Monday, October 11, 2021

Black Krim (Plus Thoughts on Lightfast)


10/6/21 Black Krim tomatoes (Derwent Lightfast pencils in Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook

Of the beautiful tomatoes that Alice had given us, the Black Krims were the last to ripen. When I put them into a paper bag as she had suggested, they were still bright lime green with deep, dark purple streaks. I had sketched a Krim in its unripe state back in August when she had shared one previously, so I really wanted to sketch a ripe one this time. After waiting patiently, the Krims finally ripened in the bag the way autumn leaves turn: The green was now varying shades of orange. A tiny one that was picked prematurely probably would not ripen at all, so it gave my still life a nice touch of the original green. It’s not often that I get to use this combination of colors in a still life (or any sketch, for that matter)! And what an exotic name!

Technical note: Other than knowing that non-soluble colored pencils fall into either of two categories, wax-based or oil-based, I don’t know much about the technical differences between the two types. I’ve heard that all colored pencils include a composite of both wax and oil, so the difference is more a matter of the ratio between the two binders. Sometimes I don’t even know for sure which type a particular pencil is (not all manufacturers are forthcoming about their products’ technical composition). I do know, however, that Faber-Castell Polychromos is predominantly oil-based, as the company makes a point of it in marketing information: “The Polychromos Artists' Color Pencils are comprised of vegetable oil, wax and the highest quality pigments with superior lightfast characteristics and brilliance. There are minimal amounts of wax used so that there is no waxy bloom produced.”

After my recent Polychromos renaissance, I started thinking more about oil-based colored pencils and how they feel distinctly different from wax-based during application, which is one reason why I love Polychromos. Of the artist-quality pencils in my collection, only a few others are oil-based, and I knew that Derwent Lightfast is one: “Revolutionary oil-based core creates a buttery, velvety texture allowing complete integration of colours,” according to the Derwent website. I hadn’t used Lightfast since the beginning of the year, so I refreshed my memory with this Black Krim sketch.

Lightfast is on the opposite end of the softness scale from Polychromos; it is among the softest colored pencils I have used, while Polychromos is possibly the hardest artist-grade pencil I own. And yet, Lightfast has the same feel as Polychromos when applied – not “crayony” as some wax-based pencils feel, nor “creamy.” I don’t have quite the same sense that I could pile on more and more pigment forever as I do with Polychromos, but I do thoroughly enjoy using Lightfast. When I reviewed Lightfast several years ago, I had noted that its consistency and application reminded me of Prismacolors. Now that I have more experience using colored pencils in general and feel the nuances better, I disagree with myself. Lightfast feels closer to Polychromos – except much softer.


  1. Black Krim tomatoes were some of the prettiest in my garden this year!

  2. Oh, that purple tomato is wonderful! I've never seen anything like it.


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