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Product Review (and wish list…)

by Deb Shaw and others

There are always new tempting art supplies available, but this year there seems to have been a cascade of new art products that make traveling with art supplies a breeze. Below are just a few of our current favorites. Disclaimer: I’ve included some links and prices where it’s easy and I know the resource. I haven’t done extensive research on who carries what, or who has the best prices. If you click on any of the links below, you’ll go to the exact product page for that website, rather than the home page.

Do you have some favorite new products? Write a review and let me know and we’ll put together another column in the future.

Derwent Carry-all

Closed Derwent Carry-all

Closed Derwent Carry-all, image courtesy of the Ken Bromley website.

Not yet available in the US, this is the best portable art studio I’ve found! I can fit everything I need for pencil and watercolor artwork, all into one 10″ x 8″ x 4″ canvas satchel. Everything I need now lives permanently in my Carry-all, whether I’m working in the studio, or I’m on the road or in classes.

The Carry-all comes with three “leaves”, held in place by six small notebook-style snap rings. The leaves snap in and out, depending on your travel requirements, and have elastic straps to hold pencils, pens, brushes, etc.

Open Carry-all

Open Carry-all, image courtesy of the Ken Bromley website.

There’s a zippered mesh pocket on the inside front, and a strap on the inside back to hold an A5 sketchbook and other necessary items.

An external pocket, carry handles and a detachable shoulder strap complete the kit. The Derwent Carry-all is available at Ken Bromley Art Supplies (among other UK art suppliers), on sale now for about $26.00 (£15.99). Deb is putting together a BAGSC group order. Watch your email for an offer to participate!

Invisi Lightweight Display Easel

Invisi Lightweight Display Easel

Invisi Lightweight Display Easel, image © Ken Bromley Art Supplies website.

This one is a Ken Bromley exclusive that I’ve tested extensively and will be ordering a lot more (BAGSC members watch for the email to participate).

Originally designed as portable display easel for art exhibitions, the Invisi Easel is made from white corrugated plastic (the same material out of which the Post Office constructs its boxes). Reusable, they lay flat for storage and transport, and snap together in one easy motion to set up.

In addition to using the Invisi Easel to set up an artwork display, I’ve also been using one as an easel in art classes. My neck and back no longer allow me to work hunched over a table, and I work sitting upright at an easel in my studio. The need for lightweight packing for airline travel, however, doesn’t allow me to drag my easel along for art classes.

I’ve been setting up my Invisi Easel, adhering it to the table with a bit of kneaded eraser or tape (so it won’t scoot away as I work). I have my paper (or vellum) on a piece of foam core as I usually do, and I’m ready to draw or paint. No, you can’t put a lot of pressure on the painting as you work, but I haven’t had a problem with painting or drawing. And my back and neck are grateful as well.

The Invisi Easel is about $9.11 each (£5.65), or approximately $40.24 for a 5 pack (£24.95), or approximately $72.50 (£44.95) for a 10 pack. If enough BAGSC members are interested, a pack of 50 is available for about $272.00 (£168.50).

Porcelain Tinting Saucer

Porcelain Tinting Saucer

Porcelain Tinting Saucer, courtesy of Ken Bromley website

This item comes from BAGSC members Elaine Searle and Pat Mark (who discovered it in Elaine’s class). Again, it’s another one of those things we don’t seem to be able to get here in the US yet. A small (only 3.3″ diameter) white porcelain saucer, it has four divisions for mixing paint and is easy to pack. It’s about $3.60 each from Ken Bromley (£2.25). This too will be on our order list for BAGSC member who want to participate, so watch your email.

Koh-I-Noor Watercolor Wheel Set

Koh-I-Noor Watercolor Wheel

Koh-I-Noor Watercolor Wheel Set, image courtesy of the Dick Blick website

Thank you to Tania Marien for discovering this gem at the SCAD bookstore at the GNSI conference in Savannah, Georgia. These are available all over, including Dick Blick and my local art store (where I bought mine). Each wheel measures 3-1/4″ in diameter, and set comes with four wheels (trays) that stack and screw together. Each tray holds six colors (seven if you use the middle space, for a total of 24 – 32 colors. The transparent cover can be used for mixing, if you don’t mind mixing in plastic.

Koh-I-Noor Watercolor Wheel Set

Koh-I-Noor Watercolor Wheel Set, courtesy of Dick Blick website

Be forewarned; it’s not easy to pry, soak and scrape the original colors out of the pans. Once you do, however, your own palette neatly and easily fills the spaces. I created labels with the paint names and information for the underside of each well. Two sets gave me enough space for my entire palette, plus extra spaces for that squirt of color that I didn’t know I needed from a friend in class.

Faber-Castell Clic & Go Water Pot

Faber-Castell Clic & Go Water Pot, courtesy of Dick Blick's website

Faber-Castell Clic & Go Water Pot, courtesy of Dick Blick’s website

Expanded water pot, courtesy of Dick Blick's website

Expanded water pot, courtesy of Dick Blick’s website

Everyone seemed to discover this one at the same time! Easy to find everywhere (at Dick Blick for $3.86 — 26 percent off list), this ingenious water pot collapses for travel (or for a small amount of water) and then expands to hold at least double the amount. Easy to clean, and nicely designed scallops on the rim are the perfect holders for brushes.

I use two.

Caran d’Ache Pencils

Caran d'Ache Luminance 6901 Colored Pencils, courtesy of Dick Blick's website

Caran d’Ache Luminance 6901 Colored Pencils, courtesy of Dick Blick’s website

Thank you to Margaret Best for steering me to the Caran d’Ache Luminance Lightfast colored pencils and graphite.

The Colored Pencil Society of America (CPSA) worked with the American Society for Testing and Material to develop the ASTM D-6901 standards for lightfastness in colored pencils. After two years in development, the Swiss company Caran d’Ache released their Luminance 6901 Lightfast Pencil Sets: the only brand to offer 76 colors, 61 of which are in the most lightfast (Lightfastness I) category.

The chromatic range of the soft leads is very similar to the watercolor palettes used by botanical artists, and contains the highest level of pigments of any colored pencil. Additionally, the Luminance 6901 colored pencils have been awarded use of the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label, guaranteeing that the logging of the California cedar for the pencils is environmentally-friendly and socially and economically sustainable.

The colored pencils come in sets of 16, 38, and 76 from many sources in the US, including Dick Blick, Cheap Joe’s, Jerry’s Artarama, Rex Art, and more. Jerry’s Artarama is the only site I’ve seen in the US that also sells individual colored pencils, but there may be others.

Range of Caran d'Ache Grafwood Pencils, courtesy of Dick Blick's website

Range of Caran d’Ache Grafwood Pencils, courtesy of Dick Blick’s website

Caran d’Ache also offers a spectacular line of graphite: their Grafwood pencils range from HB through 9B, as well as F, H, 2H, 3H, and 4H. They also carry water-soluble graphite (Caran d’Ache Technolo Water Soluble Graphite Pencils), Grafstone Woodless Graphite Pencils, Charcoal Pencils, and Grafcube Graphite Sticks. The pencils are “color-coded” the entire length of the pencil; the harder the pencil the lighter the silvery-gray color of the barrel.

The only adjectives I can come up with to describe these pencils are the same ones I would use to describe food: luscious, buttery, smooth, creamy, all come to mind. Warning: they’re not cheap. Take a deep breath before looking at the sticker price. As far as I’m concerned, however, they’re absolutely worth it.

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