Sandrine's Gallery

Original art by Sandrine Curtiss

Blog posts : "Reviews"

I'm in love!

With the Derwent Coloursoft Pencils.

In my quest to find more pencils to use, I recently purchased a small set of Derwent Coloursoft colored pencils. I've been so pleased with Derwent that I keep on trying more of their supplies.




So today I decided to give it a go. I must admit that I've been addicted to the fabulous Prismacolor Premier colored pencils for years. I use them ALL the time. I love their softeness and how you can layer them, and blend them. Their rich colors are amazing. I tried several other brands of colored pencils, but never found one I liked enough to want to switch. So I was not very hopeful with the Derwent Coloursoft.

I gave the Coloursoft the ultimate test, in my opinion, and used a sheet of my beloved black Stonehenge paper. I thought if I could make the colors of the pencils stand out as well as with the Prismacolor, I would be pleased. Well, I was! Not only was I pleased with the vibrant colors, but I was also happily surprised by the softeness of the lead. The tip glides on the paper with a lovely buttery feel. I would say they are almost like soft pastel pencils.

The Coloursoft pencils cover the paper very well and quite fast. They blend together nicely, and don't leave that pesky residue on your paper, like the Prismacolor pencils do. The leads are easily sharpened and the sharp tips don't break. I LOVE them!

Although I will continue using my Prismacolor pencils because they are awesome! I will definitelly work more with the Coloursoft pencils. They are so smooth, and really lovely to work with.

I'm so happy I tried them.


"Tomato" - 4x6" - Coloursoft pencils - SOLD




Go Back

Derwent Watersoluble Graphitone Pencils

A new discovery for me.

I went to Michael's yesterday to get a pad of palette paper, and I came across this product I'd never seen before. I think it's been around for a while now, but it's the first time I saw it in a store. Since I had a 50% off coupon, I thought I'd give it a shot. I love to try new things.



What I bought was a pack of four watersoluble graphite sticks by Derwent. They're called Graphitone, and come in four different shades: 2B, 4B, 6B, and 8B. They are wrapped in a pre-cut protective film that you can peel off as needed. So you can use the tip or the side of the stick.



I was very excited to try them today, so I made a test sheet.



First recommendation, if you're going to use them with water, is to use a sheet of watercolor paper. Although you don't need much water to use them, regular sketching paper might buckle.
The Derwent Graphitone work like regular graphite pencils on paper. You can use them to sketch and draw without water. But if you only use them like that, it's just no fun. So grab a waterbrush, or a watercolor brush with a little container of water, and start spreading that graphite on your paper. It works just like watercolor.

Here are the results of my test:
The Graphitone pencils will erase okay with an eraser before you add water. But as soon as you add water, the eraser will not work anymore. The washes are not rewetable. So, you can add more layers without shifting the pigments from the previous ones. This also means once the graphite gets wet then dries, you cannot lift the pigments. So if you need to do any lifting, it needs to be done before the wash dries.

You can use the graphite pencil on top of the wash once dry, or while still wet. You can also wet the tip of the pencil for a more feathered look.
The Derwent Graphitone pencils are a very versatile medium, easy to use in many different ways. However, while sketching, I found myself getting the pigments on my brush straight from the tip of the pencils, and applying them on the paper. I really enjoyed the soft effects.



I wanted to finish my sketch with a very dark wash. So I thought I'd prepare it ahead of time. I used a knife to shave the tip of my 8B pencil, and put the shavings in a little container where I added a bit of water. The result on the page was not unlike ink. I really like the feel and look.



I'm so happy I discovered the Derwent Watersoluble Graphitone Pencils. They are a lot of fun, and very easy to use. I love the versatility of these graphite sticks. They remind me very much of the Derwent Inktense Pencils.



Go Back

Trying out pastel papers

As I've been enjoying using soft pastels again,

I've also decided to find the perfect pastel paper. In the past (many, many years ago) I used the usual Canson Mi-Teinte paper. I thought it was fun for sketching, and giving my paintings a lot of texture.



But, being a detail freak (I think I've mentioned this before!), I also enjoyed smooth surfaces to add lots of details. So I followed a friend's advice, and started drawing on framing mats. Afteral, they're acid free, and have a toothy surface, but they are smooth enough for pastels to blend well on them. They're also great for charcoal. I also loved that they were thicker than paper. So I did a few portraits on them and had a blast. The problem was, though, that they didn't hold very many layers of pastels. So I had to adjust my painting style, and I found that the surface held just enough pastels to get the results I wanted.



