Category: Drawing Tips

Pastel Pencils: Reasons to Fall in Love!

If you are anything like me and love art, you might suffer from the same affliction: Art Supply Addiction.  Symptoms include compulsive obsessive art store scouting (both online and in person), yearning for new colours in various mediums and dieting instead of buying new clothes…because that saves budget for more arty stuff!

It was in this way that I found myself the proud owner of only one pastel pencil.  Yes, you read correctly: one single (deceptively innocent) pastel pencil.  Having always had the notion that pastels are messy and difficult to work with, I was determined not to like my single pastel pencil.

But then I did.

Quite frankly I didn’t just like it, I loved it.  My mom, who is the worst influence with art supply buying and whom I openly blame for my affliction, owned a whole set of the deceptively innocent pencils at the time.  She had bought them with the idea of colouring, but was sadly disappointed by how much dust they made and how they did not seem to stick to the paper.  Having watched a myriad of videos and having done a vast amount of research I knew by then that the problem was likely the paper, and therefor I invested in some Pastelmat for that very reason.  I think my fingers were itching in anticipation as I tested her Derwent Pastel Pencils for the first time – I was amazed by the colour, in love with the ability to layer light over dark and basically over the moon at how forgiving and intuitive the medium was.  And right there I swopped my mom a set of Derwent Coloursoft pencils to colour with, so I could get my greedy little fingers on her set of Pastel Pencils!

So what is the difference?  On the left I have a progress photo on a recent commission I did in Pastel Pencils and on the right the Kudu I am currently working on in Coloured Pencil.  There are some obvious differences but allow me to tell you more.

I experience Pastel Pencils to be much more vivid because pastels in general are much more opaque while Coloured Pencil is semi-transparent – in other words your base layers will shine though subsequent layers.  For this very same reason it is important to remember that in Coloured Pencil (much like watercolour) your highlights – and whites in particular – need to be preserved.  Pastel Pencils are much more forgiving with lights easily applied over darks.  Therefor you can work from dark to light – much like oil or acrylic painting. In this sense it is a really fun easy medium!  This also means that Pastel Pencil is a much quicker medium as layers are built up much faster.

Pastel Pencils – like soft pastels – are chalky and dry, while Coloured Pencil tend to be more oily or waxy – this difference relates to the binder of the pigment. I therefor blend my Coloured Pencils with odourless mineral spirits and my Pastel Pencils with a paper stump.

Where Coloured Pencil beats Pastel Pencils hands down though is in preserving your artwork.  Pastels do tend to smudge much easier and when using the incorrect paper you can forget about keeping your pastel on the paper.  Therefor the importance of the paper used cannot be underestimated!  All my commissions are done in Pastel Pencil on Pastelmat and I recently acquired some Fisher400 which I will be testing.  Both of these are sanded papers – meaning that finely ground pumice was added into the paper binder.  The paper has a velvety gritty feel and really grabs the pastel, allowing lots of layers and minimal dust.  When using the correct paper and handling your artwork with care, there is no need for fixative either!

While this is just a quick overview, I hope it has inspired you to at least give those Pastel Pencils a try – in the meantime I have also started experimenting with Soft Pastels, and though I am still finding my way, I love the vivid colours and expressive strokes.

Does all of this mean I am giving up Coloured Pencil?  Not at all!  As you can see I am working on a huge Coloured Pencil Kudu (my biggest yet at about 60cm x 70cm!) and I still love the muted fine art look and amazingly fine detail the medium allows.

Unfortunately though it means my Art Supply Addiction is going nowhere…luckily its New Year, so dieting to save on the clothing budget falls right into the same resolution I have every year!

May 2019 bless you with much ‘Arting’ and may the Pencils of the world give wings to your creative dreams!

Pencil Blessings

Drawing Tips: Pencil Facts | Part 3 – Caran d’Ache Luminance

Imagine applying pencil colour to paper… imagine the lead glides over the paper effortlessly, like a warm knife through soft butter, leaving a delicious line of vivid colour.  It might help that the beautifully made pencil does this with a suave Swiss accent!

Luminance – as the name suggests – sports an amazing array of 76 luminous colours.  What I love most about the Luminance colour range is the fact that they are really natural, soft shades often not found in other sets.  They are just so… usable – especially as a wildlife, or animal artist.

From an artist point of view this is the limousine of pencils.  The lightfastness ratings are spectacular ( have a look at my blog here on why that is important!) and the pencils sport a generous 3.8mm soft oil-based core that holds a point fairly well.  Luminance pencils blend exceptionally well with solvents and blenders and enables you to do multiple layers.  I also don’t find that wax bloom is a big problem when doing multiple layers, which is a real plus.

