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Bet Borgeson - Interview

A Passion for Colored Pencil

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bet borgeson drawing

Bet Borgeson's luminous color evident in this detail

Bet Borgeson

Bet Borgeson is an artist who has forged a formidable reputation working in colored pencil. Renowned for her luminous color and sensitive line, Bet's mastery of the colored pencil and passion for sharing her skills has made her a popular teacher and bestselling author. I was delighted to have the opportunity to chat with Bet about her favourite medium.

HS:You were one of the first artists to see the possibilities in colored pencil as a creative medium. What was the attraction?

BB:It's a great medium. Early on I guess it was the newness--the excitement of working with what seemed like a brand new medium. Colored pencils weren't really new; it just seemed like it because people were beginning to discover how their colors could be layered for wonderful effects, instead of being limited to line only. And even now new techniques continue to evolve.

I also like the process of laying down beautiful color on great paper! Because we use colored pencils tonally in nearly solid areas of color, the paper's texture plays a big part in how the final surface of the artwork will appear. The interplay between pencil and paper is very engaging. I also like colored pencils being so forgiving. It's possible to work and rework passages without the result looking heavy-handed or distressed.

HS:Colored pencil is an increasingly popular medium both among amateur and professional artists. What do you think is so attractive about colored pencil?

BB:You are right. People don't just work in this medium; they become devotees of it.

I think there is one overriding attribute that accounts for its growing appeal. This is that people seem to make faster art gains in colored pencil than in other media. My hunch is that this is due to the control and manageability it offers. I often hear artists new to colored pencils rave about how much easier it is with this medium to make the imagery they previsualize.

I also think that this intimate way of working with color - stroke by stroke - and the building of new colors, shapes and forms in this way allows us to see the consequences of what we are doing with immediacy. As artists, we all become more aware of color and art principles when we work intimately and comfortably with our medium. By contrast, grappling with the sheer physicality and brushwork of other media can demand years of just learning to manipulate the tools before reaching the comfort level needed for getting beyond technique, and going for deeper concerns.

HS: You make a solid case for people trying out this medium if they haven't already, but is there a downside to it? Doesn't all that layering take a long time?

BB:Yes, there is that gorilla sitting in the studio. But it really is a false issue. Some artists and some very good ones - who by temperament and the techniques they prefer, tend to spend an unbelievable amount of time on their work. This approach can lead to completing just a handful of drawings or paintings a year. Working this slowly - using up to a dozen or more layers of pencil color - are not requirements of the medium itself. In fact, most professionals in this medium could not possibly find this acceptable. The reality is that there are many techniques in this medium that are extremely fast and effective yet will still generate luscious and engaging color. These faster techniques allow for spontaneity and vitality in art - things, I believe, truly worth protecting. Allowing ourselves to work in overly slow and laborious ways seems to me to mute such attributes.

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