by Alison Aaskow
Immersion in nature began as a toddler with adventures in the woods off our back garden in England and continued on in the wilderness of Western Canada when we moved there in 1978. I was encouraged to discover and play and learn no matter the weather. No curiosity was left undiscovered. I collected leaves and rocks, snails, caterpillars, salamanders and garter snakes. Rocks, leaves and whittled sticks were kept as keepsakes and the little creatures were carefully studied overnight and released back where I found them in the woods the next day. Camping excursions most weekends and well into early winter gave me the opportunity to study nature in all seasons. Memories of wild horses grazing on native grass quickly became a fascination to watch for and was where I first fell in love with them. As a child, I could often be found sitting quietly, drawing with coloured pencil in hand, meticulously creating, connecting with my imagination. At some point, my coloured pencils were put to the wayside where they patiently waited for their rediscovery many years later. In the meantime, I continued to practice my drawing skills with graphite pencils.
Spur, Buck & A Bit O' Luck, 12" x 16" Coloured Pencil on Fabriano Artistico Hot Pressed WC Paper. A still life I comprised of a deer antler shed I discovered while riding, my husband's childhood buckle and a spur.
Drawing has long been a pastime, but I hadn't found it to be a passion quite yet. I hadn't discovered what using coloured pencils could attain and I certainly didn't realize they were being used as a fine art medium. One day while meandering through a book store, I stumbled across Colored Pencil Secrets for Success by Ann Kullberg. I bought it and read it cover to cover, studying the techniques and beautiful drawings that lit up the pages. I dug out my school grade coloured pencils from the depth of my closet and had a play. From there, the flames began to flicker. In 2018, my pastime of drawing started to evolve into a passion. I began to take my art seriously, putting aside time every day to focus on learning something about the coloured pencil medium. I went from creating a drawing every couple of years with graphite pencils to always having a piece in the works. As I became more in tune to the technical aspects of drawing with coloured pencils, a shift started to happen. I have always been aware of my surrounding environment but I began to see it from a different perspective. I was viewing the world as though I had as a child freshly discovering textures, light, reflections, shadows and colours, through the eyes of an artist for the first time, it was an awakening of sorts.
“As a child, I could often be found sitting quietly,
drawing with coloured pencil in hand,
meticulously creating, connecting with my imagination.”
Resilience, 9" x 12" Coloured Pencil on Clairefontaine Pastelmat. Whilst walking around our place, I came across this resilient little dandelion that had refused to succumb to a snowstorm.
My life is enveloped in western cowboy culture, running a cattle ranch alongside my husband as we work cohesively with the ecosystem to make a living off the land. Horses are essential in day-to-day activities. I work with my colts, beginning with ground trust, and gradually teaching them to assist with cattle handling on our ranch under saddle. Creating a connected bond with a colt takes time and patience and is a very rewarding feeling. Viewing the world from between the ears of my horses is enthralling. I take my camera with me everywhere, be it on foot or horseback, embracing every opportunity to snap reference photos of anything that entices me.
Delicate Serenity, 11" x 13" Coloured Pencil on Stonehenge by Legion Paper. During a peaceful afternoon kayaking excursion, this Canada Goose kept me company, curiously paddling alongside me.
“The world is in colour and so blessedly
are coloured pencils.”
Since discovering the possibilities of coloured pencil, my enjoyment of drawing has turned into both dedication and devotion. Now, instead of just practicing my skills, I try to capture the texture and inspiration I find in the subject as I study it closely. The methodical technique and delicacy that is required of coloured pencil is similar to working with horses and is why I am drawn to the medium. In order to increase my connection between art and nature, I have been researching the mathematics behind the Fibonacci Sequence and the Golden Ratio. I am excited about discovering the endless examples that exist and I look forward to incorporating these findings in my future art pieces through both composition and subject choices. There is a spark of creativity to be noticed in everything. Art and, more specifically, coloured pencil have provided grounding and connection for me within my surrounding environment more than ever before. The world is in colour and so blessedly are coloured pencils.
Alison is a coloured pencil and graphite artist. She lives on a cattle ranch in Alberta, Canada with her husband, Doug. Viewing the world through the eyes of an artist, Alison can often be found snapping photos of inspiration for her next artwork while tending to cattle or riding her horses. Alison was delighted to have her work published in the Ann Kullberg's Color Magazine—The Pencil Box Featured Artists, December 2022.