October 09, 2007


Colored Pencil 70th Anniversary Competition Winners

by Karen Stanger Johnston

Ya Reckin
by Rosemarie Rush, 2006, colored pencil, 16 x 20.

First Place: Rosemarie Rush

Like most of the images of Western life by California artist Rosemarie Rush, Ya Reckin was based on a photograph and has no background. “This is to eliminate any distractions and to provide the viewer with an intimate experience of the subject,” Rush says. She works on acid-free illustration board, with the background color of the board usually serving as the background of the picture. And like most of her images, this one reveals the artist’s fascination with texture. “The harmonious shades of blue in a pair of worn blue jeans, the folds of an old cotton shirt and how light plays upon them—these commonplace textures tickle my artistic fancy,” she says.

Read about the semifinalists in each category, and vote, by October 30, for the Readers' Choice competition winner on our message board, Artists' Forum.

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Grand Prize Winner
Mixed Media

After layering the colored pencil, using softer pencils for the base and burnishing with a harder lead, Rush applies two light coats of fixative to keep it from blooming. “The surfaces of my pictures are smooth because I press extremely hard on the board with the colored pencils, which makes them look opaque,” she says.

Rush’s pictures have appeared in numerous exhibitions and have won many awards, including a gold medal at the San Dimas National Western Art Exhibition, in San Dimas, California, in 2007. Rush is a member of the Colored Pencil Society of America and is a board member of the Laguna Art-A-Fair, in Laguna Beach, California, where she regularly shows her work.

For more information on Rush, visit her website at www.rosemarierush.com, or e-mail her at .

Second Place: Dee Overly

by Dee Overly, 2007, colored pencil, 8½ x 7.

Although Michigan artist Dee Overly sometimes works in black and white, she chose colored pencil for this picture. Raindrops was meant to be in color. “It’s more dramatic, I think,” Overly explains. “Plus, I was excited about the challenge of doing an all-green piece. I use Prismacolor pencils because they blend easily, but I think the green family is a bit lacking. So it was quite educational experimenting to get the shades of green that I wanted and to create that wet look on the leaf, which took 10 or more layers of color in some places.”

Overly works from sketches or photographs. “I love my time with my sketchbook, but when I see something I feel can go beyond the sketches, out comes the camera,” the artist says. “Lately I’ve been on a nature kick, examining things up close, such as leaves, rocks, bark, and flower petals.” Overly scans her photos into her computer and then crops them. “The image on the monitor becomes my model,” she says. “As a realist, being able to enlarge that image at any given moment in order to view the details is a major plus.” Unlike many other colored pencil artists, who initially draw their image in graphite, which later must be erased, Overly makes her first sketch in light colored pencil and later covers that with additional layers.

Overly is a member of the Colored Pencil Society of America, Detroit CPSA Chapter 104, Ann Arbor Women Artists, and the Riverside Arts Center, in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

For more information on Overly, visit her website at www.deeoverly.com.

Third Place: Ranjini Venkatachari

Usual Suspects
by Ranjini Venkatachari, 2007, colored pencil and Neocolors on pastel board, 13½ x 24.

Washington state artist Ranjini Venkatachari goes through several stages when she creates a colored pencil piece. She takes hundreds of photos and makes several tiny sketches—and that’s just to determine the composition. She then applies many layers of colored pencil over a layer of Caran d’Ache Neocolor II Artists’ Crayons has been painted over with a watercolor brush. Then, using a bristle brush in a slow, circular motion, she blends the two materials to achieve a luminous, even-toned effect reminiscent of an oil painting. In the final stages she adds details and highlights with colored pencil. Last, she protects the picture with a UV spray and damar varnish so that it can be framed without glass like an acrylic or oil painting.

The idea for this still life came to Venkatachari while she was shopping for pears. “I selected pears with a variety of shapes and colors along with cuts and bruises to give them a personality,” the artist says. “I carefully arranged them in shadowy light to set the mood and make them look guilty. My favorite aspects of this are the gentle reflections in the front that developed during the course of the work and the mixture of a warm and cool palette.”

