Making the most of the sunshine to urban sketch with Derwent Lightfast and Ed Isaacs

“I like your watercolours”, someone tweeted when I posted some of my Scotland sketches on my Twitter feed. “Er … thanks”, I replied, “but they’re actually drawn using coloured pencils.”

I always take my sketchbook with me on my travels and my trusty battered tin of Watercolour pencils gets packed too. On my trip to Scotland last May, however, I also took along with me a set of Derwent’s Lightfast coloured pencils and, to be honest, they are a joy to use.


Don’t get me wrong, watercolours are a fantastic medium, but I guess there are two main reasons for using these pencils for sketching.

Firstly they are really convenient – no lugging around of water bottles and no constant cleaning of brushes. Second, I do pen and ink sketches and like to use a sketchbook which has bright, smooth paper with just the right weight. It takes a watercolour OK, but they do turn out fairly dull – the Lightfast pencils, however, are really clear and vibrant. Their core makes them easy to blend too.

First step for me, is working directly with pen and never use a pencil first for an under-drawing – I find this will take away from the directness and energy of the drawing. If I use a pencil, then it will be for a pencil drawing. Working directly with a pen is great practice as well – you need to get the line right first time.

I always work with a fairly limited palette and I am not fussy about getting the colours absolutely right. I found, though, that I can get a whole range of colours by overlaying; the red and yellow, for instance, work together well for the pantiles typically used for roofing in the East Neuk of Fife.

Most importantly, Derwent Lightfast pencils stay bright even when overlaid – overlaying blue and green with yellow works well for trees and foliage, achieving great shape and tone.

We were blessed with fine weather for the first two weeks of our trip and the blue pencil was just right for the sky.

By varying the pressure used and the technique for the pencil, you can easily change texture and tone!

The third and final week was more typical West Highland weather – dull, grey skies and watery mists. I mixed both blue’s and greys to capture that moody Scottish sky.

It achieved a great effect with a tin of 12 pencils. I can’t begin to imagine what you could create with a 72 tin of Lightfast pencils!

Overall, I was extremely pleased I took the coloured pencils along with me and they will now be a fixture in my travelling art kit.

Find out more about Ed Isaacs via his Twitter feed or Facebook Page.

View Derwent’s Lightfast range here.