Saturday, May 12, 2007

Derwent Tinted Charcoal Pencils

At the end of March Derwent announced a new product - Derwent Tinted Charcoal. These are wood encased pencils (no mess!) which contain a mix of charcoal and small amounts of pigment and clay. It appears to be a charcoal version of the Graphitint pencil.

Charcoal is a classic drawing medium and is capable of being used to produce the most sensitive drawings due to the scope it offers to vary the line and weight of the mark being made. It can also be used to cover large areas quickly - although personally I think the best way of doing this is with charcoal which is not encased.

Technical details
Derwent Tinted Charcoal is produced in 21 fabulous tints to complement the three traditional charcoal shades of light, medium and dark. It is available individually, in assorted tins of 12 and 24 and in trial packs of six. (Derwent News)
As with normal charcoal, Derwent assures that unwanted colour can be lifted out quickly with a kneadable putty eraser or plastic eraser. It also indicates that the pencil’s natural water solubility can be used to create delicate wash effects.

This new product has not made it into the the Derwent website product list as yet. The charcoal pencils listed don't have tints. The Artifolk website is the only place where I can find detailed information about this new product eg which tint comes in which pack and access to the formal Derwent pdf product information file about this product which, for some reason is also not available on Derwent's own website although I can't fathom why on earth not. Derwent usually provides excellent access to product information on its website.

Artifolk are listing the product for purchase on-line and describe the colours available as follows:

Available here in sets containing the following colours:

6 Pencil Blister Pack
Burnt Orange TC02, Lavender TC07, Ocean Deep TC12, Forest Pine TC14, Peat TC18, Natural TC20.

12 Tin
Sand TC01, Glowing Embers TC04, Lavender TC07, Mountain Blue TC11, Ocean Deep TC12, Green Moss TC15, Dark Moss TC16, Driftwood TC17, Peat TC18, Dark, Natural TC20, White TC21.

24 Tin
All shades including original light, medium and dark pencils

72 Tub
4 each of Sand TC01, Glowing Embers TC04, Lavender TC07, Mountain Blue TC11, Green Moss TC15, Dark Moss TC16, Driftwood TC17, Natural TC20, White TC21. Plus 3 each of Sunset Pink TC03, Heather Mist TC05, Burnt Embers TC06, Thistle TC08, Bilberry TC09, Elderberry TC10, Ocean Deep TC12, Slate TC13, Forest Pine TC14, Peat TC18, Burnt Earth TC19.
You can refer to the previous link to the pdf file to see the colours of the tints and artwork which has used the new product. People who have got the Graphitints will see some similarity in shades.

What's not clear as yet is how lightfast the new pencils are. Although charcoal can be fixed, the extent to which a tint stays will depend on the nature of the pigment used. Derwent has been good about providing lightfast information in the recent past so I think we can probably expect that this omission will be remedied soon.

Demonstrators/Artist involvement
Artwork for marketing purposes has been produced by Trudy Friend, Fiona Peart, David Cook, Angela Gaughan, Carol Gray and Graham Brace. Speaking personally I'd very much prefer to see artwork for new product lines demonstrate its versatility with different approaches to creating artwork rather than different subjects using a very similar detailed approach. With the exception of Graham, I'm not very familiar with the artists whose artwork is used in the marketing. I would have really appreciated seeing an artist of renown with a reputation for using charcoal in their artwork trying it out - a charcoal equivalent of Graham would have been a very nice addition.

For those who are UKCPS members, there's been an interesting discussion about the properties of this new product on the UKCPS's Yahoo Group. Graham Brace gives his views as one of the original testers. However his views in brief, plus those of the other artists demonstrating the use these pencils in the marketing leaflet, are set out in the pdf file.

Supplies and distribution
Suppliers online seem to be a bit sparse at the moment. Artifolk are offering the sets of pencils (6/12/24/72 pencils) and individual pencils for £1.39 (with the fifth free for every four bought - making the overall price £1.11). Lawrence Mathews is supplying individual pencils online for all 24 shades for £1.18 (plus a minimum delivery charge of £1.75) for those wanting to try the product before deciding whether to buy a set. However you'd need to refer to the Derwent pdf file available on the Artifolk site for the tints quoted!

Derwent products typically get announced in the UK first and distribition follows elsewhere as the product becomes established. However distribution does appear to me to be the weak link in the chain between producer and customer and I must confess I'm totally mystified by Derwent's marketing and distribution strategy at times. Although Derwent has been innovative with introducing new products, speaking as a veteran art shop visitor I very rarely see their new products in art shops and moreover often only see them as sets to purchase online. This for me will always make a product a one-time only purchase rather than one likely to generate repeat sales. It's therefore very good to see both the two websites identified offering these pencils as individual tints.

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  1. Its always interesting to see and test new product lines from Derwent. Unfortunately I have to wait forever before they come to Canada usually. I end up buying them through a US supplier in the end.

    Coloured charcoal...I'm not sure about this concept yet. I guess I'm a traditionalist in some senses still and like charcoal to stay black.

  2. Derwent seem to have been producing a quite a few new lines recently: graphitint, inktense, etc. Have you tried this new charcoal yourself?

  3. Dave - no, I've not seen any so far. I only became aware of it because Graham was commenting on it in the UKCPS group on Yahoo.

    In London the art shops which stock Derwent just seem to stick to the older (and I assume better selling) lines. Very little sign of any of the new products - and I have asked at a number of them now........

    As for whether I'll get any - well I got the Graphitint and decided they were interesting but unlikely to be something I'd use a lot of. I've got one Ink Tense pencil - and was given that in New Mexico!

    I'm with Jeanette I think - a bit of a trad person when it comes to charcoal. Could be something to do with being the wrong side of 50 I guess - but I think it's more likely that I just prefer the trad. approach of charcoal and red and white chalk. If it's good enough for Da Vinci et al then I think it's good enough for me! After all, it's what you do with the art materials that really matters.

    I guess we all have some things that we're passionate about and collect lots of examples of. With me it's pastels, abrasive surfaces, art quality coloured paper, mechanical pencils, eraser sticks and pens which work well for pen and ink drawing. I really don't think I've got any scope to add in more items to the list!

  4. Interesting but like Jeannette, we in the US seem to get the Derwent products a long time after they come to surface. But they might be an option for me as I don't use charcoal or pastel because of the "messy" factor.

    Katherine you might want to take a look at the new class by Armin. Quite a lot going on in there. Almost like a therapy session. Very interesting.

  5. I am eager to try the inktense, graphitint and the new charcoal you post about. For some reason, these products sound very interesting.
    Thanks for bringing them up.
    I'll give a review if and when I pull the trigger on this.

  6. I will personally be in the Cumberland Pencil Museum next week, (on holiday)so I may get the chance to find out more about the tinted charcoal pencils, and why they are so difficult to find. However, the SAA (Society of All Artists) also sells them, they are in the new catalogue; non-members can still use the shop online but they don't get free postage.

  7. Thanks Chris - if you can drop back here and post and information I'm sure we'd all appreciate that.

  8. The tinted charcoal pencils are now available in Belgium. I found them thanks to my favourite art supplier in Brussels. Indeed, the pencils are very easy to use and they are very soft. It seems like using soft pastels. I employ them to add details or to do an entire drawing. The techniques I already used are listed on my welblog (see the "test bed" category). I also made a colour range if you want to have a better idea of all the colours.


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