Although I adore watercolours, and enjoy the give-and-take partnership between me and my medium when I’m using them, sometimes I want a medium that I can order around. That I can say “Sit, Stay!” to it, and know that it’s not going to go romping around the paper, making indiscriminate friends with other colours and having surprising interactions with puddles lurking invisibly on the page. That’s when I get out my coloured pencils.
I was never a real fan of coloured pencils when I was young because I couldn’t afford good ones. But somewhere back in the mists of time, I discovered Prismacolors, and started buying them one by one in open stock, and had amassed a rag-tag collection. I used them to hand-colour my prints of my pen-and-ink work when someone wanted a colour version. When my husband-to-be bought me a glorious, 120-pencil set, the biggest box Prismacolor made, I knew for sure I’d found a keeper (the man, I mean, but yes, the pencils too). I spent two whole days sharpening them and putting them in chromatic order. I set them up in their box where I could look at them, and smell them, and touch them, and admire them in all their rainbow beauty. I used them sometimes as an addition to my watercolours, sometimes to colour my pen-and-ink work, and sometimes by themselves. I still use Prismacolors, but have added Derwent’s Coloursoft pencils to my favourites, especially when I want to do a lot of blending.
Coloured pencis are a slow medium. It takes time to build up the colour blends, a lot of time. It’s hard on the hands and the wrist, so I don’t work for many hours at a time. But the result is worth it. You can use them in a sketchy way, that has a fresh, child-like feel, or in a soft way, that looks kind of dream-like, or you can build up layers and burnish them until it’s hard to tell from an oil or acrylic painting if seen behind glass or in a computer image.
Here are some of my favourites: