Saturday, April 26, 2014

Lightfastness is a Philosophical Issue (and a Longevity Test of Zig Markers)

My "urban palette" of Zig Clean Color Real Brush markers.
A blog reader who enjoys using Zig Clean Color Real Brush Markers and who knows that I also use them contacted me recently. She had read on another blog that these markers had proven not to be lightfast, fading away in direct sunlight after only a couple of weeks. Because she prefers the convenience of Zig markers over other materials, she has not been sketching as much as she used to because of concern over the Zigs’ fugitive quality. She asked me what my experience with these markers has been and whether I knew of similar markers that had greater longevity.

Original sketch scanned on 11/30/12 (Platinum Carbon
ink, Zig markers, Stillman & Birn Epsilon)
I’ve always assumed that Zig markers are not necessarily lightfast or considered archival (the Kuretake website makes no claims that they are), but that issue has not been of primary concern to me as far as sketching goes. If I ever decide to frame a sketch and hang it on an exhibit wall, I will not use Zig markers (or other fugitive materials) in that sketch. But for my daily sketching, I resolve the lightfastness issue by scanning every sketch the same day I make it, and all the sketches stay in closed sketchbooks that stand on a bookshelf, rarely seeing the light of day. (I do use acid-free paper, because I’ve seen acidic paper deteriorate regardless of how it is stored.) I’m fine with my sketchbooks not lasting much longer than I do. But I can understand that people who want their sketches to last longer than their own lifetime (the woman who contacted me hoped to leave her sketchbooks to her family) would be concerned about the longevity of the materials they use.

Since she asked the question and it had never occurred to me to check, I decided to do a test of my own. I started using Zig Clean Color Real Brush markers around the end of 2012, so I pulled out a sketchbook from back then and found a sketch dated Nov. 30, 2012: Santa and his helper at the mall, with their red clothing colored with a Zig marker (at left). That Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook has been closed and stored on a bookshelf since I filled it.

Zig marker swatches at lower left made on 4/24/14.
After a year and a half, with my naked eye, I could not see any difference between the original sketchbook page and the digital image from the scan I made the same day that I sketched it. To double-check, I took the same red Zig marker and made a swatch mark in the lower left corner on the same sketchbook page (actually, I wasn’t sure which of two red Zig markers I used, so I made two marks, and I think the correct one is on the right). (See new scan at right.)

I still can’t see a difference. Perhaps in five or 10 or 100 years, the color would change even without being exposed to light. But for my purposes, I’m OK with that. Other sketchers need to make their own decision based on their purposes.

So that’s my answer to her question as far as material longevity of Zig markers goes. But there’s a philosophical side to this issue that I think is more important. When she mentioned that she hasn’t been sketching as much lately due to her concerns about the Zig markers fading, I felt alarmed. “When your kids are adults and are showing their own kids the sketches that grandma made, none of them will care that the ink has faded,” I wrote to her. “They will only marvel at the wonderful scenes and objects and feelings you captured in your sketchbook.”

If concern about an art material prevents sketching, then that is the single-most important reason to stop using it and find a replacement. Because the only thing that really matters is to keep on sketching

5 comments:

  1. I never really think about the lightfastness of my sketches...I just sketch. I wouldn't think for a minute to stop. If she is that concerned I'm sure she can find a suitable replacement. I don't see any fading at all in your sketch.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the reviews. I'm going to buy these now! !

    ReplyDelete
  3. Philipsophical indeed!

    As long as it doesn't fade much in a year, it's good enough.
    Even the Php42 Best Buy markers (18 colors.. wow!) from National bookstore doesn't fade much in 5 years. How much more these pens with better ink quality.

    If I live to be a national artist, then someone might care to look at my work after 100 years.

    But as far as I'm concerned, just enjoy the moment. I won't let a fugitive ink ruin my passion for sketching. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Philosophical indeed!

    As long as it doesn't fade much in a year, it's good enough.
    Even the Php42 Best Buy markers (18 colors.. wow!) from National bookstore doesn't fade much in 5 years. How much more these pens with better ink quality.

    If I live to be a national artist, then someone might care to look at my work after 100 years.

    But as far as I'm concerned, just enjoy the moment. I won't let a fugitive ink ruin my passion for sketching. ;-)

    ReplyDelete

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