Product Review: Liquid Pencil

Reductive drawing, graphite on paper, imaged made with eraser. © QuinnCreative, 2008

Maybe you have a journal that looks like a picture book; mine doesn’t. OK, I’ve made a few for classes that are all tidy, but my real journals are about my life–and that means messy pages where I try things out, take notes, demo products.

Powdered graphite has been around forever, it’s messy but wonderful. My favorite work with these is to do reductive drawings–you start by dusting the powder over paper, then draw by using an eraser to remove the graphite. Remove too much and you sprinkle on some more. I drew the dove in flight, above, using that technique.

Now there is a liquid graphite, called Liquid Pencil, made by Derivan. Less messy, but it has its own control issues. It comes in a small jar and goes on with a paintbrush. It comes in six colors, each in a choice of permanent or rewettable. I purchased Grey 3 in rewettable and Sepia in permanent.

Liquid pencil is great for backgrounds and painting in subtle shades.

You can see the different effects in the sample page. Grey is on top, and the three streaks are made with an eraser after the liquid pencil has dried. Sepia is on the bottom, and it was much harder to get the eraser to pick up any of the permanent kind.

Out of the jar, it is quite thick. It can be thinned with water or acrylic medium. Using medium makes it permanent, so you can buy the rewettable and make it permanent yourself.Because the shading goes from dark to light, you can also use liqud pencil to paint or write with a brush, and create shadings of great subtlety.

The rewettable stays down nicely. After it dried, I rubbed my fingers over it and very little picked up. About as much as powdered graphite with one light coating of fixative.

In the Phoenix area, Derivan liquid pencil is carried at Jerry’s Artarama in Tempe. On May 3 they will switch to summer hours, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., so check the website before you go.

If you look at the journal page, above, right,  you’ll see a line of pencil writing with a wash of turquoise blue behind it. This fun pencil is worth owning. It’s called NoBlot 705, Bottle of Ink in a Pencil. It combines a smooth graphite with aniline dye, so it writes in a non-fading, tough-to-erase black, like a pencil, but if you wet it with a brush, it dissolves into a beautiful turquoise permanent ink. If you are old enough, you may remember the grocer or bank clerk, licking a pencil and writing in a ledger. He (it was rarely a she) licked the pencil to activate the aniline ink, and make the ledger permanent.

The pencils are discontinued. Sanford is offering a permanent pencil, but it won’t have the cool turquoise dye in it. You can get it in Phoenix at Arizona Art Supply in Tempe. There are several others in the area, but not all of them have the NoBlot705.

Keep color samples of pens, pencils, inks in your journal. It shows how the product looks on your journal pages.

I’m working on some new ideas, using Gelly Roll gel pens. I’m not much of a glitter-lover, but gel pens have some interesting uses. (I’ll share more when I have decent samples).  Each pen carries a tiny color code. Because neither the cap nor the ink-filled barrel show the real color, I create rectangles in my journal, and write the pen ID number in the rectangle. The image on the left doesn’t show the amazing amount of glittery goodness in the pen, so don’t judge by the scan. I put color samples in all my journals to see how pens or pencils work in the specific journal I’m using.

You are now armed with enough new products to create at least a week’s worth of journal pages–have a wonderful time trying them out!

Quinn McDonald is a writer and journal artist. She is writing a book for art journalers who don’t know how to draw but want to keep a meaningful journal. The book, Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art will be released by North Light Books in June of 2011.