West Coast painter Valerie Rolfe shares with us her love for animals and her passion for raising awareness for animal welfare through her art.

AIP: How would you describe your style of work and what is your preferred medium to work in? 

VR: I work mostly in acrylic, watercolour, and with collage. My acrylics and watercolours are on the realistic side of things, while my collages are whimsical and ridiculous.

AIP: What were you first steps toward selling your art and what type of setting was this in, a gallery, art & crafts show, market, on-line or elsewhere?

VR: My first paintings were of my pets, and of the animals in sanctuaries I support. I painted elephants for The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, chimpanzees for The Jane Goodall Institute, chickens and rhesus macaques for The Fauna Foundation and whales for The Centre for Whale Research.

So my originals were from my heart and I wasn’t prepared to part with any of them for a long time – I knew all their stories and their names. Their situations motivated me to paint their portraits, as most were survivors of some horror at the hands of man.

I felt compelled to share their stories and the best way to do that was with cards – image on the front, text on the reverse. It turns out that others were moved as I was and so began a wonderful relationship with a number of shops. I learned along the way that rats (which I painted for NEAVS) are not, in general, particularly popular! Chickens more so. 

You’re Mine by Val Rolfe

AIP: Why do you choose Art Ink to print your reproductions, and what products to you order from us?

VR: I choose Art Ink because they’re great people who do professional printing. They’re generous with their time and expertise, and they have a lot of the latter. We have a solid working relationship that makes me feel supported as an artist. I have all my originals captured, cards produced, and giclee prints on paper and canvas done at Art Ink.

AIP: If you could look back in time and meet yourself when you first started making an income as an artist; what would be the most valuable piece of advice you would give yourself?

VR: Stay organized and keep records. Expect anything worthwhile to take time. 

AIP: What are your favorite methods for marketing yourself as a self representing artist?

VR: I like to go into unusual places to sell my cards, as I feel they can be lost in a card shop. For example, I have my cards at VanIsle Marina and Sea Cider.

AIP: Can you tell us an event or occasion which excited you the most, with regards to getting your art ‘out there’ for people to see?

VR: I was excited to paint at the Parkside Hotel last summer because it gave me a chance to spread the word about the organizations I support. I had literature, pamphlets, etc, and I was happy to see people take them. Having your work hung in a show feels validating and a marker of productivity. Sometimes you forget how hard you’ve been working when the canvases are leaning against a wall.

AIP: Where can our followers and your patrons find your work, and keep up to date with your new creations?

VR: My cards are in a number of shops around town (The Papery, Bolen’s, Bungalow, etc), in Whistler and on the Gulf Islands. Best to contact me through my website if you’re looking for a portrait of a rat or a rhesus macaque: www.valrolfe.com

AIP: Any other comments you would like to share?

VR: I try to shine a light on people who work tirelessly against all odds to help animals who are imperilled. Suffice to say that chimpanzee portraits are not a hot commodity, but they move me, as do elephants, whales, dogs and cats, because they’re interesting creatures.

I think you do have to paint what you love just as one writes what one knows. That said, I like to challenge myself with different subject matter to see if I can pull it off. Sometimes yes and sometimes no but the process is always worthwhile as there’s something to learn from everything tackled!

Thank-you so much Val for sharing your story with us. We love how you capture the personality of the animals you paint, whilst raising awareness for animal rights!