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Wendy Donahoe on the Spectrum of Drawing

Boston Girl, colored pencil, by Wendy Donahoe
Boston Girl, colored pencil, by Wendy Donahoe. Winner of the Gwen Lockhart Award for best in show.

Wendy Donahoe has been interviewed twice before in this space, both for award-winning graphite portraits. This month, her best-in-show portrait is in a different medium: colored pencil.

What does colored pencil offer that charcoal and graphite don’t? Why use colored pencil for a monochrome drawing?
Wendy Donahoe: In an earlier interview I was asked about my creative process in which I made the statement, “first I need to decide which medium would best suit my vision.” For Boston Girl, a drawing of my daughter Avery, I chose to use colored pencil working only with Prismacolor’s warm shades of gray, black and white, on a warm gray Colourfix paper. I’ve completed other drawings in this same manner, most notable, my 2010 colored pencil drawing, entitled Olivia.

“Why use colored pencil for a monochrome drawing?” My initial thought was not about my answer, but rather about a viewer discovering that works in colored pencil do not preclude they be exclusively rendered in a full spectrum of “color.”

"Olivia" by Wendy Donahoe won the Shayna Heisman Simkin Award in the 2010 September All-Media Show at The Art League.
“Olivia” by Wendy Donahoe won the Shayna Heisman Simkin Award in the 2010 September All-Media Show at The Art League.

“What does colored pencil offer that charcoal and graphite don’t?” To speak to this I’d like to flip “colored pencil” with “charcoal and graphite” in the question. When my drawings in these different mediums are hung side by side, they appear similar and in sync, with only subtle differences in the final resolution. There is an ease in working with charcoal and graphite, and the ability to achieve fine detail, that I don’t always find with colored pencil. I work my graphite and charcoal drawings on white paper, where the highlights are subtracted to reveal the white of the paper. I work my colored pencil drawings on a toned paper, where the highlights are applied using white and light toned pencils.

Nicholas, graphite, by Wendy Donahoe, winner of best in show in December 2012.
Nicholas, graphite, by Wendy Donahoe, winner of best in show in December 2012.

What was your goal with Boston Girl?
My goal with Boston Girl was the same as it is for all my work: to find that elusive element, and in doing so, hopefully provide a wide range of responses from the viewers. Clint Mansell, in his juror’s dialogue, sums it up quite simply: “Good art asks questions.”

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