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From Kap to the Pentagon

Brittney McLeod

Not many people can turn their passion into their job. Ms Theriault Theriault is not one of those people.

The wildlife artist and portrait painter has been able to do just that. Originally from Kapuskasing, Ms Theriault now calls Great Sudbury home. And well her name might be found in the phone book, it can be found in other places as well. Namely, on the pieces she has sold to or been commissioned to create by art lovers across North America.

It is one of her most recent commissions though that has found the most unique home: the Pentagon, spook central, the iconic headquarters of the United States' Central Intelligence Agency.

"I found it odd that the Pentagon would choose a Canadian artist to make the portrait," joked the Kapuskasing native.

Not bad for a person from small town Northern Ontario.

The commission came about in late 2009 after a member of Pentagon Police Canine Directorate saw Ms Theriault's detailed and highly realistic work dog and cat portraits on her website (she also paints people).

Officer Phillip Sherman was impressed and he arranged for the commission by the US Pentagon Police Canine Directorate (USPPD) for the Police Canine Division (K-9), the explosive detection unit for the Department of Defense (DoD) community in and around the Washington D.C. area. The 13"x17" coloured pencil drawing was hung inside the Pentagon in May and is to be featured on posters and t-shirts made for members of the unit.

The drawing features three dogs, a malinois, a shepherd/malinois mix and a black labrador above a depiction of the Pentagon as the American flag waves in the background. On the top left corner of the drawing is the US Pentagon Force Protection Agency seal and text that reads "Always on Watch", the English translation of the Latin phrase "Semper Vigilans", which is found on the seal.

Growing up, Ms Theriault spent much of her time camping and exploring the outdoors, which has clearly inspired a large amount of her artwork.

When asked if she had any preference as to what form of work she does, Ms Theriault responded by saying "I enjoy all types of work I get to do but I love doing wildlife portraits because it's so natural and spontaneous that almost lets me be more creative. Usually when I do work for families they want their pet to be doing a certain pose or looking a certain way."

Ms Theriault's love for the outdoors later motivated her to acquire an Honours Bachelor of Science Degree specializing in Biology. Aside from nature, another one of Ms Theriault's biggest inspirations is fellow Canadian artist Robert Bateman who is also best known for his nature enthused paintings and drawings.

Although she's very passionate about wildlife artwork, Ms Theriault spends most of her time doing commission work, painting and drawing portraits by request for families. She has said that she enjoys pet portraits because "It can bring a type of comfort and joy to the family; and especially if the pet has passed, it can remind them of the good times." Ms Theriault also finds commission work very stimulating because of her personal love for animals-dogs in particular-which would later help her earn one of the biggest achievements of her career.

Just lately has Ms Theriault begun to exhibit her work in a variety of art shows and to great avail. Last fall she had entered two pieces into the Northern Ontario Arts Association exhibition and her piece "Into the Light" won an Honourable Mention Award.

Most recently, she submitted three pieces into La Cloche art show and all three were accepted, with one of her portraits, "Her Soft Gaze", also winning an Honourable Mention Award.

Northern Ontario Arts Association exhibition will be showcasing artwork including that of Ms Theriault in various galleries across Northern Ontario until September 2010. Her website is www.colettetheriault.com and her daughter, who also shares Ms Theriault's passion and outstanding talent is www.valerietheriault.com.

Photo courtesy: Shannon Giles / Department of Defense Public Affairs Office