Review: Liquid Pencil v. Charcoal

Reductive drawing using charcoal and an eraser.

My journals are stuffed with notes and try-outs of products that work and those that don’t; products I like and those I don’t, even those that work just fine and I still am not eager to add them to my must-have list.

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.

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. I know at least one artist who is crazy about it; I’ve had it for a few months and am just not drawn to it as much as the dry charcoal powder.

In the Phoenix area, Derivan liquid pencil is carried at Jerry’s Artarama in Tempe. Check the website for hours 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 spending time tring to find. 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. I bought several, but they were the last in Phoenix at Arizona Art Supply in Tempe. There are several others in the area, but not all of them have the NoBlot705.

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