Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Best Art Supplies Stores in New York

Yesterday, I added a new section The Best Art Supplies Stores in New York to my 'resoources for artists' website USA: Art Supply Stores & Online Art Supplies

Pearl Paint, 308 Canal Street, TriBeCa, New York NY 10013
I've constructed the section by reviewing what I can find online.  

The thing is - I KNOW I've read excellent reviews by art bloggers in the past about different art materials stores in New York - but I simply can't find them!  It's driving me potty!

Have people stopped writing reviews of art supplies stores in New York or has Google stopped identifying them?  The only ones I've found so far are the Handprint reviews of retailers which include three reviews of stores in NYC.

Anyway I'd like to develop this section to include a poll, links to reviews and a map on the website to help people visiting New York.  However first I'd like to be clearer as to the relative ranking of the top ten stores - so I can construct my top 10 poll!   My initial conclusions to date are:
  • Pearl Paint in Lower Manhattan, between Tribeca, SoHo and Chinatown probably gets the most visitors and certainly gets the most reviews - but it also gets quite a lot of dissatisfied customers.  
  • Dick Blick in NoHo, Manhattan gets the most favourable reviews and is actually the top art materials store on Yelp.  Plus points are well laid out store makes it easy to find what you want and helpful staff
  • New York Central Art Supply between Green Village and the East Village is very much the "go to" store for fine art paper
So I'd like to ask you two questions:
  • Which are your top three art supplies stores in New York? Please leave the names and locations of your top three as a comment
  • Have you written a review of any of them?  If so please leave a comment with the URL of your blog post and I'll link to it or reference it.
I'll then add in a poll to the website and more links to reviews of the different recommended stores.

Monday, 18 February 2013

The Favourite Coloured Pencil Awards! (2012 Brand Poll Results)

This is my Annual Report on the results of the Annual Poll which asks which is your current favourite brand of artist grade coloured pencil.

Artist grade in this connection means:
  • used by fine artists (whether professional or amateur) - people who would like their artwork to last and/or to sell it.
  • suitable for fine art rather than commercial art where longevity is of no relevance once the artwork has been photographed.
Below is the chart of the results from the Annual Poll on my resource website Coloured Pencils - Resources for Artists (VOTE on this 2013 Poll by clicking this link - 2013 POLL: Which is the best brand of artist grade coloured pencil?)

Chart of the Results of the 2012 Poll:
Which is the best brand of artist grade coloured pencil?
This year 347 people voted during 2011 to determine which is the best brand of artist grade coloured pencil.  This is fewere than in previous years but I didn't remind people about the poll at mid-year as I've done in the past.

The results are as follows
  • The Favourite Artist Grade Coloured Pencil in 2012 - Faber Castell Polychromos (33.4%)
    • 2nd - Sanford Prismacolor Premier (15%)
    • 3rd - Derwent Coloursoft (8.4%)
    • 4th - Caran d'Ache Luminance (6.6%)
    • 5th - Caran d'Ache Pablo (5.5%)
  • The Favourite Lightfast (6901) Artist Grade Coloured Pencil in 2012 - Caran d'Ache Luminance (this is a pencil which is accredited as being compliant with the standard ASTM D-6901 for testing Lightfastness in Coloured Pencils created by the American Society for Testing and Material).
  • The Favourite brand of Artist Grade Coloured Pencil Media in 2012Faber Castell Polychromos - by a mile!
Which means Faber Castell is now the dominant brand and Polychromos is the dominant artist grade coloured pencil within the coloured pencil marketplace for fine artists.  

For a further explanation of how this comes about see below.

Analysis of changes in coloured pencil brand preference over time

It's worth remembering that the performance of different pencils in Opinion Polls is highly dependent on how easy they are to obtain and the patterns of buying behaviour in different countries.  

What I have found noticeable over time is that as more people buy online they are more likely to try new brands of pencils - and are no longer dependent on the pencil in open stock at their local art store - assuming that this store has survived the recession!

