Skip to content
Trends to Watch in 2021: Colored Pencil Revival

SellPrice Database


Log In

Sign Up

ArtistsArtworksAuctionsViewing RoomsGalleriesFairsShowsMuseums


Trends to Watch in 2021: Colored Pencil Revival

Shannon Lee

Jan 20, 2021 6:01PM

This January, Artsy is launching a series of three features to spotlight the trends we’re watching in 2021. Using our internal data, each of these features reflects a theme we saw emerge during the end of 2020 that we expect to take hold across the contemporary art world in the year ahead. This week, we share the third installment, “Colored Pencil Revival.”

One of the less obvious effects of COVID-19 has been the disruption of many artists’ typical practices. With social distancing measures in place, many have been unable to safely access studio buildings or communal workspaces. Some artists have even found themselves stranded in foreign countries due to travel restrictions. In order to stay creative, many artists have been making due with what they have on hand. The ever-versatile, accessible, and easily transportable colored pencil, it seems, has become a go-to medium.

While colored wax crayons have been around since as early as 500 B.C.E., colored pencils as we know them weren’t invented until the 19th century, when they were used for the utilitarian purposes of marking and checking written copy. Decades later, the material was adopted for artistic use, with companies like Faber-Castell producing artist-grade 60-color sets. Though it’s a fairly traditional medium, the colored pencil has remained squarely within the arsenal of many artists working today due to its vast graphic possibilities and practicality.

The 10 contemporary artists featured here are creating works that are reviving the medium of colored pencil.

Elijah Burgher

B. 1978, Kingston, New York. Lives and works in Berlin.

Infused with symbols and occult references, Elijah Burgher’s work explores and celebrates sexuality and queer culture, incorporating religious iconography and plumbing the depths of queer abstraction. In each work, Burgher spells out wishes and intentions using sigils that either stand alone or surround intimate, tender portraits of his friends. Colored pencil is applied using soft, gentle strokes that achieve a luminous quality, as though radiating light.

These deeply spiritual works were on view this past fall at Chicago’s Western Exhibitions in a solo show titled “Until the beasts and all the mountain are wild with divinity.”