It is ironic that painter Donna Talerico’s maiden name is Artis.  Although she doesn’t use it professionally, she ended up pursuing a successful career as an artist after many years as a fashion illustrator.

Born in West Virginia, Talerico cites her maternal grandmother Helena Daming as one of her major influences.  A 1919 war bride, Daming came from Luxembourg to Matewan, West Virginia with fluency in several languages, including French, Flemish and German and told stories about Europe. Talerico was fascinated and eventually planned trips to France when she could afford the airfare.

A resident of the gaslight district in Clifton for 45 years, Talerico, now 67, was graduated from Marshall University in West Virginia with a BBA in marketing and retailing.  Her first job was as a buyer trainee at Mabley & Carew.  But her interest in art came as early as her childhood when she drew with crayons.  She even made clothes for paper dolls.

In high school, she asked a teacher – “Isn’t there a fashion illustrator job?”  The answer was ‘no.’  Undeterred, Talerico went to work as a fashion illustrator at former downtown retail stores, such as McAlpin’s, Shillito’s and Pogue’s.  Self-taught, she spent 20 years doing black and white illustrations, all in pen and ink.  The field, however, practically disappeared when photography took the place of illustration.  “My job was becoming extinct,” she said.

Laid off in the late 1990’s, Talerico received a call from a friend to attend a painting course in southern France in 1998.  She accepted, and it changed her life.  In Soreze, she met San Francisco artist/teacher Carole Watanabe, instructor of a beginning painting class in acrylics.

“I didn’t think I would be a painter,” said Talerico.  “I had no experience with color.”   But, she was already a designer; she knew composition.   Talerico began painting.  Back in the United States, she made room for a small studio in her house.

As with her earlier career, Talerico continued learning painting and French on her own.  Although she took a few art classes as electives in college, she did not hold a degree in art.  Influenced both by the Impressionists and the Fauves, she painted intuitively with broad strokes of color.  Other painters in history whom she admired include Edouard Manet, Chaime Soutine, Richard Diebenkorn, Jr., and Alfred Sisley.

By 1999, Talerico felt comfortable enough in having an art show at the former Petersen’s Restaurant on Ludlow Ave. in Clifton.  She sold four paintings; enough to support her blossoming career.  She never looked back.

Regularly traveling to Paris, Collioure on the Mediterranean and Provence in southern France, she used to bring her paints and easel.  Now, she takes many digital pictures and works from them in her studio in the Pendleton Art Center.  She finds Pendleton a positive venue for over 200 other artists, in one of the largest groups of artists’ studios around.  She also exhibits, however, in various galleries throughout the United States. Closer to home, she is a member of the 5th St. Gallery co-op.

Talerico has several bodies of work, including French scenes, landscapes and new abstractions.  Currently, she is focusing on abstract art.  “It seeps into your bones, somehow,” said Talerico.  “I can evolve in my work to looser abstracts, using less detail and becoming more fluid”, which is evident in her new group of paintings with an Expressionist direction.   “We’ll Always Have Paris,” an upcoming solo show, opens October 11 at Hayley Gallery in Columbus with 20 of her paintings.

While she started with paintings of French scenes, those of cafes, became her bread and butter.  She often utilizes a solitary female, often walking with her back towards us, both in cafes, in gallerias, on French streets, symbolizing a woman of her hard won independence.  These paintings are slyly feminist.  She enjoys skewing her perspectives, which she learned from looking at Manet, and her palette is often pastel or bolder, but she induces ebullience in the viewer.  In 2011, she held a solo show entitled “All Dressed Up and Somewhere to Go – Paris 2011” at The Carnegie in Covington.

“I have to paint in the ways that please me,” said Talerico, but she also paints for her clients, who enjoy her Parisian café scenes.  Her marketing efforts include an email promotion list, Final Friday open house at the Pendleton and a solid customer base.   During the holidays, she makes quite a few small paintings, one a day, which she offers both in her studio and over the internet: these tend to sell out every year.

Now, with a new direction, Talerico continues to paint – and loves it.

–Laura Hobson

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