Virginia Carroll had an artistic eye growing up.
When she was 6 years old, her mom signed her up for drawing classes. Carroll’s artistic inclinations soon led her to other mediums, such as watercolors, pastels and oil paints.
She studied art in college, eventually taking a break from creating to start a family. But it remained in the back of her mind.
“Even though I wasn’t actively working in it, I was always thinking about it,” she says.
In 2006, as part of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum’s membership program, Carroll received a catalog in the mail for the museum’s arts program.
“Being a member, I thought, ‘Gee, I should support that,’” Carroll says. “I looked through (the catalog) again and there was a class called ‘Intro to Colored Pencil.’ I thought, ‘Gee, colored pencil. I can do that half-asleep. I may as well take that class.’
“I signed up for it and the first day, (the instructor) did a PowerPoint presentation of her work and some other work with colored pencils. My jaw was on the floor,” she says. “I couldn’t believe you could do that kind of thing with colored pencil. I was hooked.”
Just like that, Carroll found her medium.
“I’ve worked in all the traditional media — pottery, fiber arts, macramé,” she says. “I’ve dabbled in all kinds of things, but colored pencil did it for me.”
Carroll took more classes and workshops following the one at the Desert Museum and also later joined Arizona’s chapter of the Colored Pencil Society of America. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, a small, informal group of colored pencil artists would meet in midtown Tucson to chat and draw together.
From plants and landscapes to portraits, wildlife and still lifes, Carroll draws it all.
“There are too many interesting things out there to settle on one particular subject,” she says.
Carroll says one of her favorite perks about working with colored pencil is that it isn’t messy — an artist can work with the medium for 15 minutes and simply walk away. But with a medium such as oil paints, it’s more of a process with factors such as putting away paints so they won’t dry out and having to clean the brushes.
“You can do so many things with (colored pencil) that you aren’t able to do with other mediums,” Carroll says.
But Carroll says there’s a stigma surrounding colored pencil — mostly because its most common use is by children.
“One of my goals is to promote and educate people about colored pencil,” she says.