The Train Has Served Me Well

I have been derailed for over 18 months, while I return to college to work on a new degree requirement for my “day” job.  It’s been a struggle to jump  into pre-med courses in my middle-aged years, but like all things in life, success comes to those who take on the challenge and push through to the other side!

1st Place, 2014 Bill and Ann Litaker Show at Mint Hill Arts

1st Place, 2014 Bill and Ann Litaker Show at Mint Hill Arts

In the meantime, “On a Down Time Train” has been really good to me.  She earned 1st Place in Ann Kullberg’s 15th Annual Member Show, 1st Place at the 2014 Bill & Ann Litaker Show at Mint Hill Arts (see photo above), was juried into the Pencil Art Society’s 2014 International Open Juried Exhibition in Quebec (my first short-list competition), Honorable Mention in the Colored Pencil Society of America’s Spring 2014 ArtSpectations, Honorable Mention in Colored Pencil Magazine’s 2014 Art Competition (and publication in their 2015 calendar),  and publication in Strokes of Genius 7 (inside spread and back cover)!

January image for Color Pencil Magazine's 2015 Calendar

Awarded the January image for Color Pencil Magazine’s 2015 Calendar!


Strokes of Genius 7

Got the back cover and a 2 page spread inside front cover of Strokes of Genius 7!

She’s been entered into the 2016 Colored Pencil Society of America’s International Exhibition.  I am hoping that the juror likes urban themed art and I make the short list for my very first CPSA International exhibition.  Crossing my fingers!

While I have not had a lot of time (due to very intensive and demanding classes) to create new art, I have attended some wonderful workshops by well known colored pencil arts such as Cecile Baird, Ann Kullberg, Cynthia Knox, Arlene Steinberg, Linda Lucas Hardy, and Deborah Friedman.  I will be sharing some photos of those workshops down the road.  They were very educational and afforded me the opportunity to meet new artists and make new friends!

My workshop cruise trips and recent concert travels have inspired SO MANY ideas on new images to paint.  The subject matter is extensive and profound, so I will never run out of things to create!  I simply need the time.  I am hoping that within a year from now, I will have that time and can devote it to my first passion.

Exhibiting, Teaching, Interviewing!

WOW! Since my last post I have a bit of news!

First, I was juried into my FIRST international exhibition!  “On a Down Time Train” will hang among the art of 58 other artists from 11 different countries in the Pencil Art Society’s inaugural International Open Juried Exhibition in Repentigny, Quebec in 11 days!!  I will know if I placed a day or so before this, but I am honored to have my work on display among the art of so many distinguished artists.  Part of the goal in juried exhibitions is to just be juried INTO the exhibition.




This Fall, I will teach my first colored pencil workshops for my local art guild, Mint Hill Arts. The classes will be part of their “Saturday Sampler” offerings, 3 hours in length, and geared toward the beginner that would like to give colored pencil a try.  I am still learning myself, but I am eager to share my love for this art form with others and help establish colored pencil as a serious artform.  I had some great feedback during public demonstrations this Spring and Summer through Mint Hill Arts events and believe the interest is there.  It should be FUN! :-)



Then, yesterday, I received a call from a columnist from Monroe’s The Enquirer Journal.  She would like to interview me for a column in the newspaper!  On Thursday, she will be coming out to conduct the interview, see my studio, and take some photos.  This was a very unexpected surprise!

YIKES!! I need to clean up the house!! 😉

Try, Try Again

I didn’t make the deadline for the Colored Pencil Society of America International Exhibition this year. It was a crushing blow, but I was determined to push forward and make the most of it. Sometimes, things happen for a reason.

Title: On a Down Time Train

On a Down Time Train

So, I decided that I would enter 8 other art competitions with my CPSA entry, “On a Down Time Train”.  This past week, I learned the outcome of the first 2 of these 8 competitions:

First, I learned that juror, Cheryl Metzger, well known in colored pencil artist circles, awarded First Place to my piece in Ann Kullberg’s Colored Pencil Magazine 15th Annual Member Show – a show that had approximately 95 entries!

