Before I picked up a pencil to sketch this week, I decided to be a bit more deliberate. I’d still draw whatever struck my fancy, but I’d do all the sketches for the week of July 26 on the same paper.
I cut a full sheet of white Clairefontaine Pastelmat into 4×6 pieces (sixteen of them, plus a few smaller pieces.) My intention from the start was to try different pencils on Pastelmat just to see how they performed in a week-long comparison.
So hold on. This week’s sketching report is also a review of several types of pencils on Pastelmat!
My Sketches for the Week of July 26, 2021
Since this is a more “disciplined” sketching week, with a specific purpose in mind, I’m still listing sketches in chronological order. But I’m also doing a sketch or more with each type of pencil before moving to the next type.
So the sketches will be categorized by pencil, beginning with Koh-I-Nor Progresso Woodless.
Koh-I-Nor Progresso Woodless Pencils
I originally bought these pencils for use in laying down broad applications of color. At one time, I had Prismacolor Art Stix, which are Prismacolor pencils in a chalk-like shape. I never developed a taste for the Art Stix. After some early success with the Progresso, I decided they weren’t for me, either.
But I haven’t tried them very much on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, so they were the first pencils to come off the shelf this week.
Tree Study with Koh-I-Nor Progresso #1
I mentioned last week that I wished I was better at sketching in color, so I tried a color sketch first the the woodless pencils. I used Brown, Sap Green, Light Ochre, and a touch of Black.
These pencils are about the size of a standard colored pencil, so they’re easy to handle.
But they’re all pigment, so it can be difficult to get fine lines with them. I knew that when I started, so I kept my sketching loose in style.
The first layer or two went well. But then I remembered why I didn’t use the Progresso pencils more. They just don’t layer very well on sanded paper. It’s as if the pigment clogs up the tooth of the paper without filling the tooth; almost like all the pigment stays on the top of the grit.
Adding more layers just adds to the clogging.
It’s possible that using a solvent to blend would smooth out the color and sink the pigment down into the tooth, but for straight sketching or drawing, I’m not happy with them.
Tree Study with Koh-I-Nor Progresso #2
For the second Progresso sketch, I drew a similar subject, but limited myself to one color: Brown. I also chose not to layer color, but to use line to create value. I handled the pencil more like a graphite pencil, using directional lines, hatching and cross-hatching lines, and light pressure start to finish.
The results are better, but I still found the Progresso pencils a bit clumsy. I have no doubt that I could learn to create smooth, subtle color and value transitions with them if I continue using them.
I’m just not sure I like them enough to put in that kind of drawing time!
Blick Studio Colored Pencils
Cloud Study with Blick Studio Pencils
I was feeling a bit unfocused Tuesday morning, so after doing the second of the sketches above, I got out the Blick Studio pencils and started sketching. The sky I could see out the window was clear, but a nice blue. I decided to sketch clouds against a blue sky by shading the sky.
I used only two colors for this sketch: Ice Blue and Light Blue, and I applied both colors with light pressure for the entire sketch, but mixed strokes.
The sky is layer after layer of both blues, sandwiching Light Blue between multiple layers of Ice Blue (which is much lighter.) I used horizontal strokes, vertical strokes, hatching and cross-hatching strokes, and even circular strokes. In between some of the layers, I blended with a finger tip.
I drew the clouds by drawing the shadows in the clouds with the same two colors. But most of this work was completed with circular strokes.
The result was much more satisfying with the Blick Studio pencils than the Progresso pencils. I’ve tried Blick Studio pencils on a number of surfaces, and for my style of drawing, they seem to be made for sanded art papers.
Sparkles on the Water
I did this sketch as an experiment for this past Saturday’s product review of the Slice tools.
I’ve been watching the videos of an acrylic landscape painter who paints the most remarkable landscapes. Many of them include water and from the first video, the process has mesmerized me.
And made me wonder if there was a way to get the same look with colored pencils.
As it turns out, there is. Slice tools!
I started out by laying down three or four different colors with medium-heavy pressure and back-and-forth horizontal strokes. I wasn’t particularly careful adding color, though I did try to apply colors in a way that looked like water.
Then I went over each area repeatedly until the tooth of the paper was filled.
Next, I used Slice tools to etch X shaped “stars” in the places where I wanted sparkles. They didn’t look like much at first, but after going over them a couple of times, they began to look better.
When I finished, I showed the sketch to my husband and said, “What does this look like?” (It didn’t look like much to me.)
“It looks like water reflecting trees or something,” he said.
I made my art notes on the back and called this sketch finished.
Tree Study with Blick Studio
This is the last sketch with Blick Studio, and I used Gold for this and sketched from memory and imagination. I didn’t really have a goal beyond playing with color, value, and shape.
I like the way this sketch turned out.
