See What Happens When You Miss a Sketch Out!?

December 15, 2011


Above: Ken Avidor sketched Liz Carlson and a wood duck at the Bell Museum on Sunday, December 4, 2011, using a Uniball pen with InkTense watersoluble colored pencils. (Ken works in an "eco" sketchbook with brown toned paper. I forget the exact name, but I know Wet Paint carries them.) Image ©2011 Ken Avidor.

A week or so ago I knew I was going to miss the MetroSketchers monthly sketch out because I had long-standing plans to go to Wisconsin and visit with friends and a couple dogs

Before I left I got wind of an "evil" plot to use Derwent Inktense pencils at the MetroSketchers sketchout. (Social media can, it seems, keep you in the loop.) Ken Avidor was interested in trying some watercolor pencils and Liz Carlson was going to bring some for him to use. 

Let's stop for a moment and remind everyone I'm a little bossy pants. Wait, I'm probably the biggest bossy pants on the planet. I'm never shy of telling people what I think they should be doing (just the other night I told a friend which project she should work on, dropping all others, in other words, telling her how to plan her whole 2013), or using for art materials (just ask Ken how I coerced him to stop using bond paper for his journals). So when I heard that InkTense were going to be used at the sketch out I was concerned and voiced those concerns to Ken in an email—warning him of the extreme fugitive nature of this pencil.

Lots of art materials are very seductive in their initial application or final drying mode, and then, well what happens later isn't pretty. But it's that early seductive phase that is the dangerous one!

(I have a chart up somewhere with the InkTense colors showing the fading but can't find it using my search engine—so just let me tell you they are bad, bad. Worse than Graphitints. And what's more, Derwent knows this. They make no claims for any sort of longevity for this product on the packaging and never use the words "artist" or "artist quality." If you use these pencils at all [and I don't think you should, because remember I'm a bossy pants] then shoot or scan your resultant image immediately. The dyes used in these leads will fade even in a closed book.)

Ken is never much bothered by my pronouncements about art materials, I mean he listens to me, takes things into consideration, and then does what he wants. Which is how the world should work, except that Ken has phenomenal talent and I feel personally offended when I think of his artwork dissolving into nothing (thankfully he works primarily in inks that are stable over time).

But this post is just an example of how, if you are going to stop great wrongs from happening you really have to be on site!

Not only did they go ahead and use the InkTense pencils, but they defiled my sacred wood duck.

I received the following email from Ken:


You should have been there to stop us.

In spite of your advice not to use InkTense pencils, we tried them anyways.

With an irresponsible giddiness, we sketched with the pencils knowing full well their intensity was fleeting and our sketches will fade away to nothing.

It was all Liz's fault.

It really got out of hand when she used the InkTense pencils to sketch the wood duck – you know – THE SACRED WOOD DUCK you have sketched so many times!!!

I'm sorry, it won't happen again.


Of course Ken, Liz, you, and I all know it will happen again, and again, and again. And any rational bossy pants knows that is the way the world should work! (Actually it's pretty fun when people this talented go rogue.)

And Liz is absolved from all "blame" in this incident, because she's just trying to provide people with options. Fun options. That sort of person is always more seductive than a bossy pants! 

I'm looking forward to missing more sketch outs in the future, just so I can see what fun they get up to when they are being "irresponsible."

Isn't it time you behaved irresponsibly with art materials? If you're in the Twin Cities you need to be going to MetroSketchers and other sketch out possibilities (this link will get you to all sorts of local groups of which I'm aware).

If you don't live here you need to find or start your own groups. Start kicking it up—with whatever art tool you have at hand.

    • Karen
    • December 15, 2011

    Well, I’m glad to have the WHOLE story.

  1. Reply

    Oh my, I did not know that about Inktense pencils… I only have a set of 12, used a couple of times. I liked them better that the Albert Durer pencils, but the truth be told I’m too LAZY to use pencils… it’s so much easier to carry a NIJA waterbrush and my tiny BIJOU box of pan paints.. I’m an instant gratification sort of gal, and I’m not detail oriented enough to use pencils much at all.

  2. Reply

    I loved this post as much as you loved posting it. I love your self awareness. You have even told ME to kill my Inktense set of 74 I lovingly dragged home from Singapore – and you don’t even KNOW me! That is master degree level bossy pants. I ignored the advice, of course. They are so purty in the box and when they first get wet…

  3. Reply

    Yes Karen, and unvarnished!

  4. Reply

    CaptElaine, it’s not laziness, it’s efficiency that pushes you towards the bijou box. Once I started regularly making books with paper that would hold up to watercolor in the 1990s I started leaving my colored pencils (of all sorts) at home (for the most part, though I do take them for some special occasions).

    It’s too dangerous to stand and sketch the way I do holding even 3 pencils at a time. Because when you drop a pencil you ruin the lead. I’ve only dropped my palette once in my entire life (of course that was the one time I was standing in a room all by myself with no one around, a concrete floor, and semi-precious antiques all around…not a crowded fair or zoo).

    Keep exploiting those paints.

  5. Reply

    Carol, I remember you mentioning the InkTense and my intense worry for you and your art. But you see this is how it starts, the seductiveness of the pencils when the first get wet.

    Since you have resisted the full force of direct bossy pants, all I can do is stand by and hope that the fascination will wear off.

    And of course tell you that if you invest in watercolor paints like Daniel Smith that full gusto of color will be there on the first swipe if you want it to be.

    Just saying.

    And DS Watercolors are very open and clear about each pigment’s lightfastness rating.

    Have fun!

    • Miss T
    • December 15, 2011

    How did I miss all the drama? I was at the sketchout and still managed to miss it!

