Rebecca Callens’ work is on display in the basement  of Sterling Heights City Hall.

Rebecca Callens’ work is on display in the basement of Sterling Heights City Hall.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Sterling artist earns attention with marker pieces

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published April 12, 2019

 Rebecca Callens, of Sterling Heights, holds a prize-winning portrait. Callens is the latest Sterling Heights Featured Artist.

Rebecca Callens, of Sterling Heights, holds a prize-winning portrait. Callens is the latest Sterling Heights Featured Artist.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Rebecca Callens has been drawing and dabbling in creative mediums for most of her life, but one of the main obstacles to diving deeper was the fear that being an artist doesn’t pay.

“I’d like something I could do to support myself, but not be a starving artist,” she said.

But Callens’ work is in no danger of starving for attention: The Sterling Heights Art Commission recently named Callens as the city’s Featured Artist for April and May.

The honor means that the city will showcase her work during that time in City Hall’s basement and at the city’s library.

Callens, 56, from Sterling Heights, said she initially started out drawing other people’s work. Then she moved on to using oil pastels, since those were the supplies that were available to her back then.

“I used to use oil pastels because that was the only thing I had,” she said. “I couldn’t really afford to buy art supplies, because that was a want and not a necessity for life. If I got them at a yard sale, that was where I got my supplies from.”

After picking up art skills in school and then making attempts to enter the automotive industry — followed by layoffs — Callens pursued her passion for art with renewed vigor in 2015. She said her husband and her cousin “lit a fire” and encouraged her, and she was also inspired by the success of whale muralist and metro Detroit native Robert Wyland.

Callens said she creates based on topics that inspire her. She said she is proud of her grayscale marker portrait of an old man, which took first place in its category in an Armada art contest in 2015.

“I never thought I was that good until everyone was like, ‘You are. Do something,’” she said. “It’s kind of humbling to realize that maybe everybody’s right.”

While Callens said she has dabbled in mediums such as jewelry and sculpture, today she likes to use grayscale markers and colored pencils the most. She said she looks forward to exploring oil paints someday, and she added that while she currently doesn’t have a studio, she and her husband have talked about it.

Jeanne Schabath, the chair of the Sterling Heights Art Commission, praised Callens’ work and encouraged residents to visit the city’s artwork displays.

“You see a great transition from her early work in oil pastels as she advanced into grayscale marker,” Schabath said. “The grayscale marker work is absolutely stunning, and she has great control and expertise at it.”

Find out more about Sterling Heights by visiting www.sterling-heights.net or by calling (586) 446-2489.

Find out more about Rebecca Callens by visiting www.rebeccacallens.com.

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