Donna Whitford Housel is on a mission to show that works done in colored pencils are truly fine art.
Housel, of Juniata Township, Bedford County, is presenting the “Colored Pencil and Beyond Exhibit” at Community Arts Center of Cambria County, 1217 Menoher Blvd. in Westmont.
The show opens Friday with a reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Goldhaber-Fend Fine Arts Gallery.
The exhibition will feature works of colored pencils, pastels and a medium Housel has been perfecting called encaustic.
The technique uses pigments mixed with hot wax that are burned in as an inlay.
“Encaustic is new to me, but it can be traced back to the Greeks in around 500 A.D.,” Housel said.
“I find it most challenging because it involves working with hot wax, and the canvas must be warm as well.”
She is doing mostly abstract pieces in encaustic, but will branch out once she is confident to tackle a realism approach.
When she was growing up, her favorite pastime was drawing with colored pencils.
“At this time in my life, I decided to venture outside my ‘safe’ colored pencils and pastels to work with encaustic – hot wax,” she said.
“This medium frees me up a bit. The challenge of the wax is that it has a mind of its own.”
Using colored pencils, pastels and the wax, her subject matters of portraits, animals, landscapes and still life take on a dramatic appearance.
“I will bringing at least 30 pieces to the show,” Housel said.
Housel is a self-taught artist who has developed her style by exploring new mediums and techniques from art magazines and online.
She does some freehand creations but enjoys working from reference photos taken in the field.
“I love doing birds and find myself doing quick sketches,” she said. “But I have to be very careful to get the markings right because if the color is slightly off, it changes the species of the bird.”
Housel’s favorite subject matter is animals, followed by accurately portraying people.
“When you do a person’s face, you can get so much personality, and it’s vital to capture a person’s mood,” Housel said.
She believes the one factor that makes her creations different is the subject’s eyes.
“When I do a piece, I always start with the eyes because that is where the personality shines through,” she said.
Arts center executive director Rose Mary Hagadus called the show a rarity for the venue.
“Colored pencil is a medium not often seen in juried shows,” Hagadus said.
“This exhibit will explore the use of pastels to accent the colored pencil subjects, giving a new dimension to the scene or portrait presented.”
The most difficult animal for Housel to recreate is the elephant.
“An elephant has more wrinkles than I do,” Housel quipped.
“But if an artist doesn’t put in the wrinkles, you lose the image of how tough the skin is.”
All the pieces in the show will be for sale and will range in price from $100 to $300.
“I’m constantly attending workshops whenever possible to hone my skills,” Housel said.
She also conducts classes in her home studio.
In 2008, Housel founded the Greater Cumberland (Md.) Chapter of the Colored Pencil Society of America.
“We started with six or seven members and have now grown to 20 people,” she said.
“The main purpose of our society is to show work, educate and demonstrate that colored pencils is a fine art.”
The exhibition will be on display through June 29.
To the point
What: “Colored Pencil and Beyond Exhibit.”
Where: Community Arts Center of Cambria County, 1217 Menoher Blvd., Westmont.
When: Friday through June 29.