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Monthly review- Derwent Inktense watercolour pencils

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been putting Derwent’s Inktense watercolour pencils to the test with interesting results. As promised, here’s everything you need to know…

Product name: Derwent Inktense watercolour pencils (24 set tin)

Price: £18.99-£40.75

Rating: 4/5

About: A tin of 24 watercolour pencils which can be used with or without water.

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Having relied on the same brand of watercolour pencils for the past 9 years I was excited to try these and, I admit it, slightly sceptical that they would live up to their implied vibrancy…but I was pleasantly surprised!

Although it took me a little while to get used to the softness of the tips (more on this later) when I got stuck in I was delighted to see a vibrant drawing begin to emerge. The quality of these pencils are evident, and provide an intensity I personally find hard to achieve with other, ‘normal’ watercolour pencils.

What I like about these pencils is the control you get. They’re very versatile in the way that they offer the best of both worlds; if you want a softer, subtler effect this can be achieved by using light pressure, whilst if you want the promised ‘inktense’ effect this is achievable by layering and applying the right amount of pressure. The fact that the drawing may be left as it is, or diluted/smoothed over by applying water with a brush afterwards also demonstrates this versatility. I found I was happy with the effect I had achieved without feeling the need to add water.

However, as you can tell from the comments above, it would take someone who has at least some experience with watercolour pencils to understand about the amount of pressure you need to add, which is why these wouldn’t spring to mind when thinking of children or beginners. I feel these pencils are suited more to practicing artists, particularly as they’re quite expensive.

As I mentioned earlier, the tips of these pencils are very soft. Whilst watercolour pencils are often very soft in comparison to ‘normal’ coloured pencils, these seemed softer than the average. So, if like me you like to work with a very sharp tip you’ll need to sharpen these often and with a scalpel/thin craft knife. Due to the soft nature of the tips they’ll become ‘blunt’ quicker, particularly if you’re using them with the aim to produce that promised vibrancy.  This makes them less cost-effective so there’s a bit of a trade off: vibrancy or pencil life?

To conclude I’d say that these are a genuine pleasure to use, which will be picked up by artists who appreciate their materials. They’re something I would use for a special piece, or if material costs were included in a commission, otherwise, these are good to put on Christmas and birthday lists!

wherebuyThe most competitive prices seem to be on amazon, but these pencils are available in stores too. The Range stocks Derwent Inktense 24 tin (as well as 12) at £29.99, whilst Hobbycraft stocks them for £30 and are currently offering those who join the Hobbycraft club 15% off their first online order.

 

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Undiluted watercolour pencil drawing, Hanna-Mae Williams

 

 

 

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watercolour pencil drawing with ink background. Hana-Mae Williams

 

 

 

 

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Micro Review: An Illustrated Life by Danny Gregory

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Full title: An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers

Author: Danny Gregory

ISBN: 978-1600610868

Publisher: HOW books (US)

Price: From £8.29 – £18.78

About: A look inside the sketchbooks and lives of 50 creatives, chosen by author Danny Gregory, acting more as a curator of inspirational material than traditional ‘author’.

Why buy?:

♥ Ideal for visual-minded people (the very people often interested in the subject matter in the first place) It appeals wonderfully to its target audience. A visual table of contents is one example of the thought put into the layout/aesthetic of the book.

♥ The contents is international, giving the impression of dedication on the author’s part to unearth the creme de la creme of the art & design world. From Scotland to Sweden, Gregory reaches across the globe to compile his top 50.

♥ I can liken the contents to pinterest – You pick this book up looking for ‘creative inspiration’ and are met with a mass of results all in one place. From sketchbook pages, to photographs of work spaces, it’s all inside the pages of this book!

♥ It’s not style-biased. Often our own preferences see us gravitating towards a certain style; in Gregory’s book you’ll find no such thing! The book includes everything from traditional children’s book illustration, to digital drawings such as those by Barry Gritt, and even more detailed work with a more ‘fine arty’ feel.

 

Where can I get it?

Aside from searching your local library, the book can be purchased at a reasonable price on Amazon. The book was published in the USA, but after having a search around I found it quite easy to source as it was distributed in the UK. Click below to find out more:

‘An Illustrated Life’ on Amazon

‘An Illustrated Life’ on ebay

Quentin Blake exhibition review

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What: The Quentin Blake: Inside Stories exhibition

Where: National Museum Cardiff

When: Tues-Sun 10-4:45 until 20th November 

Admission: Free

About: A temporary exhibition showing the work of illustrator Quentin Blake, including optional activities, coinciding with Cardiff’s ‘Roald Dahl 100 Wales’ celebrations.

Why visit?

Although Quentin Blake is best known for his work illustrating Roald Dahl’s children’s books, what’s so wonderful about this exhibition is the fact that, whilst there’s certainly enough to keep children occupied (including a drawing/reading table, as well as questions around the walls to encourage engagement with the stories and drawings) there’s also a more ‘in-depth’ side, possibly more appealing to older children and adults, with written explanations accompanying each section, and best of all (in my opinion at least) the chance to see Blake’s artistic process.

There are two audio/video stations situated in the room showing the illustrator at work in his studio, with descriptions of how he goes about creating his images. As an illustrator I found this to be the most interesting part of the exhibition, as it allowed you to take a step into a successful illustrators studio and identify with what he was saying. You got to see not just refined, polished images in a book, but to delve into the nitty-gritty – the ‘before’, the reality with which so many art students will identify with. Perhaps the most refreshing thing to be said by Blake himself was that, despite his almost slap-dash style (bold, untidy lines, watercolour spilling out of said lines) he admits he actually has doubts in his ability at times just like all of us. I recommend all art students, from GCSE to degree level, to visit the exhibition and view this peek behind the scenes.

Another pleasant surprise was the inclusion of work illustrating areas of literature that you definitely wouldn’t associate with Quentin Blake’s quirky style. After being charmed by Blake’s Roald Dahl work, the exhibition progresses to contents of a more unexpected nature, for example Voltaire’s philosophical tale: Candide. The fact that Blake stays true to his distinct style, whilst presenting us with illustrations of a somewhat gruesome nature actually, in a peculiar and perverse way adds to the morbidity of the tale. The exhibition presents a holistic view of Blake’s work and life as an illustrator, and challenges initial thoughts and assumptions by  showing us this less talked about serious side. The part of the exhibition which I found to be most affecting was Blake’s illustrations accompanying Michael Rosen’s ‘Sad Book’ – telling the true tale of Rosen’s grief at the loss of his son. Blake captures the feelings of desolation and hopelessness perfectly, perhaps surprising to those who associate his work with tales of magic and fantasy.

The exhibition offers the opportunity to be as much or as little as you choose. From flitting around the relatively small gallery space browsing the illustrations, to spending hours discovering the stories behind the work and learning more about the illustrator, this exhibition will suit any time frame. In terms of souvenirs however, whilst the free entry may be kind on your wallet the merchandise is more than pocket money may cover. It would have been nice to have seen more illustrated postcards too, something which you can almost always rely on to accompany the exhibitions.

Extras:

♦See if you can spot the rogue BFG drawing that seems to have slipped into the ‘Danny the Champion of the World’ display case!

♦Check out the impressive and atmospheric copper engravings in the main gallery, by David Jones.

 

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