lt is always fun to try new pencils, so l was very excited to try out these from Artnfly. They come in a box of 48 colors for a very affordable price. These are an oil based pencil.
You will need something to store them in if you buy these as the box simply doesn’t work as storage. You can’t see the colors, just the points as you look into the box. So l had to tip them all out to see the colors and they are so fiddly to put back into the box that l just didn’t bother! It is a minor niggle as you can buy a case or roll, but l do like to be able to see the colors.
Talking of the colors, for me this is the best thing about these pencils, they have some really unusual but useful ones in the set. Colors that may make it worth adding these to other sets you own. Colors are numbered not named (l personally don’t mind either way as long as l can identify a color) from 1-48. Oddly the numerical order does not follow any color pattern, so if you lay them out in numerical order the colors are totally random.
The set contains a beautiful aqua blue and a more teal blue, and also a gorgeous raisin color, colors that don’t usually appear in many ranges.
The colors seem to contain plenty of pigment and are quite vibrant. They are very soft and strangely, although they say oil based, they feel very waxy. For me this was a problem, l found them very difficult to layer and blend. Eventually l tried odorless mineral spirits (which l don’t really use anymore) and this did the trick. The colors blended and l finally got rid of the annoying white dots. They remind me very much of working with Prismacolors.
I wondered how they would sharpen, because as you see in my photo the wood case appears to be joined, but l had no trouble at all sharpening them in my Carl Angel 5. The core is very soft so the points did wear down quickly (very like Prismacolor). And l had to use my Polychromos to add all the fine detail as l simply couldn’t get it with such a soft pencil. This is not particularly unusual for me, l use Polychromos to get fine detail with Caran D’ache Luminance and Holbeins too.
The colors are not lightfast tested which may be an issue if you want to sell your work. Again l want to remind people that not light fast tested means just that, we simply don’t know, they may or may not be lightfast to varying degrees. This always comes up as an issue with more affordable brands and l think it is good to remember at this point that you are getting 48 pencils for around the same price that you would pay for 4 Luminance pencils. Lightfast testing would push up the cost of pencils and not everyone has the budget for top end pencils.
Coming in a cardboard box with numbers not names are also things that keep costs down.
For me l find it very hard when reviewing the more affordable brands because l am used to working with the best three brands in the world and it simply isn’t fair to expect brands that may be a tenth of the price to perform at the same level. What l can say is that you can get a good result with these pencils (if you have a few pencils with a harder lead for fine detail), it just takes a bit more work and some odorless mineral spirits!
l don’t know about you, but if l have spent a lot of money on an expensive pencil, l want to use every last bit of it!
But there comes a point in a pencil’s life when it gets awkward to work with, and worse still it is too small for my beloved Carl Angel 5 sharpener. So l wanted to share with you what l use to get every last precious millimeter l can from my much loved pencils.
lf you haven’t tried pencil extenders yet, you really should! They are inexpensive and save you so much money in the end because you get to use every last bit of pencil. (I still have some l can use on the longest one in that photo!).
Up until this week l have been using Derwent pencil extenders and they were ok. But l got some Artnfly extenders to try and l have to tell you l absolutely love these.
Firstly, you get 5 instead of a skimpy 2, but, and this is the most important thing, these grip the pencil so much better than my Derwent ones. Not once have l had to retighten them after putting them on, they held fast even when sharpening.
They fit all my brands of pencil EXCEPT my Caran D’ache Luminance (which the Derwent extender will take). So l have tried them on Faber Castell Polychromos and Caran D’ache Pablo’s and Supracolor and Holbeins and Prismacolors.
My Derwent ones have to be constantly retightened and have an annoying habit of working loose when you want to sharpen them. These grip the pencil fast and l can sharpen right down until the sharpener touches the grip of the extender.
I won’t be without these in future that is certain.
But of course once a pencil has to go into an extender it won’t fit my amazing Carl Angel 5 sharpener (if you want to read about that l will put the link at the bottom of this post).
I can’t tell you how many hand held sharpeners l have tried. Some are amazing, like the Faber Castell one. But, like the Faber Castell one, last me a month or two at most before the only thing that can be done with them is to throw them away. This is expensive and horribly wasteful.
l finally found the Alvin Brass Bullet.
Now the Alvin Brass Bullet feels like a quality sharpener. It is a heavy little thing, beautiful to hold. Made in Germany. It puts beautiful points on all the brands of pencil l use. And best of all you can replace the blades. A blade on one of these usually lasts me several months (and l do a lot of sharpening). You need to make sure you have a little jewelers screwdriver to hand when you want to replace a blade, but it is very easy to do.
Replacement blades are readily available on Amazon and very affordable. So not only do you save money, you save the environment too. No more plastic waste. Now that has to be a good thing.
Six days! Six days l spent drawing a piece l am not happy with! I have wanted to draw a toucan for such a long time, and now that l have, l don’t like it!
I suppose l wanted to share with you the simple truth that not every piece we draw works out even close to what we were hoping for. I know sometimes we look at other artists work (especially on social media) and assume every piece they do works out well. I am sure l am not alone in having pieces that don’t work though. I am happy with myself for finishing it, something l really try hard to do. And l made myself finish it properly, l didn’t rush.
But l learned some things here. I really hate working with black! Even though l layered other colors with it so that it wasn’t flat black, l still hated it! It makes me feel miserable. I mean, l knew before this piece that l don’t enjoy working with dark colors, but l thought there were enough other colors in this piece for it to be ok. Turns out that there weren’t!
l had all kinds of issues with this piece. I can’t stop it looking cartoonish. Is that just because toucans do look a bit cartoonish? It won’t pop off the paper and l am not sure why! And l had huge problems with black pencil dust muddying up the other colors! It didn’t matter how much l brushed and erased, or that l kept Glassene under my hand, that black got everywhere! Except where l wanted it! It kept disappearing from the birds body!
l think on reflection l should have made the green leaves much more green than they were in the photo. The only bit that worked quite well for me were the stringy bits on the branch, which turned out better than expected.
So l got myself quite low over this piece. I start to feel that l just don’t make any progress. That l will never be as good as l want to be. I am not trying to be the best in the world (which is just as well as that is an unattainable goal for anyone), just the best that l can be (which is also unattainable really as we can always be just a little better!), and l felt like l had gone a few steps backwards with this piece.
l just wanted to share that with you because not everyone thinks every piece they do is awesome. It is normal to feel not good enough sometimes. It is normal to have pieces that don’t work out so well. It is ok to say this wasn’t as good as it should have been. It is normal to lose your confidence at times.
The important thing is not to give up. Finish that piece however hard it is. Learn something from it. Even if all you learn is to pick your subjects more wisely or that you shouldn’t work with black!
Then pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start on a brand new piece! That is what l am doing. Back to my favorite subjects for a little while to get my confidence back!
And l will be back very soon with some new pencils l am testing out, which is always exciting. So watch this space! And keep drawing, even if it isn’t always quite what you wish it to be.
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