The monochromatic women of Akron artist Derin Fletcher
As the pandemic was just getting started in 2020, video of Derin Fletcher’s colored pencil portraits took off on Instagram.
“It came about because I could not find brown pencils during the pandemic,” Fletcher said.
Without brown pencils, she turned to greens, blues and other bright colors. She ended up creating a series of monochromatic portraits of women in vibrant hues, the images resonating with tens of thousands of viewers on social media.
“I was like, ‘Oh, wow. OK, yeah, this is happening. OK, well, let me keep it up,’” she said.
After the surprise wore off, Fletcher said she saw the potential to focus on her art full time. The social media attention has also helped her land commissions, including work for Hulu and Akron Metro. Versions of her monochromatic women now appear on three area bus stops.
“I was able to do those digital, and it was so fun because I was still able to do my style of work,” she said.
The Akron native has always been drawn to portraits. While she does draw real people upon request, her preference is to use her imagination and create freely.
“I enjoy being able to come up with different characters in my head of who these people are or what their personalities are like,” she said.
On a recent afternoon, she was working outside of her comfort zone on a larger piece featuring two women connected by a braid of hair.
“I'm used to working small,” she said. “I don't usually go beyond the 9 x 12 or 11 x 14, so I’m trying to push myself to work on a bigger scale.”
Fletcher seems to enjoy new challenges. Just last summer, she opened her own gallery near the campus of the University of Akron on South Main Street. She uses the space for both teaching and displaying her art, something that was tough for her to arrange in the past.
“Before opening the gallery, I only had one solo show,” she said.
Galleries often won't provide a solo show unless the artist has had some in the past, she said. Associated costs and shared commissions can also stand in the way. With her own gallery now, Fletcher's vision is to help others exhibit their work too.
“It shouldn't be that hard for artists to showcase their artwork,” she said.
Fletcher’s career growth as an artist has been a bright spot in what’s been a tough time for people in general due to the pandemic. She said art provides a break from all of that.
“Things are starting to get worse before they get better,” she said. “That can be tough to think about on a daily basis. So having an outlet like art to kind of escape that reality sometimes, it’s amazing.”
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