Color Pencil Society of America

July 29th, 2012  |  Published in Summer 2012

"Gingerbread on Main Street" By Marlene Steele Oil Currently exhibited in the Gubernatorial Office, Columbus, Ohio

"Gingerbread on Main Street" By Marlene Steele Oil Currently exhibited in the Gubernatorial Office, Columbus, Ohio

By: Marlene Steele

The Color Pencil Society’s 20th Anniversary International Exhibition is an extensive show filling the main gallery and 4 galleries on the second floor of the Carnegie Art Center. This organization, founded by Vera Curnow of Rising Sun, Indiana, seeks to lend stature to the medium of color pencil as a fine art material and facilitate teaching the techniques. The show, featuring numerous artists and several categories of subject-matter, is not without the many florals and zoo animal portraits featuring baboons, apes and ostriches, not to mention favorite pooches ensconced on couches. Several works are artistically intriguing, manifesting seamless executions in this time consuming medium.

In the fantasy world of “Shell Games” by Paul Van Heest, pearls and turtle eggs fall from the suspended basket transport of an Asian person; the un-named volumes he climbs upon are stagger-stacked on the back of a plodding ancient sea turtle hissing his way through barren beach-scape. Varieties of sea turtles are mysteriously circulating in a surrealist’s dream space.

Take the time to gaze into the penetrating eyes of “Eddie, No. 1” , a larger than life portrait executed in John Smolko’s flamboyant style on toned paper. The underdrawing, laid-in with controlled pattern, is confidently and exuberantly overlaid with colored graffiti spiraling out in increasingly exuberant scribbles. Yet Eddie’s steady stare fixes you as through a mirror on your own reality. Another of Smolko’s equally engaging works can be seen in the Midwest Regional Show currently at the Butler Institute, Youngstown, Ohio.

Kristen Doty’s “Possibilities” depicts a beautifully rendered reflective glass inkwell, the flowing lines of several writing quills rounding out the composition. Softly rendered, the  image evokes a romantic yearning or anticipation of love.

Carol Maltby’s contribution, “The Seamstress”, features a domestic in the work environment and is delicately rendered in a similar cream and mauve tone palette. Both works are light-filled and and delicately handled.

Contrast these to “Another Man’s Treasure” by Susan Jones. This composition of casually assembled industrial heavy metal is as convincing in its rust-spackled reality as the previously mentioned are ravishing in their lyrical lightness. The limited color palette of rust and bold yellow are set off by a simple profile faux frame surfaced as bitten cast iron adding to the effect.

Suzanne Vigil’s “Repose” is a provocative portrait of an elaborately tattooed individual who submits to your gaze unconditionally and in offensively close range.

“Patty”, by C.J. Worlein, depicts the sultry gaze of a bored strawberry blond young woman with farm fresh good looks staring beguilingly from the sunlit space, conversation interrupted.  In both works, the stroke of the pencil point is hardly perceptible. The mesmerization of the viewer is affected by the lifelike portrait and the intriguing personal aspects of each.

In “Answered Prayer”, Nass’s narrative is mysteriously and darkly hidden from the viewer though the contrasting surfaces of high gloss helmet, highlight reflecting sunglasses and old leather gloves fascinate.

Jeff George’s  piece entitled “The Home of the Brave” invites analysis of the ironic title. This inner urban cityscape redefines the concept of ‘home sweet home’ as being one pink cinder block wall removed from the inhospitable and hostile street. An up-turned sofa discard testifies to the chaos of the weedy, litter- strewn sidewalk while awaiting pickup day. In the cool light, multiple structures in various stages of rust and neglect are unerringly depicted and compositionally support the paneled broadside on which the partially visible full size flag is defiantly strung. The unyielding geometry carries this composition’s powerful visual message about the close to the bone survival struggle in the land of the free.

In the still-life category. there are the usual images of marbles, cherries and carney food.

However, “Ultra-violet” by Gergen Halls stands out as an interesting assembly of elements. An african violet embraces the light as the viewer’s attention is focused through the lens of a magnifying glass on the peeling military portrait of an unidentified young man on a colorfully papered wooden cigar box. I enjoyed this tenderly contemplative yet not overly nostalgic work.

The medium of color pencil has been exploding with various technique innovations including working with solvents and various supports beyond the traditional papers.

It is good to see a show of this particular medium when drawing by hand is under attack and many aspects of making art are given over to the computer. An oversized group show paradoxically includes a high percentage of the mundane with several superb works and does becomes an unwieldy experience for the viewer as it is hard to find the quality within the mediocrity. This artist was inspired by the successes as well as the possibilities exhibited here.

(Marlene Steele is a professional fine artist who lives, works and teaches in Cincinnati, Ohio)


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