The recession has also inevitably had an impact.  One might expect the cheaper pencils to be doing better.  In fact the reverse seems to be occurring and those with more disposable income seem to be favouring the top quality pencils - even if they are more expensive.

Changes in coloured pencil brand preferences 2008 - 2012

I've been running the Poll since 2008 so it's developed a few trends in that time - and we'll look at these below.

CLICK THE CHART below to see a MUCH LARGER version of this chart which shows the percentage share each manufacturer earned in the annual polls.  The very minor brands have been eliminated from view in the chart for the purposes of this analysis.

  • GAINERS: Faber Castell, Caran d'Ache
  • LOSS OF SHARE: Prismacolor, Lyra Rembrandt
  • NEUTRAL: Derwent, Blick and Talens Van Gogh
The Annual Poll was started partway through 2008.  The pattern over time, based on the poll results for the last five years, can be summarised as follows:
  • There have been three dominant brands in the marketplace in the last five years - Sanford Prismacolor, Faber Castell Polychromos and Derwent (various)
    • Two more brands Caran 'Ache and Lyra Rembrandt have been competing for attention - and one - Caran d'Ache - is beginning to have a serious impact in 2012.
    • There are two minor brands - Talens van Gogh and Blick
  • In 2012, there has been a significant shift
    • Faber Castell is now dominant over the combined pencils of all other manufacturers. 
    • One pencil - the Polychromos - now has a 1/3 share of the market.  It is more than  twice as popular as its nearest competitor.
    • Prismacolor has lost 45% of its market share in the last year - and is no longer rated as the premier brand of coloured pencils.  For the last four years it has consistently had just less than a third of the market (28-32%).  This year its share has reduced to 18%.  (I'll comment on this further)
    • Derwent and Prismacolour are now neck and neck in the popularity stakes
    • The Caran d'Ache Luminance pencil - which is lightfast - has continued to build its share of the market DESPITE being the most expensive coloured pencil in the world!  This very clearly demonstrates that price is obviously NOT a barrier to building market share amongst fine artists if people want a quality pencil which is lightfast.  It comprehensively demonstrates that any failure of previous brands of lightfast pencils (which have been dropped) is very probably down to:
      • the quality of the pencil in terms of application and use 
      • the marketing of the product
      • and/or both the above!
While there may be weaknesses in my poll results, so far as I am aware there is no other consistent polling of preferred brands of coloured pencils on a global basis.  If there is I'd be happy to study the results and any inconsistencies with the results of my poll.  (I used to crunch numbers and analyse them for a living!)


The following summary is a product of both the poll, consumer comments available on the Internet (and offline) and recent research.

To my mind the current situation can be characterised as follows.
  • Faber Castell has been very focused around the quality of one pencil.  It delivers a high quality product of consistent reliability.  This has earned the Polychromos many admirers - who in turn recommend the pencil to others!  This focus on one pencil gives it a much bigger impact in the marketplace.
  • Sanford has lost its way both in terms of  product range, its target market and the quality of the product produced.  I have observed lots of changes and no discernible direction in strategic terms plus lots of complaints about matters which the company has failed to address over the years. It no longer feels to me like a manufacturer which is serious about producing quality products for fine artists.  Its cheap unreliable pencil appears to be targeted at the younger / student market and children and adults who like colouring pages.
  • Derwent has a huge range of pencils - none of which do particularly well - apart from the Coloursoft.  Effort and marketing appears to be spread thin.  They could have had the lead in the Lightfast Pencil market - and abandoned it.  Issues around lightfastness continue to be relevant to the artist grade range.
  • Caran d'Ache is playing a blinder.  It took time to produce a well thought out pencil which has become very popular - the Luminance.  Despite its high price, this pencil is attractive, works well and is readily available - it looks likely to continue to be very popular and to grow its market share over time.  Not least because it is certified as ASTMS 6901 compliant - and is the only leading artist grade pencil which can claim this. Its growth has also not seriously dented the market for the Pablo Pencil.  The company persuade me (and others) that they recognise how long it takes a new product to establish itself in the market and have a focus on continuous improvement.
Thus we have my personal 'take' on four manufacturers who all demonstrate a very different approach to how to win share and make money from coloured pencils.  

