Prior to starting this project I had to check if I actually had any watercolour pencils to use. There were a few random Albrecht Durer pencils and the remnants of my Staedtler Karan Aquarelles set which was bought used when I was a graphic design student back in the ‘90s.
They didn’t get much of a work out in those days but when I was later commissioned to do some storyboard illustrations I remembered one of my teachers showing me a technique on how to use them for outlining instead of a black pen. The moisture from the marker wets the pencil and blends the two colours creating a nice bit of shading and dimension to your image. There’s a subtlety that’s nicer compared to a solid black outline.
Anyway, I was hoping to buy single refills for my Staedtler set but Eckersley’s didn’t have that brand so I bought the closest colour equivalent in Albrecht Durer’s.
Last month was my birthday and the store gives members a $10 birthday reward which I then used towards the purchase of a small set of Jasart watercolour pencils.
My collection wasn’t really broad enough to do a proper brand comparison but I still wanted to see if there were any noticeable differences between them. Particularly with the ‘student’ set (Jasart) and the professional brand (Albrecht Durer).
The tests were obviously going to be about how well or easily it is to pull out the pigment when wet. Though something else that became apparent during this activity was how close in colour the wetted version would be to its dry state.
The first column has the pencil heavily applied to the paper and the second lightly laid down. I tried to use the same amount of water for each, but some needed more water to finish the panel.
STAEDTLER KARAN AQUARELLES
They had the most vibrancy and closest in colour to its original state. Very little water was needed to draw out the pigment as well. Though it leaves the most pencil residue.
JASART WATERCOLOUR PENCILS
The final result is more of a tint of the original colour making it much more subdued. The original pencil work breaks down well and a nice softness to the finished result.
The pigment dissolves the best out of the three and has a real watercolour feel about them. For some reason, the green sample needed more water to disperse the colour than the blue.
WET AND DRY SAMPLES
I had to set up a colour palette chart so I thought I would combine it with a wet and dry brush test as well, however, there wasn’t that big a difference between the two.
The Durer pencils are very watercolour in nature leaving very little pencil markings behind. But I think the Staedtler and Jasart pencils are closer in representation to the colours you’re going to get once wetted. For example, the Durer Prussian Blue appears much lighter than the dry state.
Something else that I’ve noticed with some colours across all brands is that it can leave hard hairline edges (see below). Although this does occur with watercolour paints usually its only if the paint is applied heavily. It also doesn’t even seem to be a dark colour thing as the Durer Cold Grey has a definite border to it.
BLENDING AND LAYERING
I quickly carried out some smaller tests to see if you can blend and layer in a similar fashion as with watercolour paints.
I like the one colour examples (above) – the finish is really nice, for some reason it reminds me of the kind of results you would get with if you used masking fluid and watercolours.
Its harder to control with two colours. While they are wet its fine but when one layer is dry and adding a second layer on top its harder to blend in. It behaves more like a marker.
The transference sample worked well. This is something I really like to do, which is being able to grab some colour from a section of your painting and transfer it over to another area.
I had to think long and hard about what I wanted to get out of this medium. Online many examples really exploit the watercolour aspect of these pencils, many looking more like paintings rather than drawings. For the purpose of this project that seemed inconsequential, if I want a picture to look like a watercolour then I’ll just use my watercolours.
Therefore my objective was to create exercises showcasing a balance between the drawing and painterly nature of these pencils.
All these were done using the Jasart pencil set because they maintained some of that pencil work after applying water.
I have a very small selection of shoes with most being black and flat soled. Like previous projects I turned to shutterstock, a photo library I use for work purposes. I didn’t need high resolution images so the watermarked downloads were good enough for me.
After applying the base layer it became really hard work. Adding more colour with each layer was trying due to the paper being dried then wetted, dried then wetted and so on. The paper’s tooth gradually wore down despite it being of a good quality.
This made it difficult to get any definition or detailing and towards the end I felt like I was painting more drawing. If I was given the option of what to use to create this picture, I’d opt for watercolour paints as I would be able to manipulate them more to get all kinds of textures and with less layering and breaking down of quality.
As the cowboy boot did nothing for me I tried a different approach for the gum boot. I heavily layered the colour in a cross-hatching style, then wetted it making sure to keep all the colours pure, that is not blend them together.
Even after the first layer of water it started to look more exciting and dynamic. The residual cross-hatching created a nice design effect too.
I stuck with the texture build up technique but laid it on as scribbles. In my mind I was creating a knitted wool effect which in the end wasn’t even apparent. However in regards to the bootie, having that scribbled base subconsciously stopped me from being too precious or intimidated by the delicate, intricate knitted pattern. It got me to the finished product a lot faster as well.
I do like the background which was a happy mistake. The subtlety of the patterns has less to do with me being clever but more that the paper was still damp although it didn’t feel it to the touch. It was soft, so the pencil didn’t so much adhere to it but be engraved into it. The other thing I like about this background is its understated. The tendency is to be bold and vivid with this type of medium but I’ve taken it in the other direction which I find refreshing.
This one is going in a completely opposite direction. It has little pencil work left in it, but I also wanted to see how far I could go with its intensity. The colour was laid down as heavily as I could whilst being careful to keep each colour clean, that is not overlayed.
There is only one layer of everything including one application of water. The glitter texture is an example of transference: taking the orange pigment and applying it into the yellow section; the red into the orange; and some of the yellow into the red section. It was quite effective and quick to execute.
I’m very excited for more now!
The Creative Plan – Review of Colour Pencils