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a special announcement from the Pencil Art Society

Spring is in the air and it’s high time to join PAS!

PAS memberships run annually from June 1 until May 31. This time we’re holding THREE Membership Appreciation Draws this month! That means that three of our lucky members will receive a $25 (USD) gift certificate from Amazon! That’s the same value as a PAS membership! Perhaps it could go towards art supplies to create a winning drawing for our upcoming 2016 International Open Juried Exhibition …

Are YOU ready for this year’s International Open Juried Exhibition?

Our second International Open Juried Exhibition is open to pencil artists everywhere – but only our members are able to earn (and keep) points toward their PAS signature status, so if you’ve been thinking about joining us, now’s the time!

Besides our members-only exhibition, PAS membership benefits include: having your own Member Gallery page on our website, receiving our beautiful and informative bi-annual magazine Go Brushless!, and being able to apply for Master Pencil Artist Status (MPAS). Not only that, our members also pay significantly lower entry fees for our biennial International Open Juried Exhibitions! So why not join us today and be a part of all the excitement!


written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

I happen to love winter. Yes, it’s cold and inconvenient and sometimes seems to last forever, but there is nothing like its light or stillness. I love just standing outside and drinking in the white hush of winter solitude. For me, seeing Michael Silverstone’s graphite drawing was like being transported into such a day. I step into it and I can hear the silence.



Like nature itself, the drawing might seem haphazard at first glance, but it’s soon very clear how much order is present. Our eyes travel through the various planes of distance and back again, circling both around and through the work. Lights and darks are skilfully balanced, enhancing each other and guiding the eye. Value is a particular challenge here because this kind of even light, the light of an overcast snowy day, flattens space. Shadows tend to disappear. So the artist has made the most of the contrast between the whites and the dark trunks and branches, setting both against the rich textured gray of the background trees.

This work is amazingly varied, given how little Silverstone has to work with. Just a lot of trees and snow – but how much he gets out of this! Basically, the design consists of many long verticals relieved by a few abrupt diagonals and even some unexpected curves – a branch that suddenly bends back, a twig meandering around another twig. Patches and puffs of white make wonderful irregular shapes; the spatters of snow on bark remind me of Jackson Pollock. Every little ball of snow, every branch, is different. You can let your eyes travel and linger throughout the work and you will never be bored.

Another important element is the areas of pure white at the bottom. These larger shapes relieve the mass of fine crisscrossing lines and shapes. They “ground” the work, weighting it and providing a place for the eye to rest. A triangular area of light values at the top of the work mirrors them somewhat. Placed just right of centre, this area is not as bright as the shapes at the bottom, but it counters the others and provides a gentle visual ballast.

Every season, including winter, has things about it that I look forward to every year. This is a drawing of what I miss most. Thank you Michael Silverstone!


a special announcement from the Pencil Art Society

Once again, the time has arrived … the Pencil Art Society is now accepting submissions for our SECOND International Open Juried Exhibition!

We are so excited! It’s always been our dream to showcase the work of pencil artists from around the world. Now that dream is coming true AGAIN! Not to mention the fact that we’ve got some FANTASTIC PRIZES, totalling over $4000 (CAD) in cash. We know we’re going to get some incredible submissions!


Our International Exhibit is open to both members and non-members. Every artist may submit up to two (2) works, keeping in mind that both could be accepted. However, application fees will be significantly lower for PAS members. Members who have work accepted into this show will also earn two points toward Signature Status. Ten points and members have the right to put the initials PAS after their name!

PAS 2016 will be held at St Brigid’s Centre for the Arts, right in the heart of Canada’s beautiful capital city, Ottawa.

We are honoured to have the very distinguished artist, teacher and speaker M. Denis Jacques as our judge. M. Jacques is a Master Academician in the International Academy of Fine Arts of Quebec, a Master pastel artist of the Pastel Society of Eastern Canada, and an Honorary Member of the Institute of Figurative Arts of Québec. M. Jacques has also been the recipient of numerous awards, including First Prize of the IAF in 2002, the “Prize of the City 2004” in Quebec and the Grand Prize Socrates AIBAQ.


PAS 2016 is our opportunity to bring together the best pencil art. It is going to be a stunning exhibition of creativity, skill, vision and stylistic diversity. We hope you join us, so that everyone can be amazed and inspired by the beauty, power and profundity of art created with the humble pencil. Check out our prospectus for more details, and get your pencils ready!


written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

Modern society is a stressful place to be. Everywhere we go we experience noise, visual as well as aural. But classic representational art can be a great antidote for this. It’s refreshing to rest our eyes on something calm and orderly – and if there’s a little humor and energy thrown in, all the better!

