Angle on Art

Angle on Art

Travis Sylvester’s Magic with Colored Pencils

  • By: Bob White
  • Illustrations by: Travis Sylvester

Click image for slideshow.

Travis Sylvester is the only artist I know who works exclusively in colored pencils, and I must confess . . . I know very little about the medium, or the process he’s chosen.

I’ve admired Sylvester’s work for some time, particularly his fantastically rendered fish. But it wasn’t until recently that I learned of his preferred medium. To be completely honest, I thought I was looking at enormous canvases of imaginatively translated oils or acrylics. It turns out that this is a common misconception.

“Whenever I display my artwork,” Sylvester told me, “I always mention that my medium is colored pencil. I think the majority of people who see the work are under the impression that they’re rendered in some type of paint.”

“So, what do I call you?” I asked Sylvester. “It seems to me that you ‘paint’ with colored pencils in much the same manner as a painter works with a paint-charged brush. The effects are certainly the same. Are you a painter, a draftsman or an artist?”

“I don’t consider myself to be a painter,” Sylvester responded. “However, there are times when I feel as if I’m moving and blending in colors with my pencils just like a painter does with wet paint on canvas. I simply think of myself as an artist.”

Sylvester said he’s tried other means of expression, but colored pencils are primarily all he’s ever used. He’s drawn to colored pencils because, for him, they have very few limitations; they allow him to create very soft and smooth transitions, or very sharp and colorful passages that jump off the page at the viewer.

“Some day I envision myself working in a larger scale,” Sylvester said, “and that will necessitate paint. But, for the time being, I’m very satisfied with what I get from my pencils.”

While Sylvester has been fishing and drawing all of his life, it wasn’t until just a few years ago that he combined those passions. He said it was the stunning beauty of the fish he held, and then released, that inspired him to make the connection.

“I fell in love with the amazing range of colors, tones and contrasts, the subtle markings, and the wild reflective qualities of fish,” he said, “and I do my best to replicate what I see, both on the water, and in the stunning photography of my friends. It’s in this way that I hope to share my admiration for trout and fly-fishing.”

Other artists have inspired Sylvester, and he credits the work of A.D. Maddox as an early inspiration to pursue his goals as an artist. More recently, the efforts of Derek DeYoung, Diane Michelin, Mike Savlen and Barbara Meadows-May have motivated him to perfect his craft and, in doing so, develop his unique style.

I’m particularly attracted to some of Sylvester’s most recent experimentation, /files/node_images that are altered and manipulated via computer. These /files/node_images exude a wild, electric energy that fascinates and magnetically draws me in to them.

When I stand in front of Travis Sylvester’s drawings I am transfixed, and become lost in their colors, patterns and wet reflectiveness . . . in the same way I do when I hold a trout. ■


You can view more of Sylvester’s work on his Web site:


An Angle on art

by Bob White