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written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

This drawing by Kathryn Hansen sets the artist quite a challenge. It consists of almost nothing but tree branches against a plain white background.

Out on a Limb

Out on a Limb

The title implies there is another subject, and finally we find it – a small bird, perched almost like an afterthought at the very edge of the work. It comes as a bit of a surprise. So often this is how we experience the presence of wild things. They are there but we are unaware of them until, all at once, we spot them and realize we are not alone.

But the bird is obviously not the focus – it is too casual, too minimal. Rather it is the flowing tangle of branches that is the focus. How does the artist create enough variety to hold our interest with such a limited subject?

It may be limited, but Hansen manages to find a lot of change and contrast. I love how full of energy this work is. The long branches create the most wonderful positive and negative shapes. Technically they’re horizontal, echoing the format of the work, but because they’re so twisty and irregular they don’t seem monotonous. They flow like a river, full of curves and sudden angles. Small branches jut off here and there like tributaries. The whole thing is so unpredictable – it makes us remember that a tree is as much a form of “wildlife” as a bird.

Shape and texture are both extremely important, as they make up practically all of the work’s variety. With the plain background and the branches, the artist can make the most of the positive and negative space – nothing distracts. The two largest and most important negative shapes are those at the top and bottom of the work: they contain the “river”, and they also provide places for the eye to rest. The others are created by the branches and they are both similar and constantly diverse. Big and small, long and short, swelling and narrowing.

Like the subject itself, the textures are also very limited: just bark, unless you count the bird’s plumage. And yet how much the artist gets out of this! There is more than one kind of bark and all are carefully and lovingly handled. The largest branches are the most detailed, making the most of the roughness and broken patterns. Others are smoother and softer. The smallest twigs, slender wisps of graphite, have almost none of this textural effect. In this way, Hansen is able to create visual interest and, at the same time, to convey a sense of distance.

Limits as strict as these can be difficult to work with, but it’s possible to find wonderful solutions. By working within tough constraints, Hansen has created an imaginative and liberating visual experience.


written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

Sketches of hands - Hans Holbein

Sketches of hands – Hans Holbein

Hans Holbein (1497-1543) is one of my favourite artists, and these sketches of hands are surely some of the finest ever drawn. I find them very humbling to look at. Partly, of course, because they are so beautiful, but also because of the depth of understanding they reveal.

These are the hands of Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536), the great Renaissance scholar, and Holbein’s friend. Holbein painted him more than once. My favourite version shows him in profile, writing. This was more than just an interesting way to portray him; it was fundamental to his personality. Writing was key to who he was and how he desired to change his world. Erasmus was a brilliant man, profoundly educated and extremely well-informed, with a lot of opinions that he could express very wittily when he chose. Armed with a pen he became famous. His admirers included many of the most powerful and influential people in the world. (It makes me wonder what he would have done with the Internet!)

Holbein loved detail, and his works are always very individual. By that I mean that he faithfully records everything about his subjects’ appearance – nothing is beneath his notice. We can see this in the two more finished sketches. The observation is astonishing: we can trace every slight bend and quirk of the fingers, the particular shape of each nail. Each knuckle has its own pattern. Everything is drawn with very precise, delicate lines, adding to the impression of refinement. The hands are smooth, neither old nor young, and wearing rings. Even without knowing his name, we can tell that their owner is evidently a wealthy, cultured man of middle age – definitely one of the most privileged groups in any era.

But the third hand, the writing hand, is different. The lines are more hesitant, as if the artist is searching for the right line just as the writer searches for the right phrase. The writing hand is full of movement – movement of mind as well as hand. Erasmus was at the very centre of European thought, and in this drawing we have the miracle of the written word: hand and mind working together to make thought visible. Holbein’s hand-sketches are so much more than exquisite surface realism. They tell the story of a different kind of “manual labour”.


written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

For me, this still life reads like a play: it is so rich in narrative, in questions and implied dialogue. And yet it is also very simple. There are no props, little scenery beyond a blue backdrop, and just two “actors” – the King of Diamonds and his Jester.

