Posted on Tue 15 May 2018
Robust and versatile, Caran d'Ache's Art By ranges have been put together with artists in mind. They contain materials you might think of putting together yourself – or you might not! Because each set is filled with complementary, useful tools for drawing and sketching, that can be used together or separately.
Caran d'Ache has been producing top-quality artists' materials since 1924 and its good name continues. I've been a big fan for years. The sets, each of which is made for a different purpose, arrived in stylish and robust boxes.
Bobby, Art By Caran d’Ache on cream Daler-Rowney pastel paper, (29.5x21cm).
I used a mix from the Light and Shade and Flesh and Earth sets, both pastel pencils and cubes. Their hardness meant that as I skimmed over the textured paper, a lot of the powdery pigment adhered. I began by drawing the shape of the head and placement of features using a grey pastel pencil and a light touch. Then I added some darker areas to mark on the mid-tones, using the cinnamon pastel cube in the direction the fur grows and then worked across the image with the pale yellow and Naples ochre. Where I needed more definition and deeper tones, I used dark French grey and Payne's grey; around and in the eyes, nose and mouth I applied dark sepia, earth and touches of black. I finished by picking out lighter areas with Chinese white.
The Sketching and Drawing set contains six Grafwood pencils, from 4H to 9B, a 3B water-soluble Technalo pencil, a pure graphite 3B Grafstone, a soft black charcoal pencil, two Grafcubes, a metal pencil sharpener, a soft black eraser and a piece of sandpaper for shaping the pencils and charcoal.
The Light and Shade set contains six pastel pencils in black, grey-black, slate grey, silver grey, Chinese white and pale yellow; five pastel sticks (or cubes) in Naples ochre, pink white, dark French grey, light French grey and Payne's grey; a charcoal pencil, a kneadable eraser, a blender (or torchon) and a piece of sandpaper.
The Flesh and Earth set contains five pastel pencils in black, bistre, light flesh, dark sepia and bismuth white; five pastel sticks (or cubes) in terracotta, earth, cinnamon, light flesh and dark flesh; a soft black charcoal pencil, a pure graphite 3B Grafstone, a kneadable eraser, a blender and a piece of sandpaper.
Stanley, Art By Caran d’Ache on white cartridge paper 120gsm, (29.5x21cm).
The paper was lighter and had less tooth than I'd normally use for charcoal and pastel but I wanted to capture his smooth grey fur. I began by blocking in the darkest areas around his face, under his front legs and in his ears using Payne's grey, dark French grey and dark sepia in the direction the fur grows. To smooth and blend the tones, I applied light French grey here and there over the top, and then used the tip of the soft black charcoal to pick out details in the eyes, ears and nostrils. Some Payne's grey, light French grey and Chinese white was applied on the white parts of the fur and around the paws with light blending using the torchon. Naples ochre, pale yellow and Payne's grey made up the eyes, while the nose was suggested with pink white and light flesh.
Using Art By
All the pencils, charcoal and pastels can be used on their tips for fine marks, or on their sides for smoother blending. They're firm to the touch, with no crumbling or fracturing and can be used for broad strokes or delicate lines. While the selection of colours is subtle, they have a concentration of fine pigments, and the range is wide enough to be used to achieve both dramatic contrasts and soft variations. All the pastels and pastel pencils work well on most types of surfaces; papers with a tooth are great for the pastel pencils and cubes as the powdery texture adheres and imparts plenty of rich colour. Coloured backgrounds work well with the pastels as they serve to make lighter colours stand out.
My first impression of the pastel sticks and pencils was how subtle the shades are, such as the flesh tones, from palest peach to darkest brown, earth tones from creamy yellow to deep bronze, plus muted colours such as soft creams, pinks and cool and warm greys. The tonal variations that are possible with these can be dramatic and diverse or harmonious and coordinated, depending on how you use them – strong variations, or gentle graduations. Both the pastel sticks and pencils are rigid and chalky, effective when layered, creating thick, solid blocks of colour or cross-hatched webs, or even light veils of colour. The pencils and charcoal are smooth and easily blended, the Technalo pencil in the Sketching set can be diluted and used as a wash or to create interesting tones with strong or delicate marks, while the Grafstones can be applied sideways on to build up large, smooth areas of tone. The hardness of the pencils and cubes mean that depending on how you apply them, they can create opaque coverage or atmospheric impressions. You can break the cubes if smaller pieces help your handling, and use their corners or sides or keep them whole and use the sandpaper to shape them. The kneadable erasers can be used by pressing and lifting, smudging or shaping, and unless you have used fixative, the pigment should lift cleanly. The Grafcubes in the Sketching set work particularly well for large-scale drawings, while the pencils and pastel pencils are great for small or medium-sized drawings.
Cherries, Art By Caran d’Ache on white cartridge paper 120gsm, (29.5x21cm).
I used only the Sketching and Drawing set: the Grafwood pencils, Technalo pencil and 3B Grafstone. I recommend beginning with an extremely light touch. You can layer for deeper tones, as I did here, and leave plenty of white paper showing through. I lightly drew the outlines of the cherries and then began laying in the darkest shadows using the 9B pencil. To fill in the minute spaces created by the paper's tooth, I added further layers of 6B and 3B in different directions. The black eraser was great for cleaning up any smudges around the drawing.
This product report is taken from the June issue of The Artist
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