New Colors for Phoenix

When I moved out here, I brought a few art supplies with me. I chose simple supplies that did a lot but didn’t take up space–colored pencils, kneaded eraser, bone folder, a blade.

Prismacolor pencilsPrismacolor pencils are wonderful–rich and easy to use, waxy, thick color. The more you layer, the richer it gets. When I arrived in Phoenix, I had many greens, yellows, oranges, blues.

But here, I needed different colors. Richer grays, shades ofblue agave browns, purples. They are the colors of blue agaves, rock walls, and the big smooth stones that create the look of water, but in rock. I saw a fence that was designed to hold rocks vertically and still look like a river.

These big, smooth river rocks are different from the desert granite, warm and cool grays and thunderstorm colored ones, too. Desert granite is hard brown and pink, all new colors I needed.

The browns of shadows and rust and granite. It took 16 more pencils in all to catch all the new colors here. Just waiting to be seen and put on paper.

Stone fence–Quinn McDonald is a writer, trainer and artist who teaches writing and visual journaling classes. See her work at (c) 2008 All rights reserved.

6 thoughts on “New Colors for Phoenix

  1. Such a different world, the desert. I’m glad you’re finding the colors for it, and I am eager to see what you create with them.

  2. Quinn, you’re right, you do need all new colours for the desert. I live in the Phoenix area as well, and my greens are dusty from misuse. But… I need greys, steel blues, muted ochres, and siennas, and purples. In the evening the Supies (Superstition Mountains) really do become purples, shading through all the tints betweem cerulean to eggplant; in their irregukar rows to the horizon.

    Even after 30 years, I am still amazed by the sky, clear or cloudy it is enormous, in Michigan and Oregon the aky is closer and cosier. Here in the desert the sky is an inescapable blue presence, nnd the hotter it gets, the bluer the sky becomes. Yes, I need a passel o’ blues too!!


    ======>Gwen. . .you have the colors exactly right. I am still amazed by how big the sky is. You mean it gets even BIGGER? I love the feeling of the big, high bowl over you, as if you lived IN the earth, not ON it. -Q

  3. Quinn, what’s a “bone folder”? It can’t possibly be what it sounds like — or can it? If you’re doing a portrait and the subject turns out to be a bit too large for the paper or canvas, I guess I can see how something like that could be useful. But geez, “sacrificing for art” doesn’t go THAT far, does it?

  4. Mmm, I’ll have to look for some. Colors found in the desert are unlike any elsewhere. They are subdued…sharing only as much as they have to in order to survive. Matching them is not an easy task.


    ====>Vi, I joined the Boyce Thompson arboretum in your area and have been there twice. The second time I brought the new colors with me and was holding them up to rocks and agaves to see how close I got! That’s when I discovered that the time of day/angle of the sun made a huge difference in the color! –Q

  5. I’m sold! Quinn, you just inspired me to get Prismacolor pencils. Now, I just have to have them! Thanks 😉

    =====>Genece, you will love them! Even sharp, the color goes down smooth and rich. You can build up layers without denting the paper, and the depth will amaze you. If you build up a lot of colors (my teacher has an image of a black cat that contains blue, red, and green!) do the last layer with strokes running one one direction, to smooth the layers and for a perfect-nap finish. –Q

  6. My dad used to bring home Prismacolor pencils from work for us and you’re right: they were wonderful to draw with. I haven’t used them in years: I have another brand now and they’re okay, but maybe I’ll try to find these again.

    ====Prismacolor pencils may have changed since your dad brought them home from work–unless he was an architecht or illustrator. The ones I bought (and I’ll admit i just fell in love with non-watercolor pencils) are amazingly rich in color and go down in a layer that can be built up to look like oil paint. I’m having a LOT of fun with them!

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