Text by Tanya L. Cooper
Jean Pierre DeBernay was born in Normandy, France, six months before D-Day. Growing up in postwar France, he faced many challenges. His family had been torn apart by the war, and a congenital health issue prevented him from walking until he was three years old. However, he developed what would become a lifelong faith and discovered a special blessing—he was a gifted artist. School children would ask him to illustrate their stories, and for his expertise, they paid him with marbles. When he left France in ninth grade to be reunited with his mother in America, he recalls, “I had a pretty good-sized marble bag!” This early success gave him the confidence to launch a successful, extensive career as a commercial artist.
Jean Pierre supported himself through college at Penn State University, relying on his artistic abilities to supplement his income by painting renderings of houses and selling them to delighted homeowners. Keenly aware that few artists could make a living by painting, he pursued a degree in architecture instead. When the curriculum became more about engineering and less about art, he changed course and returned to his first love of painting. He was dedicated to succeeding, no matter how difficult this goal might become. As he neared college graduation, a representative from Hallmark visited the campus and quickly recognized his ability. Jean Pierre learned the ropes of commercial art during the next several years at Hallmark and then moved to an equally impressive 25-year career at Current, retiring as the art director. As a sought-after asset, he was able to negotiate his contract to allow him to freelance with fine art and commission pieces. He has won countless awards, and his paintings hang in many homes as well as museums, private and corporate collections, and galleries.
Today, the Colorado-based artist prefers to paint in a studio where he uses multiple photos and research materials to capture the detailed structure of his subject. Although he paints in oils and acrylics, his favorite medium is watercolor or its opaque form, gouache. The watercolors remind him of his boyhood in France when he used children’s pan watercolors to bring his friends’ stories to life.
This multitalented artist has proven that hard work and commitment along with talent can keep his blessings, as well as his marble bag, overflowing.