Project Friday: Experiment with Metallic Pencils—A Little Bit of Fun

December 14, 2012

121120KevinBaconLeft: A quick study of Kevin Bacon on cheap, textured drawing paper using metallic pencils. Read below for details.

Since resuming life drawing once a week I've been using a lot more dry media again, because I can be messy and not worry about the dust at home. Then when I get home I still want to use dry media so I get out the colored pencils, a great non-dusty standby.

This sketch is made with two colors of Lyra's Super Ferby. It's an odd, fat, triangular pencil with metallic leads. It comes in at least 5 colors because that's how many I think I have, so there are at least that many. The colors are a bit odd and none are really dark in value, that's why I used a black Stabilo All in this drawing as well.

Note: A web search for these pencils turned up boxes called the "Waldorf" selection. Those are NOT what I was using. My pencils read Lyra Super Ferby and are all metallic leads; all purchased in open stock. The gold sitting on my desk right now has 89239 as a number. I was not using any "normal" colored leads. I contacted Tim at Wet Paint (where I got mine quite some time ago) and they are currently out of stock but they are coming in next week.

What I did in the sketch shown today:

1. Sketched in blue Ferby.

2. Added areas of red/pinkish maroon Ferby.

3. Went in with Stabilo All (black) for darkest areas and outline stated where I wanted it.

4. Colored in the background with random strokes of the blue Ferby.

If you enjoy working in colored pencils but want something a bit quirky (metallic colors) you might want to check out some Ferby pencils. I happen to think they look best on a slightly textured paper so that the line is broken up a bit—you get more sparkle from the metallic lead.

Be sure to pick up a sharpener that will take fat pencils. Not all the fat pencil sharpeners will accommodate the Ferby, so you might want to take your Ferby along to insert it and check before purchasing a sharpener, or buy the Ferby where and when you get the sharpener. I use the two-holed Staedtler Sharpener which you can find a photo of on my blogger picks page for tools on Wet Paint's site. (It's the fourth item on this page, blue with a tiny flip top over the holes.)

Note: Missed my "bloggers pick page" on Wet Paint's site? You can find the opening page here with items listed in categories. Click on a category and a bunch of products that I've had success with in that category will come up.

The picks listed are not exhaustive, simply because I feel I have to give Tim a break now and then and not constantly ask him to update it. The Ferby pencil isn't on there because frankly it's a pencil I've used for years, but only sporadically. You can see a blast from the past, a 2002 sketch I made of Dottie using the metallic blue Ferby here. The captions says "pen" but that's a writo, followed by the word "pencil," you get the idea. And you can see the lovely soft line it gives

I'm writing about the Ferby now simply because it's kind of fun and it's the holiday season and someone might need an oddball gift to give a pencil freak with every brand. Oh and I haven't finished my stack of books that I'm going to review—I'll get back to those books. 

The lead of the Ferby is soft, smooth, and because the pencil is fat the lead is also fat. You can really lay down some color quickly. And get a lovely thick line. You can sharpen it to a point and do some tighter work, but it is a relatively soft lead and too much pressure in your working hand may cause the point to splinter off. I think of it as a sketching tool, but I'm sure someone somewhere is making the most amazing tight renderings with it!

Of course you can use it with your other colored pencils (I use them with my Prismacolors typically, though on this day I used them with the Stabilo All). 

Don't be afraid to sketch with them and then add watercolor or gouache. Show the line and let it shimmer through the watercolor or hide some of it with the gouache, either way it's fun.

They are also fun for taking to figure drawing. And they give a subtle effect on toned papers like the Strathmore hardbound journal's tan toned paper or Magnani's Annigoni Designo.

Project Friday Assignment:
1. Get one or two Ferby pencils that appeal to you. (I recommend a cool and a warm, not just a gold, but get colors that suit your working methods and inclinations.)

2. Select 3 or 4 drawing papers that you enjoy working on with colored pencils. (Ideally these should be papers you have already worked on with enjoyment and success, but if you're new to pencil work here are some suggestions for papers that I love for this type of work.)

• Borden & Riley have some padded 100% Rag drawing paper that has a lovely tooth for colored pencil work.

