by Tina Manzer
Each of Wendy Layne’s photorealistic colored pencil drawings are born from her idea for the composition as a whole. Then she either stages the composition herself and takes photos, hires models to photograph, or goes out into public places to take pictures of “real” people (she requests model releases when possible).
“Before I even begin drawing I study the photo and all of its intricacies to form a connection with the subject,” she explains. “My goal with each portrait is to capture the stories from the lines of the faces of the people that I draw. I want viewers to see the portraits and wonder who they are, what they do, and what they are thinking about. I want them to connect with my subjects.
“I work on a variety of series simultaneously,” Wendy notes. “One series is called ‘Faces of Humanity’ in which I try to capture many cultures of people in all walks of life. Typically it is a portrait from the shoulders up; up close and depicting as many details as I can with colored pencils. I use only dry pencils – no solvents – and typically my pencils are Faber-Castell Polychromos.”
Wendy didn’t become an artist until later in life, but has always loved everything art. “I was a young mother and did not have an opportunity to go to college to follow my passion,” she says. Instead, she raised her family and worked as a project manager in IT for more than 25 years. Four years ago, she decided to teach herself to draw with colored pencils.
“I saw some time-lapse videos on Facebook and started practicing 40 hours a week on top of my 40-hour-a-week day job,” Wendy explains. “Within five months I created my first photorealistic pencil drawing called ‘Wisdom.’”
Since then, she’s become a teacher and a demonstrator for art supply companies including Faber-Castell, and her work has been featured in books, magazines and exhibits across the country. She has won many awards.
“Colored pencils allow me to capture details that are very difficult to capture in other mediums,” Wendy says. “They can be sharpened to a very fine point to allow for very precise marks. I can zone in on the lettering of a bottle or the tiny details of a tattoo on a subject’s shoulder. In photorealism, the details are very important.”
“I also love that they are portable,” she adds. “They are easy to take in a bag on vacation or to demonstrations.”
Most of her pieces take anywhere from 20 to 100 hours to complete, depending on the size. Her favorite sizes are between 17 by 20 inches and 24 by 30 inches, and the paper she uses most often is Stonehenge White 250 gsm from Legion Paper. “The largest piece I have created is 4 by 6 feet using pastel and colored pencil and a roll of Stonehenge.”
Wendy begins each piece by making small marks on the paper where the eyes are located, and simple lines to indicate the bottom of the chin and the top of the head. She refers to the original image on her iPad and starts by creating the pupil of an eye. She works outward to the skin around the eye and the connecting facial features. “If I get the eyes right, the viewers will connect with my work and all is well. If the eyes are not perfect, I don’t want to continue the rest of the piece,” she says.
Sometimes she sprays a finished piece with Krylon Workable fixative, and sometimes she doesn’t – it depends on how many stray colors she’s used. Wendy frames her pieces using museum-quality acrylic for UV protection and ease of shipping.
For more information about Polychromos colored pencils, visit fabercastell.com.