Thursday, March 02, 2006

Coloured Pencils: Using Zest-It solvent

My great friend and fellow artist Kathy Ellis has produced a step by step lesson on how to use solvent - specifically Zest-it - with coloured pencils. It's just been published in the new March edition of Ann Kullberg's e-zine "From My Perspective" which can be accessed on subscription via Ann's website - see below.

Solvent basically makes getting good coloured pencil coverage on paper much quicker and easier than the endless layering technique which a lot of people do with coloured pencils. Why spend hours and hours doing 20 layers to get a nice solid colour when you can do a few and then use solvent to spread the wax or oil based pencils around the page in much the same way as watercolour. Or so the reasoning goes.

On the subject of layering - I'm just not that methodical and I've personally never worked out how many layers I do as I don't work in a section by section way. I work all over at the same time and pick up and put down pencils as I go............

Anyway, knowing about the impact of solvent and knowing how to do this are, of course, two completely different things. Kathy has been using Zest-It as a solvent for some time now but this is the first time I've seen exactly what she does - with pictures for all the different stages. The great advantage of Zest-It is that it is a natural citrus based solvent which is completely non-toxic. And the smell of oranges is great too! I have my bottle of Zest-It at the ready - and I'm ready to go!

A link to Ann's Kullberg's website which provides the access to her e-zine is now located in the coloured pencil resources section of side column. Besides the e-zine it also provides great advice and other resources for those interested in drawing and painting using coloured pencil. It also includes galleries of work done by artists using coloured pencils.

The Zest-it site also provides a link to the article which Ann Swan did for the UKCPS - in which she also explains how she uses Zest-It for her very precise and beautiful botanical drawings. I've also added a link into Ann Swan's website in the artists section of the side column.

You can see Kathy's work at - she does absolutely amazing dog portrait paintings as well as simply stunning still life paintings with coloured pencil. One to watch in more than ways than one - especially if you live in New England!

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  1. I can't access Ann's website! I'd love to see more about the process you describe. I wonder if Zest-It, or its analogue, is sold here in the US. Kathy Ellis's drawings are so intensely worked, aren't they? While they are lovely, I prefer seeing some of the process in the final piece. I think your work, Katherine, has a freshness and robustness and immediacy that is rare in colored pencil work.

  2. I thought I'd fixed that problem! I noticed it yesterday when I was writing the post! She's a portrait artist and has a page (Kullberg) on

    Anyway - the website you need to access her CP resources info is
    There is a link in the Coloured Pencils resources section.

    I was trying to separate out the artist from the art teacher / resource source.

  3. And being so absorbed in getting the links right I forgot to say thank you for the comments on my work [DUH!!!].

    Thank you - I'm going to remember that one!

    I'll pass your comment on to Kathy as well as she always likes to get feedback about her work

  4. Kathy, I don't mean to say that one way or the other is better, just to say that I, personally, like to see process, signs of searching, eruptions of energy. It is the old Ingres/Gericault dichotomy, I think. You belong firmly in the Ingres camp and you are to be congratulated for your fine work.

  5. please, please, please! These citrus based solvents are TOXIC! They contain D-Limonene, a known carcinogen, among other things, and I had one that contained alcohol as well start eating into my plastic bone folder! D-Limonene is a natural substance, just like hydrocarbons are; its all advertising stuff and nonsense! The products are not safe and they are not ecologically or environmentally friendly. Google them and read the manufacturing statements.

  6. This is what Wikipedia has to say on the topic of Limonene - and while it may not be the best source it does tend to be more accurate on the scientific topics

    "Although high doses have been shown to cause renal cancer in male rats,[14] limonene is considered by some researchers to be a potential chemopreventive agent [15] with value as a dietary anti-cancer tool in humans.[16] There is no evidence for carcinogenicity or genotoxicity in humans. The IARC classifies D-limonene as a Group 3 carcinogen: not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans.[13].[17]
    No information is available on the health effects of inhalation exposure to D-limonene in humans,[dubious – discuss] and no long-term inhalation studies have been conducted in laboratory animals"

    This is the link to the statement as to what Group 3 carcinogems means

    This is the link to the US Environmental Protection Agency's assessment of D-Limonene

    I'd appreciate in future if anybody making alarming statements about products would also produce the URLs which point to the evidence. Googling the name of the chemical did NOT produce the results predicted by the person leaving the last comment.


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