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).
Here are the gallery lists for the International Exhibitions and the Explore This! exhibitions.
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)
International Exhibitions and Explore This! exhibitions
Article on The Artist's Magazine blog
UK Colored Pencil Society
Other colored pencil societies and exhibitions, from Katherine Tyrrell listing
7 Replies to “The Colored Pencil Society of America”
Thanks for another great post Charley. I’ll be anxiously perusing these links as well as tweeting this post as I have many of your posts. I love colored pencil (although I rarely get to work in it). Illustrators like Bill Nelson and Drew Struzan captured my imagination and interest in it years ago. Its great to see more of the fine art side of this incredible medium.
Nice stuff, but why there are no non photo-realistic colored pencil artists represented here? Is that just the style of this society, or do artists that work that way just gravitate there? I know of many working illustrators who use colored pencil in their art and most do not use it photo-realistically. Just wondering.
An excellent illustrator, Yvonne Gilbert used coloured pencils to create some beautifully rendered artwork for many children`s books etc, The Iron Wolf is one that springs to mind.
Her touch is somewhat lighter than those images seen here, but have
a lovely quality to them, and yes, the medium is much undervalued.
The use of colored pencil seems more accepted, or at least more visible, in illustration than in gallery art. I don’t know, however, of a group site or organization devoted to the use of the medium in illustration and I’m uncertain if any significant percentage of the members of CPSA are illustrators.
To address Greg’s question, I’m not certain if the dominant styles we’re seeing in the CPSA’s exhibition award winners reflects overall trends in style and approach or the preferences of the judges (the examples shown with the post simply represent my preferences, plus an attempt to show work that one might not associate withe the medium at first glance).
I think even more than many other mediums, it’s difficult to show the surface quality of colored pencil works in small photos like these. It’s difficult to tell how many of them might reveal surface and textural details in person that are lost here, as in small photographs of large paintings that seem highly rendered in photos but are much more painterly when seen in person. Some of these may be much more “pencilerly” than they seem.
I looked up pencilerly Charley and it’s not a word. Illustrators like Bill Nelson, I met and invaded his home as a young graduate, and Yvonne Gilbert pushed me in the direction of colored pencils early in my career. When I really discovered paint I just found it so much more flexible, faster, and enjoyable.
When it’s mentioned that pencilers want to be taken more seriously it always comes back to subject matter to me. So many of these just seem like more sophisticated versions of those graphite copies of snapshots which are so prevalent at post high school development. Caveat for friends of artists represented: Of course not all of the work represented is not like that. Some are very sensitive and beautifully rendered.
Anyway thanks for the post. It’s always interesting to see what is happening with my old friend the colored pencil.
The comment posted by Greg N. was about the same as the the thought I had after looking over these marvelous works and some of the website. I actually am very fond of the tenth picture/painting:) Is it a drawing is it a painting, my thinking is, is that colored pencils pieces need a more accessible name for them, cause it’s a mouthful! Really though, its all about the packaging in so many cases, sadly or no! Anyway, the work I believe is done by David Billingsley, as listed and has that, unique to colored pencil quality to it.
On another front but relevant to post is the Art Gallery in Manteo,Dare County Arts Council, Outer Banks N.C. has quite a few works of the marine nature done by artist proficient in colored pencil. If in the area it is worth dropping in.
RE: “I looked up pencilerly Charley and it’s not a word.”
Are you sure? (grin)
I know what you mean about the graphite photo renderings, but enough work is being done in other directions that there is interest being generated in the medium.
I’m personally more fond of using colored pencil in single colors, or in “trois crayon” technique, as a waxier, easier to handle alternative to conté for life drawing.
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