Le fou du roi – The King’s Jester

LeClerc’s stage is severely restrained, yet she manages to do a great deal with it. For example, there is her use of shape. This work consists entirely of a few flat overlapping planes, but LeClerc gets the most wonderful variety of shapes from the way she crops and arranges them. Her colour scheme is equally simple: the three primaries, plus black and white. Such a restricted palette is very unusual, perhaps because it is so difficult to use successfully. These are all distinct, powerful colours, with very different visual and emotional effects. But here, they create tension and drama, space and form. The rich blue recedes, the bright white jumps forward. There are touches of black throughout the work but the King and Jester are the only ones to wear the assertive red and gold. Each colour has been extremely well cast, and plays as vital a role as do the title characters.

The King looks dignified, almost stern. He seems to gaze rather disapprovingly at the Joker. The Joker, on the other hand, is elated: laughing and dancing or leaping in the air. He holds his hand high, pointing up at something. (Except that from our point of view, he is actually pointing down – just one example of how this work constantly challenges our perceptions.) The King’s costume is suitably elaborate – he has a crown and a ceremonial axe or sceptre. The Jester is dressed like a clown, with a big ruffle and a crazy cap with a red pompon. But he is also wearing a bandit’s mask and a striped black-and-white suit, reminiscent of old prison uniforms. At this point we start to wonder: Just what is the Joker? And what exactly is he laughing at?

For centuries, jesters and buffoons were familiar figures at court. Kings have always kept people to make them laugh – or to laugh at – but laughter can have a double edge. Traditionally, the Jester (or Fool) was the only one allowed to speak somewhat freely, because everything was in the guise of a joke. One thinks of King Lear and his wise Fool; the true “fool” being the deluded Lear himself.

And then there is the question of rank. The King is, of course, a figure of supreme authority. But in certain games, it is the Joker that is the highest card. In fact, the Joker’s value varies widely. In some games the Joker is of no importance at all; in others, it is the worst card to have in the hand; and in others it is the card that trumps all the rest. Which is the case here?

Finally, I just want to point out one more thing. We can see that “Le fou du roi” combines two major art genres. That is, it is a very abstract work in the way it uses shape and colour, but at the same time it is very realistic. So realistic, in fact, that it actually works as a trompe-l’oeil. “Trompe-l’oeil” literally means “fool the eye” – so apparently the artist is a bit of a Joker herself. Brava!


Hey everyone! The results are in, and here is a list of the FANTASTIC artists who’ll be featured at our upcoming inaugural International Open Juried Exhibition! A special thank you to Mr. Richard Pedneault, our judge – we know he didn’t have an easy time with so much wonderful work to choose from. Another big thank you to all of you who submitted entries. If you didn’t make it in, don’t be discouraged – there’s always next year, and we know you’ll do something incredible!

We can’t wait to see the exhibit! PAS is truly going to show the world how creative, innovative, and spectacular pencil art can be! And now, without further ado, here are the artists accepted into the first annual International Open Juried Exhibition:

1. Joanne Abbott – (Canada)
• What You Don’t See: Plight of the Plover
• Pink Peony

2. Sue deLearie Adair – (USA)
• Into the Thicket
• Streamside Green Frog

3. Carey Alvez – (Canada)
• Tati with Attitude
• The Veil
• Rose Garden

4. Alexandra Bastien – (Canada)
• At The Dawn Of Remission / à l’aube d’une rémission
• Rebirth
• Symphoria Coloris

5. Carolyn Bain – (Canada)
• Midstream

6. Sandy Banker – (USA)
• Marbles
• Peppers

7. Nancy Bélisle – (Canada)
• Don de soi
• Souffle et souffle encore

8. Pierre Blanchette – (Canada)
• Self Portrait at 36

9. Michael Bockoven – (USA)
• Reflection

10. Sandra Brooks – (USA)
• Night Flight
• Wanna Play

11. Tiffany Budd – (United Kingdom)
• Once Upon a Time There Was a Village on a Hill
• Leap of Faith

12. Kathy Dolan – (Canada)
• Remembering Kate
• Elegance
• Amused

13. Allison Fagan – (Canada)
• Angelica
• La Mattina Presto

14. Elizabeth Guzynski – (USA)
• September Hydrangeas
• Garlicscape
• Gracias Por La Vida

15. Sheona Hamilton Grant, MPAS – (Germany)
• The Hug
• Unstuck
• Chinese Whispers

16. Kathryn Hansen – (USA)
• Just Passing Through

17. Jonavon Herr – (USA)
• Threads of Time
• Three’s Company

18. Sharon Hester – (USA)
• Hobbes
• Fireline Patrol
• Stealth

19. Nancy Hilgert – (USA)
• Drawing at the Beach

20. Richard Chandler Hoff – (USA)
• Comics Connection
• Memorial Day

21. Denise Howard, MPAS – (USA)
• Better Days Behind
• Cricket Time

22. Cristina Iotti – (Italy)
• A(m)biti personali #1

23. Kate Jenvey – (Australia)
• The Precipice

24. Christine Karron – (Canada)
• Prisoner of Mind
• Betrayal of Trust

25. Barbora Konôpková – (Slovakia)
• Missing Element

26. Lyne Lafontaine – (Canada)
• Immaculée Déception
• Barbre
• Vertige

27. Nathalie Lagacé – (Canada)
• Poissons perchés
• Boréal & scie
• Emprisonner la bête

28. Manon Leclerc – (Canada)
• Réflexions
• Star Trek

29. Erwin P. Lewandowski – (USA)
• Landscape VI
• Crevice Stream II

30. Jaber Lutfi – (Canada)
• Untitled / sans titre

31. Pete Marshall – (Australia)
• Preening Blues

32. David Paul Marxer – (USA)
• Self Portrait
• Matthew
• Simple Joy

33. Janis Mattson – (USA)
• Black-capped Chickadee
• Getting A Handout
• Tulip

34. Colm McConnell – (Ireland)
• Timeless Beauty

35. Manon Menard Adams – (Canada)
• My Camino

36. Melsa Montagne – (Canada)
• En réaction
• Personnalité multiple

37. Barbara Ann Moore – (Malaysia)
• When It’s Spring Again
• First Day at Kindergarten

38. Joyce Panadis – (Canada)
• Des générations de fierté
• Capteur de rêves

39. Mary L “Rusty” Parenteau – (USA)
• Anne Waiting for Charlie
• Ella Can Read

40. Darlene Jordan Pfaff – (Canada)
• Summer Reflected

41. Alison Philpott – (Canada)
• Bright Pebbles
• Porcelain Berry Vine
• Summer Dabblers

42. Andrea Placer – (USA)
• City Patterns, Fire Escape

43. Lissa Rachelle – (Canada)
• Lost in Space
• The Sentinel

44. Dale Redfern – (Canada)
• Enderby Road Crew
• Lower Nicola Status

45. Adolfo Fernández Rodriguez – (Spain)
• The Harvest
• Give Me Life

46. Gina Rugito-Anderson – (USA)
• On a Down Time Train

47. Lyette Roussille – (Canada)
• La petite église
• Printemps au village

48. Gayla Salvati – (USA)
• Vantage Point
• Backyard Visit
• Morning Rounds

49. S.A. Seggeling – (USA)
• Degas Girl
• Happy Christmas

50. Jinny Slyfield – (Canada)
• Who is coming?
• Renaissance Man

51. Susie Tenzer – (USA)
• Sense of Wonder
• Within Reach

52. Katherine Thomas – (USA)
• Understudy

53. Wendy Thompson, MPAS – (USA)
• Treasured Reading

54. Virginia Tupper – (Canada)
• Just Benign
• Rainbow

55. Norlan Vilchez – (Canada)
• Copa de cristal

56. Maria Villioti – (Greece)
• The Photographer

57. Erica Lindsay Walker – (Canada)
• Breakthrough
• Come Like Shadows

58. Sandra Williams-Crossley – (USA)
• Cobb Hill Bloom

59. Alan Woollett – (United Kingdom)
• Kingfisher Study

Congratulations to you all!

MPAS 2014

a special announcement from the Pencil Art Society

Exciting news, everyone! June is here and for THIS MONTH ONLY we will be accepting applications for Master Pencil Artist Status (MPAS). Applications may only be submitted once a year, so don’t miss it!