  6. Reply

    Boss away! I had no idea about the Inktense pencils and I have a modest set of them. I’ve used them a little bit in my sketchbooks, but mostly favor my little Koi watercolor field set.

    What a great group of friends you have who tease you when you’re gone and joke about your sacred wood duck! Looking forward to following you, bossy or not.

  7. Reply

    Miss T, you probably missed it all because you were busy sketching knowing that if you didn’t get a lot of pages filled in your book you’d have to answer to an even bossier bossy pants than I am—Kim! (But then she gets paid to be a bossy paints.)

    Keep sketching.

  8. Reply

    Katherine, I do indeed have a wonderful group of friends, all talented artists. I’m fortunate that they put up with my bossing.

    Now you know about InkTense, so consider yourself bossed!

  9. Reply

    Oh no…tell me it isn’t so. Derwent Inktense pencils are fugitive?? After developing an approach to painting that uses them, I am dismayed that I will now have to find alternative means. Rats, darn phooey!! I can not imagine what possessed me to not research them more fully before becoming dependent upon them. I never do that. If you could find your test chart I would love to see it. I guess I will have to do one myself. Fades even in a closed book? I remember going to the LA County museum to view some screen prints by a famous artist (Matisse or Dali, I think) and they were kept in spring loaded drawers that would allow you to look at the work, but when you released the drawer it slid back in. But even in the dark is ridiculous. Aaaarrrggghhh.

    • Louise
    • December 16, 2011

    Roz, Thanks for the info about your experience with Inktense pencils. They have been on my wish list. I will now put a line through them with my Pentel Pocket Brush so it won’t fade. Perhaps I would do better investing in another pencil choice. I did find a manufacturer’s chart showing the lastfast ratings of the Intense pencil line. I looked for your lightfast test, but could not find it either. Here is the link. Scroll down the page for the chart….

    The poor sacred wood duck! At least your paintings of him will live on. Your sketching group sounds delightful.

  10. Reply

    Louise, I think you would do better investing in another pencil choice, but as you can tell from the “event” and comments, people do love to use these, and frankly, not everything we do has to “last,” so if it makes you happy to play with them great, just don’t use them for works you expect to last. I would never use them for finished works that I would sell, for instance. I actually threw my set away, because I didn’t even want to give them to my niece for her artwork (she was 6 at the time!).

    As for the squidoo link thanks, the artwork is lovely (but I feel badly the artist, it seems to be all one artist, spent all that time on artwork that would fade quickly). And that’s interesting information with the manufacturer’s chart, however that isn’t the type of chart I was looking for. My chart has actually been exposed to light and shows how horribly fugitive the colors are (1/2 was exposed to light and when you place it next to the half that wasn’t you can see the difference), it would make you ill. Reading that something has a low lightfast rating like 2 or 3 is less startling than seeing the results. (Also some of the pencils they labeled over 6 didn’t fare that well on the test card either and it helps to see it.)

    Metro Sketchers is a still changing group of sketchers, with a core group and other people finding out about it and coming depending on their liking of the destination, which changes over time. Liz Carlson and Tim Jennen organize that group.

    Each sketching group does take on a certain personality over time, and that’s one of the fun things about having so many sketching opportunities in the Twin Cities. (That and the fact that they aren’t “classes” so no one has to teach and be “on” but can just sketch.) And sometimes there are opportunities for cake afterwards.

    When I sketch alone (once or twice a week I make a trip to the zoo or the Bell or some place like that; I don’t count my daily errands as “sketch outs”) I never get cake, but when I’m out with other folks, well sometimes it seems that’s a good time to get cake with other folks and have a bit of a chat.

    Sketching with groups has some definite perks.

  11. Reply

    Bilby06, sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I understand your frustration. I jumped into Derwent’s Graphitints without doing my normal lightfastness tests. Then Kate Johnson gave the heads up that her sketches with those pencils had faded even in a closed journal and I did a chart.
    I can show you that one because it was my first blog post and can remember it.

    The changes were dramatic. I stopped using Graphitints immediately.

    In a second post on Graphitints I recommended that people simply burn through non-archival or non-lightfast supplies which they’ve purchased, because in such a burst of intense production and creativity you can learn a lot of things about different approaches and composition, and every thing else, non-related to the issue of lightfastness. And you get to take that learning with you (and can still scan or shoot any pieces you really love).

    And some people find it very freeing to create in that way and aren’t concerned about the output.

    You sound like you are, however, so I recommend that you switch to another brand, Faber-Castell’s ALbrecht-Dürer watersoluble colored pencils seem to get high marks from people. They are my favorite of this type of pencil.

    The problem with this type of pencil (across several brands not just Derwent’s efforts) is that pencils of this type often don’t contain pigments but contain dyes and there is something about the chemical process of a dye that allows it to fade even without light exposure, but with light exposure the fading is quite dramatic. A chemist explained it all to me and somewhere I wrote about it but I’ve got 1100 or more posts now and haven’t located it (I must have given it a snazzy title that didn’t “make sense.”)

    Maybe next year when the deadlines aren’t pressing me I’ll have to dig those charts out and do another post on it.

    In the meantime, if you like dry/wax based pencils you can count on Derwent Drawing, which is a wonderful line of pencils.

    Re: Prints in cases in the dark—the Victoria and Albert has all their miniatures on ivory in a room in cases and the light only stays on for a short time (not even while you’re in the room). Museums are great with coming up with ways to keep things from being exposed to light.

    Sadly in some cases it isn’t enough.

    But as I’ve said, you can keep working with your pencils and just scan everything when finished. Those scans (or photos) will then become your “originals” as the others fade away.

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