Art is something you can either do - or you can't. Right? Wrong.
According to Alison Powell, anyway. And she should know, because talented artist and member of the UK Coloured Pencil Society that she is, she firmly believes that given the right instruction, a bit of patience and a good dollop of self-confidence, anybody can learn to be creative.
You know how it is. You see a wonderful sunset, or a cute puppy, or that perfect juxtaposition of fruit in a bowl and you really want to capture it in a drawing. But you don't know how. So you end up resorting to photographing it, cuddling it or eating it instead, and the moment has gone. And that's where Alison comes in.
A former secondary school art teacher, she has also taught in a studio - all ages and abilities, using everything from oils to watercolour - but now - along with her commissions - concentrates on teaching adults the delights of her real love: coloured pencils. 'They are' she says, 'eminently portable, easy to use and to care for, and don't have to cost too much.' Depending on the type of lead, they can be blended, layered and used with water and other mediums, and they're as perfect for detailing as they are for great swathes of colour. She runs online tutorials and workshops, and genuinely loves passing on her knowledge to others. She derives a great deal of pleasure from seeing her students progress from being 'people who can't' to 'people who can', and finds it very rewarding being able to take the fear out of creating art.
'One thing about coloured pencils is that they force you to slow down,' she adds. Which has got to be beneficial, particularly if you're taking up art as a way of relaxing. And after the last 18 months, a bit of relaxation is what we all need! Had she noticed a greater uptake on her classes during lockdown? 'Absolutely,' says Alison. 'Particularly in the second and third lockdowns. People really needed that outlet; they needed something just for themselves.'
Like most talented artists, she also accepts commissions. She's happy to draw virtually anything, as long as it's detailed. She's fascinated by it, and considers it a personal challenge to capture every single tiny aspect of her subject matter, from individual hairs to the crease in a Coke can. While cats and dogs form a large proportion of her commissions, she also really enjoys still life and landscapes, and exploring other mediums through abstract art is something she'd like to move into. Alison describes herself as 'really unobservant' (we're sure she's not!) so working from photographs, rather than sketches, is how she prefers to work, and it helps in snaring that all-important detail.
So, Alison, any pointers as to your favourite pencils? 'I love Derwent's Lightfast', she says, eyes a-gleam, 'and their Drawing range as well.' She also uses Faber-Castell's oil-based Polychromos pencils, and the Pablo and Luminance collections from Caran d'Ache, and says their Prismacolor Premier range is perfect for beginners as they blend so nicely.
We talked to Alison via the wonders of the interweb, but we didn't need a face-to-face interview to witness her enthusiasm: it was written all over her face. 'I love my job', she said. Now how many people get to say that?
1 September 2021