But there is one more trait that sets the Luminance pencil apart from other pencils (*drumroll*) – the fact that the light colours are so opaque that they actually are visible when applied over darker colours.  The Luminance white is viewed as one of the best white pencils around.

Colours are also available open-stock, which means you can buy singles instead of replacing an entire set when your Violet-Grey is reduced to the length of a peanut.

Not an artist?  There is no reason you cannot use a limousine to run to the corner café for milk and bread!  I imagine these must be absolutely heaven to colour with.  They apply and blend so smoothly that you might just become addicted to colouring!

Let’s chat about price then.  Caran d’Ache is a premium brand demanding a premium price, but having tested and used a myriad of pencils I can honestly avow that the Luminance pencil is worth every penny.  Their is a quality to the pencil that is unparalleled – both in build and pigment.  Even the packaging is impressive!

Neither Rome nor limousines are built in a day, so go out, buy a few colours and try them and don’t forget to get a white pencil (insider’s tip: use the white to blend colours together, then layer more colour on top to get a nice rich depth)…you know you want to!

I will be discussing pastel pencils, coloured pencils, paper and other odds and ends too, so keep an eye on my Facebook page for new blogposts.

In the meantime – here is a little look at some of the progress photos of ‘A Mother’s Love’ that I completed earlier this year.


Why Coloured Pencils?

As I took my first images to be scanned for prints, my now-fiancé asked me quite unceremoniously whether I really thought it would sell. Not because he doesn’t like the art or believe in me – as a matter of fact I think aside from my mom he is my biggest fan, always encouraging and somehow believing I can draw things I am not even sure I can – but because it is coloured pencil. “Is it even commercial?  Why don’t you rather consider oil paints?”

I had to ponder my answer. In my experience people often have a tendency to reply to seeing my work with a statement like “You use colouring-in pencils?” or “Ok, you use crayons” (insert my wide-eyed horror here!).  We seem to have gotten bogged-down in our primary-school definition of coloured pencils, labeling them only as a tool for kids and colouring.

And right there, in that simple presumption, I realised, lies the beauty of the medium. It is that simple – not only can even kids use it, but it is versatile enough to colour with, draw with, and yes, make art with.

Let’s look at coloured pencils from the point of view of an artist then.  Why – as an artist wishing to sell your work – would you choose this medium?

Maybe your definition of art refers to Renoir and Van Gogh and the classic masters whose paintings have endured for hundreds of years. Well, the great news is that coloured pencils can be as long-lasting. Companies like Caran D’Ache and Faber Castell have poured their passion and expertise into creating pencils that are lightfast, superbly blendable and highly pigmented – ensuring you have artist-quality tools to create with.

Coloured pencils are easy to travel with, enabling you to create your art anytime, anywhere. With handy sets of every size in durable travel-friendly cases you can simply pop your paperpad and pencils into your suitcase and ferry them wherever you go. Inspiration strikes in exactly those places where you least expect it, and this handy medium will be right there at your side without the fuss of needing an easel, multiple brushes and the odd bits you require for other mediums.

Versatile does not even begin to describe the scope of the medium. A choice of everything from charcoal pencils, to watercolour, pastel pencils, oil-based pencils and ink-based pencils mean there is truly a brand or style that will suit everyone.  You might prefer a more painterly approach – then use watercolour pencils or simply use a solvent to blend your oil-based pencils.  Maybe you love the bright vibrancy of ink – then try Derwent Inktense.  The subtle shades of the Derwent Graphitint might appeal to you if you love natural muted shades – and they are water-soluble too!

I personally fell in love with the ability to easily create fine detail (my go-to pencils for this is Faber Castell Polychromos and Caran D’Ache Pablo), but the chunky thick creamy Derwent Drawing pencils are so amazing for backgrounds.  I have seen the most amazing wildlife and animal portraits in coloured pencils, but the astounding range of colours available means you can also create stunningly accurate skintones, and finely detailed landscapes.

Using Coloured Pencils is really childs-play (don’t tell anyone I said that!) and the techniques involved are simple and easy to master.  YouTube offers a vast array of tutorials by excellent artists.  From shading to cross-hatching and layering, the information is endless.

In the end, as an artist, you might want to sell your work.  The secret here is that with millions of people out in the world, there truly is a place in the sun for everyone.  People do not share the same aesthetic tastes, and the person who walks into a gallery to buy the oil painting, is not the same person who would necessarily walk in and buy the sketch.  But someone will appreciate it – and as the lovely people over at the fine art printing company who do my prints say – it sells exactly for the reason of being different.

It is therefor no secret that I am a big Coloured Pencil fan and should I decide to broaden my horizons and venture into something different, I might just try Pastel Pencils.  How is that for being adventurous?

Go on – buy a set…try it out… You know you want to!


