First off, a few basics on the Drawing Pencils range: they are wax-based pencils, with a creamy texture and have 5mm thick cores. That makes them one of the thickest artist grade pencils on the market. There are only 24 colours in the complete range, which is a bit of a bane for some people, but I actually think it’s one of their plus points. The unique colours only adds to their appeal as a special pencil. From earthy reds to soft greens, they are truly sumptuous. More importantly, they all rate as excellent lightfastness.
While I’ve had several of these pencils in open stock for a while, after getting the complete 24 tin set, I decided to make a colour chart of them all on both white and black paper. Actually, that’s what this blog post will be mostly about: Derwent’s Drawing Pencils on black paper!
As you can hopefully see in the picture, some of the colours look completely different just by using a different coloured support. Some look much brighter on black, such as the Mars Orange or the Pale Cedar, while other darker colours are naturally barely noticeable on it, such as Chocolate and Ink Blue.
Below you can see some scribbles I did on black pastel paper. I’ve a completed piece using these pencils on this paper, called “Ladies Who Lunch” which you can see on my website, but I actually prefer to use them on cartridge paper. However, it still gives you an idea of how some of the colours look against the black and of some of the techniques you can do with them.
I tried blending the pencils on Velium paper, and had more success blending using Derwent’s solvent blender pen on this paper than on the black paper. You can also erase these pencils quite easily, but some pigments, especially the reds, will usually stain white paper. Since they are very creamy, soft pencils, I like to fix them at the end with a fixative. This can sometimes cause a colour shift, with pastels especially, but I had no issues with darkened colours with the Drawing pencils.
I thought it would be good to show you how a finished work looks on black paper. The black inevitably shows through, sometimes you want it to, and sometimes you don’t, and it’s learning how to overcome these pros and cons that I find challenging. However, the black paper just makes so many of the colours pop and the final look is quite unlike anything you can achieve on white papers. I did find it quite hard to blend more than a couple of layers, and the finished work is probably less “rendered” than my other coloured pencil artwork.
Having said that though, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of coloured pencil work is hyper realistic, which is great, but this is not my style. Sometimes I like to be able to see the pencil marks, to work in a more independent way, (since my style is usually somewhat tighter and more graphic/illustrative), and it can give the work a more “painterly” quality.
Below is a picture of Dancing With Swallows in progress and the image at the bottom is of the finished piece. My work tends to be a fusion of figurative and folk art, usually incorporating my love of pattern and vintage. While I will use sketches from observation as a starting point, or the pattern on an old teapot for example, the rest is more often than not, from my own imagination!
I made a few changes towards the end, changing the composition slightly by trying to balance out the clouds, and even after having sprayed a coat of fixative, I was still able to erase most of the pigment. I should have worked out my composition better at the outset!
Working on black paper, you can often use the dark tone of the support itself to advantage, in effect using less pressure and less layers in areas where you want it to be darker. Another effect I use is working over lighter colours with dark colours for a different effect.
Hopefully this post has given you a bit of inspiration and insight. Why not get some black paper and a set of 24 Derwent Drawing Pencils and see for yourself?
PS: I’d like to thank my wonderful, ever patient husband, of HF Photography, for all his amazing pics for this blog post! You can find him at www.hfphotography.co.uk.
Judith Logan is an artist based in Northern Ireland and you can find her work at judithloganart.com. She is also on Facebook at facebook.com/judithloganartist or facebook.com/blacksheepgallery.ni and Twitter @JudithLArt.
You can also see Judith Logan’s work at London’s Menier Gallery for the UKCPS Open International in London from 25th April to 6th May.