Choosing art materials is as personal as choosing friends. What works for me may also work for you. Here is a page showing you the art materials I use for my mixed media drawings. I work with a combination of coloured pencils and oil pastels.
My favourite paper is Arches Aquarelle hot-pressed watercolour paper 300 or 356 gsm. This is a wonderfully strong paper which suits coloured pencils and oil pastels very well.
As well as single sheets, Arches Aquarelle also comes in blocks of 20 sheets. Below is the largest size block (18 x 24 inches).
“Irresistible Blanche” is drawn on a page from the Arches Aquarelle block.
In 2013 I joined CPSA (Colored Pencil Society of America). One of the main reasons I joined was to gain access to their “Lightfastness Test Result Workbook”. CPSA has independently tested many brands of pencils to see how resistant they are to fading. Within each brand, some pencils are very light-fast and some are extremely prone to fading – or they even change colour over time (known as fugitive). Learn which colours are safe to use and which colours to absolutely avoid by joining CPSA and accessing their test results. [January 2017: CPSA have just released their 8th version of this workbook.] http://www.cpsa.org
Only one brand of pencils has the highest light-fast rating throughout its whole colour range. This is Luminance 6901 made by Caran d’Ache. You can happily pick out any pencil in the set and use it with impunity. Other brands I like are Holbein Artists Pencils (not easy to get outside Japan) and Derwent Drawing Pencils.
Colored Pencil Association of America hasn’t tested Holbein pencils because these pencils are not sold in America (or anywhere outside of Japan). So I did my own light-fast test. I only use the colours that stood up to five months of full Australian summer sunlight (in a north-facing window).
Two tools I regularly use with my pencils are 1: a pencil extender. I use this to lengthen my pencil so that I can use it in a painterly loose way rather like a paint brush. (See photo below to see how I am holding it.) The best pencil extender in my opinion is made by Generals. I bought my supply on-line from Dick Blick in USA. Generals ‘The Miser’ Pencil Extender
2: A blender stick made of oils and wax, without any pigment in. It blends layers of colour together and burnishes them.
A bristle brush, the type you use for oil painting, is excellent for blending coloured pencils. In the drawing “A Room with a View” the only blender I have used is a brush – to push the colours together and into the paper. The result looks more like paint than pencils. No water is used, or anything but a dry brush.
Coloured pencils and oil pastels work beautifully together to make strong vibrant mixed media drawings. To read about my technique of using oil pastels and coloured pencils together, please see the post Brush and Pencil.
(A suggestion: If you have to do a large area of one colour – such as the sky in “Surveillance” – it is very tedious to do with coloured pencils alone. Before you put any pencils on, put a light layer of Neocolor I, II, Neopastel or Sennelier oil pastel on the paper. Once you have covered the area with Neocolor or pastel, you can layer over with your pencils. This gives the pencils something to grab on to. It saves time and creates a nice even area of a colour.) See Brush and Pencil
“Step by Step”(below) is drawn with a mix of coloured pencils, Caran d’Ache Neocolor II and Neopastels.
Sennelier oil pastels. These are smooth, moist and creamy pastels. I used them as an undercoat in “Wait” pictured below. Then I layered coloured pencils over the top of the pastel undercoat.
I apply oil pastels with a bristle brush – the sort one uses for oil painting. It is a technique I call “dry painting”. I push the pigment into the paper with the brush. Working this way means I also need odourless solvent to clean the brush with. Pastels applied to paper with a brush make such a lovely surface to then layer coloured pencils on top of. I find it much more satisfying to work pencils on top of a pastel surface than over plain white paper. The two media together have more substance and ‘weight’ than just pencils by themselves. The saturation and vibrancy of hues which comes from the union of pastels and pencils is astonishing.
In “Time and Space” below, I used Caran d’Ache Neopastels as undercoat for the whole drawing except for the rose. Why? Neopastels are fairly dry and can be used in a very subtle way. I wanted that particular subtlety for the surrounding scene. For the rose I used an undercoat of Sennelier oil pastels because this pastel’s character is bold. It is a moist, creamy and strong pastel so great for areas that I want to stand out.
Another example of the differing qualities of Caran d’Ache Neopastels and Sennelier oil pastels: In “Still Life”(below) Caran d’Ache Neopastels are used as undercoat on the left side (the slightly distant buildings and signs). For the detailed wall on the right and the ‘sens interdit’ (no entry) street sign I used the bold Sennelier oil pastel. Can you see the difference? One is subtle and the other is as solidly opaque as paint.
In 2016 while visiting Sydney I came across Kadmium Art + Design supplies, a very well-stocked shop which sells OPEN STOCK of all of my favourite Caran d’Ache products; Luminance, Museum Aquarelle, Neocolor 1 and 2, Supracolor Soft, Pablos, Neopastels and more. They also sell open stock of Sennelier oil pastels. They ship Australia-wide. Here are their details: 80b Bay Street, BROADWAY NSW 2007. website Kadmium.com.au or phone: +61 (0)2 9212 2669
February 2019: In July 2018 Derwent launched a new line in coloured pencils. The line is called Derwent Lightfast. I bought a tin of 36 of these pencils straight away. (This is the largest tin available at this time.) After seven months of using them I feel confident in endorsing them. They are absolutely beautiful with strong vibrant colour and they simply glide onto the paper. In July 2019 the complete range of 100 colours is due to become available. I started off tentatively with Derwent Lightfast but now I find myself using them more and more. (They mix very well with my other favourites; Luminance and Holbein.) They are not yet available in Australian art supply stores so I am buying mine on-line from UK. (They are available in tins and as open stock from Art Friend in Singapore.)
The following is a list of suppliers’ and manufacturers’ websites:
Derwent: www.pencils.co.uk – British coloured pencils
Caran d’Ache: www.carandache.com – Swiss coloured pencils
Holbein: www.holbein-works.co.jp – Japanese coloured pencils
Faber Castell: http://www.faber-castell.com/ German coloured pencils
Arches Aquarelle paper – Arches Aquarelle is my favourite paper for coloured pencil work
Dick Blick Art Materials Dick Blick supply artists world-wide.
Kadmium.com.au Kadmium Art + Design supplies in Sydney. They sell open stock and boxed sets of Caran d’Ache products and ship Australia-wide.
Melbourne Etching Supplies www.mes.net.au A Melbourne stockist of art papers. They ship Australia-wide.
artsupplies.co.uk Ken Bromley Art Stockists in the United Kingdom ship world-wide.
parkersartsupplies Parkers Sydney Fine Arts Supplies in Sydney – A treasure-trove of a shop where I buy my Arches Aquarelle blocks, plus Sennelier and Holbein oil pastels.
The Art Shop in Melbourne is where I bought my full set of Sennelier oil pastels. The link is theartshop.com.au
You might like to check out my post Caran d’Ache Open Stock Available in Australia
The Exceptional Box – a post about the most amazing box of pencils you’ll ever see.
Thanks for looking at my Art Materials page. If you would like to peruse my other blog posts please take a look at the Contents of Posts Index
Click here to see the catalogue of 30 drawings I made for up-coming exhibition “Remember Paris”.