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Ever since colored pencils were invented, they haven't been considered a bona fide fine-art medium. That's because artists have used them primarily for sketching - a preliminary step for painting.

However, today, there is a movement to elevate colored pencil art to a more lofty place - next to painting, sculpture, photography and other fine-art media.A big stride in that direction took place 40 years ago when the Berol Company came out with "Prismacolor" pencils. They had had lots of potential, but artists didn't realize how much until recently.

Another step took place two years ago (July, 1990) when the Colored Pencil Society of America (CPSA) was organized.

One of the original members, was Sheri Lynn Boyer Doty of Salt Lake City.

In January, 1991, CPSA published a national roster of artists. When Doty read through the names on the list, she was surprised to find two other Utahns - Liz Ferrol of Orem and Elodie Payne of Salt Lake City.

Doty contacted them by phone, and they soon began to lay plans to hold a local meeting and organize a chapter. Phone calls were made, notices were printed in newspapers and 200 mailers were sent out.

Their efforts paid off when 35 local colored pencil artists showed up.

Doty said that since that time, the number of members has increased to 51 (as of Aug. 1, 1992). In addition to the ones named above, a few of the others include Evelyn Fournier, Jan Henderson, Richard Hull, Colleen Parker, Mary Lou Romney and Robert Rumel.

An interview with three of these artists revealed significant reasons why a number of artists are having a love affair with colored pencils.

- For 15 years, Sheri Doty has been working exclusively with colored pencils. She says she loves the malleability of soft-leaded pencils (Prismacolor) and likens it to working in clay.

But perhaps the main reason she chose the medium was because of her family.

"My husband and I have five children (ages 5 to 15)," she says. "It would be difficult leaving painting materials out."

This medium, however, allows Doty the privilege of having a "portable" studio, which consists of "a drawing board and a carrying case. I can work at the kitchen table, in the doctor's office - and even while waiting for my kids after school, at games and other activities."

Doty enjoys capturing genre scenes - her favorites being onesfocusing on her family.

The artist feels that although her style is highly representational, it

is not a matter of merely copying a scene or person. "I take all kinds of photographs and mix them together - a kind of `mix and match.' Sometimes I use up to a dozen photographs."

Doty says she "molds" each drawing, placing layer upon layer to create the colors she wants.

When asked if there is much of a market for colored pencil art, Doty quickly answered, "Yes." Over the years, she has completed two or three large, color pieces a year and two or three monochromatic (one color) drawings a month. Most of the smaller ones are portraiture.

She says that 95 percent of her work is commissioned. At the present time, 35 clients are waiting in the wings for Doty to start on their requests. She tells them they'll have to wait.

"I went into this kind of art so I could be a mom," she says. "Still, I work with my art all day long two days a week."

- Another enthusiastic advocate of colored pencils is Richard Hull.

"I've always gone to pencil for my artwork," he says. "It's the one medium with which I feel comfortable. Its flexibility of color gives me an enormous range of color mixing."

Hull says he prefers using "Karismacolor," a soft-leaded pencil also manufactured by Berol. "It's more refined, less waxy and allows me to build more layers than Prismacolor," he said.

At the age of 12, Hull decided he wanted to become a commercial artist. After high school, he studied graphic design at Brigham Young University. After graduation, he landed a job in the graphics department of the LDS Church. He designed and illustrated church magazines for 15 years.

During that time, he decided to try freelancing. He was soon hooked, quit his job and devoted his time to freelance work.

Now, however, Hull shares his time with teaching. Three days a week, Hull commutes from Bountiful to BYU where he is an assistant professor of design.

His creative art is in high demand. One reason is because he has an agent in New York who "beats the bushes" for him. Another reason is that clients, art directors and publishers are intrigued by Hull's complex, fun pictures and his fascinating textural surfaces.

"They seem to be attracted to the `chaos' created by the wide range of colors and textures I produce," he said.

The last book Hull illustrated, "The Cat and The Fiddle and More," took eight months "from design to finished illustration."

He is now working on another book, "The Alphabet From Z to A - With Much Confusion Along The Way." Next will be the children's book "My Sister's Rusty Bicycle."

Hull is well aware of what it takes to be a successful illustrator. "The challenge is to remain creative, satisfy the client and meet deadlines."

- Jan Henderson is another Utah artist who has made an impact in the colored pencil art world, although she's only been working with the medium for five years; and full time for only the past two.

Henderson loves Prismacolor pencils because of their versatility. "I can get an extremely soft feel that I can't with paint. And I can also get hard edges." She added that her painstaking technique allows her to produce more detail than a camera.

An animal lover all her life, Henderson naturally turns to animals for models. Currently she is focusing her attention on wild animals in hopes of increasing public awareness of the beauty and character of all animals.

During the short time Henderson has worked with colored pencils, she has been amazed at how well her work has been received.

She entered her first show in April, 1990. Her drawing? "His Highness," a portrait of Hogle Zoo's Dan the gorilla.

Although it was a big show - the National Endangered Species Show and Competition in Denver, Colo. - Henderson didn't attend. "And unbeknown to me, I won first place and best of show. But it wasn't until I got my entry back and unloaded the crate that I discovered the two awards inside."

This experience bolstered her confidence. In fact, she has been accepted in every exhibit she has entered.

In Dec. 1990, she was a finalist in the "Artist's Magazine's" wildlife competition, a show that attracted more than 5,000 entries. In April, 1992, she won first place and the purchase award in the St. George Art Festival and Competition for her only landscape, "The Hideout."

An open edition of her fish triptych has been reproduced by Art Beats. Wilderness Press in Vancouver, B.C., is printing her limited edition wildlife drawings.

- Members of the national organization can participate in exhibitions, competitions, promotions and newsletters. As a result of exposure through this organization, Doty has 9 artworks and Henderson has 8 in the book "The Art of Colored Pencil," North Light Books, Rockport Publishers. Doty also has work in "The Encyclopedia of Coloured Pencil Techniques," a book written by Judy Martin, Quarto Publishing, London, England. Both books will be off the press and available later this year.

The local chapter conducts colored pencil workshops and seminars, produces informative newsletters and has organized Utah's first annual statewide juried exhibition of colored pencil art. The show will open at the Springville Museum of Art Sunday, Oct. 4, and continue through Nov. 1. An opening reception is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 7, at 6:30 p.m. A special colored pencil demonstration will be given by Doty at 7:30 p.m.

For information about CPSA, Utah Chapter, write to Doty, 2801 S. 2700 E., SLC, UT 84109 or call 582-2716 on Mondays and Wednesdays and 467-6013 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

Although Doty and other officers and board members are giving up precious drawing time to serve in the CPSA Utah Chapter, they say it's well worth it.

"One of our goals is to have chapters throughout Utah," Doty said.

But she admits that the most important goal is "to increase public awareness of the colored pencil medium which is rapidly gaining acceptance in the fine-art community."