Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I have no formal education in art and I really don’t know much about the technical side of colored pencils but I do know that I get really frustrated when I break a pencil point or worse when the pencil lead breaks somewhere down inside the pencil. I can’t tell you how mad I get when I sharpen a pencil and then notice that the led is wobbling from a crack 1-2cm inside the pencil. This seems to always happen to me with Prismacolor pencils and since I often sketch in the woods it can be aggravating especially when I don’t have a sharpener besides a pocket knife. At some point I found that Crayola pencils were much more durable in the field and inexpensive, a basic set can be picked up at any Walgreens or CVS, so I have used Crayola for quite some time. Recently I had more than one suggestion to try Faber-Castell Polychromos, so I did. The local art store had a bunch of the 25th Anniversary Polychromos sets on sale so I picked one up. I was pretty disappointed with the colors in the set but really liked drawing with them, so I ordered a bunch of greens, browns and grays. So far they are great and I have not had a single broken lead.

Here are some sketches I made in the field with my Polychromos.

An old eastern hemlock snag.

My field set-up for a quick sketch with the new greens, browns and grays.

Some of the stuff in the fen that day.

A dead twig with what I think is common green shield lichen

The bright orange twig and buds of black willow stood out against the grays of the day

Skunk cabbage starting to flower and stink

Delicate Thuidium moss as green as it is in June

Bright red twigs of red-osier dogwood
Sensitive fern AKA bead fern fertile fronds (these are the beads)


Feathers said...

Hi Nate, Looks like Spring is actually making her appearance there in Illinois. I envy you, as I step outside in ankle-deep (or more) snow! I'm so glad to read that you are enjoying (so far) the Polychromos. I was sure you would. It looks like you had a really good day for sketching, and you really did some nice work. -Anita.

Joe Willis said...

I'm enjoying your blog. Consider giving Prismacolor Verithins a try. Because they're thinner, you will find detail easier and they wisely made the leads tougher. Check out my blog at blackoaknaturalist. Joe Willis

Cathy Holtom said...

Great sketches, I had the same problems with Prismacolors and eventually bought a whole set of Polychromos. I actually prefer the colours in my new set but miss my 'black cherry'!

Nate said...

Anita - thanks again for the recommendation
Joe - I checked out your blog, good stuff - I did a lot of lit review on California oaks when I was in grad school!
Cathy - Funny you say that - I am sure Faber-Castell has a similar color, but I am already thinking that I am going to miss my Crayola 'Mahogany'

Carolyn A Pappas said...

I would suggest a case like this one for your colored pencils: I have one and love it. It provides a lot of protection for your pencils and will help minimize on the lead breakage. Feel free to mix different colors from different brands too. If you have a favorite you can certainly use it, although Crayola doesn't have as much pigment in their pencils as they are made for children and aren't as high quality. I think the Derwent Coloursofts come in some nice "natureish" colors, and they are soft and creamy so they are good if you want to lay down and lot of color.

Nate said...

Thanks Carolyn, I am going to add one of those 96 capacity cases to my xmas list.

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

Your blog was recommended to me by a fellow blogger. I just started a colored pencil class and have been using (and just bought) Prismacolor and have very frustrated with the breakage. As this is a new hobby, I will work with what I have for a while, but the next box of pencils will be Faber-Castell.
Enjoy your drawings. I do a garden blog and am a Master Gardener --and a bird watcher. I will be back often.