Maryann DellaRocco is a signature member of the Colored Pencil Society of America. Her colored pencil abstracts have been featured in Colored Pencil Treasures and Colored Pencil Hidden Treasures. Her piece Orb Weaver won the Conté de Paris/Colart America Award for Exceptional Merit at the 26th annual CPSA International Exhibition and was featured in the International Artist Magazine in the fall of 2018. She has also won a number of juror selected awards.
Now living in Ellicott City, MD, DellaRocco continues to create her unique colored pencil pieces in her home studio. She is always striving to, as she says, “bring my sense of beauty to the world.” She continues, “I want to show the innate beauty in distorted work. I think my life changed after having a child with autism. I began to see the world so differently. To see the need for light, joy, and, again, beauty in the world. My message isn’t complicated, it is simple. I want to make people happy.”
Maryann DellaRocco | The Beauty of Distortion
Maryann DellaRocco is a dedicated wife and mother, a substitute teacher, a friend to children with special needs, and an avid traveler.
While she was is passionate about her role as a mother, she discovered something important was missing, something that used to bring so much joy into her life. “So,” she says, “I picked up a set of graphite pencils and started drawing. Eventually my love of art and creating resurfaced, and it resurfaced with vigor. It was not going to be ignored again.”
She showed her drawings to an artist friend, who suggested trying colored pencils. DellaRocco bought a 48-pencil set and “made a lovely mess!” Enamored with the new medium, she found a skilled instructor, Deborah Maklowski, who introduced her to the Colored Pencil Society of America. DellaRocco began making connections in the colored pencil world who encouraged her as she discovered her own unique style. Along with Maklowski, she has taken workshops and classes from Tracy Frein, Ann Kullberg, and Peggy Magovern.
While most colored pencil artists focus on realism and rendering detail, DellaRocco’s work has developed in a different direction. She explains, “One day my children brought some leaves and berries home and left them on my kitchen table. I was having a drink and I noticed how lovely the light was as it reflected, danced, and was distorted by the glass and liquid. I snapped a few photos and instantly fell in love with the beauty of distortion.”
As DellaRocco began exploring this distortion in her art, she met with enthusiastic responses that encouraged her to continue down this path. “When my friend Suzanne Vigil saw my work based off these photos she told me to stop everything else and to pursue this exclusively,” she says. “She told me no one else was doing anything like this in colored pencil. I continued to work to further distort my art while still embracing the things I loved: natural elements such as leaves and flowers, light, and water.” It is the combination and abstraction of these elements that bring them to life in her work.
She continues to find inspiration in nature as well as in the man-made objects her family collects on their kitchen table. “The way light attaches itself to these objects and how simple things such as water or wine, along with glass, transform these ordinary items into extraordinary pieces of art,” she says.
Depending on whether she is using paper or drafting film as her support, DellaRocco employs different techniques to create her signature distorted effect. When she is working with paper, she uses the old masters’ technique of rendering her compositions in grisaille, a gray underpainting. “With this method the depth and contrast are created first and then color is laid over top,” she explains. When she wants to achieve a more painterly look, she uses solvents to dissolve the pigment binder in her colored pencils, allowing her to move the color freely with a paintbrush.
When she uses drafting film, on the other hand, she is limited to only a few layers of pencil, so she has to be very methodical with her color selection and blending. “What makes drafting film so interesting is light can pass through the film and color can be applied to both sides,” she says. “This creates a luminosity exclusive to film.” She enjoys working with both types of supports and chooses between the two based on the outcome she envisions for each individual piece.