From a distance, Gene Mlekoday’s (Mel-ek-oday) finely rendered images of nature show a studied sensitivity to both subject and setting—Canada geese pause serenely in a glassy pool, wary wolves intently study the surroundings from a rocky outcrop, cautious pheasants pause momentarily in a snowy cornfield.
A closer look at these portraits reveals a surprising choice of medium—colored pencil. While equally at home using acrylic, watercolor, gouache, oil, and pen and ink, Gene finds his greatest satisfaction working in colored pencil.
Little known to many collectors, colored pencil is an infinitely challenging medium that can produce highly varied and often surprising results. Working from light to dark, Gene meticulously applies countless layers of color using a wide range of short and long strokes, depending on the desired effect. With the exacting detail a pencil can afford, he creates individual features—from eyes to feathers and fur. By utilizing the soft, pliable quality of the medium he builds up areas of both delicate and deep color that give his intimate vignettes a remarkable richness and luster.
Drawing from a lifetime of experiences in the wild, this Minnesota-native explores a wide range of subject matter in his work—from wolves and songbirds to upland game. His series of works profiling hunting dogs shows his sensitivity to the individual personalities of his subjects, and his recent high placement in regional and national stamp competitions, and in the Colored Pencil Society of America International show along with Explore This Show has further established him as an artist of note.
Schooled at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Gene enjoyed a thirty-year career as a graphic designer and prepress and print specialist. Despite the demands and challenges of his profession, he still continued to pursue his passion for art. Now self-employed, Gene often can be found putting the finishing touches on a work in progress, sketching notes for a future commission, or out in the field exploring little-known areas in his favorite wilderness haunts.
A fairly unforgiving medium, colored pencil is not easily removed. Artists must begin with a clearly defined end in mind. After carefully blocking out the image on specialized paper, 100 percent rag board, or watercolor board that often has a degree of texture or tooth, Gene masks delicate areas such as highlights and specific subjects and areas that will be addressed later in the drawing process.
He then applies color in a wide range of strokes from broader sweeps to finer flecks, dashes, and crosshatchings.
By adding layers of color and blending the strokes, Gene creates a broad palette. The golden brown highlights in a pheasant feather, for instance, may actually be the result of several short strokes and layers of complementary colors such as Orange, yellow Ocher, Senna Brown and Dark Brown. By varying the pressure when applying color—from light airy strokes using the side of the pencil lead, to firm, distinct lines from a well-sharpened tip—Gene builds up the color and contrast and adds a depth and richness to the image.
Up close, a finished image is a surprising collage of countless colors layered and blended to create shadow and light. Step back and these myriad textures and tones translate into the subtleties of a black duck’s wary glance or the telltale stance of a Shorthair on point.
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3923 Upton Ave. N.
Minneapolis, Mn 55412
Ph: (763) 439-9705