|Arteza Professional Watercolor Pencils
Nearly three years later, I am only just now getting around to reviewing Arteza Professional Watercolor Pencils. I kept thinking I should review them, especially because followers occasionally ask me about them, and obviously they are so heavily promoted that potential buyers are curious. And yet, I admit I kept putting it off because I simply couldn’t get excited. If they were excellent, I would have written the review long ago. And if they were terrible, I would have written the review even sooner to keep readers from wasting money. But they are neither here nor there within that vast middle zone of mediocrity.
First, a note on product branding: Arteza’s website calls these pencils “Professional.” But my tin and the pencil barrel itself are labeled “Expert.” I don’t know if this is a name change or just confusing branding, but as far as I can tell, there’s only one line of watercolor pencils. To add to the confusion, my sets of wax-based and watercolor pencils purchased three years ago look nearly identical with colorful abstract designs on the tin lids. Current product images show different tin designs with easily identifiable birds, fish and other animals, probably to waylay this confusion.
The pencil body itself is attractive for such an inexpensive product (made in China). The hexagonal barrel matches the core color. Branding, color number and color name are printed in silver foil. Some reviewers have complained of off-center cores, but I found only a couple in my set.
Each pencil also includes a lightfast rating of one to four crosses. I admit that this surprised and impressed me, since most low-cost colored pencils make no attempt at lightfastness (let alone identifying the degree). I was also initially confused when I saw the ratings. Typically, the greater number of stars (or whatever symbol) a color has, the higher the lightfast rating. And yet that would mean that Noir has a lower rating than Flamingo? And Fuchsia – which is usually among the most fugitive of colors – has the highest four-cross rating. I couldn’t find an explanation of the rating system on Arteza’s site (a significant omission for a company that went to the trouble of rating each pencil), so I did some Googling. It turns out that Arteza’s rating system is counter-intuitive – the fewer crosses, the higher the rating – causing much customer confusion.
The lightfast ratings would indicate that Arteza intends the Professional/Expert line to be intended for artists. However, I have not been able to find the pencils sold open stock, which would be a serious hindrance for anyone working on a large piece.
|Lightfast rating of 1 to 4 crosses
|A good set if you like pink!
|1/5/18 Arteza watercolor pencils in Stillman & Birn Beta
|5/29/20 Arteza watercolor pencils in S&B Beta sketchbook
Finally, I took the Arteza watercolor pencils on location. (In this case, “on location” meant as far as the front porch.) Still lives in the comfort of my studio are one thing. But to give a watercolor pencil the full shakedown, I must use it in exactly the same way I use watercolor pencils in the field every day. That means firm pressure, fast application, and, if foliage is sketched, spritzing with a sprayer to activate.
The sketch below of the scene across the street was the result. Though not nearly as soft as my beloved Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelles (ahh, every watercolor pencil in the world must curse Museum Aquarelles, since they so unfairly prejudice me!), they aren’t too far from Caran d’Ache Supracolors in softness. They were easy to apply in my usual speedy, aggressive manner. As is often my method, I spritzed the foreground tree to bring it forward and left the background trees unactivated. It’s an easy way to see the difference between dry and activated pigments. I didn’t see the spectacular explosion of hues I’m used to, but the result is acceptable.
|8/2/20 From our front porch
Overall, I’m not displeased with the Artezas’ performance. They’re OK, especially for the remarkable price. They aren’t bad. I’ve certainly used worse. (Greg, a native Minnesotan, would say that my ringing endorsement expresses the kind of roaring, passionate enthusiasm that Midwesterners are parodied for.)
Arteza Professional (non-watercolor) Colored Pencils (Warning: Excitement ahead!)
Will I also review the wax-based Arteza set? I must admit I’m even less excited about those than I am the watercolor pencils. In case I don’t get around to it for a long while, I’ll mention the most noteworthy points about them now:
- The palette is identical to the watercolor set, so if you like perfectly matched sets of soluble and insoluble pencils, the Artezas would meet that need.
- Their softness and crayony application are also similar to the watercolor pencils.
- Although they are not supposed to be water-soluble, they
are, in fact, more than slightly water-soluble! Most traditional colored
pencils can be made to release a bit of pigment if a wet brush is scrubbed through
a swatch, but typically not enough to be considered soluble. In fact, insolubility
is an important attribute of traditional colored pencils for many artists. While
researching the Arteza lightfastness question, however, I stumbled upon a
review that mentioned that the traditional pencils are somewhat water-soluble,
which naturally piqued my curiosity.
I made a few test swatches below with a couple of randomly selected colors, and indeed, the wax-based Arteza pencils are nearly as water-soluble as their watercolor counterparts! For comparison, I also made swatches of Faber-Castell Polychromos, Caran d’Ache Pablo and Prismacolor (all of which are non-watercolor pencils) and scrubbed a waterbrush aggressively through them, which forced traces of pigment out. Yay, the caffeine has finally kicked in! This is the most exciting thing I can say about Arteza pencils: The traditional pencils and watercolor pencils are nearly the same! This discovery made me regret I had waited so long to review these!