Sunday, March 8, 2020

Bell Pepper Backlash and Rediscovering Neocolor IIs

3/3/20 Neocolor II Aquarelle crayons in Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook

A few days ago when I was sketching a bell pepper with Prismacolor Art Stix and enjoying the crayon-like fun, I said to myself, “The only thing that would make this even more fun is if these were water-soluble.” Then I bonked myself upside the head and had the art material version of a V8 moment: I could have used Caran d’Ache Neocolor II Aquarelle crayons!

Years ago when I was making mixed media collages, these water-soluble crayons were one of my favorite products. Available in the same palette as Supracolor pencils, Neocolor II crayons are rich with pigment and very soft and easy to apply. (If you’re shopping for these, note that Caran d’Ache also makes potentially confusing Neocolor I wax pastels, which look identical except that they are not water-soluble.)  If I didn’t mind carrying a larger sketchbook, I’d probably be using Neocolor IIs on location alongside (or instead of) Museum Aquarelles.

(Actually, I have been using one Neocolor II on location for the past year or so – Middle Cobalt Blue 660 – which I use only when I want to “paint” the sky with the “licking” method. I previously used a Museum Aquarelle pencil with the same technique, but after getting the pencil tip wet, it would be too soft to draw with in a traditional manner, and sometimes it was inconvenient to wait for it to dry, so using the Neocolor II was more practical.)

My peppers were still holding up in the fridge, so I happily got out the Neocolor IIs. As with Art Stix, it’s not possible to get too detailed or fussy with these crayons, so I take broad strokes and swipe with water just as broadly. It’s probably as close to “painting” as I can get without using actual paints.

After my previous graphite exercise for my botanical drawing class, this sketch felt liberating and unrestrained (not to mention fast – this took 20 minutes, while the graphite version took nearly five hours). And yet for me, it was just as challenging, though in a different way. Maybe it’s like an aerobic workout versus weight training: Each approach strengthens different muscles.


  1. I love the rich colors of these peppers!

    1. It's hard to beat the red and green combo, isn't it!

  2. I love how you have done these in so many media, and each has a distinctive look. Nice work!!

    1. Thank you! It's the easiest way to keep sketching the same subject -- just switch up the medium to make it fun again!


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