Ambidextrous artist helps Detroit nonprofit

By: Brendan Losinski | Metro | Published May 22, 2021

 Colin Darke is able to create works by drawing with both hands simultaneously.

Colin Darke is able to create works by drawing with both hands simultaneously.

Photo provided by Colin Darke

 The Grosse Pointe Farms artist is donating the profits from May and June from his art website to Detroit nonprofit Arts & Scraps.

The Grosse Pointe Farms artist is donating the profits from May and June from his art website to Detroit nonprofit Arts & Scraps.

Photo provided by Colin Darke

 Among artist Colin Darke’s creations as an ambidextrous artist is a portrait of the late John Lewis, the civil rights leader and U.S. representative.

Among artist Colin Darke’s creations as an ambidextrous artist is a portrait of the late John Lewis, the civil rights leader and U.S. representative.

Photo provided by Colin Darke

DETROIT — A Detroit nonprofit is getting a boost from a local artist who is pitching in with both hands.

Colin Darke, of Grosse Pointe Farms, works for Rocket Loans by day. In his spare time, he is an artist who has been using his unusual skills to help raise funds for Arts & Scraps in Detroit.

“Colin started with us as a volunteer and he has moved from there to trying to help support us financially,” explained Arts & Scraps Executive Director Ang Adamiak. “He uses his skill at being able to draw with both hands to gain a social media following, and he is using that power to raise money for Arts & Scraps.”

Darke is ambidextrous, which means he can use both hands as if they were his dominant hand. Having always been an art enthusiast, he started posting his talent of drawing and painting with both hands simultaneously on social media.

“I’ve been able to draw and write with both hands since forever,” Darke said. “A few years ago, my mom and wife were in the kitchen and my son could also use both hands, and I mentioned I could draw and write with both hands when they were talking about it. I didn’t realize how rare that was. So, I started putting up videos on TikTok and Instagram of drawing and writing simultaneously. A few of the videos went viral.”

After a few of his videos went viral, he started devoting more time to the hobby and expanding on how he did his work.

“I had never posted my process; I usually just posted the image of a quick snippet that I thought looked good,” said Darke. “The more I posted, the more positive feedback I got, and I started to show people a more complete picture of how I work.”

He and his family had been volunteering at Arts & Scraps, which collects, sells and gives away recycled materials for use in art projects around the metro Detroit area.

“We utilize recycled materials to empower community members and teach STEM to students in Detroit and metro Detroit,” said Adamiak. “We have a community store on Detroit’s east side where people can shop for recycled materials, whether they are artists, teachers or families. We also have educational programs out in the community.”

When they saw what Darke could do, they struck up a partnership.

“Before the pandemic, I volunteered there with my eldest daughter,” said Darke. “I was really impressed with them, and the more I got to know them, the more impressed I was. The last year or two I’ve been getting more attention on social media, and I’ve always liked giving back to the art community, so I decided to help them out.”

Darke sells his work online and takes commissions. Profits for May and June from his website are being donated to Arts & Scraps.

“He launched his website where he sells his books and drawings, and he is giving 50% to 100% of the proceeds to Arts & Scraps for the Month of May,” said Adamiak. “They’re also donating some books that we can send people when they buy from us.”

Arts & Scraps aims to use materials that would otherwise go to waste as tools for creativity and a means to bring art to less-advantaged parts of the community.

“We use our community store as a unique space where people can buy materials from, but also as a place to show people what can be done through this recycled-materials-as-art-materials mission. We work with about 7,000 customers a year, so there’s a wide variety of creations, so we see everything from hats to fine art to school projects,” Adamiak said. “We have tons of fine art materials that were previously or partially used such as fabric, carpet, tile, wallpaper and wood. We get donations from thousands of people and businesses a year. We get things like gaskets and building materials from businesses, or excess materials from assembly lines.”

Darke focuses on watercolor painting for most of his work but has transitioned to pens and markers for some of his recent work online.

“It’s often watercolor. My bachelor’s degree in fine arts was in watercolor,” he said. “I’ve always considered that as my serious artwork. Most of my commissioned pieces are watercolor using bold colors and sort of expressionist styles. With the TikTok stuff, I use a lot of pens or markers. I had always created art and had it as an aspiration. I thought maybe someday I would stop my day job and go full tilt as an artist.”

He said he was drawn to Arts & Scraps not only for their creative uses of materials in art, but for their mission in making art accessible to everyone.

“In terms of using recycled materials and making sure things don’t go to waste, I think they’re very creative and it’s a good message,” Darke said. “They also work with a lot of poor, inner-city kids, and that has always been a focus of mine. They add art to a lot of STEM themes. I love how art teachers can go there and receive inexpensive art materials for their students to use. My wife and I love to support the arts, and I think art education is often seen as a soft, not-that-serious class, but I think it taught me a lot of problem-solving skills to succeed.”

Darke’s work can be found at www.ctdarke.com or www.TikTok.com/@colindarke and www.instagram.com/colindarke. More information on Arts & Scraps can be found at www.artsandscraps.org or by calling (313) 640-4411.