Troy-Hayner exhibit: ‘Yes, that’s really colored pencil’

Ultra-realistic work of Troy grad on display through Aug. 15

Long before she discovered colored pencils, Melissa Nece was an artist working in oils, acrylics, pastels and watercolors. But her artistic life changed dramatically in 1990 when she got a gift certificate from an art store and picked up a set of colored pencils.

“I began experimenting and started to figure out tricks on how to get good effects,” says Nece, a graduate of Troy High School who now lives in Florida. “I liked the directness of the hand to the paper.” Once she’d come up with techniques that worked well, colored pencil became her main medium. “The big thing I discovered was using certain kinds of erasers to blend the colors on the paper.”

You’ll see the amazing things she creates with those colored pencils at the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center where Nece’s work is on display through Aug. 15.

“She’s so prolific and knowledgeable about the medium — both the pencils and the paper,” marvels exhibit coordinator Leona Sargent. “When folks walk in and I see them looking at the show I have to tell them, ‘Yes, that’s really colored pencil!’ Her work is so ultra-realistic that it looks like photos or paintings.”

Nece prefers to call them drawings. An active member of the Colored Pencil Society of America, she served as the organization’s president for 12 years. “Colored pencil is the cheapest and cleanest of color art media, but it’s also one of the most versatile and expressive,” says Nece. “It’s a big advantage for people who have health issues. Some products are even vegan-friendly. It’s an easy medium to learn, but it has endless possibilities for what you can do with it.”

At the beach

What Nece does with her own colored pencils often reflects her love of the beach. She makes her home on a peninsula on the edge of Tampa Bay.

“I always feel drawn to the water and even when I lived in Troy I liked going to the rivers and lakes in the area,” says Nece, whose family lived in Ohio from 1964-1970. “I am called to the beach, my art usually starts there. The natural environment inspires me by itself, but it’s also a stage for human activity. My drawings include both elements: energy and color brought by people interacting with each other and with sand, water and sky.”

Nece says she’s always on the lookout for average people doing normal things. “I want my drawings to make you feel like you’re there doing that stuff, too,” she says.

While at the beach, she takes photos with a long zoom, then heads home to draw. An average drawing takes a couple of weeks. Not surprisingly, the color she uses the most is ultramarine blue. “That blue is a big part of doing skin tones as well,” she says.

In addition to doing her own artwork, Nece can often be found sharing her expertise at classes and workshops. It was at one of those workshops in Florida that a Troy couple — Shirley and Michael Harbaugh — learned that Nece had connections to their hometown and recommended she be considered for a Hayner exhibit. While in Troy, Nece conducted a sold-out two-day workshop.

“I had a wonderful time,” says Nece, who hadn’t spent time in Troy in more than 50 years, but proudly found her way around without a map. “It was fun to go back and see the landmarks I remembered.”

Nece’s pieces are for sale at the mansion and priced from $80 up.

Tour the mansion

If you’re planning to visit the exhibit, allow time for a tour of the magnificent Hayner mansion. You can take an audio tour of the beautifully furnished rooms using QR Codes thanks to Matthew Jackson, a Troy High School grad who researched the history and created the tour as his Eagle Scout project.

Built in 1914 by Mary Jane Hayner in the Romanesque style, the home was designed by Cincinnati architect Leonard Willeke of the Allyn Engineering Company. Mrs. Hayner, who left her home to the community in the care of the Troy City Schools, specified that it could be used as a library, a museum or for other cultural or educational purposes. The mansion was the home of the public library for 33 years.

One of the interesting rooms in the mansion is dedicated to the Hayner Distillery, at one time a nationally recognized and enormously profitable mail order whiskey business. On display off the Solarium, in a room which was originally Mrs. Hayner’s dining room, is memorabilia known as The Hayner Distillery Collection.

Today, in addition to being an historic landmark, the Center hosts everything from performing arts programs and art classes to exhibits and cultural offerings. Over 40,000 people visit and participate in the Center’s activities annually.


What: “Drawn to Water” featuring colored pencil works by Melissa Nece

When: Through Aug. 15. Hours of operation are 7 p.m.. to 9 p.m. Monday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The Hayner Center is closed on holidays.

Where: The Troy-Hayner Cultural Center, 301 West Main St., Troy

Admission and parking: Free.

More info: or (937) 339-0457

Artist info:

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