Reality Through Colored Pencils

"When Time Stopped" by Arlene Steinberg
“When Time Stopped” by Arlene Steinberg

We’ve all seen artwork represented in many mediums: from oil paintings, pastels, watercolors, but it’s less frequent that we see works of art represented in colored pencils.

Arlene Steinberg, a former textile designer and owner and creator of her own wallpaper company, living right here in Port Washington, has maximized her own artistic designs using colored pencils.

One has to really see her works to believe just how well she has captured her still-life photographs on paper. Roses look like they are just coming to bud. Fruits have a just-picked essence.

First Steinberg takes vases and ceramic or glass dishes, food plates, fruits, vegetables, roses, sunflowers and even leaves—whatever she fancies for the moment. She sets up and designs her scene, photographs it and sketches it out on paper, then fills it in for hours and hours, using layers and layers of different colored pencils to reflect every absolute detail once again.

She began this art form after doing paper sculptures for many years. She bought the colored pencils to embellish her paper designs and a friend later encouraged her to try the pencils as a new medium to showcase her talent.

“I really love it,” smiled Steinberg. “Mostly I like to work with glass and reflections and the backlighting that exists in my scenes.”

Her professional pencils in an array of colors must be super sharp to truly make her pieces pop. “The pencils I use carry a great deal of pigment,” she said.

The pigment is amplified with the help of a heated box that she places behind her paper, which sits either atop a table or the easel she works on. The heat helps to soften the pigment inside the pencils offering layers and layers of the realism she sets forth. She enjoys creating her pieces in both her Sarasota, FL, home overlooking the water or her apartment in Port Washington from which she travels back and forth twice a year.

Steinberg left the textile business in the nineties to raise her son who was then just a baby. She began designing wallpaper scenes for her own wallpaper company, which she later sold. A true talent Steinberg is, and to see her colored pencil art is to believe it. They are so realistic that people would swear they are looking at a photograph.

“It’s all about how I layer my colors,” said Steinberg. “If you look closely at my pieces you can see all the different colors I use.”

She published a book called “Masterful Color” several years back which is very comprehensive, with step-by-step lessons on how to create colored pencil art.

Much of her work, she submits into shows and she travels around the country showing and selling her work.

Her next goal is to try to get into a couple well-known galleries in New York City or around the country. Steinberg is happy to do commissioned pieces for anyone interested, however she prefers to work only from still life scenes—not people, animals, or landscapes.

One of her favorite pieces that sold was called “When Time Stopped” —done in memory of Sept. 11. It was a setting she designed using the original New York Times newspaper dated from that day. One of her most significant pieces, it shows the reflection of the Twin Towers burning amidst a beautiful, peaceful, hearty breakfast plate—with velvety red curtains behind it—almost as if from a fancy American hotel.

“Anyone can read into the piece whatever they wish,” Steinberg said. “The idea was to make known how time stopped for all of us that very day.” Oddly enough, the picture on the cover of that newspaper was from Fashion Week with all its commentary—hardly the important global news event that unfolded only hours later.

Her most recent work just sold, called “Strawberry Jam,” shows strawberries beside the very popular old-fashioned Ball mason jars. She is currently working on another, similar, piece, but using peppers instead of fruit. She is thinking about calling it “Salsa.” We will see. For anyone interested in learning more about Steinberg’s artistry, she welcomes you to visit her Facebook page or simply