Venkatachari is a member of the Colored Pencil Society of America and a juried member of the International Guild of Realism. She is represented by Kaewyn Gallery at FrameWright, in Bothell, Washington.

For more information on Venkatachari, visit her website at www.vividpencils.com.

More Semifinalists

Deborah L. Friedman

Bird’s Nest
by Deborah L. Friedman, 2006, colored pencil, 11 x 11¼.

Massachusetts artist Deborah L. Friedman has been creating detailed drawings of birds for 18 years. Recently, she has been inspired to draw elements from their environment, especially bird’s nests. The nest in this painting belonged to a baby bird that Friedman and her son rescued and returned to its home. Once the nest was empty, the artist took it back to her studio to study and draw. “This was akin to making or solving a puzzle with no beginning or end,” Friedman recalls.

After viewing the nest from all sides, she chose to focus on the side with the leaves woven into it for an “anchor” and added a marble egg for depth, additional color, and emotional content. She then sketched out the basic structure. Once the forefront of the nest was in place, she worked counter clockwise, “weaving” one area into the next and occasionally returning to an area to add shadows or more detail. Last, she placed the faint shadows under the resting branches to keep the nest anchored. “As I worked on this piece, I reflected on how wonderfully chaotic and yet organized, how vulnerable and yet protected, a bird’s nest is, enveloping life itself,” Friedman says. “I found it a very powerful symbol, and a soothing and captivating piece to both work on and view.”

Friedman has a bachelor of fine art in printmaking from the University of Massachusetts, in Amherst.

For more information on Friedman, visit her website at www.dlfriedman.com.

Sew Haute
by Erin Gergen Halls, 2007, colored pencil, 14½ x 18. Collection Diann and William Boudreau.

“Realism with colored pencil requires strong drawing and problem solving skills and a love for detail,” says self-taught Minnesota artist Erin Gergen Halls. “I do not shy away from the challenge. In fact, I deliberately set up each still life without any thought as to how I will accomplish the drawing realistically. I don’t want to talk myself out of adding an intricate piece of lace or a highly reflective vase for fear that it will be too difficult to recreate accurately. I simply solve each problem as I go.”

Halls works from a setup and from reference photographs of it. After an initial pencil drawing, she adds color, working from dark to light and saving the whites for last. “I depict heirlooms and vintage ephemera, from my life and the lives of other women,” she says. “I show these objects as no longer merely functional, but representing the simple beauty all around us—yesterday, today, every day. What women from the past once held on to, we now hold dear.”

Halls’s work won awards in the Annual Prairie Lakes Regional Juried Art Exhibition at the Carnegie Art Center in Mankato, Minnesota, in 2006 and 2007. Her most recent solo exhibition was held in 2007 at the Arts Center of St. Peter in St. Peter, Minnesota. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Arts Center of St. Peter as well as in numerous private collections.

For more information on Hall, e-mail her at .

Randall Kane

Far From the Maddening Crowd
by Randall Kane, 2006, colored pencil, 11 x 9. Collection Michael True.

North Carolina artist Randall Kane says his technique has evolved from a process of trial and error. For several years Kane studied the works of his favorite artists—Poynter, Watts, and Calderon, to name a few—and spent countless hours replicating them as best he could. In order to achieve the look of these highly detailed turn of the century paintings, he layered the pigment until the colors started blending into new colors and saturated the paper. Kane continues to use this technique for his original pieces, working from light to dark and applying several hundred layers of color by the time they are finished.

His preferred subjects are still lifes of items found around the house or at local flea markets, and he likes to add something living to each piece. “I look for items that work together to create a story or mood,” the artist says. “I usually keep the background dark in the style of the old Dutch Master still lifes. I like the drama it creates with heavy mood lighting.” Digital photographs allow him to try out different ideas for a composition before spending time working with perishable items in the strong lights he uses on his arrangements.

Kane is represented by The RedSky Gallery, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

For more information on Kane, visit his website at www.randallkanedesign.com, or e-mail him at .

Cynthia C. Morris


It’s a Jungle Out There
by Cynthia C. Morris, 2007, colored pencil, 26 x 16.