What exactly is MPAS? MPAS is an acknowledgment of achievement. We created MPAS out of a desire to honour those pencil artists who have attained a certain level of skill, respect, professionalism, and mastery. Reaching this level is not easy for any artist, but pencil artists must also struggle against the lack of respect for their chosen medium, both from the art world and the general public. It is an uphill battle, but the more visible pencil artists are, and the finer their work, the more we all benefit.

Artists who are granted this honour will have the right to put the initials MPAS after their names. They will also be listed permanently on our web site as “MPAS MEMBERS”.

For full details, visit our MPAS link at the top of the page.


a special announcement from the Pencil Art Society

Congratulations, Lyette Roussille! You have won the Pencil Art Society’s Member Appreciation Draw for the month of May!! A $25 (CAD) Amazon gift certificate will be emailed to you very soon! A big Thank you! to everyone who joined or renewed their PAS membership in May!!


written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

Underbrush - Wood Duck

Underbrush – Wood Duck

When I saw this drawing by Ryan Douglas Jacque, my first impression was one of great elegance. Not a quality that I tend to associate with ducks! But Jacque’s sophisticated grasp of value, pattern and line, not to mention his beautiful rendering, raises this onto another level. We can linger and rest in his quiet, self-contained world.

The work’s unusual format struck me first of all. It is long, thin, and vertical, yet many of the lines are horizontal. Vertical and horizontal lines convey stability and calm. There are also quite a few diagonal lines, which typically speak of energy. Here, though, they are curved, which “slows them down”, so to speak. They seem to meander throughout the work, as serene and untroubled as the water itself.

One of the things I enjoy most in this drawing is the exquisite use of value. It is very difficult to handle values this well in black-and-white. This is especially the case when, as in this work, the overall value scale is not extreme. The artist can’t make his contrasts too sharp, because they would then clash with the rest of the work. They would also probably disrupt the mood – this is a peaceful scene, and sharp contrasts of light and dark are not peaceful. But without sufficient contrast, things easily become flat and confused. Thus it can be a real challenge to distinguish all the spatial planes clearly.

But there is no confusion here, nothing is too dull or too busy. Each plane is completely defined so that we always know exactly where we are in terms of distance. And yet there is no abrupt contrast either. There are some strong darks but they are never too dark, too black or heavy; and lights are never too light, so the sense of tranquillity is never interrupted. I find that Jacque’s skill is particularly evident in the way he handles the values of the branches. The ones in front are dark and clear; they establish the foremost frontal plane and push the duck further back. Others are lighter, and then, far behind, the branches are ghostly white, softly delineated as if blurred with distance.

I also love the focus on pattern, how the duck is presented to us as a formal design of shapes and values and also as a bird. The ripples on the water and the curving branches echo the markings on its head and wings. So well does it blend with its surroundings that it seems to have materialized out of them. Actually, this is true in a double sense: it blends seamlessly with TWO environments – the natural and the artistic.

Wildlife art is often dismissed as mere “scientific illustration.” This is because, too often, animals are rendered realistically without enough attention being given to the aesthetic aspects of the rest of the work. But Jacque’s work proves that a wildlife artist can produce images that are both accurate renderings and serene, refined arrangements of value, pattern, and space.


written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

I was thrilled to find these two pages of hand-sketches by two very different artists: Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) and Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). Each page is wonderful in itself, but I love seeing them together. It brings out both their similarities and their differences in such an exciting, vivid way.

Sketches of hands - Antoine Watteau

Sketches of hands – Antoine Watteau

Sketches of hands

Sketches of hands – Vincent van Gogh

It’s hard to think of two artists with less in common. And yet – they both died at the age of 37, they both transformed the history of art, and like the rest of us, they both had to practice doing hands! These drawings are not meant to be masterpieces. They are just working drawings, probably for reference later on. We can see at once the difference of style. Watteau’s lines are smooth and fluid. His poses tend to be more complicated, often using foreshortening. The hands by van Gogh are simpler and flatter, less refined and more “modern”. The poses are less varied, and he adds very little shading.

