Sunday, December 13, 2015

Pencil Tips: These are intense, Dude!

Continuing on with tips and reviews for various colored pencils, I present today Derwent's Inktense watercolor pencils. I was given a set of 24, and liked them so much, I ended up buying the big set of 72. (Keep reading for a chance to win that slightly-used 24 count set.)

Normally, I say look at the lead to see what color you're going to get. If that were the case for Inktense, we'd all have been sorely disappointed. The barrels are all blue, and the blip of paint at the non-pointy end isn't a great representation either. The purples, browns, blues - all the leads look a similar drab color, and given a few months start developing a waxy bloom (that doesn't affect their performance in any way) that further mystifies the actual color.

But who cares how they look in the tin. Look what happens when the water hits them! The rainbow comes to life. Except it's not a full rainbow. There are NO SUBTLE colors here. No gentle pinks, no tints of pale green, nothing remotely resembling any flesh colors (unless you are rendering Na'vi). Maybe if you really water them down, you could do it, but these are the wrong tool for that job.

Use them for what they were created - BOLD, BRIGHT, STRONG colors. It will take a bit of practice to learn what pencil makes each shade, but you can't ask for more vivid colors. They behave very well for watercolor pencils, but it will take a little stroking to completely melt the pencil lines on rougher paper. On smooth press or cardstock, the pencil lines are dissolved almost instantly, You can technically use them as regular colored pencils, but you won't see their true colors until they are wet.

Mandalas are a great use for high-intensity colors. This is Mandala #7 from the Peace of Art coloring book.
See the sidebar to order. This was done on the actual paper used in the book: a little ripple, but not bad at all.
Here is another mandala I painted with Inktense pencils:

An important thing to note about Inktense colors - they are permanent. Unlike other watercolors that you might be able to rewet and blot with a paper towel to lighten, no dice here, Once the section is dry, it isn't going anywhere. This can actually be useful! Paint a petal blue and find it needs to be bolder? Wait until dry, then go another round with the pencils, shading a darker blue at the petal base then use your wet brush to ease in the color. This is particularly effective in outlining an edge. Use a wet brush and dab on the pencil directly to get a blip of bright color to fill a tiny area. See those little stamen zingers in the picture above? That's how we do it.

If you are ready to get your own set, I offer two options. The first is a link to Amazon, where you can find all sorts of things. These pencils will also be at Dick Blick and other art places and possibly at a lower price. JoAnns and Michaels might carry the lower count sets. If you've got AdBlock, you won't see my lovely link, but presumably you know how to google.

The second option... as I mentioned, I upgraded after having the 24 count set for a while. I'm going to host a giveaway for my 24 count tin. They are LIKE NEW and will give someone many hours of pleasant coloring (until they become obsessed with more colors and need to upgrade - mwah hah ha). To enter in this drawing, leave a comment here, or on Facebook telling me what your favorite things to color/paint are, or what you currently use, or what you'd like to see in my next coloring book, etc. (An actual comment, not just "pick me.") I'll toss your name in a second time if you share the blog link. I'll pick a name on Boxing Day (Dec 26), as that is the fitting time to pass along things we no longer need.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Pencil Tips: Would that you go woodless

Since my coloring book came out, a lot of folks have asked for technique tips and my thoughts on various materials. So I'm kicking off series of blog posts called "Pencil Tips." I am far from all-knowledgeable and there are as many different ways to color and paint as there are artists. So, what I offer is to be read and used or dismissed as you see fit. Let me know if I've said something particularly helpful, or there are topics you'd be curious to hear my opinion on. I'll also disclose I'm using Amazon affiliate links, which give me a small kick-back if you click and buy. It won't change your price. Feel free to shop around, too, if you are inspired to buy things. Amazon is usually great to work with, but Dick Blick, Jerry's, Michaels, and your local art supply store may actually have better deals. If you have Ad-Block on, it won't show the links.

Today's topic is woodless watercolor pencils, specifically this set by Cretacolor called Aqua Monoliths. Woodless pencils are pretty cool - they are solid lead, in this case water-soluble, so you can paint with water over them to get watercolor effects. You can use them dry too, if you like. The casing is painted and lacquered, so you don't get your fingers all dirty while you use them. They come in a spiffy tin that will keep them from breaking and display them in an order that will make your shading and blending easier. As an engineer, I must point out the one logic flaw with the design, or at least the advertising. They brag about the percent more lead you get with a woodless design, but seriously how often do you let your pencil get dull enough that you are using the outer few millimeters? It might as well be cheaper wood out there since it will just get cut off with the sharpener. (Maybe if you're using them to color giant background areas?) They are still a good deal.

