Derwent Pastel Pencils
Derwent Pastel Pencils
When I was asked to review these Derwent Pastel Pencils, I was really excited, I purchased my set quite a while back, however, it was the Derwent Pastel Collection, meaning that in the 38 set, there was 19 pastel pencils, 13 pastel blocks, blending stump, needed eraser, sharpener and a sandpaper block. As wonderful as this set is, especially for those looking to get into pastels, I am only concentrating on the pencils for this particular review.
So the reason for my excitement was that I was going to get another chance to actually use my pastels. When writing reviews and testing art supplies, you don't actually get as much time to draw. However, when review time comes round, all in the interest of research of course, I get to create a bit of art and my Derwent Pastel Pencils are no exception.
Pastel Pencil Vs Pastel Blocks
Although I stated at the beginning of this review that I would not be reviewing the pastel blocks in my set, it is worth mentioning the pros to pastel pencils over pastel blocks, before jumping into the review and testing.
Pastel artists create some of the most amazing art you have ever seen, the color combinations and area that can be covered is amazing. Most pastel artists, not all, will tell you that part of the fun attributed to pastel art, is getting messy, using your fingers and hands to create wonderful masterpieces. However, for others, the texture and feel of the pastel dust on their hands is enough to put them off pastel art forever. Some people just don't like the mess that can be attributed to pastel blocks or the fact that they break up, or perhaps the blocks inability to create fine detailed work, and this is were the pastel pencil comes in.
The pastel pencil, allows those artists who don't like the mess or the feel of the pastel dust on their hands, to not miss out on this wonderfully versatile medium. With the pastel pencil, you get all the creative fun that exists in pastels, without the mess and allowing you to obtain the same level of detail you would otherwise get with your colored pencils or graphite pencils.
Derwent Pastel Pencil Sets
I have a soft spot for Derwent, anyone that knows me will tell you this, however, this love for the company has never hindered my ability to review their products just as I would any other companies product. But one of the things I just love about Derwent is their extensive range of products that are made available to everyone, regardless of budget.
The first thing to note is that the Derwent Pastel Pencils are sold open stock. For a lot of artists, they will not even consider a product if it is not sold open stock, and with good reason. For those of you unsure what open stock means, it simply means that you can purchase the product individually; so when you use a particular color of your Derwent Pastel Pencil until you can sharpen it no more, you don't have to buy a brand new set, just a new pencil.
With regards to the sets, Derwent sell the Pastel Pencils in tins of 12, 24, 36, 48, and 72, with 72 being the full range in the pastel pencil line. Derwent also sell a tin of 12 pastel pencil skin tones , an entire small set dedicated to skin tones. It is worth mentioning that the colors in the skin tone set are also all in the 72 set. Some of the skin tone colors will also appear in other sets, it is something you just need to be mindful of. Derwent also produce a small blister pack of 6 pastel pencils and then in true Derwent tradition, the 48 and 72 sets are also offered in a beautiful wooden box gift set. These wooden box sets really are beautiful and need to be seen to fully appreciate their beauty.
Are Pastel Pencils Lightfast?
This was one of the first questions I wanted to know the answer to when I started using them. At the time, for some reason I thought it was highly unlikely due to their chalky and dusty composition. However, I am happy to report that if the same thought have troubled you about the medium, then trouble no more. Derwent Pastel pencils have an excellent lightfast rating right across their extensive range.
Of course their are fixatives, which I will talk about later, however, there are serious artists out their creating the most outstanding art with pastels and so lightfastness is every bit as important in pastels than any other medium.
I find the best way to explain the lightfastness of a certain product is to take the largest set they produce, in this case Derwent have the 72 set and tell you the lightfast ratings. Derwent use a slightly different system to some other pencil manufactures, which is called the Blue Wool Scale, this gives a rating between 1 and 8. On Derwent's own color chart of the pastel pencils they explain that ratings between 6 and 8 are considered acceptable lightfastness. 35 colors of the 72 are rated LF-8, 7 colors are rated LF-7, 9 colors are rated LF 6 meaning that 21 colors are below LF-6 and 51 colors above LF-6.
