What do you think?

22 January, 2019. Scrolling through Instagram late this afternoon, I saw a couple of very painterly looking images and suddenly felt like playing around with my Caran d’Ache water-soluble crayons. Illustrated here is the same sketch, before and after activating the pigments with a water brush. As it happens, I rather like both versions for different reasons.

In this, the initial rough in of colors and values, I enjoy how unfinished it looks. The scribbled lines leave a lot for one’s imagination to fill in the blanks. It feels fresh.

After simply adding water and one or two additional touches of color, it’s always amazing to me how much more “solid” these Neocolor II sketches become. The colors are rich – which I also enjoy. And it’s not at all necessary to get lost in the details: Simplicity doesn’t mean one can’t create a convincing image.

So there you have it: one drawing, two finishes. I could have stopped at the rough and been perfectly happy. What do you think? Which version do you prefer?


10 November, 2018. Dinner. Drinks. Atmosphere. I really enjoy sitting in restaurants and bars, drawing the people around me. People are interesting, aren’t they?

You know what I mean, right? Faces, body language, expression.

It’s a little voyeuristic I know, using pen and paper to spy on my fellow diners.


So, I recently stumbled upon another sketchbook with paper I like. Made by Canson, ink and washes of color sit on top of the paper without bleeding through the page. The water-soluble pastels I’ve been drawing with recently seem to like the surface as much as I do.

I picked up two sketchbooks – they were on sale for half price at a local art store, so I figured “what the heck.” I’m working my way through the pages fairly quickly, and so went shopping for a couple more, only to discover no more on the shelf at the shop. No sign of them online either. And – frustratingly! – Canson informed me they’ve been discontinued. I’m waiting to hear back from Canson, to find out if the paper is available in sheets. Heck, I’ll make my own sketchbooks out of the stuff… I do it all the time with the other paper I really like to use, Strathmore Aquarius II.


Handmade marks

9 November, 2018. I’ve recently been experimenting with the water-soluble wax pastels made by Caran d’Ache. Fun and interesting as they are, I feel like they’re worth keeping around. I’ve been pushing them a bit further each time I get them out and in fact feel like I’m starting to overwork the washes (below). To my eye, the scribbled lines in the example above has greater energy and feels less static. It’s also visually richer because the layering is more visible.

Plus, I simply like it better when you can see the marks. When I say “overworked,” what I mean is that the marks have been smoothed out, and what pleases my eye more is evidence of the artist’s hand, the handmade mark.



5 November, 2018. In much the same way as when I introduced gouache to some of my students and fellow sketchers, I’ve had numerous questions about the Caran d’Ache Neocolor II water-soluble pastels I’ve been toying around with recently. This short video demonstrates a couple of things I’ve realized about working with this media. It is by no means a comprehensive approach, however. These pastels are entirely new to me and as I’m beginning to realize, they are a much richer drawing/painting/sketching tool than I initially gave credit for.


25 October, 2018. I’ve recently been experimenting with the possibilities of the water soluble pastels made by Caran d’Ache. The creamy consistency of the crayons are impressive, as is the water solubility: marks simply melt into intense washes of color with a drop or two of brushed water.

So what I’ve been doing is toying around with color compliments. First, I figure out how my colors are going to be distributed. I begin with a scribbled underpainting of the contrasting colors. Those colors are hit with a sloppy wash and brushed around to create generalized blobs of soft edged hues. You can see the contrasting colors peeking through from underneath.

I haven’t had much success attempting to add marks onto a still wet surface. The crayons don’t seem to want to transfer, which surprised me a little. So you have to allow the surface to completely dry. Once it has, the colors are a beautiful matte that take additional layers of marks very nicely.

In fact, working loosely over the dried surface results in some pigments seeming to lay down with even greater vibrance and intensity than on pure white paper.

A combination of brushed washes of color along with marks results in an interesting effect that is somewhat painterly and sketch-like. It seems like these tools are best suited for working with shapes and masses rather than fine detail. I’m good with that, of course, but it’s important to understand not only the limitations of a material but also the things it does well.

I’ve yet to try mixing medias but I’m confident that an underpainting of watercolor or ¬†gouache would be an effective foundation of color.