Derwent Lightfast 100-per-cent lightfast oil-based pencils


Award-winning artist Judith Selcuk specialises in coloured pencil fine art.  Here she takes a look at the newly available colours in Derwent’s range of oil-based coloured pencils and demonstrates their painterly qualities with a painting of orchids.


Back in 2018 a new world opened up to coloured pencil artists in the form of the new Derwent Lightfast pencils.  This wasn’t just because they were 100-per-cent lightfast coloured pencils but also that they were the first UK-made oil-based coloured pencil.  The unique qualities of the range meant that previous limitations to coloured pencil users no longer applied:  surfaces that were unsuitable for the coloured pencil artist were now a real possibility and the application of the pigment to these surfaces was a new experience.  These pencils mixed rather than blended and their painterly qualities are unrivalled.

The original 36 colours included a beautiful variety of whites from warm oyster to cold arctic; the new 36 has a fantastic selection of blacks from midnight to Mars and a palette of greys in between.  The classic Mars violet appears alongside many favourites such as indigo and burnt sienna and, even though the first 36 had a great selection of greens, the addition of foliage and pine has added yet another dimension.  The colour palette overall is richer and more dynamic.


Surface choices for the artist

I love using Derwent Lightfast pencils on a textured surface such as canvas or heavier textured papers, and papers with more of a grip, such as Clairefontaine Paint On Multi-Techniques paper.  I can also use solvents with these surfaces, which I tend to do with Lightfast pencils, and I like to know that I can do so, rather than ruling this possibility out by choosing an unsuitable surface.  The ability to manipulate coloured pencil in such a way encourages me to explore new thoughts, avenues and concepts.  I can achieve dynamic effects in a fraction of the time than it would normally take me working in this medium.


Mixing rather than blending

The Illumination of Innocence (illustrated here) is about creating a legacy from Lightfast pencils using light as a tool to give an object a sense of volume with contrasted light and shadow.  The orchid is a symbol of beauty, elegance and innocence, purity and perfection.

With Lightfast pencils the whites of the orchid come to life on a toned mixed-media paper.  The pigment grips the surface of the paper with ease, light layers of colour can be blended together using a solvent such as Zest-It or Sansodor if desired, and within a couple of minutes the solvent will have evaporated and more pencil can be applied.  Lightfast pencils feel like satin on top of the solvent, with a silkiness and ease of application; pigment is vibrant in the brighter pencils and subtle in the lighter pencils and can be mixed together, back and forth, to create seamless transitions of colour.

The addition of the greys in the 72-colour set enabled me to add shadows to the petals that I couldn’t have achieved with ease previously, especially with cool grey and moonstone giving luminosity to the delicate blooms.  Wild lavender and heather, with touches of violet, lifted the tones to another level, giving a sense of volume and three dimensions in light and dark.


Background colour

The Lightfast set of 72 colours has a wonderfully diverse range of browns and darks that, by layering together, enabled me to create depth and tone behind the flowers.  Normally to do this with coloured pencil you have to spend hours carefully applying overlapping small pencil strokes to achieve a seamless background or use an alternative such as a watercolour or pastel pencil.  Lightfast pencils have a painterly quality that means unlike coloured pencil that takes hours and hours of layering, they can be applied and manipulated by layering and blending using a solvent.

Normally with pencils another few layers could be applied until saturation of the paper occurred.  However, the unique formulation of Lightfast means that the number of times the layers can be added to, blended and adjusted is far greater, to the point where it was even possible to remove colour when I felt that I had gone too dark at one point.  To do this I lightly applied a brush dampened with solvent over the area, then wiped the lifted pigment off the brush on to a piece of dry paper towel until I was happy with the colour left on the picture.


Fantastic new 28 colours!

I didn’t think it was possible to require any more pencils until I took delivery of the 28 new colours of the Derwent Lightfast range, which completes the set of 100.  When I was sorting them out and swatching the colours to see what they looked like on paper I realised that I had a fantastic extension set of landscape colours with a wider variety of blues, greens and browns such as ocean and pacific, with earthier tones of warm earth, ivy and lichen green, which are all very natural shades, but I had a portrait set too.  The colours split into palettes with autumn red, chestnut and cinnamon as base skin tones with brighter ones of magenta and bordeaux with autumn brown, taupe and raisin for depth.  This then leaves a group of yellows perfect for brightening, my favourites being apricot, dark honey and dark orange.

Lightfast truly is a fine art pencil that encourages creativity, with the new colours being wonderful additions to the existing range, creating a balanced and rich palette.

DEMONSTRATION The Illumination of Innocence


STAGE ONE        

The Lightfast whites show up beautifully against toned paper.  I started building the form of the flowers using a variety of whites from warm oyster to cold arctic to avoid the orchid becoming flat looking.  It is important to get enough pigment on the paper before trying to use any kind of solvent or there is not enough to ‘move around’ and blend.


To create a greater sense of depth the edges of the petals had to be kept crisp by increasing the shadows behind each one and creating an illusion of three dimensions; the cool grey and moonstone were particularly useful and helped achieve luminosity and depth.  The crispness of the petals was reinstated with the arctic white over the top when all the solvent was dry.


The initial background layers were laid down with light layers of the new burnt sienna combined with wheat and yellow ochre, blended with solvent and allowed to dry.  The solvent works best on a filbert brush used almost dry and worked into the surface, pulling the layers of pigment together; it can appear patchy if used too wet (blot any excess solvent off using a tissue before applying to the paper).


Purples and pinks created vivid contrasts using wild lavender and mid ultramarine mixed with shades of violets and deep rose, blending layers together with solvent and, once dry, adding more pencil layers to achieve velvet-smooth blends.  The Lightfast pencils mix together to create new colours and these can be adjusted by adding more colour and toned down using paler colours such as oyster and flesh pink.


The background was darkened using sienna and Persian orange with touches of ruby earth.  I was careful to take the solvent up to the edges of the petals in order to keep the edges crisp and reinstate these with white once the solvent was completely dry.


The Illumination of Innocence, Derwent Lightfast pencils on mixed-media paper, 117 x 165in (297 x 420cm).  When the initial background layers were dry and all the solvent had evaporated, further layers of pencil were added using champagne and wheat to lighten areas and sienna and sandstone to darken until I was happy with the depth and values of the background, and how well the orchid stood out from it.

Derwent Lightfast pencils are available singly at £3.20RRP and in sets:

Lightfast 12 tin:  RR £34.99

Lightfast 24 tin:  RRP £69.99

Lightfast 36 tin:  RRP £109.99

Lightfast 72 tin:  RRP £229.99

Lightfast 48 wooden box £169.99

The final 28 colours to complete the 100 Lightfast colour range will be available to buy from mid-September, as well as a beautiful wooden box set with the entire range of 100 Lightfast pencils, RRP £369.99.  Derwent Lightfast pencils are also available at a range of art shops across the UK.  Please check the Derwent website for stockists.


Judith Selcuk trained at Falmouth School of Art and has written many tutorials and books on coloured pencil techniques.  She teaches coloured pencil classes from her studio, as well as demonstrates all over the UK.  Judith has exhibited widely and won awards.  She is a signature member of the UK Coloured Pencil Society and the Australian Coloured Pencil Association, and a member of the Coloured Pencil Society of America.