Only in the last few years has art and creativity been at the forefront of my life. I suppose I must still be a bit of a newcomer because I still get a real buzz out of trying new things, which was exactly the case with Derwent’s new Shade and Tone Mixed Media Set. I had seen it advertised and, to be honest, didn’t give it much notice since I wasn’t in the market for paints suitable for portraits and skin-tones. How wrong could I be!
Firstly, yes they’re lovely for portraiture, but put that aside and think instead of faded oriental originals, subtle fantasy florals, and dark toned botanicals from the early 1900’s. That’s where my creativity took me, and I’m so glad it did.
First things first, I needed to swatch the paints and test the pencils on a variety of papers.
On the left, is the Lightfast Paper, which although specially formulated for the Lightfast colour pencil range, it can be used as a watercolour paper, and boy is it good quality. You can clearly see how it seems to have sucked up the colour, softened it, until the paint has become part of the fibres. The soft wheat colouring of the paper worked in harmony with the entire palette and this was my favourite combination.
The Inktense Paper (middle) was the most enjoyable and easiest to work on. I like the way the colours seem to brighten as they sat on this luxurious cold-pressed paper. Erasing was easy, especially the Graphitint and Tinted Charcoal paints, and the rough texture created some lovely passages where the brush skipped on the tooth. This combination created the liveliest painting.
I also tried the hot-pressed Watercolour Paper (right). This is much smoother than the other two and much whiter. The paint went down with some streaking but it layered well with vibrant intensity across all the colours. It took the longest to dry and I did manage to smudge it, which had more to do with user error than the user’s tools, I think. It was the easiest to erase, but the most difficult to work on.
The set includes seven Inktense, two Graphitint, two Tinted Charcoal and one Pastel colour, resulting in a cohesive earthy toned palette. In addition, there are three pencils: a Drawing (Terracotta), Onyx (Dark), and a Graphic pencil (B) for expressive sketching over or under the painting.
It comes with a mini waterbrush, five shallow mixing palettes in the lid and a handy sponge for cleaning your brush, as well as the mixing area when you’re done.
Onto the paintings now, and I tried to keep the first one simple on Inktense paper.
This is more illustrative, with lots of flat coats of Inktense layered over a Graphitint base. I found I could erase the edges of those ripples with a Kneadable Eraser easily, which helped to soften the transitions.
The flowers were painted with white Inktense. This needed two or three coats to become fully opaque, but it did, and I was even able to paint up to the edge, or over it in places without it reactivating. And to finish, I used the Graphic B pencil for line-art to enhance the illustrative feel.
The second painting was more challenging with shading and gradients and a muted feel. I knew I wanted this to be soft and subtle and only the warm hues, and after seeing the effect of the paints on the Lightfast Paper, I knew that would be the perfect choice.
I worked from the background to the foreground, layering by degrees the Autumn Brown Graphitint, and dabbing out areas with a tissue before they sank into the thirsty paper. Once I had the right intensity, I added the flowers and lanterns using most of the warm Inktense colours in different areas to create more of an impression of the blossom.
The boat is layers of Autumn Brown Graphitint, and you can just make out the only cool tone I added on the horizon and in the shadow. I really like the way this looks!
The final touch was to add a little extra contrast by darkening the branches, and then I could peel up the washi tape, which is always satisfying!
For my final painting, I went cool and dark with this slightly creepy mushroom mound on the Inktense Paper again. Making use of all the dark tones, I started by mapping out the general shapes, quite messily as you can see, then building on that to create the shapes.
You can see how the white Inktense has been used to add interest to the stalks, which otherwise would’ve been quite boring. Similarly, I added touches of bright Mars Orange Inktense below to suggest the warmth of the musty places in which these grow.
Of the three, I enjoyed this one the most because of the shading.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend of monochromatic fun with this set. Not having to worry about colour mixing was freeing, and speedy too. The colours are already perfectly balanced between light and dark allowing for a full range and exciting contrast. From light and frothy florals to dark broody funghi, I am definitely a fan.
Thank you to Helen Carter for providing us with this blog. Discover more of Helen’s work on her website, Instagram and Facebook.