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Art has always been a part of Mardell Schuster’s life. She majored in Illustration and Graphic Design at The Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. Before starting a family, she worked as a layout artist for an advertising agency and a technical illustrator for a commercial avionics manufacturer. In 1998 she and her husband started a business and immediately her time and attention were consumed with helping to grow their family business. During the first 15 years of the business, drawing and painting was placed on the back burner. However, she always found some time on the weekends or on vacation to do a little painting. 


In 2014 she stumbled upon a time lapse video of a young artist named Heather Rooney drawing a portrait of a celebrity in colored pencil which she found to be amazing.  She couldn't believe that Rooney was using colored pencils. Schuster was very familiar with colored pencils, and used them for many projects, but she never got the results that Rooney did.  Schuster quickly started doing more research and found Alonya Nickelson’s Colored Pencil Painting Bible and bought it. She spent months experimenting with solvents, burnishing tools, and different types of paper surfaces, pushing herself past her comfort zone. She found that using markers as a base added to the vibrancy of the colored pencils. It also eliminated the white graininess that she always hated. She worked hard trying to give her drawings the “pop” that is achieved when using oils and acrylics.

  • Mardell Schuster's Instagram




Schuster enjoys drawing realistic still lifes the best, although her cats have made some cameo appearances in her still life drawings.  She spent the last few years working on a series of tea time drawings. She normally picks out many different items a week or two in advance of a photo shoot. Some items that she uses have been given to her. For instance, her Great Aunt left Schuster a teacup collection when she passed away ten years ago. Schuster has used the teacups as the subject matter for over a dozen drawings, and she finds a lot of other props at rummage sales, antique shops, and thrift stores. She has a closet in her basement where she stashes all of her goodies. She always selects a few items to start and then sets them out on a large cutting board on her kitchen counter. As the week progresses she will put items in and take items out. She will move them around and try out different tablecloths and doilies until she is content with the composition. She takes her photos in the early morning or in the late afternoon. She always prefers to use natural light. Her goal is not to replicate the photo but to pull out lights, shadows and colors that evoke feelings.


Early 2021 she had the opportunity to write an In-Depth Colored Pencil Tutorial for Ann Kullberg. It was an amazing experience for her, and he learned so much about her own drawing process.


Schuster’s goal is to continually learn and improve each new drawing. She challenges herself by trying out different objects, surfaces, and textures. Her favorite Painters are the Dutch still life artists of the 1600s. To be able to emulate their paintings with colored pencil is her ultimate goal. At this point in her life she is just enjoying the fact that she now has the time to do what she loves best, and that is to draw. 

Discover more about Schuster on her

personal website.

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