Saturday, September 2, 2023

Fibralo/Supracolor Mixed-Media Practice


8/26/23 Fibralo brush marker and Supracolor pencils in Hahnemuhle sketchbook (photo reference)

I’ve been trying to mix the Fibralo brush markers and the Supracolor pencils that came in the Caran d’Ache botanical mixed media set, but I usually don’t like the heavy, solid effect of markers. Our smoke-filled days gave me an opportunity to experiment using photo references. My favorite snaps are backlit scenes from our golden-hour walks (which are becoming more precious as the days grow shorter).

In the first sketch above, I tried to soften both the harsh, solid marks and the garish purple hue of the Fibralo by applying dark green pencil over the tree trunks and their shadows. Putting a wash on the large tree shadows brought out an unexpected and intriguing mix of colors.

8/27/ 23 photo reference

In the second sketch at right, I wanted to stay with the limited palette I was using, but I needed to darken the back end of the car without calling attention to it with that dark but saturated purple. I wanted to try diluting that marker ink. In Julie Thomas’ tutorial video, she often used the set’s plastic palette to dilute colors – apply pencil or ink to the plastic surface, then dip into it with a wet brush, just like watercolors. My intention here, though, was to practice as if I were on location, and knew I would never carry that plastic palette around. Instead, I tried the trick I have used frequently in the field with both watercolor pencils and water-soluble crayons – the old “licking” trick – but this time with the Fibralo brush marker.

It was easy to “lick” color from the marker tip with the waterbrush, which I then applied to the back of the car. The diluted purple turned out too pink, so I put some dark green pencil over that to dull it. Then I thought the pinkish tone would evoke the warm, pre-dusk light, so I used the same technique for the background behind the car.

Use a brush to "lick" ink from the Fibralo tip.

Tip: After “licking,” the marker tip will look like all its ink is gone. You’ll need to scribble with it on scrap paper for a while to get more ink flowing to the tip.

It’s efficient and easy to cover large areas with brush markers, but I’m still frowning at the harsh marks. If I have to apply pencil over the ink each time to soften the marks, I might as well skip the marker step! I’m not convinced the markers add anything useful to my urban sketching repertoire, but I’m still experimenting.

Meanwhile, I’m warming to this “botanical” palette for urban sketching. The second sketch is basically a secondary triad with yellow instead of orange. Color wheel geeks probably have a name for it – lopsided secondary triad? Whatever – I like it, and I think it will be useful this fall. The top sketch, which has the same hues plus a touch of magenta, is a “double complementary” palette, according to Nita Leland’s Exploring Color Workshop. Its another palette that would be great for fall. This is the primary benefit of “borrowing” someone else’s palette: It pushes me to try new things I might not otherwise.


  1. The licking seems to work for you. I agree that the strong purple is a bit too much on its own. I guess it works for some flowers on its own, but it is a really powerful color.

    1. I think the artist who created the palette uses the bright purple mainly as a strong contrast to all the yellows and other warm floral colors in the palette, but it's not as easy to use in urban sketching!


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