Friday, 23 July 2010

Product Review: Talens Van Gogh Coloured Pencils

Set of 60 Talens Van Gogh Pencils
An artist wrote to me yesterday commenting on how much he liked Talens Van Gogh coloured pencils but how difficult they were to find in the USA.  He'd found a supply at his local art store and this is what he had to say
I must say that now that I've found a set of the Talens Van Gogh pencils, I think I'm hooked. I could only get my hands on a set of 30 but so far they are wonderful. I need the rest of the colors and probably the watercolor pencils as well.

I found a set sitting on a shelf getting dusty at a relatively local art supply shop. They had about a half dozen. They haven't been selling which may be partially due to no open stock to replace them.

Potential US customers should scour their local art supply stores. They may have them. Also, ask about them. We need to increase demand or they won't come back

When I found a supply at my local store (a US national art supply chain and mail order), the manager said they didn't sell and they have reduced what they are carrying (they no longer carry Lyra). He thought it partially due to price, partially due to no marketing and partially due to so many of the books on CP only mentioning Prismacolor and sometimes Polychromos.
That last comment made me really sit up and think.  

How many people buy pencils on the basis of what other people recommend?  Quite a lot I should think.  Well if Prismacolor and Polychromos are the only brands which ever get mentioned by artists who write books, is it any wonder they tend to take the lead in all my polls about Which is the best brand of artist grade coloured pencil?

The thing is, I believe people say what they're using is good if they are happy with that brand - even if they've never ever tried any other brands!  However to my mind, being happy with what you've got is insufficient grounds for saying that this brand is the best

I've tried every brand of coloured pencils and I think there are pros and cons to all of them.  I really like my Van Goghs.  They're not as robust as the Polychromos and the pigment strength of the Caran d'Ache Luminance are doing a very good job of wooing me at the moment (one pencil at a time due to how expensive they are due to the exchange rate!).  However if it were a straight fight between my Van Goghs and Prismacolor Pencils, I know I'd choose the Van Goghs every time. 

I decided to resurrect my 2007 review of Talens Van Gogh Pencils and give it another airing on this blog!  So here it is - rejigged into the product review format I use on this blog.

ProductRoyal Talens - Van Gogh Pencils (Artists and watercolour)
Summary:   Excellent coloured pencils which are difficult to find but well worth the effort.  If you ever get a chance to try Van Gogh Coloured Pencils, you'll be very pleasantly surprised. I'm very happy to recommend them.
Technical Details: Coloured Pencils with guaranteed lightfastness.  They helped set the standard for lightfastness for coloured pencils having participated in the original tests.  Pigments held in mainly kaolin/wax provide good saturation with smooth application and good blendability
Who should buy these pencils?
  • coloured pencil artists
  • artists who enjoy dry media
  • all CP artists who are convinced that Prismacolors are the only brand worth having!
Who should not buy these pencils? 
  • devotees of the brush!
  • Talens participated in the very first ASTM test of lightfastness in coloured pencils and the Van Gogh pencils are guaranteed to be lightfast.
  • Excellent pigment strength; lots of scope for getting saturated colour quickly
  • Kaolin/wax base for artists coloured pencils (blue top) gives very smooth and workable application - creamy soft.
  • Watercolour pencils have kaolin base and are only slightly drier in application.
  • Range of colours is not as extensive as other makes - but the range available is a very good choice. I find I always want to use their colours a lot.
  • Blend easily
  • Excellent range of greens and blues - very useful for the plein air sketcher
  • the Van Gogh watercolour pencils (white top) are the best I've come across so far - very quick to dilute to a clean wash
  • Wood used for pencils is responsibly sourced
  • Provides a safety data sheet
Think Again?
  • Very soft pencils which sometimes get eaten rather fast by sharpeners
  • I'm in two minds about the white pencil, others do it better
  • Unfortunately the website does not provide a list of colours
  • European company and european bias to suppliers
Manufacturer / Distributor:  Royal Talens Sophialaan 46, 7311 PD, Apeldoorn, the Netherlands P.O. Box 4, 7300 AA, Apeldoorn, the Netherlands
Telephone +31 (0)55 - 5274700 Telefax +31 (0)55 - 5215286

  • You can find suppliers which sell Talens goods on the Talens website.
  • It's quite difficult to get hold of these pencils in the UK and virtually impossible to find them in the USA. Which is surprising given how good they are and that they are guaranteed lightfast. 
  • I'm very lucky in having Paintworks, the main importer to the UK located very close to me and hence I can buy colours from open stock for both artists and the watercolour products. (They also do mail order both for single colours and tins - you can find prices quoted in the 2010 drawing catalogue)

The website also has a tips section for using coloured pencils and even has an outline and then an approach for using their coloured pencils to draw Van Gogh's famous painting of his room in Arles! You can download it from here.

Note: For general information about lightfastness in coloured pencils and specific information about all reputable brands of lightfast pencils see various links on Coloured Pencils: Resources for Artists.


Yvonne said...

I switched from Prismacolor for one simple reason - lightfastness. I didn't want to produce work that would fade in a couple of years. My favorites are Faber Castell Polychromos and Lyra Rembrandt. They are oil based so there is no wax bloom, creamy and just a pleasure to use. The Poloychromos have a lightfastness rating right on the pencil so it really easy to choose the permanent colors. If you only use pencil with 3 stars your work is good for at least 100 years. Plus I can buy them buy the piece at a good art supply store or on the web.

I was fortunate to buy all the Lyra stock from a gallery that was discontinuing art supplies and even got the great wooden display so I am well stocked and find the two pencils work together seamlessly.

dougm said...

Just found out that even no longer carries Talen Van Gogh in open stock. Just sets. This is based on a Talens policy, apparently.

Making A Mark said...

That's a sad day - I won't be buying any more from open stock then and I'm certainly not boying a complete new set to get one colour.

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