Friday, November 23, 2018

Soft and Hard, Part 2: Water-Soluble Colored Pencils

11/10/18 Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelle and Staedtler Karat Aquarell in
Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook

About a year ago when I was focused on learning to use colored pencils, I wrote about how I find it necessary to have both soft and hard colored pencils because they have different purposes. In that post, I was mainly referring to traditional colored pencils and the way I learned to use them in Suzanne Brooker’s Gage class. I concluded with musings about my idiosyncratic method of using water-soluble colored pencils on location, which requires a pencil with the softest possible core (which is how Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle became my hands-down favorite).

Now that the weather is no longer hospitable, and I’m spending more time indoors practicing color on still lives, I observed that I had started applying the same hard/soft pencil guidelines that I use with traditional colored pencils when I’m using water-soluble colored pencils, too.

My current go-to hard watercolor pencil is Staedtler Karat Aquarell. I had tried it initially because it’s the brand that my instructor Suzanne uses, but at first I didn’t like it because it’s much harder than I was accustomed to in a water-soluble pencil – harder than both Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer and Caran d’Ache Supracolor (which is a bit harder than Museum Aquarelle). But now I find it very useful for some purposes.

On this pear, I used Museum Aquarelles for most of the color application, but for small details, I needed a harder pencil that retains a point better, and that’s where the Staedtler pencils were handy. Stillman & Birn Beta, my favorite sketchbook for home use, is a heavy, toothy paper ideal for wet media. But the tooth isn’t always a good match for softer pencils, which skip over the low points in the paper’s surface. In addition to details, the Karat Aquarells are good for covering the surface where I decided not to activate with water, like on the pear’s shadow. I would have had even better results if I had used the harder pencils first (covering the paper texture better with the first layer), but I didn’t think of it until after I had started applying Museum Aquarelles. I seem to get the best coverage on toothy paper when I start with a hard pencil.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting and useful observations. I, too, use colored pencils for watercolor details. The ability to hold a sharper point is a good feature.


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