Watteau’s hands are doing different things: pointing, gesturing, holding. They are all beautifully proportioned and, as we can see, very elegant. Elegance is always key with Watteau; it was a quality valued highly in his day and he was supremely good at it. He makes it look so easy: a thickening of line here, a dash of shadow there, and you have volume. The hands lift up from the page, suddenly three-dimensional. They are so convincing that it is surprising how little there is to them when we really look. He uses a minimum of line and an apparent minimum of effort. Their lightness and poise make them a typical product both of a certain time and a certain artist, the master of the fête galante.

Watteau studied under several artists, and was accepted as a full member of the Royal Academy in 1712. In contrast, van Gogh never had extensive formal training, although he occasionally attended studios run by the academic masters of the day. Working from the cast, he produced some very accomplished drawings, but he always found hands tricky – hence sketches like these, trying over and over to get things right. He may have been concerned about proportions, in which case it made sense to stick to simpler poses.

But these drawings reveal as much about his style and deeper concerns as any more finished work. He loved the art of Japan, which focused on contour line and flat shape as opposed to volume; we can see this influence here. We can also see his “crudity”, as it was considered. Compared to Watteau’s, van Gogh’s lines are thick and choppy. He tends to emphasize the knuckles. Van Gogh was always intensely sympathetic toward working men and women, and these hands have definitely worked. They are rough and strong. This is a world away from Watteau’s elegance – the working classes are rising. All of Europe was in a state of unrest. Isn’t it extraordinary how much even some simple sketches of hands can reveal – of the artists who drew them, their times, and their beliefs!


a special announcement from the Pencil Art Society

Congratulations, Nancy Hilgert! You have won the Pencil Art Society’s Member Appreciation Draw for the month of April!! A $25 (CAD) Amazon gift certificate will be emailed to you very soon! A big Thank you! to everyone who joined or renewed their PAS membership in April!!


We’re holding another Member Appreciation Draw this month for another $25 (CAD) Amazon gift certificate, so if you’d like to join in on the fun, you can find out more about becoming a PAS member by visiting our “Membership” page!


written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

Waiting is often a sad and lonely business, with one’s movements – and even one’s life – arrested until the thing that one is waiting for arrives. But waiting is also tempered with hope. I find that both these qualities make up the story of Marie-France Pageau’s “L’attente”.

L'attente - The Wait

L’attente – The Wait

Pageau has chosen to tell this story without fine detail. She provides just enough information to show us that this is a person waiting in a room. We see the windowsill with its triangular beam of (not very bright) light and the strange, rust-coloured shape on the wall. The figure, blue like the surroundings and light, seems to have a scarf wrapped around its neck. It is featureless except for an ear, which glows with a soft warmth, as if listening to the shape behind it.

In a picture like this, shape and colour become extremely important to get the artist’s meaning across. Pageau’s main colour is a quiet blue, balanced by complementary touches of the rusty orange. This subdued orange shimmers in the middle of the work and room like a hearth-fire. In spite of how limited the palette is the colours are very rich. The blue is luminous with hints of green and violet. It is a grayed blue but not dull, which suggests it has also been toned down with the rusty orange – not much, just enough to make it sing. Combining the two complements like this relates them to one another so that they do not clash. It is this richness and harmony that lifts the mood of the work. “L’attente” is not at all a gloomy picture. Instead, it is (at least for me) one of sadness touched with hope or expectation.

Pageau balances lights and darks throughout the work, with the figure occupying a kind of tonal middle ground – just as it occupies the “middle ground” of waiting, unable to go forward or back. The way the artist plays with space and line explores the concept of waiting still further. At first the figure seems imprisoned. But as we follow the windowsill toward us it disappears, while the far side of the window melts into the background wall. Outside becomes inside. How big is the window, and by extension, the room? Could the figure leave if it chooses? We know that waiting can be imposed upon us, and it can also be voluntary. Which is the case here?

We also see that except for those of the figure itself, most of the lines are in this work are straight. They convey (at least at first) the idea of a prison, something set and unyielding. But they are perhaps less rigid than they first appear. The straightness wavers here and there, as if the rigidity might relent. Or as if the lines themselves are weary of waiting.

Pageau’s realism has been pared down until it is almost abstraction. Such restrictions can be a real challenge. But ironically, they can also open the door to a greater freedom of expression. Sometimes less is truly more – we just have to wait for it.