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What product have you felt guiltiest, or silliest, for buying?

I haven't bought stupid things I didn't want or need since the 1980s. It's more that I still sometimes put off and put off cool things that I really want and will be insanely happy with when I finally get them.

Hmm... this is going to sound strange all right, but I'll put the happiest answer to this question in my answer here.

It's buying a full range set of Prismacolors, and I am about to do it again. I first got the full range set in 1971 and I begged like a freakin' beagle to get it, practically sat up and rolled over, babbled a thousand different explanations for why I needed to get the biggest possible set of colored pencils to my grandmother. She listened, amused. At the time it was 72 colors and the nearest large set was a set of 36 Verithins from the same manufacturer. I think she intended to get them for me in the first place, because she was the one who pointed out the set and said "Are these good ones?"

Oh yes they were, they were the best.

I went home and used up all the blues in a full page undersea colored pencil painting and desperately tried to invent burnishing and get rid of those little white specks that appear till you've given it four or five layers.

I used them up and went nuts getting replacements at rare intervals. "You have plenty of other colors to use." Er, right, except if I wanted to do another undersea scene. Or another forest. Pretty soon all the landscape colors were worn to little nubs. I went through them like candy and only irregularly managed to get replacements even after I got a job.

Onward through time, buying Prismacolor replacements as I had spending money and managed to get to art stores, which was not usually often but did happen sometimes. I wound up in New Orleans, newly single again, in 1990. I got an ad from United Art & Education Supply, a wonderful mail-order company with the best sale flyer I'd ever seen. Sanford had just come out with a set of 120 colors.

I looked at my 72 color set and equivocated until that flyer came because it was something over $150 in stores... and then United Art & Education put it out as a loss leader for $36. I bought it. I went on another long span of buying Prismacolor replacements when I had money and not when I didn't, occasionally picking up new colors as colors were discontinued. I remember when Grape got discontinued and Black Grape added, wish I'd managed to buy a box of a dozen Grape to have both values of it.

I equivocated on that giant set for weeks though before the ad tipped the balance because it was so cheap. Never mind that I really should've been sensible and bought several giant sets at that price knowing I would use them up fast. I was trying to live on art sales. My pastels always paid for themselves. Canson Mi-Tientes always paid for itself. I never sold Prismacolor paintings because they took too bloody long to finish and I loved them too much when I got done. But I had sold a couple of them in the previous few years of fan art, enough to put getting the replacements onto a higher priority.

The thrill when I got that giant set in its package along with some needed staples like sketchbooks, Ebony pencils, a couple of replacement pastels, was indescribable. I was so happy I felt like I could walk on air. I was thrilled just to open the box and sort them into chromatic order. Prismacolors are the only colored pencil that comes jumbled so the artist has to sort them for himself. To this day I sometimes wonder if the color arrangement, which is consistent as a jumble, is some specific palette some particular illustrator loved with all the most-used pencils up front.

Both times I bought new giant sets of Prismacolors, I got blisters on my thumbs from sharpening every single blessed one of them. And it doesn't matter. The dang things are still my first love and they still have a unique texture unlike any other colored pencil.

I have a set of 132 in my cart at Blick. When I did the marbles painting inspired by Masterful Color, I ran into at least five colors that were new colors that came out during the time I was broke and didn't see new colors introduced or snap up discontinueds or buy any of them. Right now my vintage set is occupying two 120 color leather cases along with all 36 Verithins (good for edging), all 24 Col-Erase and all 48 Art Stix, a good arrangement since that puts all the Prismacolor pencilish products in one place except for the Lightfast ones that are living in their tin.

I went through the same equivocation as last time -- I already have a big set. I even stocked up on discontinued colors and bought replacements -- but as I searched for a Dark Green in the replacements box, it occurs to me that I've been going through all the extras I bought in my most-used colors. Depending on the scale of the coupon that comes up soonest after I get my check, I may be adding a bunch of individual colors to have spares of colors I know I use up fastest, like Indigo Blue or Terra Cotta or Limepeel.

It sank in on me as soon as I made the firm decision and now I'm as happy with it as I was when I first got the 120 color set. Right now I'm even selling Prismacolor paintings occasionally, albeit small ones. There is NO reason not to keep completely stocked up on Prismacolors no matter how many other grand sets of full range colored pencils I collect, because I am definitely going to use them up fast.

