Behold, the colored pencil! Definitely a step up from the waxy crayons in kiddos art box, but not what you might consider a serious artist’s medium. A new exhibit–now through August 6–at Rockville’s Strathmore Mansion might convince you otherwise. Engage kiddo in a form of expression that does not involve a digital screen, as drawings by artists from the Colored Pencil Society of America reveal the appeal of old fashioned lead to paper and go well beyond the scope of the Big Activity Coloring Book.

Photo: Strathmore

Is it Real or Just a Drawing?
The Strathmore show is in fact the Society’s 25th Annual International Show, representing artists in the U.S. and globally and promoting colored pencil works as fine art in accordance with rules that restrict the artist to the medium, and do not allow the use of any brush, paint, or other embellishment. The result is anything but a pointy headed display of scribble scrabble. A juried art show, which means the pieces on display are all hand-selected against specific criteria to be hung, the artists here aim to achieve a realism to their works like no other.

Many of the drawings depicting people in particular are so realistic, kids will want to know is that a photograph of a real person or a drawing? Guides welcomed us on our tour and patiently pointed out details to look out for from the contours of a fingerprint and strands of hair, to the wrinkles in a piece of paper. Kids will enjoy finding the color of watermelon as in “Summer Smile,” or perhaps coming around the corner and seeing a favorite pet, like the cat lounging on the couch in “Catnap”.

Photo: Carolyn Ross

Coloring Time is Family Time
Tour the exhibit anytime Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays opening at noon. Need a date night? The exhibit is also open on Wednesday evenings for late nights until 9 p.m. At less peak times on weekdays or early weekend mornings, Strathmore’s dedicated docent staff provide a near private tour of the house and two floors of exhibit space. Bonus: The museum will host two workshops on Sunday, July 9. First, is a colored pencil class for families with children between ages 4-7, followed by a class just for 8-12 year olds at 1 p.m.

Photo: nancy waldman via Flickr

Other Mostly Outdoor Curiosities
Strathmore’s grounds include not just the house adjacent to the Music Center, but also a sculpture garden that kids love. Check out the giant bowl shaped piece as you near the driveway with two cylindrical objects sticking out. These are actually kaleidoscopes that turn and are an endless curiosity focused on the mosaic inside the bowl and anything else you put in front of them. Also just for kids is Strathmore’s Backyard Theater held on Thursdays in July. Also check out the Afternoon Tea schedule continuing through the summer with some themed teas for kids. And be sure and check out family events debuting and returning seasonally such as the new Storytelling Saturdays beginning in October, and the popular Saturday Family Jazz Sessions.

10701 Rockville Pike (North Bethesda, Md)

Have you visited this cool exhibit yet? Tell us about it in the comments below. 

–Carolyn Ross