Published 4:01 pm Friday, October 7, 2022
JACKSON – At first glance, the gallery of framed images might be mistaken for photographs. Stepping closer, however, people can see that they’re actually a collection of extremely detailed, hand-drawn portraits.
Most of Yulonda Pierce’s artwork features faces that come to life on the canvas. That artwork was showcased at the ‘Arts Uncorked’ art show event on Thursday, Sept. 29 at the Northampton County Visitors’ Center in Jackson.
The event was sponsored by the county’s Cultural Arts Committee, which sponsors various events throughout the year to make art more accessible to the local community.
“We’re so happy to have her tonight,” said Lucy Edwards, a committee member, who introduced Pierce at the beginning of the art show.
“Yulonda has a passion for creating portraits of people, with an emphasis on realism,” Edwards continued. “She has done numerous commissioned works of art throughout her life, from portraits of pastors in churches to wall murals for community buildings.”
Pierce, who is also an art teacher at Weldon Elementary School and the owner of The Paint Palate studio in Roanoke Rapids, has been interested in art since she was a young kid in elementary school. Her first inspiration was her older brother, Vernon, who was also a talented artist.
“To me, he was a genius. I found myself trying to be like him, and in the process, I discovered my talent,” Pierce explained.
By the time she was in middle school, she’d uncovered her talent for drawing faces, and her portrait skills bloomed from there. A scholarship later allowed her to take art classes during her high school years, and she later received a degree in visual communications from NC Central University.
Some of the artwork she brought to display at the Arts Uncorked event were even pieces she had painted for classes in college.
Many of her pieces on display were portraits, some of recognizable faces like Michael Jordan and Barack Obama. A lot of them are done with chalk pastels, but Pierce also likes working with oils too.
“I like to experiment with different mediums,” she explained, but added that watercolors are her least favorite because it’s difficult to build layers of color with them.
Other eye-catching art featured in the show were colorful landscapes done with acrylic paint. Those are the kinds of paintings she teaches to her students, particularly those who visit The Paint Palate for “sip and paint” parties.
In addition to creating artwork, Pierce is also into fitness training and bodybuilding, which goes well with the focus on realism in her portraits.
“I consider bodybuilding to actually be a form of art. I love the human body, the human figure,” she explained. “My life is art and fitness.”
While it was Pierce’s brother that first motivated her to pursue art, it was her son that later provided her biggest inspirations.
“He is my inspiration. That’s why I do my best,” she said.
Pierce’s son unexpectedly passed away in 2015 while he was a student at Elizabeth City State University.
“It was the hardest thing ever, but you have to be strong in this life,” she explained.
Pierce opened the Paint Palate studio as a way to handle her grief. Continuing to paint, she said, was both healing and therapeutic.
The Arts Uncorked event was Pierce’s first art show, but she said she’d like to do more in the future. There are still plenty of faces out there for her to recreate in stunning detail.