While fine artists are only a small part of the coloured pencil market as a whole one is led to wonder why more artist grade pencils don't emulate the success of the Polychromos!

I'm going to follow up this Poll Report with in-depth analysis of the main brands.  I have eclectic tastes rather than being a dedicated fan of one brand - so this should prove interesting.

I've started by updating the analysis of brands in the Artist Grade Coloured Pencils: Brand Information section of Coloured Pencils - Resources for Artists.  Each of the sections on the manufacturers of artist grade pencils now has a section which covers:
  • Favoured by
  • No. of artist-quality coloured pencils 
  • Meets 6901 Lightfastnes Standard
  • Characteristics of coloured pencils
  • Pencil equipment/aids available? 
  • Characteristics of Manufacturer
  • Country

if you'd like to be kept informed about the other Poll results for 2012 
and/or reviews of art products and art books in 2013. 
You can find a subscription link near the top of the side column.


Saturday, 16 February 2013

The Favourite Watercolour Pencils Awards! (2012 Brand Poll Results)

This post is about my Annual Poll to determine the best brand of Watercolour Pencil on the market from those available to purchase at the beginning of the year.

Once again Faber Castell is the market leader in terms of both market share and the favourite watercolour pencil.

The Favourite Watercolour Pencils Awards 2012
  1. Favourite Watercolour Pencil in 2012 - Faber Castell Albrecht Durer
  2. Favourite Woodless Watercolour Pencil in 2012 - Joint Winner: Cretacolor Aqua Monolith & Derwent Aquatone
  3. Favourite brand of Watercolour Media in 2012 - Faber Castell
The results also indicate that wood pencils are more popular than woodless pencils and that the market for woodless pencils appears to be shrinking over time.
Results of the Annual Poll on Coloured Pencils - Resources for Artists
This poll was first introduced in 2010 when 144 people voted. 125 people voted in 2011 while only 64 people voted in 2012 on my 2012 POLL: What's your favourite watercolour pencil?.  The poll is now closed.

Here's a table of the results over the last 3 years
Watercolour Pencil
Faber Castell Albrecht Durer
Faber Castell Albrecht Durer
Faber Castell Albrecht Durer
Woodless Watercolour Pencil
Cretacolor Aqua Monolith
Derwent Aquatone
Caran d'Ache Neocolor
& Derwent Aquatone
Caran d'Ache Neocolor & Derwent Aquatone
Brand of Watercolour Media
Faber Castell
Faber Castell
Derwent and Faber Castell

Below is a table indicating the actual numbers across all products for the percentage market share - of those people who responded to the poll.

It's very clear from this relatively small sample that Caran d'Ache and Derwent's results have reduced while Faber Castell has grown its share of the market.

A growing interest in Faber Castell is to my mind entirely consistent with more and more coloured pencil artists becoming aware that the favourite watercolour pencil is the Faber Castell Albrecht Durer. It's way out in front of the rest.  I'd always expect growing awareness of what people like and recommend to influence the buying patterns of those trying new media for the first time.

Table: Manufacturers percentage share of respondents
Watercolour Pencil Manufacturers
(all brands)
Caran d’Ache (all brands)
Daler Rowney
Derwent (all brands)
Faber Castell Polychromos
General’s Kimberley Thin Lead
Lyra Rembrandt
Sanford Prismacolor
Staedtler Karat Aquarell
Royal Talens van Gogh

We do however need to remember that the results in part are ALWAYS dictated by the fact that not all brands are well known or easily available in local art shops.  However all are available from online suppliers (see below for links to Art Suppliers in the UK and USA) and I'm trying to enhance awareness via the 

I'm minded to ponder on the fact that CPSA banned from use of the Caran d'Ache Neocolor II for their main international exhibition in 2012.  To my mind it is to all intents and purposes exactly like other woodless watercolour pencil type media.  I have yet to come across a convincing argument as to why this medium is not allowed other than the fact it uses the word 'pastel' wjile others describe it as a crayon - while being neither a soft pastel nor an oil pastel!  Could it be a question of language?