The next day, I learned that juror, Arlene Steinberg, a CPSA and CPX signature member of the Colored Pencil Society of America, selected my piece for Honorable Mention in the CPSA Spring 2014 Artspectations online show.  A First Place or “Best of” is awarded to one CPSA signature member entry and one non-signature entry, then there are 5 Honorable Mentions each of the two categories. Some of the best colored pencil work in the world is on display, and I stood out among the best.  I am truly honored to be featured in a show with approximately 150 entries!

2 competitions down…6 more to go!  :-)

Colored Pencil Demonstration

I will be holding down a table as a representative of Mint Hill Arts at “Discover Mint Hill” this Saturday from 11 am to 1 pm.

Discover Mint Hill

I will be working on my latest colored pencil painting, demonstrating colored pencil technique and gauging interest in a possible colored pencil class for Mint Hill Arts down the road.  I’ll bring along a presentation portfolio of some of my recent work and answer any questions anyone may have about the medium.

If you are in the Matthews-Mint Hill area, be sure to stop by and say hello!  The event will be located at 7601 Matthews – Mint Hill Road, Mint Hill, NC.



Best Work Yet!

Last week, I finished what is likely the best colored pencil painting that I have ever tackled.

I had the most fascinating photo from a trip to NYC that I took on a subway ride to Times Square. I’ve been looking at this photo for 4 years, loving it, yet intimidated by it. The faces of the riders each told a story, the perspective focused on the connector door between the cars on the train, and the mood of the ride was one of isolation, not necessarily unfriendliness, but a introspective silence, as if everyone was decompressing from their day.  What was intimidating to me were all the details…the signs, the reflections, windows, chrome, so many lines…lines…lines…eyeglasses, shoes, draping in their clothes…..SO MUCH GOING ON.   The more I looked at it with a critical eye, the more chaotic it became.

First Version...

First Version…

Last year, I started work on it…I ended up with this.  Not a bad start…but I wasn’t happy with where it was going.  I was also not happy with the way my colors were layering.  It sat while I worked on Christmas commissions.  I felt overwhelmed with it, trying to work on too many areas at a time.  When I finally sat down to work on it again in hopes of completing it in time for this year’s CPSA International exhibition deadline, I hated it.  I started the entire piece over again.



Two hours later, I had a new line drawing and decided that the ONLY way to work this piece and not let it overwhelm me, was to work one small section at a time from the top left corner to the bottom right corner.

Title: On a Down Time Train

On a Down Time Train

I took my time, I layered lightly, I did NOT move to the next person or the next seat, pole, or wall, until I had the first section absolutely completed.  I sprayed fixative on each small section as I moved along to protect it as I continued to work. I uploaded photos almost daily to DeviantArt and Facebook to show my progress and get feedback.  I put close to 80 hours into the work.

Then, when it was completed, the most amazing thing happened!  For the first time ever in my life, my art was making people react and engage.  It brought back nostalgic memories, curious contemplation about what each rider was thinking, and anticipation that at any moment one of the riders would rise and  walk out the door. I received comments into the hundreds, likes pushing several hundred, and numerous shares, validating my arrival in the colored pencil world!  It is a wonderful feeling to be admired and complimented for my art, but an even greater feeling to know that it has moved others.  I finally “get” how it feels to create art that says something and moves people, and it feels GREAT!

Developing Your Skills

One of the things that I have promised to myself in the new year is to sketch more.  I freely admit that I make use of tools to make my process move more quickly.  Some people consider this cheating and believe that it robs someone of the skills one truly needs to learn how to draw.  I disagree that using technology to render accurately is cheating – it is called working SMARTER, not harder.