Bird's Eye View

Bird’s Eye View

Caryn Coville’s coloured pencil still life, “Bird’s Eye View”, is a case in point. This little work is as gentle as its subjects. It has more contrast in it than one might expect at first glance, though, and it’s these contrasts that lend the work the energy it needs. For example, Coville chooses that most time-honoured of designs, the triangle. The triangle creates automatic stability, and this is also enhanced by the prominent vertical lines in the background. But the bird is perched just a bit precariously at the top. We feel that it might move at any moment. This creates a slight uncertainty that adds life to the entire scene. It is restful, but not dull.

We see more contrasts in the shapes Coville uses. The main ones are very geometric and basic: triangle (the design), square (the blocks), and circle (the marbles). These anchor the work still more, and give it strength. But then the artist gives us some wonderful irregular shapes such as the bird, the chubby cat (whose tail mirrors the shape of the number 2 on the other block), the marble swirls which also echo the curves of the bird’s plumage, and so on. Geometric is predictable, irregular is not, and so again we have a quiet contrast that livens things up.

A cheerful, harmonious palette continues the effect. Soothing blues make up the background, soft yellows and greens predominate much of the rest, but the artist also adds a few punches of bright red. She is careful not to add too much, so everything works together and no one colour jars with or overpowers the others.

Finally, “Bird’s Eye View” does one thing more, at least for me – it makes me smile. The bird and toys bring back my childhood, and I love the happy cat! Classic, traditional art is often supposed to be very dignified and serious, but this work proves that it can have a sense of humor as well. Cheers!


written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

Crâne (Skull)

Crâne (Skull)

It may seem odd to some, but I have always liked skulls! I don’t find them unpleasant or creepy. Instead I admire their design. For me they are like brilliant sculptures, every form flowing perfectly into the next, creating wonderful patterns of light and shadow. With this charcoal drawing by Jérôme Guenette I get to enjoy this to the full.

This skull startles us with its presence, having seemingly materialized out of nowhere. It has a powerful three-dimensional quality, as if Guenette has carved it out of the surrounding dark. A lot of this is due to his use of light. Here, light is strong and shadows deep. Much of the skull disappears into the darkness. There are few half-tones, which symbolically is very fitting: we find few “half-tones” where death is concerned.

The sculptural quality is also due to Guenette’s focusing on the large abstract shapes. He has pared things down to the point that we have only the most basic information, but it is all we need. Keeping the shapes so simple and bold makes the skull seem tangible even though there is not much detail. We know how heavy and solid it is, we can feel its weight.

Yet there is a kind of ghostliness about it too, as it is not “finished”. Guenette does not show us everything. He provides certain details that suggest the rest of the form (I particularly like the gleam of light on the cheekbone), but that is all. We must finish it in our minds. Strangely, these two opposing qualities – presence and non-presence – co-exist easily, lending the work an exciting tension. I find myself peering into the shadows to search for the edges that the artist has hidden. The part conveys the whole very convincingly.

What really caught my eye about this little work, though, is its confidence. I love the deftness of Guenette’s technique. He tosses off his drawing with such finesse! Look at the different marks: broad swathes, brisk dashes, a few delicate lines. There is no fuss, just some bold strokes that take full advantage of the richness and textural effects of the charcoal on the paper. It all makes for a lot of drama and energy, which in turn creates a wonderful visual paradox. Technically a skull speaks of death, and yet … the rendering is so lively! There is so much personality. Life and death together in one small drawing – this is why I love the art of the pencil.


written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

The beauty of Clive Meredith’s graphite drawings is probably the first thing that most of us notice. He has both a love of detail and a gorgeous technique – what a combination! We can feel the textures he creates: soft fur, crisp feathers, or in the case of this work, elephant skin. But Meredith’s spare style also reveals a command of shape and pattern that makes his work powerfully abstract.

To the River

To the River

Here, as in many of his drawings, the animals are cropped off to one side, leaving a great deal of negative space. I love this because of the tension it imparts. The space seems full of questions. Sometimes in wildlife drawings one gets the feeling that the subject alone is what matters to the artist. The background is just “there”, a nonentity. But that’s not the case with Meredith’s work. The white background is more than a background: it is an active player in his work. It’s as if the space is a visual symbol of something unknown – the elephants’ future, perhaps? But the artist does not give us the answer. Instead, we have to “fill in the blanks” ourselves.

