Sunday, 25 March 2012

NEW PRODUCT: Caran d'Ache hard dry pastels and pencils

This is to let people know that the Swiss company Caran d'Ache will be releasing a new line of hard and dry pastel sticks and pastel pencils in April in 2012.

Caran d'ache hard pastel pencils
© Astrid Volquardsen
German pastel artist Astrid Volquardsen (Astrid Volquardsen pastellbilder 'Malerin des Lichts' ) has been in touch to tell me about them and to highlight the fact that she has two posts on her blog which relate to the new line
Last year I was asked to test some prototypes and from this a very nice working relationship has evolved and I was able to see the production site in Geneva and wrote a report about this on my blog A visit at Caran d’Ache / Pastel Pencils . The company was very much interested in the opinion of pastel artists all over the world and to create a line which meets the needs of pastel artists.
She has now written a review of the NEW Caran d'Ache Pastels which highlights why pastel artists might be interested in them - see Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils and Pastel Cubes.  In it she demonstrates how they work on a variety of different papers as well as identifying the characteristics which she really likes.

Astrid told me that she usually works with Sennelier; Unison, Terry Ludwig and was very surprised by the quality of these new hard pastels from Caran d'ache.  She's now convinced they're a worthwhile addition to our collection of pastel supplies.

You can also see a video of somebody working with the hatrd pastels and pencils on the Caran d'Ache website - click "Pastel - Preview"
The cubes and pencils are being released in April 2012 and can be obtained in
  • Germany: via the website or at various branches of boesner
I'm adding links into my resource site Pastels - Resources for Artists - and will be looking for them in the art supplies shops when they are introduced.  Now you know to look out for them too!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Derwent Carry-All (product review)

This is a preliminary review of the NEW Derwent Carry-All which I have yet to take out with me.  This review relates to what it comprises, how it's made and what I can and cannot get it in it.

Derwent Carry-All
(left) front view with shoulder strap attached
(right) opened up showing web pocket for accessories and pencils in a "leaf"; 
space for sketchbook is underneath the pencil leaves
(note: it doesn't come with any art materials - it's just a very big empty pencil case on a strap)

I think the Carry-All has distinct potential but for me it's a "near miss".  I'm awarding it a B+ for a good effort but could do better. 

The reason why?  Two reasons
  • I'm confused as to who it is for
  • My personal preferences for what I need - I think I would have been tempted to use it an awful lot more - and hence liked it a lot more - if it had just been 25mm taller.  I'll explain why.
I think the dimensions for this carry-all probably started with 'the pencil'. In that context it’s size makes complete sense as it’s well set-up for carrying pencils and I can imagine it will be a very useful bit of kit for those attending classes and workshops.

However if you started from the perspective of who else might want to use it then I think Derwent might well have given some more thought to the size.  It’s not big enough to take an A4 sketchbook or most panoramic sketchbooks so one’s limited to carrying an A5 size sketchbook or a smaller Moleskine sketchbook.

The size aspect is what’s going to limit my use of this holdall.  I was ever so disappointed as I tried every which way to get my A4 sketchbook into it.  That's because if I'm using a smaller sketchbook I then also downsize how many pencils I carry around with me.  I can get a small sketchbook and mini pencil wrap in my handbag.  (see Making a Mark Reviews: Product Review: Derwent Pocket Pencil Wrap 24 May 2010)

Here's the breakdown of what I found.  I'll also report back once I've used it 'in the field'.  I'll also be asking Derwent about the size issue as the Carrry-All I have is nothing like the dimensions on their website.

Product: Derwent Carry-All
Summary Review: It's a well-made rather large pencil holdall on a strap.  I find this product promising but confusing. I’m not clear who the target consumer of the carry-all.
  • Storage emphasis: It’s great for people who want a good way of keeping their pencils and other bits of kit neat and tidy and all in one place at home.
  • Mobile with pencils: It’s great for those who just want to carry a lot of pencils and a bit of extra kit around from A to B without lugging a great big pencil box or tin around. However if that’s all they want to do then I’m puzzled as to why the Derwent pencil wraps - which take 30 pencils each - would not work better?
  • Sketching: HOWEVER It’s undersized for the serious sketcher and oversized for a small sketchbook or anybody with a more minimalist approach.  If this bit were fixed it would still serve the other two pencil uses equally well.
Technical Details: The Derwent Carry-All is described as “a pencil storage solution” with the scope to store “up to 132 pencils and more”.
  • size: the product details tell me it should measure 8" square and 6.5" deep (220mm x 220m x 170mm) which would make it an ‘almost’ cube. HOWEVER the one I’ve got is 220mm wide, 275mm high and 130mm deep - so I’m now wondering if there are different sizes. (Mine is 25mm short of an A4 sketchbook - very frustrating!)
  • material: made of a sturdy grade of fawn canvas (same as that used for the pencil wraps); the trim is dark brown. Feels robust.
  • strap: optional shoulder strap in fawn/dark brown canvas. The strap clips are diagonally opposed and not fixed to the centre of each side as that’s where the zip goes. I’d have liked a more padded shoulder grip
  • hand grip: comfy padded carrying handle/grip with velcro fasteners (if not using strap)
  • pencil storage: product details say it comes with 3 pencil “leaves”; each one is supposed to be capable of holding 44 pencils. Mine came with just 2 leaves and I think I can get 24 pencils in each side (2 per elasticated slot) making 48 pencils per leaf and 96 pencils in total. I guess the scope to hold “up to 132 pencils” is related to the three leaves it’s supposed to come with
  • exterior pocket with velcro tab
  • Interior web pocket - big enough for incidentals (erasers, sharpeners, viewfinder etc)
  • Interior elastic band - looks as if was designed for a very fat sketchbook. Too big to hold my Moleskine secure.
Who should buy this?
  • people who sketch (but work out when you’d use it first)
  • pencil artists needing a neat storage solution for the home
  • pencil artists attending workshops
  • suitable for all makes of coloured pencils - I tried them all!
Who should not buy this?
  • people who like big sketchbooks
  • appears to be robust materials and well made
Think Again?
  • decide first what method of transporting pencils works best for you and your own personal needs
Manufacturer / Distributor: Derwent / Cumberland Pencil Company

Interestingly it's also big enough to take an iPad - but then if I was sketching with my iPad I wouldn’t need the pencils! :)
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