It completely made my day when I was asked to be the featured member of a colored pencil group I belong to on Facebook called, “Colored Pencils for Beginners and Beyond”. Part of that honor included being interviewed. I thought it would be nice to include that interview in full here.
Q: Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. A year ago my family moved to the Cleveland area. My husband’s job requires us to move every 1 to 3 years, so we’ve also lived in Poland, Bahrain, Nigeria, and now Ohio. In the 10 years we’ve been married, this is the first time we have lived in the U.S. together.
Q: What is your profession?
Right now I would consider my profession to be as a colored pencil artist. I am a photographer by trade and did portrait photography for years. While living in Poland, my husband and I adopted a little boy with special needs. I took a hiatus from photography so that I could bond with my son and get used to the new dynamic of our family. It was during this hiatus that I discovered colored pencils, and as a result, the hiatus from portrait photography has not ended! I kind of consider myself a photographer turned colored pencil artist, but really, the two compliment each other so beautifully and I still consider photography to be very much a part of the overall process. I try to use my own photo references as much as possible, and having Photoshop is great in many ways. It can aid me in determining the color I need, allow me to zoom in very closely to my photo reference to see details, and the artistic cutout feature can be very helpful in determining the different values of my image. Knowing how to take a photograph also comes in handy when it’s time to take a picture of my final product.
Q: When you are not using colored pencils what other types of activities do you like to do?
I am a little Suzy Homemaker. I enjoy being a mom to my 3 children (ages 8, 5, and 5), and I also love to bake, sew, crochet, read, do woodworking projects, and tap my maple trees in late winter for syrup. My dream, if we ever plant roots, is to create a little “homestead” with chickens, fruit trees, berry bushes, and a vegetable garden. I also love working out with the Tracy Anderson method. Tracy takes a solid hour of my day, almost every day. My absolute favorite thing to do is spend time with my husband. Our interests and personalities are very different, but we somehow manage to make it work, beautifully. He is hands down my best friend and my favorite person to spend time with. In addition, I enjoy traveling and experiencing new cultures, shopping, decorating and updating our fixer upper house, and I am very involved with my church. It happens to be last on the list, but it is certainly in no way least. My faith is the most important thing to me, and if I’m not at home, you’ll probably find me in a Bible study or at church.
Q: How would you explain and categorize your style of art?
I didn’t necessarily intend for this, but I would categorize my art as photo realistic. I simply try to draw what I see, and in doing so, I try to include as many details on paper as my eye sees in the photo reference. The end result is inevitably photo realistic. This is intriguing to me, as I would not say that photo realism is my favorite style of art. Impressionism, by far, is my favorite. I could and have spent hours studying the works of Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, and Degas in art museums. I think photo realism, however, lends itself very nicely to the colored pencil medium, which is perhaps why it’s what I do. To say it’s not my favorite style is certainly not to say that I don’t like it, and I am constantly amazed at how REAL colored pencil artists make their subject look, but I would love to learn how to use colored pencils in a more impressionistic way.
Q: What is your favorite subject to draw/paint?
I love creating still life paintings. Fruits, especially, next to or in a pottery jug or bowl, is my favorite. After spending 3 years in Poland, Polish pottery is now very near and dear to my heart. I have created a couple pieces incorporating Polish pottery, and I hope to do a lot more in the future.
Q: How and when did you discover colored pencils?
As I mentioned in the first question, I discovered colored pencils while we were living in Poland. It was during my hiatus from being a portrait photographer after we adopted our son. Since I didn’t, at the time, have the ability to go out and photograph clients, as we weren’t yet in a place bonding-wise to hire a babysitter and my husband could only come home early from work so many times, I had a bit more free time at home when my son was taking his afternoon nap. I had a box of Prismacolor Premier pencils that I had purchased to use with my daughter, who I was homeschooling at the time. Somewhere, and I don’t remember where or when, I learned that colored pencils weren’t just for crafts like scrapbooking or adult coloring books. You could make real, incredible works of art that had a painterly effect. My very first painting was of three Polish pottery coffee mugs stacked one on top of another. While I look back on that piece now and see all kinds of things I would change, at the time, I was blown away by how much it looked like a painting and how easily I could capture details. I was sold on the medium of colored pencils at that point, and I haven’t looked back since. That was about 2 years ago.
Q: What do you like most about working in colored pencil?
