Color Spree

Color Spree
My favorite color is "all of them." What's yours?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Derwent Soft Cover Journal

Derwent Soft Cover Journal is a new product, not actually soft cover at all. The cover's a solid firm one like a hardbound book but covered in soft suede cloth with a distinct nap. This is a classy journal, Derwent's answer to the Moleskine journals or the Hand Book artist's journals.

Derwent's journal has a ribbon bookmark sewn in and pockets both in the back similar to a Moleskine and a corner pocket inside the front cover. An elastic band keeps it closed, handy especially if you used heavy washes on a page and need to flatten it out.

The paper is wonderful. It's bright white with a cool cast, smooth enough for pen sketching with a good tooth for pencil drawing. Best of all it feels like it's 90 or 100lbs, good heavy stock. It stands up to washes beautifully. This journal's perfect for sketching with watersoluble pencils of any sort.

Checking on the inside back of the last page, it has 40 sheets of acid free 200gsm paper. 140lb paper is 300gsm, using a calculator that comes out to about 94lb paper. It's absorbent and dries well, with a good surface for pen, pencil, marker or light watercolor washes. It might even take heavy washes though I'd suggest clamping the pages down on the open sides to dry.

Derwent makes a great variety of watersoluble pencils, from Sketching graphite wash pencils to Watercolour Pencils, Inktense and tinted graphite Graphitints. Even their Tinted Charcoal pencils will take a wash and Derwent also produces a water brush. So it stands to reason that an art journal from the same manufacturer would work well for all of their pencils.

Here's an example sketch on the first page of my journal done in Derwent Graphitints. It's a preliminary sketch for a commissioned cat portrait from a photo by Lisa Polo.

Derwent Soft Cover Journal is available in the UK through various stores and distributors. If you're interested in getting one, at the moment your options are to pay overseas shipping or contact Col-Art, the USA distributor for Derwent products. Like other new Derwent products, these will probably come over the ocean eventually but writing to Col-Art might help the process along.

I won mine on the Derwent Pencils Facebook page, where there are frequent raffles by comment. You just comment on an image and like it, then they do a random drawing for who gets the item. I was delighted to win the Soft Cover Journal because I'm fond of my Moleskine journals and found this even better with its bright white paper that takes washes so well. Thumbs up on it, this may be worth paying overseas shipping when you want to treat yourself.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gallery Mungyo Semi-Hard Pastels Reviewed

Gallery Mungyo Semi-Hard Pastels 120 color wood box set. Photo by Robert Sloan.

Gallery Mungyo semi-hard pastels have made a big splash lately. Available from Jerry's Artarama and ASW online, they've turned up on sale during the 2010 holidays and are part of a new lineup Mungyo is doing to expand their pastel lines to include artist grade. I've reviewed the artist grade Gallery Mungyo Extra Soft Artist's Oil Pastels at my other website and plan to test their new line of artist grade soft pastels soon.

Price is very reasonable, currently they're on sale again at Jerry's ranging from $4.99 for a set of 12 to try them up to $84.99 for the full range wood box set. They're a little higher than Prismacolor NuPastel at the same site, sale price for a 96 color set is $5 more but you get a wood box with it.

The box is very sturdy. It has the advantage like Richeson semi-hard pastels of spreading out the range all on one level instead of stacking trays. It has a warm oak veneer inside and out with an attractive molding creating the depth of the box. The pastels are cushioned in dense slotted foam with another foam pad to lay over them and prevent shifting. These pastels won't break till you decide to break one to use it on its side.

I think the box would stand up well to being thrown in the car and driven to workshops, classes or plein air sites. The big set might be too large for backpacking but the 72 color box may be small enough for it. My big set has a large footprint at 14" x 20" that makes space to spread out important while using these pastels. However, it's sturdy enough you could balance it on a smaller stool without too much trouble. I could easily use this on the couch for family room drawing.

Gallery Mungyo Semi-Hard pastels are like other semi-hard pastels in that they're lower in dust than the soft brands. Generally, the softer you go with pastels, the more dust they'll generate and the more they get on your hands. They smudge easily, they give clean lines and firm control so they're very good for detailed realism as well as looser sketching.

By description, these are made with lightfast pigments and kaolin clay. That's the recipe for most hard pastels. They're artist grade. For actual lightfastness, I'd recommend doing a home test by taping a color chart into a sunny window and checking it periodically for a year. Either put a cardboard strip over half of the swatches or store an identical chart in a dark dry place for comparison. Note which colors fade and which don't. Some lightfast pigments become fugitive when they're mixed with white to make tints, others are less lightfast by chemical reaction with a binder.

If you do this test and see any fading, please contact me! I would be happy to update this entry with the results of your lightfastness tests. All I can report on a new product is whether it claims lightfastness, which this one does. They're good artist quality semi-hard pastels comparable to Prismacolor NuPastel, Richeson Semi-Hard and Faber-Castell Polychromos.

Gallery Mungyo Semi-Hard pastels come in a range of 120 colors with cardboard box sets of 12, 36 and 48 colors, wood box sets of 72, 96 and 120. Of course I got the full range, this is me, the color addict. The bigger a range of colors I have, the better. I might only use a few in a given painting but the larger a range I have to choose those few from, the easier it is to get exactly the mood I want.

Here's a color chart of the full range:

Color chart of 120 Gallery Mungyo Semi-Hard Pastels

This set is well balanced across the spectrum. Colors are distinct, I'm not seeing as many near-lookalikes as I did with the Richeson semi-hard pastels. As always finding light tints is difficult, yet there are some pinks, a light yellow, light earth yellow, pale green, aqua, purple-cast blue. The range of tints and hues in skin tone colors is wonderful. Good set of 12 grays with five cold values and five warm values. You will be using the white a lot to get those extra-light tints but overall this set has an excellent range.

The deep darks are lush and gorgeous. Both cold (bluish) dark green and warm (yellowish) dark green are included, along with a couple of gorgeous dark blues and four different very dark browns. Deep red-violet gets nearly as dark and there are two of those, one redder than the other. The skin tones include a pinkish gray like a Caput Mortuum tint, very useful in shadows.

I'd have no trouble composing any subject using just this range. Still lifes with bright flowers, landscapes in any season, portraits, animals, what I need to sketch anything is right there in the box. Their texture is good, firm and easily blended. They're not a bargain brand, they're just a good choice for hard pastels.

Hard pastels can be used by themselves on paper or sanded papers. Very often they're combined with other, softer brands in a layered approach. Hard pastels are often used for underlayers, with medium-soft pastels over them and hand-rolled or super-soft pastels for the last layer. They're good for sketching or a full painting can be done using just hard pastels. On non-sanded paper it may be easier to do a full painting with medium-hard or hard pastels than with softer brands.

Here's an example of how they handle on Aquabee Bogus Recycled Rough Sketch Paper. Watch for a review of this paper soon because it's another new item I bought recently and enjoy most of all for pastel sketching.

"Evening, Time to Get Away" by Robert A. Sloan, 6" x 8" Gallery Mungyo Semi-Hard Pastels on Aquabee Bogus Recycled Rough Sketch paper.