Review - Derwent Studio pencils: testing, drawing feathers, seascapes and illustration and Derwent A3 sketchbook

Feathers, Derwent Studio pencils, approximately 7 inches square


 Derwent have given me some of their products to experiment with and review, so I'm like a child in a sweetie shop.  : > )

Some I have used for a long time but some are new to me.   I remember as a very small child visiting their pencil museum and my father explaining how 'lead' pencils were actually graphite - and owning coloured pencils made by them.  In those days obviously just the basic range - not the artists ones I choose now.  

I can't remember a time when I didn't draw.   One of my earliest memories is posting scribbled 'letters' to my father when I was 18 months old and he was away in Gibraltar with the RAF.

Here I've been taking a look at their Studio coloured pencils    

The above study of feathers was done with a limited range of colours - unfortunately scanners and cameras find pale colours impossible - the wash of greeny bronze behind the feathers is made up of yellow, green and orange hatched and softly laid over each other and is much smoother than appears above.   I think the problem with scanning is partly due to the tonal range I use, with intense darks through to very pale colour.    Scanning at 600dpi does help a bit as does adjusting in Photoshop but the palest drifts of colour simply will not register correctly : > )

The pencils were perfect for this sort of study, it was easy to get fine details and the colours layered beautifully.  I'll definitely be using them again for this sort of close up study of objects and textures.    

I tend to do these sort of studies when curled in an armchair, half watching TV or listening to music - using paint isn't practical in that situation (I've got into enough trouble with himself over the years for gettting paint on clothes, carpets furniture .....)   Coloured pencils and watercolour pencils with a waterbrush keep me out of trouble and enable me to work on ideas in my armchair, which I can develop further in paint later, or can be something in their own right,   Paintings are done elsewhere to avoid the divorce court  ; > )

I used an A3 hardback, wirebound sketch book. with good, quite heavy paper (110lb).   The paper is really lovely to use for both wet and dry media, taking any amount of layering, drawing back into with an eraser and embossing, to leave white lines through overlaid pencil.   For me the 75lb is too light for the way I like to work - this one is absolutely ideal and A3 is a great size for taking out plein air, allowing more space to work in - an A4 or smaller can feel very cramped if you like to work with sweeping lines and washes of colour.  I also really like the elastic closure, which protects work in storage or in transit, keeping pages tightly and neatly closed.

I had previously owned one single pencil of this range!  which I loved for its glorious colour and feel, used over watercolour - the perfect viridian/jade to enhance the glow in the sea in the shallows in Cornwall,   I frequently use coloured pencil this way and this one features frequently in my seascapes - from slight touches to more intense use, enhancing and adjusting colour and tone in paintings.  It is used in the examples from my sketchbooks below (previously shown on the blog as they were done) which are watercolours with touches of coloured pencil (the single viridian Studio pencil I owned, featuring strongly in that gloriously coloured shallower water) along with touches of pen and oil pastel:

plein air sketches in 12 inch Canson sketchbook - double page spread is 24 inches across - detail below

And again, over watercolour in some of the illustrations for the abc book - for instance in the background to this page in the book I've made this year for my grandson, who is learning to read and my grandaughter who, at nearly 12 months, will simply look at colours and shapes and listen to the repeated sounds of the letters.  Again, the solitary, deliciously coloured viridian/jade studio pencil was used, over washes of a pthalo blue and green mix watercolour.   This time to intensify the colour brightness and add a little opacity without being as flat and even as gouache.

Below is a scribble where the left hand side is simply watercolour pencil very roughly scribbled and washed out - and on the left, hazes of viridian and turquoise pencil are built up to intensify the colour.    Many years ago, gifted artist John Lidzey was the first  I was aware of who used this technique of coloured pencil over watercolour, encouraging me to experiment with the combination.  It's something I've used frequenly ever since.

 doodles/illustration, pencils over watercolour pencil washes and scribbles over embossing

I used the embossing tool from a set of drawing tools, to 'draw' the spirals into the paper - the coloured pencil  doesn't reach into the dips, allowing interesting possibilities - like whiskers on animals, pale hair that overlaps darker hair  - or simply pattern as above.   It needs more investigation as I work my way onwards : > )  -  I frequently draw through wet watercolour with the wrong end of a paintbrush, damaging/indenting the surface of the paper a little, making the paint a deeper tone along the fine line created - this tool could be useful used in that way I think - something to try anyway.

The colours can be rich and intense, as in the snowman illustration, or soft and subtle, mixing in dense layers or hatched layers of different colours, allowing optical mixing - see work by Katherine Tyrrell who uses this method.   I can see these pencils  becoming a favourite and I know Katherine enjoyed using them.

The colours are the same as the Artists Range, enabling them to be combined - something I have yet to try

Have you used these? what do you think?


Pearly morning colours, Derwent Studio pencils in moleskine sketchbook


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