Like pastel, gouache and various drawing media, colored pencil is an artist’s medium that doesn’t receive the level of recognition its adherents would like.
In part it shares the relative fragility and light exposure issues of works on paper (though materials are now being subjected to lightfastness tests), but largely colored pencil in particular suffers from an image problem, the impression that it’s not a “serious” medium.
The Colored Pencil Society of America is an organization founded in 1990 to promote the use of colored pencil, provide exhibition opportunities for its membership and in general elevate the perception of colored pencil as a medium.
To these ends, the society organizes two shows each year, the International Exhibition, in which the medium for accepted works must be only colored pencil, and the Explore This! Exhibition, in which the primary medium for works must be colored pencil, but allows for the incorporation of other media, surfaces and techniques not allowed in the International Exhibition.
The society hosts galleries of the award winners in both exhibitions, going back several years. Unfortunately, the website is not well organized (you must drill down into the Galleries page, then to the individual listings and then to the individual year before seeing images, and from there navigation disappears except for a Home link).
Once into the galleries, you will find examples of colored pencil being used in ways you may not have expected if you haven’t been keeping up with the medium. Like work in pastel, much of it is more like painting than drawing, and furthers the notion that both could be thought of as dry painting mediums.
The society’s website provides a list of links to member websites.
There is an article on The Artist’s Magazine blog about the recent CPSA awards dinner, which prompted this post.
There is also a smaller, UK Colored Pencil Society, and Katherine Tyrrell, herself a proponent of the medium, lists other colored pencil societies and exhibitions on her Squidoo lens for colored pencil resources.
(Images above: Linda Lucas Hardy, Gregory Joy, Deborah Friedman, Jaclyn Wukela, Cecile Baird, Marge Dreher, Catherine Gauldin, Ester Roi, David Billingsley, Pat Averill, Kare Williams, Linda Koffenberger, Shawn Falchetti)