The cropping on this particular image is more extreme than in many of Meredith’s drawings: we zero in on the elephants’ faces, minus most of their trunks. Cropping like this immediately highlights abstract shapes. The elephants become not only animals, but patterns of light and shadow. They form a solid mass of modulated grays, standing in opposition to the stark whiteness before them. I find it all quite somber, except for the little sparkle of white in the tusks, especially of the elephant on the left. This is a very important touch. It adds contrast, lightens the mood, and harmonizes the subjects with the background. The left elephant’s tusks also keep the grays from looking too flat. Cover them with your hand and you will see what a difference they make.

The simplicity of the large strong shapes is counterbalanced by the ridged, corrugated skin and dry branches. These details are beautiful, but they are more than that. Of course elephants always have wrinkled skin; but wrinkles still suggest age, something old and wise. Then there are the branches, so dry and delicate. By putting these two images together, Meredith expresses the concept of “gentle giant” – the massive and the fragile side by side.

We know that elephants, in spite of their size and strength, are endangered animals: they are large and powerful but they are also vulnerable. In this drawing, Meredith underlines both their plight and their majesty. A beautiful drawing that also makes you think – I think the artist has done his job!


written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

Hélène Béland

Hélène Béland

I love the whole “encounter” aspect of portraiture. You can be walking through a gallery and suddenly there on the wall is a face that looks back, not just a picture but a person. You stop, intrigued. A silent introduction follows. Often this develops into an intense mute conversation. When at last you move on it is with regret, wishing you could have stayed longer, promising to come again. You are not only looking at, you are relating to.

This is the feeling I had immediately when first seeing Daniel Brient’s “Hélène Béland”. She seems so alive, so vivid. I smiled back at her, and I had to stop and get to know her.

This is what I call a “simple” portrait, meaning everything is very straightforward. There is no busy background, no props. The artist has included his subject’s elegant hands, but they are folded quietly in front of her. (This actually reminds me a bit of the Mona Lisa – if it worked for Leonardo, we can do it too!) Her clothes are rather elaborate, particularly her large hat and rosette, but they have been toned down and simplified. They settle into the background so as not to compete with the face.

Much of the intimacy of this portrait is is due to the use of light. Brient uses a 3-quarter positioning, with the light coming from the right. We see that the eye furthest from us is in shadow, while the near eye is soft and clear. This gives an impression that she is turning toward us, which gives a subtle but very important energy to the work. Anyone who has ever done a portrait knows how difficult it is to keep it from looking “posed”. Things can so easily become stiff and artificial, especially a smile. But Hélène’s expression looks genuine, as if in another moment she will speak.

For me, “warm” is a key word to this work, and I find that the brown palette suits it perfectly. The faint hints of pink breathe life into the fleshtones, and I do not miss other colours in the least. Brient handles the textures deftly, suggesting rather than fully describing. Tight detail is not the focus; the face and expression are. His marks are somewhat rough, the background sketchy. Only with the hands and face does he soften his technique, though again, fine detail is never his concern. What details there are have been carefully chosen to enhance the overall effect. For example, Brient picks out a few individual tresses of hair. They are slightly tousled, suggesting that his subject has just moved or shaken her head. Her face looks full of movement too – perhaps she is about to laugh. Portraits like this are so rewarding. I hope you have enjoyed meeting Hélène Béland as much as I have!


written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

Who doesn’t love the marvelous things water and light can do together? Certainly Adolfo Fernández Rodriguez does, as evidenced in his beautiful “Waiting in Princess Street”. This is a gorgeous tour de force. Here, light and water dance in a blaze of colour, a night street alive in the rain.

Waiting in Princess Street

Waiting in Princess Street

The colours are so rich and intense that it comes as a bit of a surprise to realize that this is actually a work with a very limited palette. “Limited” seems a silly word to describe a picture like this, but we see that the artist has used the following warm colours almost exclusively: reddish darks, bright oranges, glowing yellows. In the midst of this, the splashes of cool green make a startling contrast. They flicker here and there throughout the scene like fish darting through a fiery pond. Yet although they are so vivid they never detract from the other colours. Rather they heighten them, enhancing the work as a whole.

In contrast to the restricted colour range, the values go all the way from deep shadow to brilliant light. I’ve always loved the visual paradox of a night scene full of light. Things are inverted: instead of light above and dark beneath we have the opposite, a dark quiet sky above a busy, dazzling ground. It’s beautiful, but the brightest lights also play a necessary role in the design. They lead our eyes around the work. The focal point is, I think, the cluster of lights and reflections on the left. Here the colours come luminously together: pale cream, paler green, yellow gold. But very soon we jump from there to the next patch of light, and then to the next, always returning to the centre of interest.

