When many people think of art, they typically think of watercolor, oil, or even charcoal.
However, the depths of color and painting effects achievable with colored pencils have won over many artists who may not have viewed them as a professional tool for their craft.
An art exhibit at the Pacific Beach/Taylor Library showcases the versatility of colored pencils. The 2022 Members Show features artwork drawn by members of the San Diego Chapter of the Colored Pencil Society of America (CPSA District Chapter 202).
The exhibition, which opened in June, ends on August 13th. It can be viewed free of charge at the library’s Taylor Gallery/Community Room, 4375 Cass St. in Pacific Beach.
Do you wish to join?
San Diego Chapter of the Colored Pencil Society of America
When: Monthly on the second Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: Taylor Gallery/Pacific Beach Library Common Room, 4375 Cass St.
Annual fee: $20 for local chapter plus $45 for national CPSA membership. Must be a national member to join the chapter.
Good to know: The chapter can also be found on Facebook. Membership benefits include receipt of the national magazine, discounted entry to the CPSA International Exhibition and workshops at the CPSA Convention.
Members of the chapter – which meets monthly at the PB Library – said they believe many artists could simply fall in love with using crayons after attending a meeting or two.
Brenda “Blade” Villegas, the chapter vice president, has been a lifelong artist. Not only did she study art and get a degree in art, she even went to France in her 30s to further her studies.
“Before I went to France, I was introduced to colored pencils in the United States,” Villegas said. “Once I got there, the other students were fascinated by colored pencils — they never considered it a professional medium.”
Villegas now works exclusively with colored pencils after years of painting 5ft by 7ft artworks.
“I had a spinal injury and couldn’t paint my big pictures anymore,” she explained. “But now all I need is a piece of paper and the pens.”
Villegas said her work is often compared to American modernist artist Georgia O’Keeffe, and she often paints similar subjects.
“I like nature and plants, so I do a lot of succulents and flowers and plants in general,” Villegas said. “But I also do koi fish, portraits and other things.”
Villegas said that in addition to wearable graphic materials, she prefers colored pencils.
“They are not messy, so there is no cleaning. They are very cheap to buy; A professional colored pencil only costs about $1.50. And other than the colors I use a lot, they last a long time — I’m still using the same pens I bought 45 years ago,” she said.
Villegas added that artists should use professional colored pencils rather than cheap brands and good quality paper for drawing to get the best results.
Chapter President Judy Jacobs joined about seven years ago. She said interacting with other artists and techniques she’s learned are just a few perks of membership.
“I’m always picking up new techniques and new ideas at meetings,” Jacobs said. “No matter what level you are at, whether you are a beginner or experienced, you can always benefit from sharing information.”
Like Villegas, Jacobs said she was always interested in art and earned her degree in fine arts. She has worked with watercolor, pen and ink, acrylic and graphite. Her favorite subjects include landscapes, animal portraits and still lifes.
Like many others, her curiosity was piqued when she saw colored pencil art for the first time.
“I couldn’t believe it was done with a colored pencil; the color was so rich and so intense,” said Jacobs. “Crayons can’t be pre-mixed, so you get the different intensities by layering the different colors on top of each other.”
Jacobs said membership has declined since the pandemic began, but they can still meet virtually via Zoom, and some members still prefer it.
Zoom also gives members the option to take distance classes, which are often offered at meetings.
Another popular meeting feature is the “Show and Tell” segment, where each artist can share their current work and ask for feedback or help.
Meetings are held in the Pacific Beach Library’s Taylor Gallery, which is well suited with lighting suitable for artists at work.
Villegas added that the techniques and mini-workshops shared at the meetings are geared towards new and advanced members.
“We encourage people to come and meet us,” Villegas said. “We are very hospitable, we are non-judgmental and we embrace diversity at all levels. Your work doesn’t have to be like anyone else’s. Everyone can find their niche in crayons.”