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Fun with Pencils and Wax

June 29, 2011

I’ve been playing around recently with a combination of various wax mediums and different types of pencils. It creates a very interesting effect that I’m hoping to exploit. The wax materials I’ve been using are blending sticks from Prismacolor and Sennelier, and two types of wax pastes. The paper used here is a heavy weight watercolor paper but any sort of paper will work.

In the photo above starting at the top left is a jar of Dorland’s Wax, which is a mineral wax paste. Next to it is a jar of beeswax paste made using turpentine (aka “cold wax.”) The bar next to it is an oil pastel blending stick from Sennelier. At the bottom left is a Prismacolor Colorless Blender, which is like their wax pencils but without pigment. The pencils I used for this demonstration shown here are a Derwent Pastel pencil, a Sanford Design Ebony (graphite pencil,) and a General’s 8B graphite pencil. I chose these since they tend to be the most powdery types of pencils I use, but when covered with any of these waxes they will not smear so no fixative of any kind need be used. The trade off for that feature is you get a blurry or toned background effect, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

First up on the left is the Ebony pencil covered with Dorland’s Wax Medium. I’ve applied the wax by dabbing a small amount of it on the surface and wiping it down with a tissue. This causes the paper to become toned with the gray of the graphite due to the semi-liquid nature of the paste. The mineral based solvent of this brand also causes the graphite to erase slightly. On the right is the Derwent Pastel pencil covered with beeswax paste that creates a similar effect to using Dorland’s.

This image shows the Ebony pencil coated with the Sennelier oil pastel and also the Prismacolor Blender. You can see how in both cases the marks became much darker. The oil pastel smeared the marks further than the blender but not in as streaky a fashion. I like the blurry effect the blender gave the lines. It reminds me of an old silver photo print.

The Derwent Pastel pencil looks similar to the Ebony, but because it’s more powdery it smears further. Speaking of which, one technique would be to cover the surface with charcoal powder and wipe it with the wax paste to tone the whole background. You could then go over that with the darker pencils.

This is an old pencil sketch made using an HB pencil on cheap copy paper. I’ve now gone over this with the Sennelier oil pastel blender and there’s only a slight bit of smearing in a few spots. As I mentioned there’s no need to use a fixative on this drawing now.

You can also combine these materials to some degree. By that I mean, if you use either of the wax pastes and wipe it down thinly, you can go back over them with new marks using the graphite pencils and add more paste. The pastel pencil will not make a mark on the wax once it’s covered. Once you use the oil pastel blender you cannot add more marks with any of these tools, so in that case the oil pastel medium would have to be the last step. You could use colored oil pastels at that point, however.

You can smear these further with alcohol and probably acetone but I didn’t have any of that handy to test. These pencils are hard to erase by themselves but once they’re covered in wax the best you can do in that regard is lighten them some with solvent.

You’re not just limited to black either. Any type of pencil can be covered this way, such as watercolor pencils, colored pastels, colored wax pencils, etc. You can also mix pigment with the pastes and make a toned background that way.

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One comment

  1. […] been playing around lately with a combination of wax and graphite. I made a post on the subject awhile back. This will be a drawing based on an old photo of mine showing a man asleep on a […]



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