by Mireille Dalpe
I never thought of myself as an artist. In my mind, ‘real’ artists used their imagination to create wonderful unique artwork. As for me, I liked “realism”, subjects that exist in the real world, details and precise depictions are what excited me. It still does.
"Bee on Crocus" the first drawing I did in colored pencils in May 2021, it encouraged me to continue.
6"x8", colored pencil on watercolor paper.
I don’t remember when I started to draw, but in school I was the one to see if something “artistic” needed to be done. I never showed my private work to people when I was young. We moved so many times and I did not have many friends. In my early teens, I met a black elderly artist, who worked at fairs/malls. I liked to watch him do pastels. One day he gave me a few pieces of pastel sticks and a piece of paper and told me to come back with something. I did, after that we formed a friendship and I started to do art. Sadly, the friendship was short-lived, but impactful enough to encourage me to go into Commercial Art School in 1972.
“There was no time for art as sports were a priority in our family. My life was full, and art took a back seat, again.”
I had to leave home early and the first few years were challenging, I managed to find contracts in drafting and graphic art and intermittently, portraiture. But I got disenchanted by that line of work; it’s a client-wants-client-gets world, but often I didn’t like what I produced. All those posts were unsatisfactory, there was no joy anymore. Eventually I got offered work in another field and it stuck. Somehow, art was put aside.
Life happened, my wonderful children were born, often long and hectic work days, while doing years of volunteering work in sports. There was no time for art as sports were a priority in our family. My life was full, and art took a back seat, again.
A "Viceroy Butterfly" that willingly climbed up on my finger, luckily I had my trusty camera.
6x8", colored pencil on Strathmore Vellum.
Later, our children started lives of their own, and I continued to do sports, but also had an opportunity to do silver-smiting and jewelry design for eight years until economics made it unsustainable. I sold all my jewelry making equipment and invested in photography, I loved it. Today, I’m grateful, since it’s very complementary to doing art. So, although I didn’t do much art, there were plenty of other artistic ventures.
These past 5 years were difficult, I had cancer, my husband had a serious heart operation with complications, and we lost dear people in our lives. This was a challenging test. In early 2020, as the pandemic started, I developed a frozen left shoulder, I’m left handed, for months I could not use the arm, naturally, sports and creative activities were out of my reach. Eventually, the shoulder got better, slowly some activities became possible again, but still, I didn’t pick up drawing, I was not ready.
“That clinched it, it was there all the time I just didn’t catch on. Art waited for me to catch up after all these years!”
During those periods without art, the urge was lurking close by, through the years I would sporadically force myself to do a piece or two, usually in pastel and watercolor. I needed to prove to myself that I had not lost it, after, I’d say: “OK, I still have it. It’ll keep some more…” and I’d move on. I liked various art mediums but it didn’t stir a passion in me. I realize now, that I was circumventing a wish from childhood, I felt inadequate to live up to what my teenage self dreamed of, the life of an artist and pure form of drawing. I suppose those first years of work doused those naive dreams and that, doing art by command, wasn’t for me.
"In Memory of Geoffrey" August 2021 a friend we recently lost. For Claire.
6"x8", colored pencil on Strathmore Toned Blue.
Early May 2021, I displaced my hip resulting in a lot of pain and limited activities. It’s the pandemic, I‘m missing my children and sports which kept me sane are impossible, my mental health became fragile. I grew desperate to find a mental focus. I saw my old Prismacolor pencils on the shelf, I took them out, chose one of my photos and did a drawing of a bee on a crocus.
That clinched it, it was there all the time I just didn’t catch on. Art waited for me to catch up after all these years!
Colored pencils are wonderful, simple, easy to pick up and leave, no mess to clean up, I needed ‘simple’ at this time. I found the perfect medium.
I started to acquire new supplies, devoured books on Colored pencils (CP) and web tutorial videos, etc. to learn this new medium. I’m new at CP, and I’m still developing drawing skills, learning about blending methods; I do struggle with choosing the right colors and how to use the semi-transparency property of the pencils. I love trying out different techniques, papers, tools, etc. I use free hand drawing, grid method, and even tracing. I often have on my screen a B&W and color versions of the reference photo to help me with values as well as colors. I learned how to mount my artwork on wood panels, treated for wood acidity and I varnish with an archival and UV protection spray, there is no need for glass framing. I also intend to learn how to make floating frames for my pieces.
I love drawing in small formats, it’s like viewing worlds through a small window. The one virtue that has solidified is patience, essential to work with CPs, but there is no hurry and the journey is so rewarding.
CP artists are so creative it boggles my mind and they show what is possible to do with CPs, it’s truly inspiring. I think of artists who have not yet discovered CPs and I hope this medium will continue to garner interest.
ABOUT Mireille Dalpe:
Mireille never lived as an artist. Now in her 60s, art brings her simple pleasure, an escape in a world of colors and forms laid down onto two dimensional supports. She admires artists for being so creative.
Only subjects that motivate her are chosen, a freedom not taken for granted. Learning sustains her like nothing else. Colored pencils have taken hold and are turning into a passion. She feels they are very challenging, versatile, but more importantly, fun! She lives in Ottawa, Canada.
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