Break Your Watercolor Pencils

In the last class at JournalFest (Octobers won’t be the same without it), I met a woman whose watercolor pencil work was amazing. Did I ask her with whom she had studied? Of course not. I said, “What kind of pencils are you using?” She unzipped her traveling pencil case and showed me a collection of pencils I recognized as Derwent. Except half the length.

The length was the same for all the pencils. Supposing she didn’t use them all equally, I asked her about the pencil length. She smiled broadly. “I wanted to buy a lot of different colors, but they were too much for my budget. I asked a friend if she wanted to share a set. We split the cost of the pencils, then split the set.” It took me several seconds to realize they hadn’t each divided the set by colors, but by sawing the pencils in half.

This clever solution gave each person all the color in half the length—and at half the price. This brilliant idea had other creative results, too.

Packing half-size pencils takes much less space. Even in a week-long class, you won’t use up the entire half pencil.

If you aren’t sharing, you can have a travel set and a studio set. No packing and unpacking, just grab-and-go.

If colored pencils are your tool of choice for art journaling, the half-size set fits neatly in a bag or backpack. Combined with loose-leaf journal pages, you can get the entire kit and a watercolor brush into the original metal pencil case (if you prefer flat) or into a butterfly pencil case (I love these from Cool Pencil Case). Great for working on airplanes or small restaurant tables.

If you teach, you can separate your neatly sharpened pencils, organized by color number from the ones you share in class. You won’t mind the hard wear the student set gets if yours are neatly stashed in your bag.

If you can’t bear to break up your pencils, then consider this incredible wall mounting system designed by felissimo for social designer. Each pencil snaps to a wall mount to create its own art.

-Quinn McDonald teaches art journaling; she’s also a creativity coach with a serious attraction to watercolor pencils. She is not addicted. She can quit anytime she wants. She just doesn’t want to quit.

Product Review: Derwent Inktense Pencils

After reviewing the Derwent Graphitint Pencils, I had to review Derwent’s Inktense pencils. OK, I didn’t have to, but it gave me a great excuse to buy and try a new set of pencils.

The two sets are both watercolor pencils, but very different. Inktense colors are a lot brighter, which is to be expected. Graphitint’s (graphite pencils) description is that they have a “hint of color,” which they do, when put on dry. They develop considerably more when you wet them. But Graphitint are all muted graphite tones—wines, rather than reds. Barks, rather than earth browns.

Derwent Inktense color swatch

Derwent Inktense color swatch

Inktense is a different story. The pencils are a bit harder, but not scratchy. These are bright colors, but very transparent. When washed over with a wet brush, they look exactly as if they had been made with an ink wash. The transparency really surprised me. Ink washes have always been a bit tricky, they required putting ink into cups, adding water, then trying them out first. Here, they don’t. I apply the dry pencil to paper, then add the amount of water that makes the right tone for the wash.

Best of all, they can be used by brushing a wet brush directly against the pencil, then applying the brush to paper. That makes ink washes portable.

The combination of Graphitint and Inktense makes a wonderful combination set to travel with. I’ll probably add a few colors to the Inktense to give it the wider range I need for the desert, but the blending ability–and yes, they blend with each other, gives a wide range.

Note: if you blend the Graphitint with Inktense, you won’t get the beautiful transparency of Inktense alone.

Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach and a writer who teaches art journaling for people who can’t draw.

Watercolor Pencils: Derwent Graphitint

Journaling makes you a “take-it along” junkie. You purchase an amazing amount of portable, flexible pens and pencils.

A great technique is to take watercolor pencils and draw with them. You can create washes by using a brush dipped in water, or, even better, a portable watercolor brush, like Aqauaflow.

If you prefer graphite pencils, but want to add a bit of color, think Derwent Graphitint pencils. They go on like a soft graphite, but with a hint of color. A simple wash of a wet brush produces a much richer, deeper color.

The pencils are subtle, so I scribbled a sample of each pencil in my journal, then did it again, but this time, used a watercolor brush to go over it. Handy reference, and a great way to explain the pencils to people watching me use them.

Want more intense, transparent color? Read my review on Derwent Inktense pencils.

Derwent Graphitint

Derwent Graphitint

–Quinn McDonald keeps journals, teaches journaling and raw-art journaling for people who can’t draw but want to keep art journals.