Alyse Dietel’s life was completely turned upside down when she got into a hiking accident in September, 2012, leaving her in a wheelchair with several severe injuries and the alarming realization that she may never walk again. As an avid rock climber, this news was devastating. Dietel dove deep into art, developing her skills on her own and bringing the wilderness to pencil and paper. Not only did drawing become an escape from her reality, but pushed Dietel to recover to the point that she now is able to rock-climb and hike again.
DROOL: When do you feel you first found success in the world of art, and how have you grown since then?
Alyse: As much as my imposter syndrome would love to say that I still haven’t quite found success, I would have to say that my moment of realization came when I was accepted into my first international artist residency in Iceland. The thought of someone highly experienced and knowledgeable in the art world looking over my work and curriculum vitae (an artist resume that I had to google before I applied) and finding it worthy definitely made me pause and think oh… I’m actually doing this! It’s been a journey to find my confidence in my art, but since that moment I’ve learned that the only person who can truly decide whether my work is worthy is me. Art is so personal, and if you’re creatively expressing yourself then you’re doing it right, regardless of Instagram likes or the personal preferences of others.
DROOL: How did you discover your voice in art?
Alyse: In September of 2012 I fell off a cliff in a hiking accident, breaking my spine and shattering my pelvis, among other injuries. I was consequently wheelchair-bound and told I would never walk again. For someone as active as me, this was devastating and an intensely difficult time in many ways. Because rock climbing, my other passion, was out of reach I found refuge in art and began drawing and developing my skill with an intensity that I never had before. So although I couldn’t’t move my legs and the mountains were far away, I lived vicariously through drawings of untamed wilderness and wildlife. As this was a mentally difficult time as well as physically, I focused on how my art made me feel and what I was trying to say with it. Nature and the outdoors have always made me feel most alive and happy, so that’s what I drew. Dogs make me feel that way as well, so it was easy to transfer my artistic voice to pet portraits. And as much as my art allowed me to drift away from the immobilized world I was in, it also fueled a fire in me to walk among the mountains once more. Now ten years after my accident I am a full-time artist, and rock climb as often as I draw.
DROOL: What compels you to keep driving forward as an artist? How do you aspire to grow as an artist this year?
Alyse: I strongly believe that no one is ever done growing and learning. As an artist evolves as a person, so should their art evolve alongside them. That being said, the past two years have been a very interesting time of personal growth. With the pandemic and lockdown, it’s been a mix of doing some serious self-work to deal with my anxiety, and doing some serious Netflix browsing and door dash ordering just to stay afloat. Some of my artistic aspirations have been put on hold as I’ve focused on surviving as a small business, but I’m hoping that will change in the coming year. Because I haven’t been able to pursue personal projects as much as I would like, I’ve focused on developing my skill and giving myself the time and patience to do the art I am making to the absolute best of my ability. I’m entirely self-taught and a bit of a stubborn perfectionist, so I’ve used this last year to tweak my techniques and identify my technical weaknesses. In 2022 I hope to use what I’ve learned the past two years to focus on what I want to convey and express in my art rather than just the technical skill. There’s a lot I want to say with my art, and I’d excited to put the giant list of ideas in my phone’s notes app to use.
DROOL: What about dogs attracts you to them as subjects for your artwork?
Alyse: It’s my belief that successful art is art that makes you feel something. Dogs are a wonderful subject to draw because there’s so much emotion and feeling in them and in their connection to their humans. Every dog is unique, as is every human-dog relationship. I love how much a pet portrait can make someone feel, even if they’re not the owner of the dog. I also love the challenge of capturing that emotional connection as well as the dogs individual personality and spirit. Before I draw a dog, I spend time looking at their photos and reading about the dog and soaking up every bit of info the owner is willing to share. I think of this as “getting to know” the dog, and when I finish a portrait I am always grateful for the time I spent with the dog, even if it’s only virtually.
DROOL: Which do you prefer: dogs or people, and why?
Alyse: There’s really no comparison for dogs, is there? As much as I love my mom and my boyfriend, I doubt they’d cock their heads and wag their tails at me if I sang a silly made-up song about how much I love their fluffy butt while I pet their ears. Dogs love unconditionally, they’re always happy to see you, and they make great dish and floor washers. Dogs don’t judge or criticize, and they’ll support you even in your dumbest endeavors. Dogs are balls of happiness and rays of sunshine, and they’ll never try to dissuade you from eating an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s. What more could you want?
DROOL: If you had to choose one dog breed to characterize who you are, what breed would it be and why?
Alyse: If I were a dog, I would definitely be a mini Australian Shepherd, and I’m not at all biased by having had six of them throughout my life. As an athlete I relate to their boundless energy and agility, and as a goofball I relate to their silly and distinct personalities and ridiculous antics. One particular trait I love about Aussies and strongly relate to is their unwavering loyalty and empathy. I have two nearly identical photos taken three years apart, one of my mom and one of me. In both, we’re recovering from knee and ankle surgery, respectively, as also in both, our red tri mini Aussies are curled up right next to our injured legs. Aussies seem to always know when something is up, and are always there for comfort as well as for joy. And as far as their loyalty goes, it’s easy to hurt their feelings by not allowing them to follow you into the bathroom.
If you’re a nature-loving dog owner, I would love to connect with and draw your pup! My pet portraits also make great gifts for birthdays, weddings, or just because. You can purchase a pet portrait through my website, amilliontinylines.com, where you’ll find more ordering info as well as pricing. To keep up with my art, dog and otherwise, follow me on instagram @amilliontinylines.
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