Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Product Review: Derwent Drawing Pencils (Plus Bonus Fire Drill)

6/5/18 Derwent Drawing Pencil on Strathmore toned paper (Melissa; left: 20 min. pose; right: 10 min. pose)

Initially this post was going to be about nothing more than the fire drill that occurred at Gage Academy during the life drawing session where I made the sketches above of our model, Melissa. But then I started thinking about my favorite colored pencil for life drawing, and I realized I take it for granted. I’ve been using it happily and reliably for years, but I’ve rarely talked about it here. It doesn’t come in a bajillion dazzling hues like so many other colored pencil lines, and the colors it does come in are muted. Even its name is understated. But for certain purposes – currently and chiefly, life drawing – there’s none better. I decided to use these sketches as an opportunity to review Derwent Drawing Pencils.

Derwent Drawing Pencils
According to Blick, Derwent introduced the Drawing Pencil line in 1986 with only six colors, which eventually expanded to 24. Intended for landscapes and portraiture, the 24 hues are all earthy and natural browns, grays and sepias. Since there was no complete set of 120 colors to be dazzled and seduced by, I started buying them individually at my local Artist and Craftsman Supply years ago. By now, I probably have all the colors. In particular, I discovered that the Chinese White is the softest, most opaque white colored pencil I’ve found to date, and I’ve gone through several working on toned and red papers.

With a similar design to most other contemporary Derwent collections, the Drawing Pencil has an 8mm round barrel, which is larger than average. Like my favorite Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelles, its size is troublesome for most sharpeners, but at least when I’m home, I can use my trusty Bostitch Quiet Sharp 6. The glossy sepia barrel has a colored, diagonally striped end cap identifying its core hue. The color number and name are stamped in white.

This image exhibits one of my few complaints about all contemporary
Derwent pencils with this design: The paint on the end caps
chips off after only a short time of use.

Look at these thick, luscious cores!

In addition to its limited, muted palette, the Drawing Pencil line is distinctive and unique for its whopping 5mm core – probably the thickest of all the colored pencils I’ve used. It’s definitely the softest colored pencil core I own, which makes it ideal for life drawing. Since the point goes dull quickly, I can’t get fiddly with details, and I can use the broad side of the core to color large areas quickly. It’s like a charcoal or sanguine pencil in its ability to impart subtle gradations of shading – but without the messy smearing.

Preferring to use a faster liquid medium like a brush pen for shorter poses, I used to save pencil for 20-minute poses when I had more time for shading and details. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve gotten more comfortable with colored pencil in general or because I’ve gotten faster at life drawing, but this year I’ve been using Drawing Pencils even for 10-minute poses. It’s not the same as liquid, but it moves more smoothly and fluidly than any dry pencil I’ve used.

It’s a delightful pencil that I can’t think of anything to complain about. Well, just one thing: I don’t need the Drawing Pencil color collection to include all the bright hues that are easily covered by many other pencil lines. But since it is intended for landscapes and does include some shadowy and smoky blues, I wonder why it doesn’t include a few greens, too? The one Olive Earth is closer to brown than green. With the addition of a few tree and grass greens, Drawing Pencils’ palette would be ideal for urban sketching.

Oh, about that fire drill. It was a sunny, pleasant morning to be out in Gage’s driveway for a few minutes. But I felt sorry for the models standing out there in their robes.

5/1/18 Nadine; 10-min. pose
6/5/18 Melissa; 10-min. pose

3/15/18 Randy; 20-min. pose

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