Prismacolor Soft Core Pencils
I did three sketches with Prismacolor pencils just because I enjoy using them so much. They’re not quite as good on sanded papers as on traditional papers, but they were still fun to use.
This sketch is drawn from a photo of a tree that was partially destroyed in a storm early in July. I received a few photos of the damage before the tree was taken down, and this branch caught my eye. The simplicity of the branches and the complexity of the positioning both drew my attention.
It was also silhouetted against the sky, which meant I could create my own lighting. I chose backlighting and big, bold strokes to add details I couldn’t see in the photo.
My subject for this sketch is a dead branch on a live tree in our front yard. After I drew it, I added other branches drawn with lighter and lighter pressure to create context for the main branch.
The main focus is that spindly looking branch so I keep the darkest values on that branch.
I merely suggested bark on the main tree with lines.
The final Prismacolor sketch is another, much older favorite subject: Horse hooves.
I’m not sure what appeals to me so much, but I really enjoy drawing the joints in the legs, particularly the back legs.
This was drawn without a reference photo so it’s a bit rusty. It’s been a long time since I drew a horse’s hoof and it shows.
I’ve used Polychromos pencils for a lot of sketches since starting this sketching habit, so I did only two this week.
Tree Branch with Polychromos
I used a Black pencil to sketch these branches from memory and imagination. I’m seeing improvement in my ability to use lines to convey form and create the illusion of depth on paper. Even with such a simple subject and one color.
Mountain Study with Polychromos
For this sketch, I used Polychromos Mauve. I really like the look of this sketch. It’s one of the more pleasing in this week’s collection (in my opinion.) The use of line to create visual texture in the mountains and the clouds turned out extremely well.
I think one of the reasons for that is that I didn’t over-work it. I tend to keep working on a drawing when I should quit. I’m not sure how to correct that, but it does look like I got it right this time!
Caran d’Ache Pablo
I have only one Pablo pencil and in the rather atypical color of Flame Red; atypical for a landscape artist, anyway.
So I did only one sketch with a Pablo.
Pablos are said to be a harder version of Caran d’Luminance, much like Prismacolor Verithin pencils are a harder version of Prismacolor Soft Core. In a way, that’s true. They are a bit harder than Luminance pencils.
But while Verithins are quite a bit harder and thinner, Pablos are only a bit harder and about the same thickness as Luminance.
This sketch turned out well, given what I was attempting to draw. My subject was a couple of dead branches hanging down on the interior of a favorite oak tree across the street. The branches were mostly in shadow, so there wasn’t a lot of middle values. But there were patches of sunlight shining through the foliage.
I was able to capture that look fairly well, but I had difficulty getting decent middle values with the Pablo pencil. They didn’t gum up the surface like the Progressos, but they weren’t as easy to use as the Polychromos either. That could be a lack of significant experience with this pencil. As I mentioned, I have only one color and I haven’t done much with it. Perhaps practice is all I need.
Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor
Another line of pencil for which I have only one color is Lyra’s Rembrandt Polycolor, True Blue.
I decided to sketch something I haven’t sketched in quite a while; a horse’s eye.
Polycolor pencils are a bit smaller than most of the other pencils I use. That wasn’t a major problem for me, but I know it can make a difference to some artists.
Polycolor’s are oil-based, so they’re a bit harder than wax-based pencils. The pencil I used laid down color nicely and I was able to get a nice range of values. I didn’t have enough color on the paper to scratch eyelashes with a Slice tool, but overall, I’m quite happy with this sketch.
How I Rate these Pencils
First: I’m giving Faber-Castell Polychromos a slight edge. I just really like these pencils for every type of drawing I do. They’re easy to work with, they have a great color range, and I have yet to find a paper they don’t work with.
Second is Prismacolor Premier. They’re not quite as handy on Pastelmat as the Polychromos, but they’re the first pencils I used. It’s difficult not to list them as favorites after using them for over twenty years!
Blick Studio pencils perform nicely on Pastelmat. They feel like a cross between Polychromos and Prismacolor. Color selection is more limited than either of those two brands, but they are very reasonably priced.
Koh-I-Nor Progresso Woodless Pencils are at the bottom of the list. I don’t know what it is about them, but I’ve never used another type of colored pencil that clogs the tooth of Pastelmat (or any other sanded paper) the same way these do.
What about the Lyra Polycolor and Caran d’Ache Pablo? My initial impressions are mixed. They both have good pigmentation and they feel good layering on Pastelmat. But I just don’t have enough experience with them to feel capable of giving an honest opinion.
They are however, pencils I would like to continue working with.
Those are My Sketches for the Week of July 26
I’m very pleased with the decision early this week to use different pencils on Clairefontaine Pastelmat. I hope you enjoyed the results as much as I did.
I also hope you’ll join me in developing your own sketching habit.
And if you’ve created some sketches during the week of July 26, I invite you to share them. I’ll be happy to add them as a reader’s sketch gallery to this post!