Those using watercolour pencils will be interested to know that the Colored Pencil Society of America (CPSA) also tests the lightfastness of all watercolor pencils and provide the results in their CPSA - Lightfastness Test Result Workbook Version 6

A new poll is now open and you can find it here - 2013 POLL: What's your favourite watercolour pencil?


Thursday, 14 February 2013

How to vote for the best coloured pencils in 2013

I like using different brands!
This is an invitation to coloured pencil artists to VOTE for your CURRENT FAVOURITE BRAND of:
  • Artist Grade Coloured Pencils and 
  • Watercolour Pencils
You can find two BRAND NEW 2013 Opinion Polls about coloured pencils for 2013 on my website Coloured Pencils - Resources for Artists

The links to the polls are below
This is a brand new poll - so even if you have voted before in previous years you can vote again.

The purpose of having an Annual Opinion Poll is to identify which are the most popular coloured pencils in 2013.

This enables:
  • artists to change their votes if they have been experimenting with brands which they've not used before
  • new brands to be reflected in the poll.  
  • voting to reflect changing preferences as to existing and new brands of coloured pencils
  • feedback to the manufacturers about your preferences.  Hopefully this provides an incentive to continue to provide continued improvement in the quality and lightfastness of products available in the marketplace
Don't forget to check all the options before you vote. The coloured pencils are listed in alphabetical order. 

If any of the marketing people from the different pencil manufacturers are reading this and note that their new brands are NOT included please contact me with the date your product is/was made available in the marketplace AND on your website.

The results of the two polls about your favoured brands of artist grade coloured pencils and watercolour pencil in 2012 will be published tomorrow.

Brands of Artist Grade Coloured Pencils

The brands listed are all those which were available at the beginning of 2013.  Not every brand is included.  For example, they exclude those which are most suitable for children/school students rather than fine art.

You can find out more about the different brands in
The brands of artist grade coloured pencils included this year are
  • Blick Studio Artists 
  • Bruynzeel Sakura 
  • Caran d'Ache - Luminance (6901) 
  • Caran d'Ache - Neocolor II 
  • Caran d'Ache - Pablo 
  • Cretacolor Karmina 
  • Derwent Artist 
  • Derwent Coloursoft 
  • Derwent Drawing 
  • Derwent Studio 
  • Faber Castell Polychromos 
  • Holbein Artists 
  • Koh I Noor Polycolor 
  • Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor 
  • Mitsubishi Uni 
  • Prismacolor Art Stix 
  • Prismacolor Premier 
  • Prismacolor Verithin 
  • Soho Urban Artists 
  • Talens Van Gogh (6901) 
  • Tombow Irojiten 
  • Utrecht Premium
VOTE for your favoured brand of artist grade coloured pencil?

Brands of Watercolour Pencils

The brands of watercolour pencils identified for the 2013 Poll are: 

  • Caran d'Ache Supracolor Aquarelle 
  • Caran d'Ache Neocolor II Aquarelle 
  • Caran d'Ache Museum 
  • Cretacolor Aqua Monolith (Woodless) 
  • Cretacolor Aquarell 
  • Daler-Rowney Artists' Watercolour 
  • Derwent Aquatone (Woodless) 
  • Derwent Graphitint 
  • Derwent Inktense 
  • Derwent Watercolour 
  • Faber Castell Albrecht Durer 
  • General's Kimberley Thin Lead Watercolor 
  • Lyra Rembrandt Aquarell 
  • Sanford Prismacolor Watercolor 
  • Staedtler Karat Aquarell 
  • Talens Van Gogh Watercolour 
VOTE for your favourite watercolour pencil
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