Traffic Jam Susan Calderon

“Traffic Jam” is one example of Susan Calderon creating complex art with simple colored pencils.

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Local art instructor Susan Calderon considers colored pencils the underdog of the art world. That’s why she likes them.

“People tend to think of colored pencils as something they used for coloring in school projects,” she said. “When you push the medium, you can create works of art like paintings.”

Last Saturday, Calderon’s exhibit “The Magic of Colored Pencils” opened at Emory Johns Creek Hospital. The hospital rotates exhibits of local artists downstairs near the cafeteria. Calderon’s show will be up until Feb. 21.

Calderon has a degree in art education from Ohio State University and has been teaching at the Johns Creek Arts Center for 10 years.

“It’s like a tribe,” Calderon said. “The Arts Center brings together like-minded people, whether they’re 8 or 80. It’s such a supportive group.”

She teaches adults and children, and styles ranging from photography to watercolors, but she comes back to drawing with colored pencils. She has been exhibited in several local, national and international juried shows and is a member of Colored Pencil Society of America.

At her show, people can expect to see a couple themes, she said. Many of her pieces are nature scenes and some are portraits, mostly of family members. There is also a series of pieces inspired by elements on the periodic table.

“I think artists are very curious people,” Calderon said. “When we find something interesting, we want to explore it fully.”

Calderon enjoys studying rocks, saying in another life she would have been a geologist. She wanted to find a way to represent her love of rocks with her art.

“Just drawing a bunch of rocks wouldn’t be very interesting, so I thought what are rocks made of?” she said. “That’s how I got to the elements.”

With these pieces, Calderon is not only combining two of her passions, but two subjects people sometimes think of as opposites: arts and science.

“People think that they’re separate, but they really go hand in hand,” she said.

For more information about Johns Creek Arts Center classes, visit

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