In The Studio…Experimenting With Water Soluble Pencils And Various Papers

Stillman and Birn Beta paper (a little smoother than a cold press watercolor paper)

Every year in the winter, I try to set aside time to review my painting process and experiment with new media and supports, both for painting and drawing. Last year in January I had to swing into action for the “Wildlife Art: Field to Studio” group exhibition at the Flinn Gallery, but after three exhibitions in four years I currently don’t have one scheduled for 2017 so have time to mess about and explore ways to improve my work.

I purchased a set of Cretacolor AquaMonolith pencils last year, took them to Mongolia without much of a pre-departure tryout and wasn’t happy with what I did. Tough to test drive a new media in field conditions. I also had some Derwent Inktense water soluble pencils  that had been sitting around for a year or so with no time to play with them. I’d been using their regular water soluble colored pencils on and off for years. So a couple of weeks ago I sat down with all three and a bunch of different papers.

Cretacolor is an Austrian company. I’d already started to use their Monolith graphite pencils and I like them a lot. I use them now for my finished drawings. They and the AquaMonoliths are woodless graphite with a lacquer coating. The difference is that the latter are color and water soluble. Derwent is an English company, based in the Lake District, which was founded in 1832. Wood pencils were invented by them and we’ve visited the factory during a past trip to England (a definite stop for artists if you’re there). I’ve used a variety of their products for years, including their wood drawing pencils.

Once I laid down the colors I went back with a waterbrush (more on those in a future post) and did some blending. It’s a “hit it and leave it” for the most part. On most of the papers continuing to wet and push the color around makes a mess. I experimented with how hard and thick to lay on the strokes and found that I liked leaving them visible.

I’m posting them in the reverse order that I did them because of how Google and other sites will choose the header image and I’d like the “good ones” to show up. Fingers crossed. :0)

None of them are more than about 2×2″, so thumbnail size.

Stillman and Birn Alpha paper (slight texture, a little on the thin side for adding water, but it didn’t buckle at all)

I had fun getting the rain effect in the top sketch.

Stillman and Birn Zeta paper (smooth, almost a plate finish)

The pencils worked, but I like them better on a paper with more tooth.

Pentalic Nature Sketch sketchbook (not thrilled with this first try, but I otherwise really like the paper so will experiment further; it does have some tooth and is off-white)

I’ve been using the Pentalic Nature Sketch sketchbooks for a couple of years, carrying a small one around with me and also to Mongolia. They’re reasonably priced, come in a variety of sizes including a 6×12″ which I like a lot. The paper is acid free and 25% cotton and really is multimedia, including watercolor if you don’t go too heavy on the washes.

Strathmore 400 vellum bristol

I’ve been using this paper, along with Rives BFK, for my finished drawings that I frame for sale at my local gallery, Strawberry Rock Gallery in Trinidad, California. While it has a bit of tooth, it was the least successful and is off the list for now, but I really like it with the Monolith pencils.

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