Sunday, 26 September 2010

UPDATE: Coloured Pencils - Resources for Artists

I've recently been giving Coloured Pencils - Resources for Artists a major overhaul.  This post is by way of:
  • a major update on what's changed and 
  • a request for information about reviews which you've done (or seen) and which might be suitable for inclusion in this leading resource about coloured pencil art.
While I independently search for and include links to websites providing good quality information, I also welcome hearing from people who think they've got a link to a site which might be suitable for inclusion in this resource.  See bold sentences below for the type of information I'm looking for.

The major changes I've been making are listed below.  Click the COLOURED LINK IN CAPITALS to get to visit that section of the site.


This is now organised so that brands and news/reviews relating to each individual brand are grouped together.  (see also Updating Coloured Pencils which comments on websites of manufacturers)

If you've done a review of a individual brand of coloured pencils please let me know.  My preference given the new layout is one brand per review.

If you've done a lightfastness test of your coloured pencils and this is not listed please let me know.


This includes coloured pencil art societies across the world.  It also makes some of the links on the national society websites a bit more visible eg in relation to past exhibitions

If you have a coloured pencil art society - or local group - which is not listed please let me know.


I've reorganised all the tips and techniques into more sensible sections and in doing so have identified some gaps in information which I'm trying to fill.  At the same time I'm always keen to be able to include links to high quality information about instruction.

This is the new list of sections:

Please let me know if you've written a blog post or website article  or created a pdf free to download file which relate to any of these aspects - and which you would like to be considered for inclusion.

The last major part of the site relates to different subject areas

In each of these I identify the websites and blogs of leading artists in each field together with relevant books, workshops and online tutorials

If you have a tutorial which might be suitable for one of these sections please let me know.

and finally......

I'd very much like to thank the very many people who have given this site a "thumbs up" on Squidoo and/or linked to it on Facebook - BEFORE the facelift!  I'm very gratified to find so many people appreciate this site.  I hope you also like the new and improved version.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Your favourite coloured pencil - an update

551 people have now voted on the Making A Mark 2010 POLL: Which is the best brand of artist grade coloured pencil? on Coloured Pencils - Resources for Artist.  

Current votes show a quite dramatic change in the overall numbers when compared to the percentages as at 31st December 2009 - see Two new coloured pencil opinion polls for 2010 which has a chart for the previous poll.

When disaggregated into brands in 2010, it's very clear that Faber Castell Polychromos pencils are the leading brand of coloured pencils and have a clear and significant lead over Prismacolor Premier pencils. 

2010 POLL: Which is the best brand of artist grade coloured pencil?

Detailed results are as follows:
  • Faber Castell Polychromos - their percentage of the market shows a small increase (28.7% compared to 27.3% in 2009)
  • In 2009 I just offered Sanford Prismacolor as one option and this topped the poll at 29.4%.  However what was taken to be a clear lead attributable to the popularity of Prismacolor Pencils now appears illusory given the percentage who like the Art Stix.  Overall there is a slight drop ion aggregated market share.
    • 17.6% for Prismacolor Premier in 2010
    • 1.5% for Premier Lightfast
    • 8.5% for Prismacolor Art Stix
    • 0.7@ for Sanford Prismacolor Verithin
  • Caran d'Ache retains overall market share - however it is now split across two brands
    • Caran d'Ache Pablo have dropped from 10.4% to 6.4% - a drop of 4%. 
    • However Caran d'Ache Luminance (an accredited lightfast range) - which were not offered as an option in the last poll - now count for 3.8%
  • Derwent was the only make in the previous poll where I identified the individual brands.  Overall to date Derwent has experienced a drop of 2.5%.  Changes to date are as follows:
    • 8.7% in 2010 for Derwent Artists - compared to 9.3%
    • 9.8% for Derwent Coloursoft - compared to 11.2%
    • 4.5% Derwent Studio - compared to zero
    • zero for Derwent Signature - compared to 2%
  • Lyra Rembrandt has reduced from 7.2% to 4.9% in 2010.
  • Royal Talens Van Gogh (an accredited lightfast range) has increased from 2% to 2.4% in 2010
  • Blick Studio Artists is a newcomer to my poll and takes  2.4%
I'm trying to work out what the reasons for the changes might be.  Preliminary guesses are as follows:

