Teresa Pennington is a colored-pencil artist who renders exquisitely detailed drawings of Western North Carolina vistas, flora, and fauna. For more than three decades, she’s been a licensed Biltmore Estate artist, drawing the house and gardens. She also enjoys drawing Victorian-style pieces depicting St. Nicholas, and she operates her own gallery in Waynesville.
Are you a self-taught artist?
Yes. I didn’t know I had a gift for it when I was a child. What got me into it was being really sick with my pregnancy when I was in my early 20s. I had to quit my job to stay home and I got really bored. I started out [using] watercolor and had no idea what I was doing.
How did you transition to pencils?
When you’re self-taught, you don’t know where to go next. It has to come to you. A friend gave me a set of colored pencils, and to get the hang of what they could do, I went to the Blue Ridge Parkway to draw. Then I said to myself, “I will never be able to do anything with these!” I packed it up and went back to painting. But those pencils kept calling me.
What did they say?
There’s a little voice inside you that whispers, and it kept telling me, “You’ve got to get back to those colored pencils.” I was dissatisfied with my painting. I wanted to do more detail. Colored pencils are a perfect medium for that.
Was it a quick transition from paints to pencils?
Once I followed that voice, paint was history; I never picked it up again. I just love the control you have with a pencil — it does exactly what you ask it to do. I don’t use any solvents or anything to blend colors, just colored pencils and paper.
You draw scenery, closeups of plants and animals, Biltmore, and St. Nick. How did you land on those particular subjects?
I only draw what I love.
Don’t you always include a Lady’s Slipper wildflower?
Yes. It was my mother’s favorite flower and she was my biggest fan and always wanted me to do one. I said I would but never did. You think your mother is going to live forever. Now that she’s gone, I put one somewhere in every drawing.
It’s rare to find an artist who works only in colored pencil.
When I started, I didn’t realize how unusual it was. But I haven’t met another artist who does it the way I do. For one thing, it’s time consuming. I can only do four large pieces a year. But I can’t give up the medium. It’s who I am, and it rejuvenates my soul.
Teresa Pennington, TPennington Art Gallery (15 N. Main St., Waynesville). For more information, call 828-452-9284, see tpennington.com, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. On Friday Dec. 7, Waynesville’s concludes its Art After Dark gallery crawl series for the year. Pennington will demonstrate colored-pencil work in her gallery from 5-9pm (waynesvillegalleryassociationnc.com). On Saturday, Dec. 8, the town hosts A Night Before Christmas, with horse-drawn-wagon rides, a live Nativity scene, caroling, and all Main Street shops staying open till 9pm (including TPennington Art Gallery). For more information, see visitnc.com.