Saturday, August 19, 2023

Palette Shake-Up: Caran d’Ache Mixed Media Botanical Set


Caran d'Ache Mixed Media Botanical Set (Julie Thomas collaboration)

Last summer around this time, Caran d’Ache came out with two small sets of Neocolor II water-soluble wax pastels in palettes designed by French illustrator Beya Rebaï. After using the Neocolor IIs in the field a few times, I eventually switched back to watercolor pencils – but I matched the pencil colors as closely as possible to Rebaï’s palette. It was a fun and intriguing exercise to shake up my usual comfortable palette for a while by using colors picked out by someone else.

Right on cue, Cd’A came out with another collaboration this summer (I wonder if this is a regular summer thing?), this time with Swiss artist Julie Thomas. The Mixed Media Botanical Set for coloring and lettering comes with Supracolor watercolor pencils, Fibralo markers, Fibralo Brush markers, a paint brush, a mixing palette and a set of postcards for sketching and coloring.

The set includes Supracolor water-soluble colored pencils, water-soluble Fibralo and Fibralo Brush markers, a paint brush, a mixing palette and postcards for coloring.

Since I’ve already reviewed
 Supracolors, this post will not be a full review of the set (although I might someday review the Fibralo Brush markers if I end up using them enough). Instead, it’s just an overview of the set and especially a springboard to the idea that the set has inspired: Use Thomas’s palette exclusively for urban sketching as a (temporary) palette shake-up! During this late-summer transitional time toward fall (say it ain’t so!), I’m usually tiring of my summer palette anyway, and this year I didn’t change up my primary triads as much as I did last year, so I’m overdue.

Just like the Rebaï Neocolor sets, the mixed media set comes with free access to a tutorial video. In this one, Thomas uses the kit materials to make a floral-patterned greeting card with a hand-lettered message. She also shows how she applies dry pencil pigment to the mixing palette, then uses a wet brush with it like watercolors. Delicate florals are not really my thing, but I wanted to try mixing the water-soluble markers with Supracolors, so I followed along.

My floral doodles from Julie Thomas's tutorial.

As I said, it’s not really my thing, but I do like the way she uses the pale blue as a pop of cool contrast to the warm-heavy palette.

Mixed Media Botanical Set palette

And about that palette. . . does it look familiar to you? I find it to surprisingly similar to the Rebaï palette – apricot, peach, yellows and other warm hues, plus minty green and pale blue. (Hmmm, maybe these collaboration palettes have less to do with Rebaï and Thomas and more to do with Caran d’Ache’s own designers.) At least Thomas’ botanical palette includes several natural greens, which Rebaï’s is sorely lacking. I find any botanical-themed palette to be challenging in an urban environment (outside of gardens), but I’m ready to take these colors out on my walks to see what happens.

I picked out my own sub-palette of Supracolors and Fibralo Brush pens from the full set (I just can’t see using pale apricot and peach in Maple Leaf, especially this time of year). The three natural green Supracolors are actually favorites from the Museum Aquarelle line, so at least they are familiar to me. The purple Fibralo (110) is several notches brighter than what I would usually choose for violet shadows, but I’ll make it work! I’m not as interested in the standard (non-brush) Fibralo markers, which I have used before, because . . . well, why use a standard marker if a brush marker is available? But that’s just me.

Here's the urban sketching palette I picked out from the set.

An additional minor challenge is that it’s been a long time since I’ve used Supracolors as my exclusive watercolor pencils for urban sketching. Although I have always loved them, they are not as intensely pigmented as
Museum Aquarelles or Derwent Inktense, so I have to become reacquainted with them. New to me, the Fibralo Brush markers will be fun to try. Although I do it now and then, I haven’t always enjoyed mixing markers with pencils, so I’m using this set as motivation to give that mix a go again.

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