Technical sampling issues
  • small changes are more than likely accounted for by sample size
  • Last time the narrower range of options on offer probably meant people opted for whatever was the nearest option.  
  • Similarly the changes in pencil brands alone will account for some of the changes
  • Prismacolor seems to have stopped marketing its lightfast range (it's nowhere to be seen on its website) - which is odd given the relative success that Carann d'Ache have had in marketing the Luminance range which is not cheap!
  • The initial enthusiasm for Coloursoft is probably reflected more in the older poll and this one probably represents better the long-run demand level
  • I have an impression - and that's all it is - that American artists now experiment more with brands which are not Prismacolor.  
  • Overall, I'm guessing, but I think the more people order online the more likely they are to try brands which are not stocked in their local art shop
  • The sterling exchange rate is having a significant impact on the cost of some pencils for UK artists.
  • The exchange rate also means some products look better value to USA artists
    All suggestions are welcome as to any other possible explanations.

    I'll repeat this analysis after the end of the year and start a new poll for 2011.

    You can find out more about the different brands of artist grade coloured pencils on  Coloured Pencils - Resources for Artist - where you will also find a poll for watercolour pencils!

    Sunday, 19 September 2010

    Product review: Marc Dalassio's Vermillion Test

    Shop selling Sindoor (Vermilion) in Pushkar, Rajasthan
    I've only recently discovered Marc Dalessio did a colour test of different paints in relation to vermilion.  You can read about it here Color test: Vermilion and also see the colour charts which he created as a result.

    The purpose of the test was to find a red to use in portraits.  I've added in the relevant link to the paint in the quote from the post below
    For me the best of the hand-ground paints was Robert Doak’s vermilion, which I believe is either cut with cadmium if not entirely cadmium-based. That said it is extremely similar to the old Zecchi cadmium vermilion they stopped selling 8 years ago (which we all remember fondly). 
    Marc Dalassio

    You can find our more about Robert Doak specialised art materials and paints on his website - Robert Doak Colors.  He also does concentrated liquid watercolors which, according to the website, are brilliant and lightfast colors.

    Thursday, 16 September 2010

    Daniel Smith's Watercolor 66 Try-It Color Sheet

    Sometimes a manufacturer comes up with a new idea for how artists can try out their products which just make you nod your head and say "Yes!"

    This is one of those - and it comes to you courtesy of DANIEL SMITH.  This Try-It Sheet contains 66 paint-able "dots" of pure DANIEL SMITH Watercolor.

    I particularly like the fact that each colour is listed with information about:
    • its ASTM Lightfastness rating 
    • whether it is staining or non-staining
    • information about the extent to which it granulates
    • whether it is transparent, semi transparent/opaque or opaque
    You can either use the sheet as a reference for when you are choosing which watercolour paints you want to use from the DANIEL SMITH watercolor palette.  Or you can just wet the dot with a brush and try out the paint.  Or both!

    I've no idea how long this Try-It Sheet has been around, but I think Daniel Smith has just ramped up the "information for watercolour artists" stakes - in a very good way.

    Thanks to Billie Crain on Facebook for drawing this to my attention.


    DANIEL SMITH sent me a message to (1) thank me for this blog post and (2) tell me that they have posted two useful videos relating to this product on YouTube - so here they are:

    Saturday, 11 September 2010

    Techie: Bloglines to close down 1st October

    My first ever feedreader was Bloglines - and I loved it.  However over time I gradually switched my feeds to Google Reader - and then found that I also picked up on people's blog posts increasingly via Blogger Dashboard, Facebook and Twitter.

    I guess a few other people must have been doing likewise as it's been announced that Bloglines is to close on 1st October.  Bloglines is owned by and you can find their explanation for their decision here - Bloglines Update
    A little perspective: when we originally acquired Bloglines in 2005, RSS was in its infancy. The concept of “push” versus “search” around information consumption had become very real, and we were bullish about the opportunity Bloglines presented for our users. 
Flash forward to 2010. The Internet has undergone a major evolution. The real-time information RSS was so astute at delivering (primarily, blog feeds) is now gained through conversations, and consuming this information has become a social experience. As Steve Gillmor pointed out in TechCrunch last year , being locked in an RSS reader makes less and less sense to people as Twitter and Facebook dominate real-time information flow. Today RSS is the enabling technology – the infrastructure, the delivery system. RSS is a means to an end, not a consumer experience in and of itself. As a result, RSS aggregator usage has slowed significantly, and Bloglines isn’t the only service to feel the impact. The writing is on the wall.

