“Ivy and Seedheads”: coloured pencil 14×10 inches

I have a particularly time-consuming pastel-pencil work on the go at the moment so most of my time is being spent on that. It will be rather different from my usual pastel work, although not too much so; detailed but not botanical.

Today’s image is a coloured pencil sketch of ivy with a few different seedheads. It was done on thin layout paper, for some reason now unknown to me…completed a year or so back. I have been contemplating whether I can make use of coloured pencils for my flowers…I have used them a few times before, mainly on smooth Bristol board…but am bothered about lightfastness. Recently I’ve been reading a lot of articles and reviews on coloured and pastel pencils—and for floral artists there are some severe difficulties if one is intending to sell the original work.

It seems that key colours such as delicate pinks, mauves and deep magentas, plus purples, are most often low-grade as far as lightfast properties are concerned. Two star, or even one, can be found for many of these in reputable-company sets. I have acquired a number of lightfast gradings for makes such as Derwent, Faber Castell, etc and they all have problems when it comes to pinks and purples.

The answer is two-fold; (a) for original work intended for sale, only use pastels/pencils of three star grade or higher, with maybe a two-star grade if desperately required; (b) use any and all the pencil colours, but make prints of the work and don’t sell the original.

There is a third answer; use watercolour instead, where the pigments are known to be reliable and suitably graded as lightfast. This does rather undermine the point of using coloured pencils for the entire painting, but sadly some of our more beautiful flowers simply have colours that manufacturers haven’t yet been able to reproduce with reliable pigments. There are, of course, watercolour pencils (and I used to have some)…but recent checks on the lightfastness of some of the top brands was a shocker. I thought they would be a lot better than they actually were. I read elsewhere that these problems seem to have stemmed from the fact that many illustrators, who once used all these pencils, have now defected to computer software…in days of old, the longevity of illustration artwork was not considered important—once digitally scanned or photographed, the artwork was laid aside. Subsequently the need for fully lightfast coloured pencils has not been thought about.

Well, that’s my final contribution from the European Union. Tonight at 11pm UK time, I revert back to my original—and much more favoured—status as an English person living in an independent country. Onward and upward, as we say.

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