Saturday, March 6, 2010

Playing with Derwent Inktense Pencils

Robert Burridge's February edition of his Artsy Fartsy Newsletter came out a couple days ago and he showed some sketches he'd done with Derwent's Inktense water soluble colored pencils. The richness of color and value contrast he got went way beyond anything I'd ever guessed you could get with a watercolor pencil, and when he said the wetted pigment dried waterproof, a big flashing lightbulb went off in my head and I really wanted to get a few to try them with the other mediums I use. So after going to see the "Celebration of Creativity" art show in Beaverton where Jackie McIntyre has several pieces showing, I drove to the nearby Art Media and coughed up for a packaged set of 12, plus a white and a medium blue. I did some sketching on some old Liberte paper last night and this morning, and found out why they're called Inktense—the colors really are intense, as intense as I would ever want them to be. Handling them dry is just like using any soft colored pencil, but the magic happens when you get them wet—the color pops out like something from a fantasy dream and handles just like water color. You can contain it, wash it, blend it, lift it, or carry it to other areas. It takes an amazingly small amount of pigment to make a nice light wash.

On the wetted paper, you can draw more, and if there's enough water the pigment will feather out into it. Let it dry a little more and you can lightly or somewhat more heavily work in more of the same or different colors. Another drop of water will further enrich the colors. As long as it's damp, you can lift all or some of it. The literature says that only the pigment that's fully dissolved will become waterproof; I found this to be true.

This afternoon I did a sketch on gessoed paper. I wanted to make a sketch of the patio furniture I planned to put on my patio background (in the previous post) because I wanted to try making it red. Here's what I got:

Patio sketch with Derwent Inktense pencils

I laid in most of the color and then went in with a wet brush (suggestion: Don't use a brush you really love—I couldn't get the pigment out with my regular brush soap), starting with the lightest colors first, and trying to manipulate the water flow and blending. I did the furniture last and then let it dry for a few minutes. I darkened the shadow greens and let it dry a few minutes more. Then I took a sharply pointed deep indigo pencil and lightly sketched in the shadow pattern. When I wet it, the red was still wet enough to be picked up, but I really liked the way the shadow looks sort of brushed and sort of drawn.

And that, in fact, is the thing I love most about these pencils—you're just drawing, not painting. Pencils were my first art medium and even though I don't draw that much any more, it's still easier for me, particularly when working with line work, to use a pencil. Much, much easier.

So, it's a pencil first, but you get to play with water, plain water, and the color pops like magic—it's just fun! I really like them! Now I want all the colors...all 71 of them. But first I'll have to see how I can mix them with acrylic paint.

I will mention that on the plain sized paper, the colors seemed to lighten on drying. But when I made them as intense as I could, they stayed intense. And on the gessoed paper, they seem to not be lightening as they dry. And my perennial complaint—I really wish someone could make a decently opaque white pencil. With this one I'm able to lighten colors once they dry, and it works better than my Prismacolor white pencil for that, but I would really, really like an opaque one. I presume at this point that it's not possible to make one. Sure wish it were. You have to think like a watercolor painter, and save your whites.

I keep thinking of how quick and easy they would be to use when sketching outside. A pad, a cup full of pencils, and one of those water-reservoir brushes.

There's quite a bit of information about them and some nice examples on the Derwent website,

1 comment:

  1. Really good information about the results you were able to achieve with the Derwent Inktense Pencils....makes me want to run out and buy some.