Sticking With What Inspires Me

Sticking With What Inspires Me

by Sean Johnson

There are many art mediums to choose from; acrylics, the ever classic oil on canvas, watercolor on paper, pastel, pottery, sculptures… and then there is Colored Pencil. Colored Pencil don't always rank on the top of people's lists when they are looking for something to decorate their walls with. So, what keeps me creating with colored pencil when sometimes it feels like the deck is stacked against me in this huge world of art?

Even with my growing success I still wasn’t satisfied with how I viewed myself as a “real artist”.

Mallard 8" x 10" 2016, the first piece that I had juried into an art show.

In 2009, my friend introduced me to colored pencil, showing me a few techniques and tricks to get me started. In the beginning, it enabled me to reconnect with my artistic side that I haven't used since my highschool days. Before you know it I had an entire catalog out, and I was ordering plenty more paper and pencil supplies. As I created more and more, my skills improved significantly, and I entered a piece I was proud of into a juried show at my local art center. My entry was accepted; the only colored pencil artist among acrylic painters, oil painters, and watercolorists. Although I wasn’t awarded from the show, I was happy to be recognized during the jurors’ final talks. One of the jurors told me how impressed he was at the attention to detail in my entry, after explaining that at first sight, he thought it was an oil painting! I remember how proud that made me feel; not only for my art but also for putting myself out there.

Who's Calling the Kettle Black 16" x 20" Best in Show, Charlotte Art League, 2019.

Over the next few years, I continued to gain confidence as I improved my pencil skills. I set up a social media account and after creating a website, began selling commission pieces. Even with my growing success I still wasn’t satisfied with how I viewed myself as a “real artist”. Occasionally, I would take a left turn to try a different medium like acrylics, oils, or watercolors. In the back of my mind I felt, “to be an accomplished artist, I needed to create art in the mediums that the masters used or those mediums I’ve seen used by artists in galleries”. My wife has always encouraged me to stay true to who I am. I remember her consoling me after I failed to paint a beautiful landscape piece. “You are a Colored Pencil Artist, not an oil painter. Do what you are passionate about.” My mission from that time on has been to introduce the world to the fine art of colored pencil, as a serious medium, and not just something kids use to color with in coloring books.

Steam 16" x 20" Juried in to the Colored Pencil Society of America International Exhibition, 2020. This was a very proud day for me.

Over the past few years, sticking to my mission, I’ve been juried into a number of shows, winning everything from People's Choice to Best in Show. My works have been published numerous times, I’ve done product branding, illustrations for books, corporate art installations, had a solo show and I’ve even been on the morning news. The sky’s the limit as I look to the future for my art. Social Media has been a great platform to both show and sell my creations. There are more and more art competitions that are taking our medium more seriously, which opens the door for us as colored pencil artists to be not only accepted into galleries and major exhibitions, but to be celebrated around the world.

Joy and frustration is all part of the creative process, and at the end of the day, sit back and be proud to be a one of a kind; a “Colored Pencil Artist”.

In closing, Colored Pencil has changed and challenged my life. It has provided me a lifelong career, it has taught me patience and it has given me confidence. My advice is to take what inspires you, what brings you joy, and be the best that you can be at it. Don’t compare yourself to others, put yourself out there, and remember, your style of art is yours and yours alone. Joy and frustration is all part of the creative process, and at the end of the day, sit back and be proud to be a one of a kind; a “Colored Pencil Artist”.


Sean Johnson is a professional artist who enjoys recreating the beauty of life with acrylic, colored pencil, and watercolor. Sean draws his inspiration from his plethora of worldwide adventures; from local sights both urban and wild, exotic cultures and experiences he explores, and the colorful people he meets.
His works have been featured within galleries, in books, magazines, promotional materials, and on branded products. His current work is featured at the Charlotte Art League.

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Comments (1)

Hi Sean, when we read something like your experience in art, it makes all of us happy for you. Your hard work is all yours to reap and ours to enjoy.
Keep going with your found joy!

Mireille - Nov 17, 2020

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