• Stonehenge comes in a range of colors. I really like their white or cream for sketching with pencils when I'm not going to do intense layers and layers.

• Magnani Annigoni Designo or Strathmore's Tan papers are both fun for toned papers.

• Strathmore 500 Series Vellum Bristol is a wonderful surface for sketching with colored pencil.

• Fabriano Artistico 300 lb. Hot Press watercolor paper is great for mixed media work with pencil and wet media. If you want more texture the cold press is good. Soft Press is probably "just right" for a larger variety of effects.

3. Select a couple dark pencils of another brand. These should be normal leads, not metallic—a black Stabilo All, or a dark purple or indigo Prismacolor for instance would be excellent choices. Take these with you for adding value contrast and crisp line as needed.

4. Select a favorite model (e.g., you dog or cat or budgie), go to life drawing, go sit in a cafe, set up a favorite object in a still life—and sketch with the Ferby on the different paper surfaces.

After drawing for a couple hours with the Ferby ask yourself some questions: How did the pencil feel (smooth, rough, whatever) on the paper; did it drag or glide compared to what you normally use; could you get dark enough values; could you restate your lines in your normal fashion; did you like the addition of watercolor or gouache and if so why (being very specific); did you like the Ferby on each paper and why (again, being very specific).

Besides asking those and other working questions jot down your answers in your journal so you can find them in the future.

Next to wrap up, think of 3 projects in which you would like to use the Ferby as an experiment.

Here's an example I'm looking forward to—I want to do a sketch with acrylics (fluid) and then when the paint is dry, add Ferby lines for texture, metallic glitz, and plain old fun, just to see what happens.

Once you have your three ideas noted down in your journal get your callendar out and mark down your next Project Friday—the follow up! Work on those three projects you conceived.

What will you do with your Ferby? Let me know. Have a great Project Friday. 

Note: I have no idea how archival the Super Ferby pencil is. I haven't used it in finished art, I've just always used it in sketches. So if you get some finished pieces you really like, remember scan or photograph them and save a digital record, just to avoid disappointment.

  1. Reply

    Dang I love the name! SUPER FERBY sounds like an excellent bowler hat from the 30’s!
    Roz when you go to figure drawing classes ( and I am considering going again myself) do you go with a plan? For your session? I am guessing you must… A lot of the time I get bogged down in describing the whole figure equally and often do not love the results given the short poses…Any tips for those of us considering the same?

    • Linda
    • December 14, 2012

    Roz so were doing heavy Metal now:) Have not tried these kind of pencil and will have to wait till my budget will allow this so in the mean time Ill get my old albums out and try to listen:) untill I can get the pencils.
    Roz I hope you and your love ones have a blessed holiday and a wonderful New year thank you so for this years art learning journey and what you do here,

  2. Reply

    Linda, could be light metal too! Thanks for the holiday wishes. I hope you have a new year full of art.

  3. Reply

    Cate, I wasn’t even meaning stepping back and using your whole arm, though of course you should do that. My big thing is that I need to step back, way back away from the easel and look at the whole, consider the whole, because I’m usually too focused on one bit and can’t see how fussy and cramped I’m getting!

    Isn’t there a video of Picasso drawing shot through a glass plate and he’s weaving all about—like dancing indeed.

    Hope your life drawing adventures in January and all of 2013 are great!

  4. Reply

    Merci Roz for your generosity! (Of course I knew you had to have a plan!)I think it is easy to make the figure a bigger deal in our heads than drawing a bowl of fruit. One of my teachers in the 80’s—a man of considerable years—once waved his hand midstream referencing the male model and said: “same as bananas and apples!”

    • Cate in Dundee
    • December 17, 2012

    Bless, Roz. 🙂

  5. Reply

    Ellen, people do seem to make drawing the figure a bigger deal than a still life, I think because of the recognition factor. We can do no end of cheating in our drawings and the pears still look like pears, but the model may look like something totally different unless we hone in on those shapes and forms which define it. So it because a great way to get into accuracy by repetition. Your instructor is right, it is all just shapes and shadows.

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