I love the painterly effect it yields, and I love how completely detailed you can get with it. I also love the approachability of colored pencils. Everyone naturally knows how to use pencils because they’ve been using them since they were at least 5. With brushes and other tools there is a bit of a learning curve because we don’t use them everyday. I’m not saying there isn’t any learning curve with colored pencils, but there seems to be less of one. Another thing that absolutely drew me to this medium is how neat and portable it is. I’m a messy person, and I have made huge messes with other mediums, like getting oil paint on a curtain. How on earth does one do that? The biggest mess I’ve made with colored pencils is needing to vacuum pencil shavings, which is nothing compared to dried paint. The portability is also amazing. Two of my children have special needs, and they each get 3 therapies a week, which means for 6 hours each week, I’m sitting in a waiting room while one of my children is in therapy. That is 6 hours a week that I can draw with my pencils. I couldn’t do that with just about any other medium.
Q: What have you found most challenging about working in colored pencil?
Backgrounds! I loathe backgrounds. I have watched countless videos and read many articles on backgrounds, and I still think I stink at it. It’s definitely an area in my work that I’d like to see improvement. I’m also the type of person in general who starts one project and abandons it as soon as I see another one that looks fun. I have so many half finished sewing and crochet projects laying around the house. My fear is that this will happen with my colored pencil pieces. Amazingly, it’s only sort of happened once. My “South Carolina Peaches” painting sat unfinished for months, but I eventually came back and finished it. The amount of time this medium takes could be considered a drawback to many, especially to people who get bored easily, but I think it helps to take pictures of your work as you go along to see the changes. Tracking your progress through pictures can help keep you motivated.
Q: Do you work in any other mediums?
Before colored pencils, I painted a lot with acrylics and some with watercolor. I still dabble in both when the mood strikes, but I’m now using colored pencils almost 100% of the time.
Q: What are some of your artistic goals?
My next goal is to have one of my works displayed in an art gallery. I was never this ambitious, because I’ve always lacked confidence. I want to be teachable, but some criticism is just harsh, rude, and difficult to swallow. Sometimes it can be easier to not even try than to try and get incredibly hurt and crushed in the process. I am pushing myself and being vulnerable now more than ever before, and there is a wonderful art gallery nearby me in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and they have an upcoming exhibit this Fall that I’m hoping to have a couple of my pieces juried into. Another goal is to sell one of my paintings. I want to continue to grow in my understanding and application of this medium, and as mentioned above, I’d love to improve how my backgrounds look and also challenge myself to different textures beyond what I have already done, such as fur, wood grain, lace, etc.
Q: What is your favorite paper/support to work on and what is your favorite colored pencil type?
So far, my favorite surface is sanded paper. I’ve tried a few different sanded papers, and my personal favorite is UArt 400. I love how forgiving sanded paper is when used in conjunction with Brush and Pencil’s products. I’ve not yet met Alyona Nickelson in person, but she is my hero and mentor! I also love how many layers of color sanded paper can support, how much easier it is to add highlights, and how much harder it is to get wax bloom. I think one of the biggest things to remember with sanded papers is that because of the “gritty” nature of the paper, the “ugly stage” of your painting is much uglier on sanded paper than it is on papers traditionally used by colored pencil artists. I have had a few works where I just wanted to quit because it looked so terrible, but by the time I was done, it was my favorite piece to date. Just keep at it, adding more and more layers, and you will see how beautiful working on sanded paper can be.
It is hard to answer which type of pencil is my favorite type. They both have advantages and disadvantages, and the plus of working on sanded paper is that you pretty much need to use a combination of wax and oil based pencils. While my favorite wax based pencil is Caran D’Ache Luminance, I constantly find myself grabbing Prismacolor Premier pencils because of the wider range of color. My favorite oil based pencil is Faber Castell Polychromos.
Q: What tips would you give to a colored pencil beginner?
Know that going in, colored pencil is a time intensive medium. You must take your time and build light layer upon light layer. you cannot rush the process. If you burnish too quickly, the paper’s tooth will flatten and you won’t be able to apply many more layers of color. Also, do not compare your work to that of other artists. This is so hard to do, but we all start somewhere. Artists are simply people who show up every day. Try to draw for even a few minutes each day, and you will see a dramatic improvement in your work. We all start somewhere.
Q: Please share your website, Facebook page or group, or anything else you would like to share with us.
My website is mandypeltier.com. I don’t have a Facebook page yet, but hopefully soon? Maybe I can add that to my goals!