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"Besieged", bu Erica Lindsay Walker.

Low-tech art shines in Pencil Art Society’s exhibition

By John McDonald on September 30, 2016


For the longest time, I admired a framed photograph that hung in a new friend’s living room. Bright glass bottles sitting on a wall with the sun shining through, coloured shadows resulting. It had an instant “wow” factor. Hours of strong coffee, fresh croissants, and Photoshop editing must have gone into this masterpiece, I thought.

It was only when helping my friend move that I discovered that it was not a photograph. It was, in fact, a coloured pencil drawing by Kanata-based pencil artist Allison Fagan.

"Amazing Grace", by Allison Fagan.

“Amazing Grace”, by Allison Fagan.

Fagan is one of the 42 pencil artists participating in the Pencil Art Society‘s 2nd International Open Juried Exhibition being held at Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts until October 11th.

Artist and Society executive Lissa Rachelle understands fully how I mistook the drawing for a photograph.

“Pencil art allows a level of detail that you cannot achieve with watercolours or oils. You can get very sharp, minute details or washes of tone. With patience, you can add as much detail as you wish. Pencil offers so much control.”

The Society is clear on what is considered a pencil.

“Graphite, colour pencils, charcoal, conté (compressed powdered graphite or charcoal mixed with a wax or clay), and water soluble coloured pencils used dry, are the five medium that can be used by our artists.”

This range of options makes pencil art accessible to anyone with an interest.

“It is so portable. All you need is a pencil and a piece of paper. Even if you have limited talent, if you have the desire, then you can draw. For some, it is a very leisurely, meditative, freeflowing activity. Others take a very realistic approach with great attention to detail. It’s the artist’s choice. That’s part of the beauty of drawing.”

However, with technology as it is, we seem to be moving away from paper and pencil.

“We really do want to promote the idea that pencil art is a true alternative to taking a selfie with your phone. Consider having a pad and pencil with you and sketching what you see. Imagine having a record of your life in sketches that you did. Now that’s something to hold on to.”

"Sean No. 4", by Michael Silverstone.

“Sean No. 4”, by Michael Silverstone.

This Saturday, between 6 and 10 p.m, the Society will be hosting an Artist’s Reception and Award Ceremony, at the exhibition. Refreshments will be served and admission is free.

“This is an evening where we spotlight the wonderful work of our artists. There are seven countries represented including Germany, Spain and Australia. Actually, the Australian artist is flying in for the event. There are 57 pieces on display, so there is a fantastic variety of subject matter and overall look.”

There is one thing that Rachelle hopes those attending will take away form the evening and the exhibition.

“This is an art form that certainly should have more recognition. It is an option for everyone who wants to express themselves. Anything is possible with a pencil.”

The Pencil Art Society will present its 2nd International Open Juried Exhibition at Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts from September 29 to October 11, 2016 at St Brigid’s Centre for the Arts, 310 St Patrick’s Street, Ottawa. The show runs from September 29 until October 11 daily from 12 to 8 PM.

The artists’ reception and awards ceremony will be held on October 1 from 6 to 10 pm. There is no charge for entry to the show. Please check website for details at