Charcoal Creations

ex-Marine discovers she has a talent for drawing

Barbara Arnold, photos by Andrea Paulseth

RIGHT THERE IN BLACK AND WHITE. An accidental thrift store find led Eau Claire artist Angie Pitcavage  to trying her hand at sketching with charcoal.
RIGHT THERE IN BLACK AND WHITE. An accidental thrift store find led Eau Claire artist Angie Pitcavage to trying her hand at sketching with charcoal.

A “happy accident” for Eau Claire resident Angie Pitcavage uncovered her untapped talent for charcoal custom portraits of people and pets as well as drawings of animals, historic military events, nature scenes, and buildings. One of her drawings – of the Chippewa Valley Railroad in Carson Park – hangs in the newly opened Local Lounge after taking third place in its contest for local art. And she just launched her new hobby business, Angie’s Charcoal Drawings, on Facebook.

“About three years ago, I went to a second-hand store to look for anything to use for making crafts,” Pitcavage shared. “I found a plastic bag that had some calligraphy nibs in it, and I bought it thinking I could do calligraphy on my handmade cards. When I got home, I looked in the bag, and there was all this charcoal. I was going to throw it away, but there happened to be some paper on the table, and I decided to ‘mess around’ with the charcoal just to see what would happen. I fell in love with the results and have been drawing ever since.”

“It’s just something I enjoy doing, and if I can make someone feel good when they see something I’ve drawn, that’s a bonus.” – Angie Pitcavage, charcoal artist

So since age 45, when she drew her first charcoal sketch, her “messing around” has led to dozens of original drawings which are treasured in people’s homes and posted on her Facebook page: tigers, deer, frogs, the flag raising at Iwo Jima, sunflowers, farm scenes, city scenes – whatever she is drawn to sketch. “I had no idea that I could draw like this,” she said. “To be honest, I still find it mind-blowing. I start with blank slate, and before I know it, I start to see something come to life. I really feel good when someone asks me to draw a portrait of a pet they lost or a family member they want to remember. I put my heart and soul into these drawings trying to capture the essence and personality of their loved ones. Many times, it takes several tries before I am satisfied with a piece. Many sketches have found their way into the trash bin.”

Pitcavage liked to doodle at Memorial High School where she took the basic art classes and a pottery class back in the 1980s. But she was not drawn to study art at all. In fact, upon graduating from high school, she joined the Marines.

“I remember being on a bus full of other women arriving at Parris Island, South Carolina. It was the middle of the night after traveling all day. The drill instructors got on the bus and started screaming at us to get up and get off the bus. I was in total shock and didn’t even want to get off the bus. Needless to say, I got off the bus, and the rest, as they say, is history. Three months later, I managed to make it through everything they threw at me, and I became a United States Marine.”

Not long after that, she was sent to a base in Aberdeen, Maryland, to train as an armorer. There were five women in the barracks with about 200 men. Her future husband caught her attention by asking her – every morning – if she hated Aberdeen yet. Later they were assigned to their long-term duty stations, she in Cherry Point, North Carolina, and he an hour away in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. They would see each other on weekends. He proposed at a Marine bonfire picnic, and she said “yes.” They were married on beautiful historic Beaufort Island, North Carolina … just him, Angie, and a couple of secretaries at the courthouse as witnesses.

Twenty-eight years later, after two children, and two grandsons, they live in Eau Claire. Angie is mostly a stay-at-home mom and grandma. She works seasonally for H&R Block and does volunteer work for a program that helps veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

“I didn’t set out to start a business,” she continued. “I draw because it helps me relax and makes me feel good when I can put something out there that others enjoy. I’ve only done one print; everything else is original. I don’t feel like a ‘real’ artist. It’s just something I enjoy doing, and if I can make someone feel good when they see something I’ve drawn, that’s a bonus.”

To see more, search for Angie’s Charcoal Drawings on Facebook.

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