Dreaming with ‘Polychromos’ artists’ colour pencils by Faber-Castell

Faber-Castell Polychromos artists’ colour pencils are much-praised by artists, illustrators, hobbyists, and creative people of every possible kind. And rightly so. The colour pencils by this respectable firm allow for a wide range of illustrating styles and techniques. People create the most wonderful works with the colour-intense pencils, form incredibly detailed, and realistic botanical drawings, to loose and abstract sketches, and everything in between. You can work precise, atmospheric, illustrative, bold, subtle, no matter what style, mood or temperament you have, the Polychromos will support you.

I knew the brand, but I discovered this type of pencil by chance, when I was looking for replacements for my much lamented Karisma Colour Pencils. The Karisma pencils were the darlings of many professional artists, illustrators and designers, and I bought a box long ago, which I anxiously hid from the kids when they were small, because nothing is worse than spoiling a Karisma pencil by dropping it on the floor. To my dismay I discovered that the Karisma pencil, with its characteristic oblique end, was discontinued by the manufacturer. Even now there is even a lively trade in second-hand Karisma sets.

Awake. Made with Polychromos colour pencils by Faber-Castell on Canson 'Manga' art paper. (By Eelco Bruinsma)
Awake. Made with Polychromos colour pencils by Faber-Castell and indian ink on Canson ‘Manga’ art paper. (© Bruinsma 2015.)

But even Karisma’s get shorter when you sharpen them. So I went out to look for a replacement. At the art store I was wavering between many well-known brands. But what do you do when there’s a discount? A lovely big box of Faber-Castell Polychromos Colour Pencils was on offer at a very interesting price. So I took it home and started sketching. First loosely, like the weathered guy below, or the mountain village, also below, then with more pressure, and more layers, like the drawing above. The colours are intense, but subtle. They very much approach my beloved early Renaissance fresco colours, like Giotto and Fra Angelico. If you apply more layers they become deep, and the surface gets waxy, and smooth. I have discovered however, that you should not overdo it. Too many layers, and the colours get flaky.

A rough character-sketch of a man. Polychromos colour pencils by Faber-Castell on fairly rough drawing paper. (Eelco Bruinsma, 2015)
A rough character-sketch of a man. Polychromos colour pencils by Faber-Castell on fairly rough drawing paper. (© Eelco Bruinsma, 2015)

I am not a naturalistic artist, or illustrator. I mostly work by following my train of thoughts, like daydreaming on paper or canvas. And I must say that the soft tones you can get suit my way of drawing and sketching perfectly. I haven’t had time to do a really elaborate and precise piece yet. But the next weeks around Xmas may just be the perfect time to remedy that.

Bergdorp - Mountain Village. Sketch with Polychromos colour pencils by Faber-Castell on Canson 'manga' paper. (Eelco Bruinsma 2015)
Bergdorp – Mountain Village. Sketch with Polychromos colour pencils by Faber-Castell on Canson ‘manga’ paper. (© Eelco Bruinsma 2015)

For me, fairly smooth paper is a perfect companion to the Polychromos. Canson ‘manga’ paper is a good example, but even a very smooth Bristol board can be excellent. Depending on your taste for structure, of course.

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