Another thing that makes this work so memorable is its ability to show us two different spatial planes simultaneously. That is, we experience very near and very far at the same time. This is because we are looking at this street through rain-spattered glass. We’re all familiar with the way water distorts things. Fernández Rodríguez has made the most of this, with the waterdrops almost like brushstrokes, spreading the light and colour around the surface.

The result is that in spite of its realism (we always know that we are looking at a rainy street at night), the whole thing resembles an exuberant abstract or Impressionist painting. We are aware of the depth of the image – we can follow the perspective of the street – but we are also very much aware of the picture plane itself. Dots and dabs of light dance before us, reflections wave and shimmer, everything seems on the verge of dissolving into a bright swirl of colour and light. How wonderful to be an artist who can both see these things and share them with others!


written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

I enjoy Diane Wright’s landscapes, and this is one of my very favourites. I always have the feeling when I look at it of cool restful shadows leading to a sunny, welcoming field.

Agnew Meadows

Agnew Meadows

The fact that I find the shadows cool is just one of the features that intrigues me about this drawing. Brightness and darkness belong to value, but temperature tends to be the prerogative of colour: we speak of cool blues and greens, warm reds and yellows. But here the shadows themselves look cool to me, while the sunlit field seems warm and inviting. This is partly, I think, because of the strong contrast of values. The shadows and trees nearest us are rich and dark. Wright uses them to frame the distant lighter values, and dapples the foreground with darker and medium tones, drawing us into the trees and beyond.

I also find this work interesting because of its severity in terms of shape and line. Compositionally this is an extremely vertical piece: the two clumps of trees on both sides of the work are strongly vertical, plus the trees we see in the distance. Limitations like this can be a real challenge, but Wright is careful to vary things so nothing gets monotonous or boring. Every tree is slightly different. We can see changes in the trees’ positions, thickness and in the placement of their branches. (I love the little trees at the bottom, with their “expect the unexpected” touch.) The vertical design has several strong horizontals to balance it as well: the field, the line of distant trees, the branches and the fallen log in the foreground.

Wright has a very distinctive technique, one that I find particularly effective for this subject. Often in realistic graphite work we find fine gradations where the individual pencil marks blend seamlessly together. But I haven’t often seen a rougher technique like this on finished works. Wright’s technique is “scribbley” – you can see the vigorous hatching she’s used. It suggests perfectly the textures of trees and bark, whether distant or close, while at the same time reminding us that this is a drawing.

An approach like this can be risky. We all want our drawings to look fresh and spontaneous, but while a “sketchy” technique is great for sketches, it can leave finished drawings looking UNfinished. It isn’t easy, but if you can bring it off as Wright has done here, it has a unique kind of honesty that is very appealing. An inviting landscape and a confident drawing – the artist gives us the best of both worlds!


a special announcement from the Pencil Art Society

The Pencil Art Society is thrilled to present the second members only Online Member Juried Exhibition: IPAS 2015!


We are thrilled to announce that our second Online Juried Exhibition is now open to the public! We can’t wait till you see what’s in store. But first, here are the winners of this year’s show. Congratulations to you all!

Jesse Lane — Best in Show
Gayla Salvati — First Place
Karen Hull — Second Place
Tanja Gant — Third Place
Cristina Iotti — Legion Paper Award for Excellence in Drawing
Susan Leite — Special Recognition for the Use of Pencil with Mixed Media
Katherine Thomas — Honourable Mention

Once again we’ve had an incredible response from our members. So much beautiful work! We were blown away by the entries we received, and our juror, Ann James Massey, had a very difficult time choosing which would be included in the show. We want to thank our judge for this gorgeous exhibition, for doing such a magnificent and professional job!

Pencil is capable of so much, and is appreciated so little. PAS wants to change that, and the best way is to show the world what pencil can do. A picture really is worth a thousand words, so check out our show! You will find everything from subtle black-and-white to luminous colour. We’re doing our best to show the world what artists can accomplish with pencils!


You will see the work of 39 artists from the society, for a total of 60 works! From the beginning, we had decided to limit the number, in order to showcase the best of all the submissions. These works are by artists from all over the world, including Canada, the United States, Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands and Malaysia! We have awarded prizes of over $2500 CAD in cash and art supplies. A special thank you to our sponsor Legion Paper!

And now, without further ado, we invite you to step inside our virtual gallery to view the 2015 PAS Online Member Juried Exhibition! Enjoy!