A $30 credit to Waco Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore sent Whitney du Menil on a whole new path in creating art.
For an exhibit titled “Recycled,” participating artists were given $30 to spend at the ReStore, which sells recycled building materials to the public. Du Menil spent her credit on an old dresser drawer and some plywood. She adhered one of her drawings to a piece of the plywood, “and it just turned out so beautifully,” she said.
Du Menil creates drawings, often of children, on colored charcoal paper, affixes them to the plywood, and then seals the drawing with at least five coats of archival Mod Podge. That protects the art when viewers – especially younger ones – inevitably want to touch the images, “because a lot of people can’t help themselves,” she said.
The desire to get closer to the art, du Menil said, comes because “this relates to them and them being able to say, ‘Oh, I never see me or my kid in art.’ So it’s refreshing for people to be able to relate to that on that level.”
Du Menil was born in Waco, adopted from the Methodist Children’s Home, and began making art as a child growing up in Merkel, a town of about 2,500 people 17 miles west of Abilene. Du Menil received a fine arts degree in two-dimensional studies from Abilene Christian University and then continued her studies in California, “which was exciting because at a Christian school, I didn’t really get to study nudes. So whenever I went to California, I was like, ‘I’m gonna go ahead and get this opportunity while I have the chance,’” she said.
She now lives in China Spring with her husband David, a real estate developer, and their three daughters: Savannah, 14; Reagan, 7; and Adeline, 5.
Du Menil’s had a busy year of exhibits already. She started with a collection of charcoal drawings on wood which wrapped up at Cultivate 7Twelve at the end of March. She was back there for in May and June with an entirely different type of art — a modern take on Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art from the 1960s.
“I’m taking Lichtenstein and revisiting some of his works. And then I’m putting a spin on them,” she said.
In du Menil’s pieces, which are more colorful than those of Lichtenstein, who worked mainly in red, blue and yellow, she addresses modern topics of wearing masks, online shopping and the fad of eating Tide pods.
“I’m hoping people find it humorous,” she said of the series.
Examples of the pop art and charcoal paper drawings on wood can be seen on Instagram at Whitney du Menil Fine Art. Her anime art can be seen at Whitney du Menil Fan Art, also on Instagram. Her realism series “Childlike Wonder” is currently displayed at Arrowhead Chiropractic in Woodway.
Du Menil said her house is filled with art, much of it created by friends. But there’s also a bunch of paintings of ships, which is displayed on a wall of shiplap.
“And I’ve even had friends who say, ‘Oh, my mom has prints of ships that she did herself. I’d love to give you one to add to your collection,’” she said. “It’s just a fun collection”
Mother Knows Best
Du Menil’s oldest daughter Savannah is following in her mother’s footsteps by drawing anime and characters “and whatnot.”
“I started out the exact same way,” du Menil said. In fact, du Menil’s anime artwork – in the form of bookmarks – is available at AnimotionPlus, in Robinson.
“I have so many moms who are like, ‘Oh, my kid draws that too,’ and I’m able to point them over there and then they see my real artwork,” she said.
“And I’m saying to keep encouraging them. If you try to shut them down, they may not want to do art anymore at all. Keep encouraging them. Keep inspiring them to branch out. They can do both. They can do real stuff, and they can do cartoons.”