After a hiatus of about 8 years with no pastel work at all, but more art experience, I realized there were so many more choices out there.

In a previous post, I showed a new painting done on Clairefontaine Pastelmat. It was a great way to get reacquainted with soft pastels. This support is very soft. It doesn't feel like sand paper to the touch, and yet, can hold many layers of pastels. What I enjoyed the most was that when using pastel pencils, they seemed to blend in as I was applying them, making it unnecessary to use a utensil or my fingers to do the blending. I didn't need to apply very much pastel to get vibrant colors either. So the paper doesn't "eat" pastels or pastel pencils like some others do, and therefore you don't end up with a lot of pastel residue either, which is a very positive aspect of my experiment with Pastelmat paper. I worked on a 4x6" paper, and found it pretty easy to add details with the pastel pencils since I didn't have to worry about the blending. The other side of the paper feels like it's covered with some kind of waterproof coating. I haven't tried it, but it's supposed to be a good paper for underpainting washes.



After having so much fun with my sunflowers, it was time to try a new paper. I chose a piece of Art Spectrum Colourfix paper. I've never really tried painting animals with soft pastels, so I thought I'd try that on a 9x12" piece. Colourfix paper comes in many different colors. Actually, so does the Pastelmat, although not quite as many as Colourfix. The surface feels rough, very much like sand paper. It's pretty thick, and is also supposed to take wet underpaintings well.
My experience with the Colourfix paper is very different than with the Pastelmat. Because of the rougher surface, I do have to blend the pastels with my fingers. I tried with a few different tools, like a stump, and a rubber blender, but it tends to take some of the colors off, and make them look faded. I tried a cotton swab, but since the paper is so toothy, it kind of ripped the cotton off the tip. So, to me, the only way to make the colors look vibrant is to use my fingers to blend, and be very gentle, using more like a patting motion. Colourfix paper takes quite a few layers of pastels, but again, depending on how you blend them, you might end up pulling some color off the paper. I found that it's pretty rough on the pastels and pastel pencils, leaving a lot of dust. So I've been working on small areas and not blowing the powder off, but rather, patting it down when I blend the colors. I'm far from being done with this new painting, and I'm not enjoying it as much as if I'd used a piece of Pastelmat paper. The rough surface doesn't work as well for my style, and I have to work more, and be more careful. But I think it would be great for someone with a looser technique.




Stay tunned as I'll be posting new updates of this work in progress as well as new paper experiments with the Canson Touch paper and the Ampersand Pastelbord.

What's YOUR favorite pastel surface?

Go Back

Derwent Inktense pencils

Here's a little review of these wonderful pencils.

I've had this large box of Derwent Inktense pencils for quite a while now. They sounded awesome when I got them. But I never REALLY got to play with them. I never really used the right tools that is. The tools that make it a lot of fun to use them.

I came across my big box of pencils the other day while doing a little cleaning, and decided I should do some research to find out how to use them properly.
I gathered some good quality watercolor paper, and I bought a good water brush (Pentel Aquash) too. If you're not familiar with water brushes, they're the kind that you fill up with water, and the water flows as you are mixing your watercolor paints, or disolving your watercolor pencils on the paper. They are a great tool. This particular brand works very well as you seldom need to squeeze it for the water to flow. However, I've ordered the Derwent brand too. I can't wait to receive it, as it sounds even better.

So I sketched my sunflower, and colored in the petals with a yellow pencil. I then used my water brush to spread the pigments anywhere I wanted them. The Inktense pencils work just like watercolor pencils.
I found two major differences, though. First the colors are much brighter than regular watercolor pencils, and a little goes a long way. Second, they dry like ink, which means, when they dry, you can't remove the color. So you can add as many layers as you want, your new washes won't remove the pigments of the previous ones.

I had a great time using my old toys. I can't believe it took me so long to get to know them better. I think I'll use this sketch and make a larger/ nicer version. I need to lay off the splattering a little too! All I did was rub my water brush on the Inktense pencil tip, and let gravity do its job.

Now if I could only take time, and learn how to take nice photos of my artwork...

Sunflower - 5x7" - Inktense pencils on watercolor paper


Go Back

4 Blog Posts