The Perpetual Student
An interview with Virginia Tupper
A self-described perpetual student,
Virginia Tupper is a portrait artist who is currently specializing
in a style called Circulism using colored pencil. Previously, she
illustrated a book with portraits drawn in graphite. Virginia has
also studied animation and has had her work broadcast on Canadian
television. — Editor
latest work is in a style called Circulism, drawing with lots of overlapping
circles rather than lines. How did you discover that style?
The Color Pencil Challenge website featured a lesson
on circulism by Maggie Toole in the year 2000 and all interested artists
were encouraged to try the method and share their results. I tried, enjoyed
it, and then put it on a back burner while I pursued my usual methods
Then I picked up the technique again just a few months
ago because I wanted to experiment and have some fun without always trying
to capture perfect realism. Circulism creates beautifully soft, glowing
textures that I enjoy creating.
you go to art school?
I took art classes in elementary and middle school,
then after that I was self-taught until, as a mature student, I took a
few university art classes and then attended a two-year animation course
from which I graduated in 2002.
Tell me about the animation you created that was
broadcast on Canadian television.
CBC ZeD invites artists of all media to submit content
to their site and if what you upload fits a show theme it may be aired.
Just for fun I played with their logo and they liked it enough to use
it on the opening of one of their shows.
did you start your art career, and how has your work evolved since then?
I started seriously in 1995 when I was commissioned
to draw a series of graphite portraits for a book written about our local
fire department called Not
for the Glory.
After a few years of working exclusively in graphite I
taught myself how to do portraits in color at the request of my grandmother
who wanted hers in color. I say I taught myself, but that probably wouldn't
have happened without the help of a book called Color
Pencil Portraits Step by Step written by Ann Kullberg. That book has
been my inspiration as well as my instructor and I always recommend it
whenever anyone asks me about color pencil portraits.
Are there any other specific book titles which
you've found particularly helpful?
Ann Kullberg's books are my favorites for color pencil
work; and I belong to the North Light Book Club so I buy books on many
mediums and methods. I am a perpetual student. Other books I'd recommend
How would you define great art?
I think great art speaks to a person’s soul.
Where do you find inspiration?
I don't go too far to find inspiration. It's in
the faces of my family and friends. I work from photos, so I take a lot.
If I capture a great expression it becomes my next idea.
How is your artwork influenced
by your environment?
I'm especially influenced by children and animals--the
beauty of their innocence--and I look for the spirit in everything I create.
What sort of message do you wish
to communicate through your art?
I don't set out to follow any theme or send out any
messages with my art. I create what moves me and if viewers find my images
pleasing, that's a bonus.
long does it typically take you to complete a finished work?
It can take me two weeks or more because I work sporadically—an
hour or two a night when I have time.
What is your favorite drawing medium?
At this time it is colored pencil on pastel
paper or watercolor paper.
What reaction from a viewer makes you happiest?
I like to hear the feelings, if any, that my work
What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?
'Practice, practice, practice' is what my art teachers
in animation school told me and it's good advice.
an artist, what are some of your greatest challenges or obstacles you
Self-criticism. I will pick my work apart and devalue
it because it never appears like it does in my head.
What has been you biggest achievement as an artist?
Graduating with high marks from an intense two-year
animation program while working weekends and being a mom to a two and
a half year old and a four year old.
Have you any regrets in terms of your career?
I don't make my living from art so I don't consider
it as my career. When I draw it is a place where I commune with creation:
a way to touch base with who I am, an outlet to express myself, a haven
to escape to and rejuvenate my soul.
of your recent work is portraiture and animal drawings, but you also have
a section of figure drawings on your website. What role has figure drawing
played in your development as an artist?
The inspiration and challenge of drawing from life
has enhanced my perceptions and talent, and I credit the figure drawing
classes taught by Geordie Millar during my animation course for taking
me to a higher level of ability.
What makes a captivating pose?
Expression, mood, contrast.
Has your art won any awards?
I have received Honorable Mentions and a 2nd Place
and a 3rd Place in local art exhibitions, a Certificate of Achievement
from L. Ron Hubbard's Illustrators of the Future Contest, and a Grant
Award from the Sheila Hugh Mackay Foundation.
Thank you, Virginia. It's been a pleasure to chat with you today.
at a Glance
|Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada