If the devil truly is in the details, then the new exhibit of Andrew Wyeth drawings at the Brandywine River Museum might be considered fiendishly appealing.
Original drawings, some done as preliminary studies, spanning more than 50 years, drew awe and wonder from the huge crowd that attended the opening Friday night.
Bill and Linda Huxtable from Wilmington were among the first to see the exhibit in the old second floor archive room.
"I'm amazed at how he gets so much shadow detail with just a pencil. His technique is amazing," said Linda Huxtable.
A possible answer came later from the artist's granddaughter, Victoria Wyeth.
"Practice," she said with a smile.
Among those whom the exhibit inspired to practice and to do more drawing before they paint were adult art students Sue Minarchi and Rena Cuno. Both study with fellow Chadds Ford artist Karl Kuerner.
"He takes lights and darks to a new level," Minarchi said of Wyeth's drawings. "His pencil drawings are as much alive as his paintings."
Cuno was struck by the image in a piece entitled "Neighbor," in which the stitching and seams in a wool pullover cap line up perfectly, and in a study of George Erickson.
"Look at the wrinkles in the eyes," said Cuno, noting the inclusion of minute detail. "This isn't just the planning [stage,] it's the painting."
Minarchi said the works were inspiring, adding that her teacher is always telling her to sketch, but that she previously thought that was a waste of time with no value.
She speculated on the value of drawing first.
"Are his (Wyeth's) final works so tremendous because he's done so much works in advance?"
Wyeth himself sees use of a pencil as a way of getting to the details. He is quoted in a museum press release as saying, "I love the quality of pencil. It helps me get to the core of the thing, and it doesn't compete with the painting. With pencil I can study things in detail -- it gives me the architectural structure -- but the color stays like a dream in the back of my mind until I come to paint."
The Wyeth influence on local artists is not limited to the detail in his drawings.
Chester County artist Billy Basciani said he learned a different lesson -- that of persistence.
Basciani said he's been to Wyeth's studio and has seen drawings that were thrown away because they weren't good enough.
"You don't have to be perfect. You work at it, and the better you get. It's a process," Basciani said.
The exhibit runs through July 16. The Philadelphia Art Museum opens a Wyeth exhibit March 29.