Drawing Tips: Pencil Facts | Part 2 – Faber-Castell Polychromos

If you’ve been following my blog you would have read my first blog entry on drawing tips dealing with pencils in general.  If you’ve missed it – have a look here.

In this post I will start dealing with specific pencils I use or have tried out.  Please note that I am in no way affiliated to any of these brands, neither do I get compensated for a positive review – this is merely my own experience and opinion as a coloured pencil artist.  I am also not claiming to be an expert – just enjoying the medium and sharing the love!

First up then – Faber-Castell Polychromos.  Faber-Castell is a renowned German brand established in 1761 and the quality of the pencil speaks to the craftsmanship and experience they are known for.

The barrel sits comfortably in your hand and supports the 3.8mm lead in a strong, durable casing.  I personally love the range of 120 colours – they are vibrant and beautiful and lay down so smooth and evenly.  If you like fine detail these are the pencils for you – the oil-based lead is a bit harder and therefor keeps a sharp point really well, enabling those minute lines you need.  For someone like me who loves getting stuck in the fur and details of animals, they are amazing!  What makes them even better is that they are really lightfast and this means your work will last and last.  Each pencil is rated according to their lightfastness star-rating for easy reference.

Polychromos blends well with solvent and also with burnishing and recently I had the opportunity to test them with Derwent’s Blender Pencil and that worked great too.  I love doing lots of layers to get the right depth and texture to fur and these pencils layer effortlessly – just bear in mind not to start too dark or press too hard – the lighter colours are not very opaque and therefor lights do not go well over darks at all.  I prefer using either the Derwent Drawing Chinese White or Caran D’Ache Luminance White if necessary.  They do erase rather well depending on how hard you’ve pressed.

All-in-all – one of my favourite pencils and probably the one I use most at this stage, though I have been investing in Caran D’Ache’s range and I am also in love!

The Faber-Castell Polychromos is definitely artist-quality and comes with a slightly higher price tag, but in my experience they are worth every cent.  They are also available open stock which means if you run out of your favourite colour, you can simply buy the single pencil instead of having to buy a whole set.  I buy mine online from Art Savings Club – not only are their prices excellent, but their service is great and they always seem to add something a little extra in there!

I really hope this helped you – if it did, let me know!

Colourful blessings…

Drawing Tips: Pencil Facts | Part 1

I have had a few enquiries from people on Facebook requesting drawing tips.  So I decided to start a series of posts sharing some things I have learned.  Let me just state that there are much smarter people out there in the world than I, but I love what I do and I don’t mind sharing some knowledge.  So here goes!

It is no secret that not all pencils are created equal, and while most people don’t realise this – there are a myriad of different types of pencils.  Walk into any local art store and you are bound to see a vast array of sets of variable sizes.  You can buy anything from watercolour pencils to pastel pencils, ink-based pencils, wax-based pencils and oil-based pencils.  Some are coloured, others graphite, some in bright colours, others muted – the range is endless it seems.

I won’t pretend to know everything there is, but I can share my experience with brands I have tried and am using – therefor I will mainly discuss some wax- and oil-based sets.

Classifying them as oil- or wax-based is actually a bit of a misnomer as all oil-based pencils are a combination of wax and oil.  This obviously refers to their core and classification merely depends on the ratio wax to oil.  The more wax, the softer the lead and the easier the pencil will lay down colour.  The negative side is that a lot of wax means that layering ability is affected by the wax bloom a pencil will give off as it lays down colour – after a while its simply not possible to layer more colour on top.  Oil-based pencils tend to have a harder lead, is better for detail as they sharpen to a finer point and doesn’t wax bloom so quickly, but they might not lay down as easily as wax-based pencils.

So what do you choose then?

It really depends on your subject.  With a fine point an oil-based pencil is great for finer details, but with colour laying down vividly a wax-based pencil might be great for layering to achieve bright patches of colour.

At the moment I am working on a commission for a client of some ducklings, and I am actually using a combination of wax- and oil-based pencils.  The great thing is that you can use them together to achieve exactly the look you want.

Pencil quality also depends on a lot of factors aside from the type of lead.  Ideally you want a pencil that is manufactured well, doesn’t break easily and that blends and layers well.  If you are only drawing for yourself and not aiming to sell, you can settle for a less lightfast brand, but a professional artist will need professional tools.  Lightfastness refers to the colour being fade resistant and basically means that the image will last a lifetime instead of fading to a light miscoloured version.  Most pencils do come with a lightfastness rating and I for one only purchase brands that are renowned for this trait.  Sometimes this means purchasing pencils individually or cutting certain individual colours from a set.

I hope this quick introduction to pencils helped a bit – watch out for more posts discussing the specific sets I’ve tried, and covering other topics such as paper, solvents, tools etc.

In the meantime – just keep drawing!