I tried out some new drawing materials this afternoon for about 15 minutes before Mel and I went to the wedding.
I picked up a three-pack of Helix-brand charcoal pencils that were on clearance at Office Max for a buck, just to try ’em out. The package supposedly contained three densities of charcoal, cleverly dubbed “soft,” “medium” and “hard.” I scribbled on a page in my sketchbook with each of them and wasn’t particularly impressed. The “hard” pencil seemed basically the same as the “medium” pencil, and the “soft” charcoal felt by far the hardest of the three. Also, sketching with them wasn’t very smooth; the charcoal felt gummy and was grabbing the paper in ways I wasn’t crazy with. They just felt scratchy, and especially with the “soft” pencil I was expecting it to be a far more smooth experience – like my Derwent 9B, which is like sketching with butter. I’m not sure how much more I’ll do with these pencils; they might come in handy for something, I dunno. I’m glad I only paid a buck for ’em.
I also tried a new non-photo sketching pencil, a Prismacolor ColErase 761 1/2 blue. I have had it for a while, but had been using a Staedtler Mars non-copy pencil that lays down a darker and more purple line that I bought at the same time; the only reason I used the Staedtler pencil first was that it came pre-sharpened. I liked the Prismacolor pencil; it suffers from the same problem as every Prismacolor in that it’s almost a guarantee that you’re going to shear off the point of the lead almost immediately after you sharpen it, but it laid down a pretty smooth line that was easy to draw over with a Derwent 5B. It also was smoother than the Staedtler pencil, which feels like it occasionally grabs the paper (similar to the Helix charcoal pencils, but not nearly as constantly). I think the Prismacolor pencil was 50 cents compared to a buck for the Staetdler pencil, too, so it’s probably a good idea for me to prefer that one for practical as well as mechanical reasons.
Next to try out: some Faber-Castell lining markers that I also picked up on clearance today. I want to compare them to the Prismacolor liners I currently have and have enjoyed using.