I know it can seem a bit confusing, but the lightfastness of a product in the world of art is so important, especially to anyone looking to sell their art and do commissions. The very last thing in the world you want is to sell a piece of beautiful art that you spent 200 hours on and the customer paid quite a bit for, only to have the customer come back to you a year later showing you a washout, faded version of what you originally sold them.
The Actual Pastel Pencil
As you can see from the images, the actual pencil is made from Californian cedar wood and lacquered with this beautiful burgundy color. The pencils themselves are quite thick, which they have to be so that the pastel core does not break every time you sharpen them, pastel pencils always tend to be quite thick as do water-soluble pencils and all for the same reasons.
The barrel is round, sporting a 4.5-5mm core, just bursting with pigment of which is neatly packed into a robust 8mm barrel. The feel of the pencil in your hand is incredibly balanced and sturdy, this does not feel like a pencil that will break if you so much as look at it.
Printed along one side of the slender burgundy barrel, starting at the core and working toward the end, is "England", the origin of the pencil and company. Further along is the company name "Derwent" followed closely by word "Pastel". Now some may see this as stating the obvious, however, if you have a jar filled with colored pencils and pastel pencils and you are working away, in all likelihood, you may lift a pastel pencil and not realise until it was too late. Further along toward the very end of the pastel pencil is the name of the color and then a letter numerical code, referencing that particular pigment color should you wish to purchase the pencil open stock.
When it comes to working with pastels, the surface you use is so important and pastel pencils are no exception. There are so many wonderful papers and surfaces that you can use but that is something to cover on another day as the different paper types for pastels is so extensive.
Ive used a few different brands of soft pastel blocks and other brands of pastel pencils, it is my past experience with these different brands that is going to help me describe to you how the Derwent Pastel Pencils perform. However, before I commence, I also have a video review of these pastel pencils, where you can see real time usage and performance from them.
Soft pastel blocks are just what they describe, incredibly soft and when you lay them down on the paper, with some of the really high quality brands, it really feels like you are spreading butter on the page as they are so creamy. My experience with pastel pencils in the past has been very different, they tend to be much harder pastel and thus dispense less pigment, only leading to frustration. Until now I always simply believed they were so hard in order to withstand sharpening as you would with a conventional pencil, which is partially correct. However these Derwent Pastel Pencils seem to defy all these rules.
When you gently start to rub the pastel pencil over the paper and for this test I am using Daler and Rowney Pastel paper, 160gsm, the pigment leaves the pencil and onto the paper effortlessly. Much to my surprise, using the pencils felt incredibly similar to that of the soft pastel blocks I've used in the past. I was genuinely taken back, because my next point really should not be the case, based on how creamy and soft the pencils lay down.
Sharpening Derwent Pastel Pencils.
Ordinarily, the best method advised for sharpening pastel pencils is to use a blade or x-acto knife, primarily due to the fact that the pastel is so soft in comparison to colored pencils or graphite, that a conventional sharpener just wouldn't do a good job. However, despite the fact that Derwent's pastel pencils behave like soft pastels, they sharpen incredibly well using Derwent's Super-point manual sharpener.
Now, just because you can achieve an excellent point with Derwent's pastel pencils using a manual sharpener, may not necessarily mean you use them like this. The point obviously does not last long and you could find yourself spending more time sharpening than actually drawing. The bottom line is, sharpening is quite a subjective pursuit regardless, some artists love to use a blade exposing a lot of the core, giving them more versatility, equally, the ability to reach a long point, even if only for a short period, will allow you the ability to execute very fine detail.
I absolutely love the Derwent Pastel Pencil, it really is like using a high quality soft pastel with all the benefits of the pencil form. I think for those artists, especially colored pencil artists or graphite artists, who may have refrained from working with pastels on account of their texture and messy mischievous nature, who are used to the fine detail of colored pencils and graphite, should absolutely try these wonderful Derwent Pastel Pencils.
Mess will be at an all time minimum, but you are not compromising on that beautiful pastel effect so synonymous with the great pastel artists we know and love. The Derwent Pastel Pencil is a wonder in its own right, a wonder that should not be overlooked but embraced for the versatile medium it really is.