Painter Turns Away from the River, Heads Deeper into the Forest

She paints with oils, but Cheyenne Trunnell uses a watercolorist’s light touch.
Portrait by Audrey Goforth

Cheyenne Trunnell was around 12 years old when she encountered her first piece of abstract art. So when she saw the painting, created by an uncle of a childhood friend, it gripped her. 

“I remember staring at it for hours, because when you’re young you tend to lay around and daydream,” she says. “I recall saying to myself, ‘I want to do that.’ So that was the initial spark.”

A Space Between Each Breath

That spark eventually led Trunnell to a career in the arts — first as an art therapist who guided children with emotional challenges, and then as a full-time painter of impressionistic pieces that capture the serenity of the forest. “We’re always in such a hurry. We never take time to slow down and see the sacred in the midst of chaos,” she says.

Trunnell, a mother of two with a Masters degree in art therapy from George Washington University, tends to work in series around a common theme. Her process involves buying the “biggest canvases I can fit in my car,” as she puts it, then working on those canvases simultaneously in her studio. 

Clearing the Waters of My Soul

One canvas, for instance, might show a distant view of the mountains. The next, a zoomed-in perspective of trees on that mountain. And another, a path between those trees. And so forth. “Each painting is of the same scene, but from a different point of view,” she explains. 

Trunnell has spent the past decade in Asheville’s River Arts District. This summer, however, she left Wedge Studios to focus more on her family and her work, sans the distractions of an urban setting. It was a difficult decision two years in the making, but Trunnell is excited to embrace the next chapter in her life.

“In some ways, it’s a breath of fresh air,” she says. “It wasn’t an easy choice, but everything in me is saying this is what I need to do right now.”

The Truth Of Light

Trunnell grew up immersed in nature and has always felt compelled to incorporate the natural world in her artwork. Even as an undergrad, when “it was believed that if you weren’t doing abstract or figure paintings, you weren’t a true artist,” as she puts it, she’d hunt for branches to sew into the canvas of her abstract paintings. 

As she sees it, communing with nature — and reflecting its essence through art — is a means of experiencing the divine. “I’ve always loved capturing the way light filters through the trees — that sense of ethereal, holy energy,” she says.

The Mystery Of The Divine II , Romans 1-19-20

“I hope my work will touch people’s souls enough that it will cause them to pause and realize there’s so much more to our lives than hurried schedules.”

Cheyenne Trunnell, Asheville. Trunnell’s work is represented by Art and Light Gallery in Greenville, SC ( and can also be found at Lizzy Summerlin Interior Design (7 All Souls Crescent, Biltmore Village, For more information or to browse work online, see

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