Thursday, August 17, 2017

State of the Artist: August 17, 2017

Life is terrible. The news is terrible. My heart is still broken.

I ended up buying art supplies instead of working on existing art, but on the up side I only bought a few single pencils and crayons to figure out if I like specific lines or even specific media.

Hopefully in another week I can get back to doing full works again.

Yesterday I tried out:

  • Aquapasto, a gel medium that drastically slows watercolor flow and preserves brushstrokes. The Winsor & Newton version is reworkable with water after drying, so it's less likely to damage a natural hair brush, if it would at all. The medium preserves transparency and luminosity, and in small amounts can introduce a ton of control in brush strokes. In larger amounts, the paint thickens appreciably and you can leave bristle strokes as well inside the preserved brush strokes.
  • Gum arabic, a pure version of an ingredient used with all watercolor paints. Mixed with paint, it makes even phthalo colors entirely liftable and slows pigment flow of fast-moving paints appreciably in wet-in-wet applications. Applied thickly to watercolor paper and allowed to dry, it can mask an area with soft edges by allowing you to lift up the wash that dries on it—admittedly you want to do this with a staining paint since with a non-staining paint all areas wetted & lifted will lift rather than just the mask area.

    I also grabbed this on advice from Hajra Meeks for doing non-waterproof sealing of watercolor/colored pencil work.
  • Beeswax. Gotten on advice from Hajra Meeks for using it to seal watercolor and color pencils. Beeswax will not blend color pencils as much as colorless blenders do, but will still do it a bit. Beeswax also forms a good resist to watercolors, better than colorless blenders I feel.
  • Luminance colored pencils. I currently use Pablo colored pencils, which are oil-based, while Luminance pencils are wax-based. Both perform well, but the Luminance lays down color much faster. Also, Luminance can do much more subtle, lighter shading than Pablo even using the same amount of whisper-light pressure, granting Luminance more flexibility.

    Both pencils actually can be sharpened to fine points and used for detail. Whether Pablo takes longer to wear its point down than Luminance, I can't yet say.

    The Luminance white pencil is indeed more opaque compared to the Pablo white pencil, probably because Luminance lays down far more pigment and can layer more—which is impressive, since Pablo pencils can layer quite a bit.

    Both Luminance and Pablo can layer on top of each other.

    For myself, the Luminance pencils feel lighter and better to hold in my hand.

    In the future, despite the greater expense, I will buy Luminance pencils. I can use them for color mixing as well (or even better?) than Pablos, so I need fewer of them in the first place.

    Notably: the Luminance 20-pencil set and the Pablo 18-pencil set don't actually have much overlap in terms of color! Only seven workhorse colors—white, black, orange, burnt sienna, grass green, lemon yellow, and raw umber—appear in both sets. And they're workhorse colors to begin with. Getting the Luminance 20-pencil set is actually a better deal for me than another Pablo set.
  • Museum Aquarelle watercolor pencils. I currently use Fancolor watercolor pencils, also from Caran d'Ache but purely student grade rather than the high artist grade of Museum Aquarelle. I haven't yet tried Supracolor watercolor pencils, which I want to do. Museum Aquarelle delivers a lot of pigment, but since I prefer watercolor paint over watercolor pencils, this alone would not move me.

    However: Museum Aquarelle watercolor pencils, painted and blended, can create grisailles after drying that don't completely wash away under watercolor paints. When I tried to do this in the past with Fancolor pencils, the results were depressing—Fancolors easily wash away unless applied thickly, which defeats the purpose of most grisailles. Museum Aquarelle watercolor pencils have far more staying power.

    And yet Museum Aquarelles also can wash down entirely to remove pencil lines with application of more water. With the fine water control of a natural hair brush, creating softly blended grisaille work is also far easier with the Museum Aquarelles. I was able to create working grisailles with both grass green and manganese violet. The last is surprising as manganese violet is far from an intense color.

    How Museum Aquarelle compares to Supracolor remains to be seen. In any case, Fancolors aren't even suitable for what little I want to use them for in the first place—though I can create good works with them, doing so requires quite a bit of effort.

On Friday I get to test three Neocolor II watercolor crayons, and on Sunday a single Supracolor watercolor pencil.

I also did some cross-hatching tests with colored pencils. Current recommendations in the colored pencil community tend towards avoiding showing strokes. As an ink artist, this seems a shame, as colored pencils are still pencils, and pencils can show much more expressiveness when stroke work is allowed to show in a piece. Especially with color mixing, cross-hatching can be a way to create areas with interwoven color blending, since you're going to layer a lot anyways.

Cobalt blue and lemon yellow cross-hatched with each other in layers create a more interesting kelly green than grass green does by itself. Increased control over color blending can introduce subtle effects.

Of course, sometimes it's nice to have a pure green available to interplay with other colors for stroke work, as in this pine branch, which only uses scarlet, lemon yellow, cobalt blue, and grass green rather than several green pencils alongside a brown.

You don't need to melt colored pencils with solvents, a blow torch, or an Icarus board to get interesting, good works out of them, which is good news for those of us with breathing and mobility issues to cope with. 

You also don't need 40+ color pencil sets to create excellent art and extract more than 72 colors, which is good news for those of us who aren't middle class. 

Ava Jarvis is an ink and watercolor artist with a portfolio site at If you found this post useful, consider a one-time tip or supporting Ava on Patreon.