Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ripe (Plus Derwent Inktense Comments)

7/4/17 Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelles
I hope you’re not tired of seeing my tomato sketches because I’m still not tired of making them. Heirlooms have such beautiful colors and crazy shapes that I am (ahem) drawn to them every time I see them at the grocery store. This one was mostly green when I sketched it last Tuesday, but by the time I sketched it again from roughly the same angle two days later, the orange had deepened and spread to the other side.

My previous tomato sketches were done with traditional colored pencils. For a change, I made these two sketches with water-soluble colored pencils. The top one was done with Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelles, which are my favorite for urban sketching and make up the bulk of my daily-carry. Since I’ve been using them consistently for a few years, I’m used to the way they dissolve and how the hues intensify when activated with water, so I had no surprises. They behave predictably and reliably.

7/6/17 Derwent Inktense
The second tomato sketch was done with Derwent Inktense water-soluble pencils. Whenever I talk to people about watercolor pencils, the Inktense line inevitably comes up. I know they are very popular among sketchers, mixed media artists and even fiber artists because they are, as their name would imply, very intense in color. I’ve always felt that I should like them – who doesn’t love intense color? – yet I’ve had difficulty using them in the past. I sometimes reach for them when I need brilliant spots of color on a card I’m making or some such, but for urban sketching or even still lives, they don’t seem to work as well for me.

I hadn’t used them to sketch with in a long time, so I thought this glowing, intensely hued tomato would be a good opportunity to give Inktense another try. Since I’ve been using colored pencils of all kinds more intensively this year, I thought maybe my experience might help me appreciate their qualities more. But the aspects that I’ve had difficulty with in the past still seem to be holding true.

Inktense pencils: What you see on the end cap is not
always what you get.
For one thing, some hues are so intense and bright that they are downright garish, so if I’m going for realism, I have to work hard to tone them down, even with this bright tomato. But even more challenging is that many of the pigments change hues radically once water is applied. I made wet and dry sample swatches of all the pencils I chose, and many times I had to reject pencils that looked good when dry, but as soon as I applied water, they bloomed into unexpected – usually much more unnatural – hues. These issues are exacerbated by the annoying fact that the color on the pencil’s end cap often bears no resemblance to the color of the pencil’s pigment – either wet or dry.

As is true for any art material, if I used Derwent Inktense pencils consistently for a while, I would get to know the hues and remember how they change when wet, so I would no longer be surprised. But with all the other pencils I own, I don’t feel like working that hard to use Inktense. 

Of course, if I make a sketch in which realism is not the goal, then these pencils might be ideal. There’s a place for garish in everyone’s life, so I’m not tossing ‘em yet. 


  1. Love seeing the tomatoes! I thought the Inktense had lightfast problems, though I guess it's not a problem in a sketchbook. Your use of watercolor pencils is very inspiring too. I esp. liked your last drawing, very plesing to look at.

    1. Thank you -- glad you're not tired of the tomatoes yet! ;-) I think I've also heard that Inktense pencils are not all lightfast. It makes sense, since the line has so many bright colors (pinks, purples, magentas) that tend to have pigments that fade quickly.

  2. Glad you aren't tired of the tomatoes yet. I love the variations in the colors.


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