Darrell Chocolate’s painting, Serene Fall Season, has been selected to be featured on the cover of NorthwesTel’s NWT phone directory for the coming year.
Chocolate, originally from Gameti and now Yellowknife resident of 13 years, says winning the phone directory cover is a big deal for him and his work.
“This is the most publicity I’ve received for any one of my paintings and it’s pretty exciting,” said Chocolate.
Mayor Rebecca Alty and John MacDonald, assistant deputy Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, were also present to receive prints on behalf of the city and territorial government.
“It’s great to see the arts are something that are being celebrated,” said MacDonald. “Just to know there’s support for local artists and that sector is great news.”
Paul Gillard, vice president of Business Markets at NorthwesTel said employees were contacting him to get prints well before the unveiling ceremony.
“When employees at NorthwesTel retire, we give them a print and despite the fact your art hasn’t been released to the public, several employees were already asking for it,” said Gillard.
Chocolate’s winning painting was inspired by a landscape he saw while taking photos one fall day in Old Town near the Air Tindi float base, looking at Jolliffe Island.
“I was just taking some snapshots and it kind of captured my eyes with the clear sky and the fall leaves,” he said. “There was a brisk wind that day too. It all captured my eye and I thought I could make it into a panting.”
He says he completed painting it right before the contests September deadline and wasn’t thinking about entering it.
“I heard about the contest and I already made this, so I thought ‘maybe I should just submit this and see what happens’, and here we are,” said Chocolate.
Chocolate is a father of five who works as a process plant operator at the Ekati Diamond Mine. With two weeks on and two weeks off shifts, he says he paints whenever he finds time.
“I’m the sole income provider for my family, so I’m not about to quit to paint full time, as much as I’d want to,” he said. “I just find time when I can, which is a lot easier while the kids are in school.”
Chocolate started off sketching and drawing when he was young and began painting in oils around 2003 and with acrylic in 2009. He is entirely self taught.
“I’ve pretty much always done landscapes and animals,” he said. “In high school I used to paint basketball players as well. I’ve also done portraits of elders and community members.”
But for Chocolate, he says it’s still the natural beauty of the North that captures his attention.
“The natural beauty of the landscape is still very inspiring to me,” he said. “Even in the winter I’m still getting out to take photos for my paintings.”
MacDonald says offering this contest is a small, but important, gesture for the local arts community.
This is the 34th year that the phone directory cover contest has been run by NorthwesTel, for which participants also receive $3,000.