Thursday, December 7, 2023

Caran d’Ache Keith Haring Colour Set


Caran d'Ache + Keith Haring Colour Set

Since I had my heart set on another Caran d’Ache bicolor pencil set like the three previous ones (see 2022, 2021, 2019), anything else feels like a letdown as a holiday release. Still, the Swiss company’s Keith Haring Special Edition Collection is “An inter-generational and symbolic collection calling on the emblematic patterns of this vital pop artist to celebrate love and art,” and I’ve always liked Haring’s bold, iconic designs. It wouldn’t have been bad as a consolation prize – if I hadn’t also had my heart set on at least Prismalo-level quality like the bicolors.

As a street artist whose canvas was often subway walls, perhaps Haring would have approved of Caran d’Ache’s choice of using student-grade Swisscolor cores in the Special Edition Colour Set. I hope so, because I don’t. As a holiday gift set, I think the pencils should have contained at least Prismalo cores like the bicolors, if not Supracolor (although so far, the only collaborative or otherwise “special” edition to receive Supracolor cores is the Paul Smith set, so apparently you must be really special to get your name on a Supracolor set).

Enough whining, then.

The set includes 10 colored pencils with the names Caran d’Ache + K. Haring stamped with silver foil. Also included is a black Fibralo brush marker

They all come packed in Caran d’Ache’s signature red tin specially marked with Keith Haring’s name and heart icon on the outside and inside lid.

So – about those cores. When a follower on Caran d’Ache’s Facebook page pointedly asked whether the cores were Supracolor, Prismalo or what, the response was, “Hello there, these pencils are simply water-soluble (they are not part of another collection).” I hadn’t seen the pencils in person yet, but I was skeptical: It seemed unlikely that Caran d’Ache would make an entirely new set of water-soluble colored pencils just for this limited edition; certainly the company would use an existing core.

When I received them, the simple, unfinished ends made me suspect, with dismay, that they were Swisscolor cores. Swatches confirmed my suspicions.

Swatches made in Hahnemuhle Akademie Aquarell sketchbook

(Aside: I made an interesting observation when I had inadvertently started to swatch the Keith Haring set in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook. I typically wouldn’t use that paper for a water-soluble pencil, as I don’t think it’s sized properly for it, but I was distracted and grabbed the wrong book. I then swatched them again in a more appropriate Hahnemühle sketchbook (above). The interesting part was seeing the Swisscolor/Prismalo swatches side by side on both the Epsilon and Hahnemühle papers (below). Regardless of quality level or pigment content, dry colors and washes look richer on paper that’s appropriately sized for water media. Not surprising, but useful to occasionally confirm.]  

Swisscolor and Prismalo comparison in S&B Epsilon
Swisscolor and Prismalo comparison in Hahnemuhle

Curiously, the unfinished ends are very slightly convex compared to standard Swisscolor ends (below). Again, it’s hard to believe Cd’A would make an entirely different barrel end just for this special edition, so I’m wondering if this is a design change for all Swisscolors? My Swisscolor set is several years old, so it’s possible that newer sets have the same slightly convex end. (Any readers have a newly manufactured set they could examine the ends of?)

Keith Haring ends are slightly convex.
Standard Swisscolor ends

Caran d'Ache + Keith Haring 849 ballpoint pen

I’m afraid I’m sounding Grinchy about a perfectly passable colored pencil set honoring an iconoclastic American artist (when I looked up his bio information, I was startled to realize that he was born the same year I was – but he’s been gone for 33 years). To raise this post’s enthusiasm level, I’ll say that I truly do love the 849 ballpoint pen with the fondly familiar heart design. It’s not the same as a new set of bicolors, but at least the color scheme is a bit holiday-ish. Both the color set and the pen would make fun, nostalgic gifts for those of us who remember the ‘80s. So I’ll give Caran d’Ache that.

Meh-ry Christmas.


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