When you are creating on a set schedule with deadlines to meet, time is of the essence.  Projection, transfer paper, drafting film, tracings, grids, outlines, whatever you use only SPEED up the accuracy of your rendering – it DOES NOT give life to it.  You still need to have skills to understand negative space, lighting, shading, color palettes and mixing, composition, anatomy, drapery, an understanding of your media and substrate, and how to correct photo lens distortion in your reference photos.  Using current technology to your advantage is something that classic artists and old masters certainly made use of.

There is a puritan belief that the entire process should be organic from beginning to end.  If one works quickly enough, this works out well in a sitting with your subject or plein air.  But, if you are a pencil artist, working in photo realism, these expectations are not realistic.  A model could not realistically sit for 40 to 80 hours.  The world can not stop for me while I attempt plein air and still achieve the type of detail that I need to be satisfied with my work.  Some believe that if you create the reference yourself THEN trace or project it to your substrate, it is more legitimate.  I use the technology available to me to speed up the process, because I am trying to create on a paid schedule.

But….I agree that drawing skills are a MUST no matter what your process, and I believe you only gain those skills through practice.  Live model sketching is a foundation in any decent art class, even on a high school level.  Going outside and sketching plein air will teach you vanishing point, lighting, shading, and perspective skills.  Drawing from life is an essential skill that you need to develop in order to recognize how to correct problems in your composition.  I sketched A LOT growing up.  It was the only way I had to create in those days.  I wasn’t even introduced to an overhead projector in an art class until high school.

MoleskineWhile out at Cheap Joe’s this week, I made a purchase that I have thought of for years, and never had: a Moleskine art journal.  The Old Masters like Da Vinci, used journals.  They sketched ideas, prelims for what became classic masterpieces, studies, even wrote their thoughts in these journals.

Moleskine journals are handmade, well constructed, acid-free, known world over for their quality, and they are convenient to carry around.  Rather than play a game on my cell phone, I could quickly sketch something…anything.  It’s a good way to further develop skills or stay on top of them.  For me, it’s a practice in learning to work FASTER.    They are not cheap, but they are worth their price to have your thoughts and sketches preserved in time.  Every time I see one of these, I think of Jack in the film, “Titanic” or Sean Connery’s character in “Medicine Man”.

My promise to myself this year is to sketch more, and so I shall.  When I await my ride home from work, I sketch.  As I sit awaiting an appointment, I shall sketch. I plan to take this along with me just about everywhere I go, because you never know when an idea for a new project may come to mind.

I will be taking my first trip to Mexico tomorrow morning, to the beautiful Caribbean coastal region of Puerto Aventuras.  The region looks lovely!!  I will also be taking regional excursions to Mayan temples, swimming in cenotes, and maybe even getting a chocolate wrap at the resort spa!  All of these things are sure to be wonderful photo opportunities, and where there lies a great photo is the potential for a great drawing/painting reference!  And I WILL be taking my new Moleskine journal.

Hello 2014!

Welcome to the NEW and IMPROVED Gina’s Drawings!!  I’m so happy to debut this new layout with the new year – and I really DO believe that this is going to be a great year!

First nice thing to happen?  I went to Mint Hill Arts to pick up my winning CP painting, “Autumn”, only to learn that it is on display for an additional month at a local bank.  That’s good news, because it means some nice exposure for me.

The next exciting thing to happen?  I got my first ever Daily Deviation at!

RyleyA select handful (about 20 to 30) works are displayed and featured every day at DeviantArt, however, there are literally hundreds uploaded every other  hour in everything from photography to macrame.   Getting a “DD” is very hard to do.  After 6 years of membership there, I got a “DD” this past Sunday for “Ryley”.

And finally, I updated this site to reflect my growth and professionalism as an artist.

Thank you for reading my blog, visiting my site, and being so supportive.  May this new year be a happy and prosperous one for all!

(To exit this blog and head to the main site, click here)

Merry Christmas!