    There is a a three-week period to export feeds to another service – more detail and instructions can be found on the Bloglines website.

    I've just moved all my subscriptions from Bloglines to a Google Reader and it took about two minutes - easypeasy! :)

    It's worth noting that the import/export tab for Google Reader is a tab within the Google Reader Settings tab rather than a line in the menu as it is with Bloglines. 

    Wednesday, 8 September 2010

    Review: Paint My Photo

    This is an initial overview of a new site called Paint My Photo - for those interested in painting from photos who also want to be able to access reference photos taken by other people to do this.
    A number of art forums have created photographic resources for their members - notably Wet Canvas's Reference Image Library (although this has been inaccessible for long periods on occasion).

    A new site has started up on Ning  - apparently independently of any major corporate interests which is interesting of itself - and it's all about painting from photos

    Not only that but it's set up deliberately to create a pool of photos for other people to use - and hence is called Paint My Photo  (subtitle - Where photographers and artists meet).  The intention is that reference photos supplied by photographers are copyright free and hence can be used by artists to produce art which they can sell without a fee to the photographer.

    Paint My Photo can be found at

    The site seems to have been set up earlier this year and this is how it describes itself.
    What's The Idea?

    Very Simple, there are lots of great Photographers out there in internet land, and there are lots of Artists of all abilities who would like to paint from photographs. The problem is that Copyright law prevents this, although many photographers would love to inspire other Artists (Yes I do agree photography is an Art, I chose the terms 'Artists' and 'Photographers' for clarity). So-If you have posted photographs here, it is because you are happy to allow derivative works to be created. You still own the copyright of your photos of course. The Artist can, if the photographer has selected that option on joining, contact the Photographer to enable them to see the work. The Artist can sell their work as normal, if the photographer wants 'first refusal' on the Artwork, that should be by private arrangement and has nothing to do with 'Paint My Photo'. Artists can place links to where there work can be purchased. Photographers can place links to where other work and prints can be purchased. Anyone spamming and not following the spirit of the site will be warned and advised before any action taken.

    We are a site for natural media only, no digital artwork, thanks for sticking to this rule.
    Features of 'Paint My Photo'

    Here are some of the features I could pick out:
    • over 7,000 photos already loaded onto the site.  However it's a little puzzling as the reference photos are mixed up with the digital images of the artwork created as a result so it's unclear how many photos there are altogether
    • 442 members to date - suggesting it's got enough to keep going
    • 22 videos loaded - usually by reference to a link to YouTube where people have chosen to share their videos
    • a monthly challenge - which tends to be a very popular feature on many of the forums targeting leisure artists.  
    • a forum - of the conventional sort with categories and threads.  This isn't as well advanced as I'd expect given the number of members. Thereagain a lot of interaction takes place by way of comments on individual photos and paintings.
    • Leader Boards - for content, members, photos and videos -  which allow people to see what's most popular at any given time - which is a good idea (but does I find tend to reinforce the popularity of 'early adopters')
    • a group for painting from photos.  Now as a Ning Moderator myself I'd personally have preferred to have set this up as a category within the Forum.  This would then allow people to start threads for their individual artwork - just like you get over at Wet Canvas.  Using the group function means that it's going to be very difficult to see anything other than what got posted today and people's work will get "lost" (as in difficult to retrieve) over time unless you're looking at that person's individual page.
    •  a very fascinating tool called a drawing grid - which looks amazing but I can't work out how it works!
    The one thing which struck me is that the position on copyright would benefit from a much clearer and more prominent explanation - maybe along the line of a FAQs document about what people can and cannot do with the photos they use.  From my perspective, I'd put an emphasis on people learning about good practice as well as what they can do when using other people's photos.

    It's also possible with Ning to get prospective members to look at something before people sign up and then ask when they agree to abide 'by the rules' when they join.  However from what I can see there's actually only one rule and that's 'don't create digital art'!

    What's good is that you can have a good look at the site before joining - and if this is something which interests you that's what I suggest you do.

    I'm not a member and would be interested to know how the people who are members find it.
    • What does it do well? 
    • Is it useful?
    • Is it likely to be a site that you'll use a lot?
    • What could it do better?
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