail systems I mentioned earlier."

Chattanooga's ever-growing, outdoor-oriented spirit fosters many opportunities for events where Sneed can reach out to the community and raise awareness about her art. This will mark the third year she has designed the poster for 3 State 3 Mountain, and her work has not gone unnoticed. This year Sneed was asked to design a commemorative poster for the Rock/Creek StumpJump.

"I had done some marketing work for 3 State 3 Mountain, so I was exposed to her work there, and I got to meet her at the ride. She does really good work," says Mark McKnight, marketing and creative director at Rock/Creek. "I get the sense that people really like to commemorate a life event like [StumpJump or 3 State 3 Mountain]. The StumpJump is a really challenging race, so it's a milestone in a lot of people's lives. It's really just one of those experiences that people just want to remember."

Sneed's work is bathed in color, which is something she says allows her to break out of her shell and let go of some of the control and precision she was taught during her time as an art major at Oklahoma State University. "It's hard to explain why working with color is so exciting to me," she says. "I think it keeps me from being too fussy, and I like that. Any person with artistic training, [in school] we kept trying to recreate what we saw in front of us. It can make you tight and fussy and can inhibit your creativity.

"Being creative is adding something else to it. I rarely ever use brushes to paint - I use my fingers, palette knives, paint pushes (paint brush with a latex tip). It swooshes the paint around in a different way and makes me look at the whole thing like it's an important part rather than the finer details."

"Many of the paintings I do now are things I have seen first, or seen better, while cycling." - Celeste Sneed

"Many of the paintings I do now are...

Sneed bases her art in collections, of which she has amassed several that include dancers, trees, power lines (one of which was sold to EPB earlier this year) and landscapes. But her largest collection by far has been of sports paintings. "I don't know if Chattanooga is more receptive to my sports paintings than to other sorts of paintings. The audience is different," she says. "I do think you're not going to see too many paintings of runners, cyclists and triathletes tucked away in a cold gallery somewhere. The sports paintings are the biggest collection I've got so far, because I've been doing it longer.

"Of course I'd like to expand my audience. It's easier to do that in the visual art world when you've got something a little bit different and a pretty good number of pieces to fit the bill."

Although Sneed and her work are somewhat known in Chattanooga's tight-knit cycling community, she says that some of her favorite pieces are the ones that garner the least attention from the public. "Popularity is not necessarily what satisfies when I present paintings to the world," she says. "Sometimes, it's the strength of the response of one person that really gives me a charge, especially when it's one of those images that I feel is really successful but isn't something that gets very much attention from most people. It's almost like a secret, I guess."

For more information on Celeste Sneed and her work, visit