I have been very busy with Christmas commissions – in fact, the busiest I have ever been!  I started in October and wrapped up #4  today, Christmas Eve!  The one that I finished today, I finished in record time too!  I started it on Saturday morning and finished it this morning (Tuesday) on a grand total of 8 hours of sleep over 3 days.  Needless to say I am beat!!!  It was not my intent to do the marathon run of portraiture over the weekend, but I didn’t like where it was going, so I scrapped it and started over on a clean sheet of paper.  Sometimes these things happen.  The best part, however, is I know now that I CAN speed up my process and still produce good work, thanks to Ann Kullberg’s Portrait Workshop tips.  They work!  What can I say?  This last portrait was the first one that I have done in CP since taking her workshop and my skin tones were soft and I never got through hair so quickly before!

Since October, I have met two colored pencil artists that I admire (Ann Kullberg and Cecile Baird) and attended their CP workshops, I completed 4 commissions (2 graphite, 2 color), I had my work published, I won first place at a gallery show, I was hired by Ann Kullberg to manage her social media sites, and I made reservations for Mark and I to attend the next Colored Pencil Society of America National Convention in Daytona Beach.  I have a fire lit under my butt to complete my subway car painting so I can enter it into the National Convention Show. 

This is one of the best Christmases ever!

May it be one of the best for you as well. :-)


Happy Gina-Elf On a Shelf


First Place!

Everyone has a time in their art career where they wonder if they are “good enough”.  Sure, your friends and your family love your work, but deep inside, you want art aficionados to appreciate your work as well.  This past year, I paid entry fees, entered at least 5 juried shows and didn’t get a single notification.  It DOES sting a little, but it’s a learning process and a time to reevaluate what might be missing that gives art that extra “oomph” that makes it stand out to a juror.  You can either let those “failures” eat away at you, or you keep on trying.  Tenacity will seldom let you down in the end.

Today I placed FIRST in the two-dimensional arts category at the Annual Ann and Bill Litaker Judged Show at Mint Hill Arts.

First Place!

First Place!

I was notified the day before that I won an award, but which award is secret until the gallery reception.  After 10 honorable mentions were awarded, I was stunned – that could only mean that I placed in my category!  After 3rd, then 2nd place were awarded in my category, I was excited and stunned – that could only mean that I was either First Place or Best in Show!

I am happy to have that tenacity.  This award is a real shot in the arm for me.  It also validates colored pencil in the art world for me, given that this was a show that contained everything from pottery to painting.  But here….HERE is the best part…

The juror is a university art professor who wrote this inspiring critique for me:

“Accomplished illustrative technique is evident in this beautifully rendered portrait that includes a carefully composed narrative scene. Viewers are drawn immediately to the exquisite style of this excellent tribute to the possibilities of pencil and pastel.”

This same work is being published in “CP Hidden Treasures” by Ann Kullberg!  Be sure to check it out!

I am very proud of “Autumn” – and my skills have improved since then.  I hope my next “work of art” impresses as many as this one has.

Being Published!

Today, the December 2013 issue CP for Colored Pencil Artists by Ann Kullberg was released featuring an article by yours truly.

I met Ann at one of her colored pencil portrait workshops not too long ago.  During the discussion of things that can be used to speed up the cp painting process she mentioned slide projectors.  It’s hard these days to have your photos made into slides.  It will undoubtedly get even harder to project them as the old technology dies out.  I piped up and mentioned DIGITAL projectors and how simple they are to use!  You can hook one right up to your laptop and project anything you can see on your computer – it’s like a second screen monitor.  I’ve used them for outdoor movies projected on the side of my house, and I have used them to blow up low resolution photographs for outlining an art project.

Thus, Ann invited me to write a technology tips article for her magazine…

Image of article written for CP for Colored Pencil Artists

Written for CP for Colored Pencil Artists














WIP from the magazine demo

WIP from the magazine demo

I’m thankful for the opportunity and proud to say I have finally been published – if not for my art, at least for my techie knowledge! LOL

It was a great learning process for me.

Thanks Ann!!