Made in the Shade: Mixing Liquid Pencil with Paper Art

Last week I met with my high schooler’s teachers during the semi-annual five-minute conferences. I liken it to speed dating, but without alcohol. And in the brief time I got to meet with the art teacher, I discovered that my daughter has trouble with shading. All her 2-D manga drawing has made her shade-averse.

Mug on paper using liquid pencil,
gelatos, and water.

I don’t draw manga, but I can still relate. When it comes to drawing on paper, art made with fabric (such as a quilt), or any other medium where I have to assess the light source and take time to draw (or piece fabric) in a way that shows shading, I’m fairly useless.

Mainly, it’s because I’m impatient and lazy. It takes so much time to choose the right pencil and carefully apply the graphite or pull various values of fabric that will give the object you’re portraying form.

However, I recently had a chance to play with a product that may have me reconsidering my two-dimensional stance: liquid pencil.

I first heard of liquid pencil a couple of years ago when Pam Carriker demonstrated it in an article in Cloth Paper Scissors. I admired the artwork Pam created with it, but I couldn’t really see the potential for myself.

I saw her use it again on her WorkshopTM video Art Journaling Fast & Easy, and became more intrigued. When samples of her signature line of sketching and stamp inks, made by Derivan, showed up at my office, I decided to give it a whirl. And I am hooked.

Liquid pencil sketch by Pam Carriker.

Liquid pencil, which is essentially graphite ink, has all the properties of graphite in liquid form. You can apply it directly to paper with the fine tip of the squeeze bottle it comes in, use a paintbrush, or a dip pen.

And here’s where the shading advantage comes in: you can use liquid pencil as you would watercolors. The rewettable formula can be manipulated using traditional drawing tools like erasers, blending stumps, or even wet brushes, and the permanent formula can be burnished to a sheen.

I started my experimenting by lightly sketching a mug on a paper background using a traditional graphite pencil. Then I squeezed out a tiny puddle of the ink on a small palette (I used a plastic yogurt container top). Using a brush with a fine point, I redrew the lines I had made with pencil. Then I used a flat, angled brush to start shading.

At first I forgot I could use water and just kept brushing until there was less ink on the brush, and the result was therefore lighter. Once I remembered the water, I started having even more fun, as the graphite ink spread and feathered with ease. A little ink goes a very long way, by the way.

At some point I decided I would like to add some color, so I pulled out a few gelatos by Faber-Castell. The blendable pigment sticks come in a tube like a lip balm and can be applied directly to the substrate. I applied some color here and there and then rewet my brush. More instant shading! In color!

I can see that liquid pencil is going to be a big part of my studio playtime in the future, especially when it comes to art journaling, handmade cards, paper collage, and any other kind of mixed-media paper art. I’ve yet to try it on fabric, but you can be sure that’s next!

With the help of liquid pencil, I may even get my daughter to enjoy the fine art of shading.

Liquid pencil is now available in the Cloth Paper Scissors Shop, along with Pam’s book Art at the Speed of Life, Art Journaling Fast & Easy Workshop video, and many other wonderful supplies for mixed-media paper art and art journaling.

P.S. Don’t forget to Pass on Your Passion and tell us about it. You have until March 22, 2012, midnight, EDT to enter.


Blog, Mixed-Media Supplies, Paper Art and Zen Doodle


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