Missouri artist Cynthia C. Morris takes lots of pictures of her subject before drawing it in her studio. “The more challenging the subject, the more I’m attracted to it,” Morris says. “The jungle gym in this picture sits in a local park where my granddaughter plays, and all the different textures, angles, and shadows were just begging to be drawn.”

When Morris originally sent this picture to American Artist for the competition, she obviously thought it was finished. However, after showing it in a few exhibitions where it failed to achieve the kind of success she had hoped for, Morris studied it and decided that something was missing. At that point, she added a child’s flip flop on one of the steps. The very next show she entered the piece in, it received a best of show award. “That’s the nice thing about being an artist,” Morris says. “We have the freedom to make changes any time we want. I think in this case it was a very good change.”

Morris is a signature member of the Colored Pencil Society of America. Her work has won numerous awards, is in private and corporate collections throughout the United States, and has appeared in several magazines. Morris is represented by Art Impressions Gallery, in Sedalia, Missouri.

For more information on Morris, contact Art Impressions Gallery, 412 S. Ohio, Sedalia, MO 65301; (660) 826-4343.

Reflecting on the Bighorn
by Ann Stapp, 2004, colored pencil, 6½ x 8½.

Tennessee artist Ann Stapp often works en plein air, usually in oils, but chooses colored pencil when she wants to depict a mood of relaxed contemplation. She loves to travel and takes many photographs of the landscape, which she later uses as inspiration for studio works. This piece is based on a photo Stapp took while on a trip to Montana with her husband. She says that when she came upon him and another fisherman standing in the middle of the Bighorn River reliving the day’s experience, she had to pick up the camera and record the scene. “The late evening light, the silhouettes, and the relaxed situation struck me and I knew it would turn into a painting,” Stapp says.

A few years later she combined a couple of the photos in a composition and rendered it in colored pencil. “I wanted to capture the warm glow of dusk and the mood of the scene,” she says. “So I started with a red board, knowing that the warm tone would show through under the pencil work.” She first drew the lights and highlights, and then moved to the mid tones and darks.

Stapp is a member of the Colored Pencil Society of America and president of the Tennessee River Fine Arts League. Her work has won many awards, including several first place awards and two purchase awards in the Community Artists’ Showcase, in Henry County, Tennessee, and has been accepted into the annual show of the National League of American Pen Women, in Memphis, Tennessee.

For more information on Stapp, e-mail her at , or contact Gallery 107, and Dragonfly Gallery, Conover Square, Oregon, IL 61061.

by Martin Vela, 2007, colored pencil on museum board, 18 x 9.

Martin Vela’s colored pencil pictures are greatly influenced by photography, which was his first artistic endeavor. “My works are attempts to re-create naturally occurring optical effects--effects of field and form, of light and reflection and shadow, and of color and surfaces,” Vela says. “I am most affected by natural, visually intriguing ‘accidents’ of shape, color, and suggestive possibilities.”  Not surprisingly, the New Mexico artist takes countless photos of a subject before choosing one to re-create in colored pencil.

“Because colored pencil begins as pure pigment--unlike oil, acrylic, and pastel--every nuance of tone must be blended on the work surface,” Vela says. “This gives rise to many possibilities of texture, layering, and sheen that are very hard to achieve using liquid color media. My works cannot be classified as drawings but verge into the category of paintings because of their depth of color saturation.”

In 2005 and 2006, Vela’s artwork won prizes in shows organized by the Colored Pencil Society of America, the Colored Pencil Society of New Mexico, and the United Kingdom Coloured Pencil Society.

For more information on Vela, e-mail him at .

American Artist would like to thank the following sponsors for making our 70th Anniversary Competition a success:

Blick Art Materials
General Pencil
Hartford Fine Art & Framing
Jerry’s Artarama
Legion Paper
Savoir Faire

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This is strictly my observation and I have no knowledge of any of these artists.( All are wonderful). However,
it seems to me that one should not employ the use of a projector and or light table while engaged in creation of art.I am aware that many artists have done this.
I feel there is a loss of creativity when such impliments are used to assist.

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