By Liv, JAC Intern
Dominique Merritt is a JAC network artist who has submitted vivid colored pencil renderings of everything from landscapes to portraits. Recently, JAC had the opportunity to interview Dominique about his inspirations, technique, and interests. Read on to learn more about what happens behind the scenes of his artwork.
For as long as he can remember, art has been a part of Dominique’s life. His grandmother, Jacqueline Merritt, was a local oil painter in Michigan with a particular interest in landscapes of shacks and barns. As an elementary student, Dominique drew for hours, and his childhood interest ultimately became part of his career when he became a mechanical designer, using computer-aided drafting software to “develop innovation for all sorts of industries.”
“The designs I did were very artistic, as well as functional,” he says, remarking that he saw the artistry in designing from a young age. During his incarceration, a cheap set of colored pencils purchased at the commissary prompted Dominique’s return to his original creative medium. Though he eventually traded that set for more high-end brands such as Prismacolor and Caran D’ache, colored pencils have remained his material of choice. “I saw what a difference quality material can have on the outcome of the piece,” he explains. He continues to refine his technique through reading books by other colored pencil artists and devoting plenty of time to his craft, finding that “each piece is a lesson learned.”
For Dominique, one of these lessons was the importance of a connection with his subject matter. “I will see a wonderful picture in a magazine and see the colors and how the light hits the subject, and I will feel a connection to it. If there is no connection, then drawing feels like work,” Dominique says. He often finds himself drawn to the natural world, finding inspiration in the glint of an animal’s eye, the cracks in a farm worker’s hands, and the way sunlight hits a tree. His true inspiration, though, is what he calls “drama”: color, light, and shadows. The dynamism and vibrancy of his pieces reflect this appreciation for light and color, as each piece contains a rich range of vivid hues.
In everything from landscapes to portraits of animals, Dominique’s bold use of color gives his subjects an enchanted quality apparent even through the computer screen. Another commonality among each piece is a fixation upon the viewer. Each subject – whether human or animal – makes direct eye contact with the spectator, cultivating a sense of interaction with the piece, as if inviting the viewer to engage with it in conversation. This quality contributes further to the artwork’s otherworldly nature, allowing it a fairytale appearance despite its realistic subject matter. Always seeking new skills, Dominique has lately been practicing hyperrealism – an artistic genre in which artwork appears as lifelike as possible.
Music is another source of inspiration for Dominique, who enjoys listening to a wide range of songs while he draws. “I am a sucker for ’80 alternative, punk, post-punk and new wave,” he says, emphasizing that The Cure has been his favorite band for nearly 40 years. However, he occasionally deviates from this aesthetic to return to his childhood origins. When he queues up French music from artists like Edith Piaf or Josephine Baker, he thinks of his artist grandmother, who immigrated from France. Dominique says that this helps him channel his own inner artist.
He doesn’t stop at listening to music, though. A musician himself, he plays both the guitar and the mandolin during his freetime. And, when he isn’t playing music or drawing, Dominique works in the Unicor factory sewing pants for the U.S. army. “It makes me very proud to know that our brave men and women that choose to serve might be wearing something that I made,” he says. An active member of his church’s leadership group, he also delivers monthly sermons to the congregation, conveying yet another talent: public speaking. An irrefutable jack-of-all-trades, Dominique uses his creative gifts in many areas of his life, often to the service of others.
They don’t own me when I am working on my art.
Among his other creative pursuits, drawing remains a consistent source of escapism for Dominique. To this day, he can draw for hours, just as he did in elementary school. “They don’t own me when I am working on my art,” he says, adding that he refuses to be defined by his crime. His artwork is not solely a respite for himself, though; the bright and lively scenes that he summons through his colored pencils provide just as much of an escape for his viewers, carrying them to saturated rainforests and the softly lit countryside. Whether it’s through his careful attention to light and color or through his interactive and engaging style, Dominique’s drawings are the perfect example of art’s ability to communicate and to transport.
To view more of Dominique’s work, you can view his portfolio here.