Visual Art

Landscapes & Lovecraft

eclectic Servoss excels with pencils, paint

Allison Puestow, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

Urban/landscape. Chippewa Valley artist Allan Servoss shows off some of the work in is latest exhibition.
Urban/landscape. Chippewa Valley artist Allan Servoss shows off some of the work in is latest exhibition.

While he is well known for his colored pencil work, artist Allan Servoss is actually a painter by trade. His work has been featured in galleries and museums across the country as well as in several magazines and books. Before venturing into the realm of colored pencil, Servoss almost exclusively used watercolors for more than 20 years. But his colored pencil creations just happened to come out in the right place at the right time and – voilà! – he’s known for colored pencils.  

Both sides of Servoss’ artistic oeuvre will be part of a new exhibit, “Drawings and Paintings: A Variety Show by Allan Servoss,” which opens Friday, May 2, at the Volume One Gallery, 205 N. Dewey St.

Servoss got his start as all of us do: He was a little kid with a bunch of crayons. But how does one go from crayon art to nationally recognized art? “Basically, I was just one of those people that kept doing it,” Servoss explains. “I just never quit.” Most kids give up on art and don’t continue with it past fourth or fifth grade; it’s the rare artistic souls who maintain that spark who go on to be artists.

Aside from working with watercolors, Servoss also has been using a paint called casein (kay-SEEN). “It’s one of the oldest, if not the oldest, painting medium in Western painting,” he says. “It’s a medium that uses a water base, but the binding is casein product, from milk basically.” (Sounds like the perfect kind of paint for Wisconsin.) He started working with casein about 10 years ago after he retired from his teaching job – he taught elementary art for 25 years. “I had a fond memory of it from when I was a kid, and a big part of my work now is in casein,” he says.

Most of the works Servoss shows in professional galleries are landscapes. “Even when I was in high school I remember being drawn to landscapes,” he says. “It’s something that’s always been appealing.” There are landscapes no matter where you look, and your environment can greatly influence one’s work. “If you’re in a place long enough your work starts to reflect where you live,” he adds. For example, when Servoss lived in Eau Claire for nearly 17 years, he did a lot of cityscapes and work that was reflective of city life.

“If you’re in a place long enough your work starts to reflect where you live.” – artist Allan Servoss, on his landscapes

But he’s not limited to just landscapes. “Four of the pieces I’m putting in the show are not representational landscapes,” he says. “They’re watercolors that I call abstract, for lack of anything better to call them, but they’re not. They’re not the type of thing anyone is expecting to see from me.” When he was deciding what work to include in the upcoming show, Servoss was originally going to show off just the pieces that people are used to seeing, but ultimately changed his mind. He wanted to include work that he’s done but never had been able to show off before. “Like many artists, we don’t always have the chance and opportunity to show the breadth of what we do,” he says. His more abstract, H.P. Lovecraft-inspired pieces haven’t really been seen before. “It’ll make it interesting, whether people like it or not,” he says.

What’s his advice for future artists? Well, it’s sort of like Barbossa’s view of the Pirate Code: “There are no rules, there are only guideposts.” Servoss says, “Learn as much about your craft as you can. Learn as much as you can and then strike out on your own.” After teaching art for so many years, both at the elementary level and at workshops across the country, Servoss knows there’s only so much one can learn about art. You can teach techniques and the technicalities, but aside from that and putting the supplies in front of someone, you can’t teach them to make art. They have to do that themselves.

Drawings and Paintings: A Variety Show by Allan Servoss • May 2-June 28 • opening reception 6:30pm Friday, May 2 • Volume One Gallery, 205 N Dewey St. • free • (715) 552-0457 •