Local artist Cynthia Knox finds success with pencils

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BY Molly Congdon
Gazette Reporter
The petals of the pink cherry blossom seem as though they are going to leap off the page as it perches on a branch against a blurred background of green. At a glance, it appears as though it is a real, living flower.

But it is art, and it all started with a single piece of paper and a graphite pencil. As a child, the artist was never found anywhere without one.

Cynthia Knox resides in the suburbia we call Clifton Park, but through her art she has touched the hearts and eyes of individuals from all over the world, receiving numerous awards in national and international juried exhibitions.

Eight years ago, she was hired by Walter Foster Publishing to create how-to colored pencil and graphite books; every year since, she has released a new one. They have included mastering the art of flowers, still lifes and animals such as cats, dogs and horses. Knox is currently working on one for drawing fairies. She has also published a book — and is working on a second one — under Ann Kullberg Publishing.

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Then, last year, Craftsy — an online company started by two former eBay executives that offers instructional courses in over 200 countries with over 5 million student participants — asked her to prepare a seven-class curriculum and fly out to Denver for the filming process. Her class launched in January, with a total of 1,700 students so far.

She also taught workshops on Bermuda and Alaskan cruise ships, teaches her techniques at large art conventions such as New England Traditions in Massachusetts and The Villages in Florida, is involved with the Southern Saratoga Artists Society on a regular basis, and has published a book on how to draw horses in colored pencil.

She started off in monochrome but eventually decided that she wanted to bring a flush of color into her artwork, so she transitioned from pencil to colored pencil, and — like when Dorothy steps out of the house, post-tornado, and finds the white and black world of Kansas has been replaced by a magical one with lush, vivid hues — the result is enough to take your breath away.

“I wasn’t comfortable with oils and acrylics; I knew pencils so the next obvious step was the colored pencil,” Knox said. “They are portable, inexpensive, green, easy to manage and colored pencil artwork has gained respectability in the art world.”

When we think of colored pencils, the image that comes to mind is one of a child scribbling away, desperately trying to remain within the lines of the black-outlined figures found on the pages of a book. These tools don’t conjure thoughts of Van Gogh, Picasso or other artists who continue to awe and inspire us.

However, when colored pencil is layered enough on a page, the work actually falls into the category of a painting. Magnifico!

All artists have their own process. All of Knox’s creations are interpretations of photographs; she sees something that she wishes to bring to life on the page and captures it through a camera lens first. She studies the image and then eventually begins to make marks on the drawing board.

Like other artists, she has a studio where the she hunkers down to complete her paintings, a sacred space that evokes passion and innovation — the place where art is born. Some contain vaulted ceilings and massive windows that allow the light to shine in. Others are closed off from the world, quiet places to reflect and not be bothered by exterior distractions, and some are the epitome of organized chaos with brushes, paints and papers devouring the floor and sections of the walls.

For Knox, none of these clichéd images apply. Instead, she opens the door to the guest bedroom within her home, plops down in the plush reclining chair — usually with one of her dogs by her side — and color streaks across the page like a rainbow against a rain-wrung sky.

Her ardor is rooted in a higher power, the grace of God. “God gave me a desire and a passion to create beautiful art,” Knox said. “If I don’t have something on my drawing board, I’m restless and feel incomplete.”

She also credits the Lord for her success. “He has brought tremendous opportunities my way, especially when I was home most of the time for two years caring for my mom, who had Alzheimer’s,” Knox said. “I was able to work out of the house for the two publishers and still make sure my mom was safe and content. It’s been such a blessing.”

Knox has a great deal of support on the home front. Her husband, Jeff, is her “rock,” and her two daughters bring light into her life.

Loves creating and teaching
Sharing her knowledge gives her a great sense of pride and joy. “I truly enjoy the teaching aspect of this and have made a lot of great friends at the workshops and on social media,” Knox said. “My desire is to continue to create books, hold workshops and film instructional webinars. I don’t know which I love more: creating the art or teaching it!”

Whether she is teaching one of her classes, breaking down steps within one of her soon-to-be published books or simply seated in her reclining chair with a blank “canvas,” Knox will take everything one tiny area at a time.