Colored Pencil Workshop held in Kauai

By Sue Kuuskamae

Dinner at the Plantation. Wendy Hollender is in the middle in red.

Dinner at the Plantation. Wendy Hollender is in the middle.


Early on the morning of August 21 I returned from the island of Kauai where I participated in a two-week colored pencil class given by Wendy Hollender of the New York Botanical Garden.  The class was held on the grounds of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens where the students numbering around 13 had the run of the McBryde and Allerton gardens to find interesting plants, trees, or flowers to draw and paint.  Also we were lucky to have Dr. David Burney, NTBG Director of Conservation, assisting with various garden plant identification walks, botanical lectures, and a day-long visit to the Makauwahi Cave Reserve where restoration of native plants is in progress.

Thunbergia Sky Vine

Thunbergia Sky Vine


Wendy likes to use Faber Castell Polychromos pencils because she can easily reach a rich saturation color without the troublesome buildup that one sometimes gets using waxy pencils.  She, like many other colored pencil teachers, stresses that one must keep a very sharp point on one’s pencils.  Her method includes careful measuring of the specimen, a light drawing in graphite, a complete under-tone using a sepia pencil always keeping in mind the upper left scientific light source, and using a range of tones from dark to light in overlap areas.  She reminded us constantly to keep in mind tone first and color second.

Sue Kuuskmae with colored pencil painting.

Sue Kuuskmae with colored pencil painting.


The students in the class ranged from those with an extensive background in art to those with little or no experience. Most of the students were either docents at the gardens or interested island residents. Four of the class members were from the mainland. Most were most interested in developing a skill using colored pencils, which many had not used before. The class was not only informative but quite a lot of fun due to Wendy’s great skill as a teacher, her ever present sense of humor, and the rapport that developed among the students. Enrollment in the class was fairly flexible with some taking only the first week, some showing up for only the second week, and a few taking days here and there. I know that Wendy will be traveling out this way several times a year to teach at Filoli in Woodside, CA continuing on to NTBG for follow up classes at the gardens. I know she would love to include a stop here in Los Angeles so hopefully more of us will be able to enjoy learning her methods in the coming years.

Ruth Poulton and Sue Kuuskmae at National Tropical Gardens in Kauai.

Ruth Poulton and Sue Kuuskmae at National Tropical Gardens in Kauai.


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