The original painting for Mandala #17 in Peace of Art, painted in Cretacolors

Cretacolors makes 72 shades in this line. I always get the biggest pencil set if I can, unless the line is "open stock" which means you can pick them up one at a time. Your color printer can make beautiful pictures with only four colors of ink or toner, but it's easier when coloring by hand to get predictable colors and shading using a fuller palette. The bigger set means more colors to choose from, which is important because the first thing I do is set aside about two thirds of the colors to keep the palette tight. This painting was done with the muted colors in the set - maybe 25 shades.

These pencils are nice to work with. The shades are all distinct with no obvious gaps in the rainbow. The lead is HARD but goes onto the paper smoothly.  I've painted about 10 mandalas with this set and I don't think I've had to sharpen a single one, Nor have any of them broken, or had so much as a tip chip off. Meaning this set will last a loooooong time before I have to worry about replacing a favorite color. There are a few places where the painted color of the pencil outside doesn't really match the color of the lead, and an occasional color where adding water seemed to unexpectedly brighten or dull the color rather than just spread it around. That is why you might want to have a little test area to play in. They blend really well, as you can see.

Important test for watercolor pencils, and these pass, is whether the lead dissolves easily with the water. You want the lead to feel like it melts away without having to scrub at it to remove pencil marks. This lets you blend colors together in areas to create a gradient. You can see the effect above. This particular watercolor paper I used has a really pronounced grain which causes pigment particles, whether from pencils or tube watercolors, to settle into the valleys and give a faint stripey look.

The cardstock I've used to print the Peace of Art books can be watercolor painted if you're careful to not use too much water. You'll want to take the sheet out so you don't dampen the one underneath. You will get a little rippling, If this bothers you, then use spray adhesive to mount it on a mat board before you start or just use dry media. Some folks also use a coat or three of clear Gesso, drying after each, to create a thicker and water-colorable paper.

A nice tin of pencils is a great gift idea for an artist in your life. And who is to say you don't deserve a gift as well?

Have fun coloring,

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Branching Out: Peace of Art

My biggest announcement of the year! I love coloring mandalas, and now YOU can color my mandalas too. I've been working on a coloring book, and now it is ready. It's got 20 different mandalas ready for you sit back, relax, and color.

Ink Circles is publishing a coloring book. This is what the cover looks like.
It's called Peace of Art, a little pun because you will be creating a piece of art and you will be enjoying the peace of this relaxing art form.  If you've been watching at all, you'll have noticed a stream of interviews/programs/studies in the social media that tout the benefits of coloring as an adult hobby.

In what may be either a brilliant or a foolish move, I have chosen to distribute through Amazon as my primary fulfilment vehicle. You'll get Prime 2-day shipping; you'll get their price breaks (if they discount it); you'll be able to write and read reviews; I'll get a huge potential audience.

If you're not seeing the link directly above because of Adblock or your firewall, you'll need to go to Amazon and search the old fashioned way. It says order, but technically it is "pre-order" until Nov 10th.

Some of the choices I made in putting this together that might set my book apart from others:

  • Single-sided (8.5 x 11"), so you can cut out pages and frame (or hang on your fridge) without losing a second page.
  • Cardstock pages, so you can use colored pencils OR marker, or maybe even watercolor pencils without the page bleeding through or rippling.
  • Spiral wire binding, it folds back flat to whatever page you choose. No coloring in the binding area.
  • Spiral at the top: both my kids are southpaws. That side spiral gets in the way, so this works great for right or left handed colorists.
  • A color test area on each page so you can check if your shading works or that pink is as bright as you hoped. It's designed such that it can be cut out to make a bookmark afterwards.
One of the 20 pages. You can see the binding and the bookmark in this photo.

Pick the colors that make you smile. Relax, there is no wrong way to do it.

Complete with a real ISBN: 978-0-9969675-0-1
I feel so official!
I'll be adding this to the Ink Circles site for ordering, as well as my Etsy shop, in the interest of complete marketing options, but don't feel bad getting it from your cheapest easiest source. (Only feel bad if you are getting it illegally from a scanned pirated posted copy.)


Friday, May 29, 2015


Some new paintings.