Watercolor pencils and watercolor crayons are a lot of fun to use in conjunction with tube watercolors. But a lot of artists don’t realize their potential. In the few years I’ve been working and teaching with them, I’ve discovered several great uses for them.
* Make your initial drawing with watercolor pencils or watercolor crayons. Drawing with watercolor pencil allows you to paint over the pencil and not worry about your pencil lines smearing and muddying your colors. With clear water on your brush you can usually blend the watercolor pencil into your painting and, in effect, “erase” your initial drawing. Or, even if some color remains, it will better blend in with your painting than regular pencil.
Here I drew an outline of my rose with two or three different shades of pencils—rose, magenta and orange-red. Then I added regular tube colors in areas where I wanted intense colors or shadows. But in those areas where I wanted only the slightest blush of color, I simply wet my pencil line with my brush and pulled the pigment from there.
* You can also use these pencils and crayons to create a looser look in your painting. For a quick sketchy effect I scribbled these tulips at right with pencil and crayon. Again in some areas I added paint, but in other areas, I just pulled the pigment from the pencil or crayon line. At the end I added more scribbly lines to complete the mood of the piece. If I want to, I can tone down the scribbles by brushing on more clear water over the pigment lines, as I did with some of the stems.
Before you run out and buy all the watercolor crayons and pencils you can find, here are a few ideas for buying and caring for them:
1. There are many different brands of both watercolor pencils and watercolor crayons. You may enjoy some and dislike others. Get together with a group of your art friends and have each bring a couple of pencils or crayons in different brands, then have a painting party and trade them off. This allows you to try a variety of brands and colors without investing in a complete set.
2. Even if you fall in love with a particular brand, you still may not need or want an entire set. Since they last a long time, you may not want to start out with too big a collection. Even though they traditionally are more expensive when you buy them individually, you may come out better in the long run because sets often contain some colors you’ll never use.
3. Try not to leave your supplies in a hot car or out in the sun. Crayons and some pencils will melt into a glorious rainbow mush in super-hot temperatures.
I really enjoy both the watercolor crayons and the pencils because they give my paintings a unique look. Try a couple on your next watercolor painting or mixed-media project—you’ll find they add concentrated color right where you want it.
D.L. Hawley is a freelance writer and oil painter.