Darlene was born in Salt Lake City, February 1, 1943. The daughter of accomplished artist Merle Olson, she was constantly surrounded by art. Darlene was drawing and painting throughout her formative years. "There wasn't a time that I didn't have a pencil in my hand sketching and drawing portraits." Darlene never questioned what her life's work would be. Art was her passion. Darlene does mostly portraiture, mostly Native Americans and sometimes one of her grandchildren. Animals are also among her favorites, especially horses. "I grew up loving horses. I feel that they are one of Gods most beautiful creations." Darlene studied with her mother, artist Merle Olson. "She was my teacher, mentor and my best critic. I did take some life drawing classes in my early years, but I am basically self taught. I feel that you are born with a talent. What you do with that talent is up to you. I was raising a young family and didn't have the opportunity to get an art degree." Darlene's degree in art, as it turned out, was the hard work in perfecting her technique.
Darlene started painting the Native Americans shortly after the family moved to Bigfork Montana, 45 years ago. Located between two Indian Reservations she is surrounded by their culture. "I started out painting in oils and then started specializing in India Ink washes." India ink is a slow, exacting method of portraiture and very unforgiving. The slow and exacting technique takes hours of tedious work. "You can't rush an ink wash. There can't be any mistakes, since you can't erase or paint over ink." The medium requires unparalleled skill to render the values correctly. "I love detail and capturing the personality and likeness of my subjects." Her paintings are sometimes mistaken as black and white photographs. "I love painting the pensive or smiling children along with the elderly with their wrinkled and weathered faces. I also love dramatic light and shadow, which renders itself so well with the black and white India Ink." In the last few years she has branched into pastels. The softness and delicacy of pastel renders itself well to portraiture and she enjoys working in color as well.
Over the years she has won several awards for her India Ink washes all over the country. In 1972, in her late 20s, she won Best in Show, at the Spokane show of the Pacific Northwest Indian Art Center (now the Museum of Native American Culture). She has won two Peoples Choice Awards at the Hockaday Museum of Art in Kalispell, Montana. She also won a Peoples Choice Award summer 2012 at the Bigfork Museum of Art and History. Darlene's work has won many ribbons at the Dixie College Invitational Art Show in St. George, Utah. She has exhibited and been included in the Charlie Russell Art Show and Auction, in Great Falls, Montana, the PNIC Art Show and Auction in Spokane and the Ellensburg Art Show in Ellensburg, Washington.
Darlene's life has been fraught with many struggles and pain. She is the mother of five children. Two of her sons were hemophiliacs who died after contracting HIV from contaminated blood products during the 1980s. "We had a long struggle of dealing with their disease, sidetracking me for years from performing my craft. I also took care of my Mother the last two years of her life after my Fathers death." It was a long, painful and emotional journey. "I feel that the suffering and sorrow I went through during those years were the refiners fire enhancing my perception of life." Darlene is back to painting full-time and wants to put all her creativity and energy into art. "I need to put a lot of the emotional pain and suffering behind me. Darlene believes her talent is a gift from God and she must diligently pursue it as long as she is able. "I hope the viewer appreciates the time and effort I put into rendering my paintings and drawings."