Only this time I have an electric sharpener. I'll clean out the shavings receptacle the morning the package is due to come, because I will probably have to empty it several times that day sharpening them all. And once again I will have All the Colors in my absolutely favorite brand of colored pencils.

Part of that is just familiarity. I've been fooling with those since 1971 and practice counts. I'm used to exactly the degree of transparency and smudging and blending that they have, and while I love my other sets and like using them together, each one has its own favorite techniques. Prismacolors are the best for that insane multilayered painting approach and there's good reason Arlene Steinberg uses them for all the demos in Masterful Color.

I don't even think I'll be this excited again when I get the 120 color set of Caran d'Ache Pablo but that'll be nice too. I've stopped feeling funny about collecting all the Master Sets, once I got used to them and started rotating the sets and getting different results I felt good about it and know I will actually use them all. But a new set of Prismacolors is always something insanely cool and special, way outside the ordinary for me.
Explore-Oil-Pastels-With-Robert-Sloan.com Articles at eHow.com, ETSY shop, My Bonanzle Booth, deviantART gallery, SFFmuse and look for art by robertsloan2art on eBay. Listed on Art Blogs 4 U
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Interesting art blog: Patrick's Art Blog focused on realism!
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( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 24th, 2008 01:29 am (UTC)
This is going to sound like sacrilege after this post, but I have lost my box of Derwents. Seriously. I had it out for something, and now it's not in the drawer, and I can't find it. How does one lose a box of 36 pencils? I am baffled! Knowing me it will turn up in a pile of books, masquerading as a couple of thin paperbacks, but still.
May. 24th, 2008 01:41 am (UTC)
At least you know it's somewhere in the stack of books! Don't worry, I've done that sometimes too. That size of tin is easy to vanish under books or magazines and as long as the stack is secure, it's safe. You'll tear through all the stacks and shelve the books and find it.

Why does that remind me of my room? lol

I'm just glad that my Prismacolors have leather jackets, those cases are easy to spot in any pile of books and art supplies and so padded and sturdy that if my cat throws them on the floor, my pencils don't get internal breakage.

I'd be tearing up everything if I mislaid a set of pencils and needed them for something. I've done this for oh, a kneaded eraser, or a pencil sharpener sometimes. Good luck finding it. Cleaning up usually turns it up, whatever it is.

But a pile of top loaders wound up under and behind my armchair in ways I have no idea how it got there, except that some of those ways are furry and have whiskers and like swatting small objects. Feline intervention can be a chaos factor in finding stuff!
May. 24th, 2008 03:53 am (UTC)
I found it right after I left the comment; it was underneath my character sheet for a Changeling game that never quite got off the ground. *cuddles battered old tin*

Feline intervention tends to be a big factor in my pencil sharpeners going missing, because they're barrel ones, so they roll when poked by an inquisitive paw.
May. 24th, 2008 05:39 am (UTC)
Oh good! Now I can relax. I was worried about your not finding your Derwents. That can be so frustrating! Oh yes, my Brass Bullet sharpener and Prismacolor Colored Pencil Sharpener both count to Ari as Cat Toys. They roll even on the carpet. But he's been known to pick up an angular Little Red All-Art one and carry it and put it somewhere else just to be mischievous.

Neat where you found it too. Save that character, maybe someone else will run a Changeling game! I always liked Changeling a lot, but Kitten's World of Darkness games tend not to be focused on Changeling so much as on vampires, mages or weres.

I've been procrastinating all evening on cutting up ACEO blanks out of Canson Mi-Tientes sheets. I got out all my Canson pads determined to cut one sheet from each color into ACEO blanks and have them handy, but I started with Heritage, the dark colors. Very hard to see the graphite markup lines on the back (textured) side -- for ACEOs it's better for me to draw on the textureless side.

So once I got to the very last one tonight, I was struggling with the graphite pencil and realized belatedly I could use my white Col-Erase to mark it up. Doh. It'll be easier doing the Brights and Neutrals with graphite but now I'm finally carving up the last sheet of Heritage and I think that's it for tonight's cutting-up spree, even though I wanted to draw some on the lighter colors.

If I do a pad a day I will accomplish all that cutting and put the pads away one by one.

I also loved how the white lines looked on the dark paper and might do some sketched ACEOs using the dark background and Col-Erase colored pencils instead of soft smudgy Prismacolors, do some different styles now that I've been going nuts on the full burnish colored pencil painting for a few days. The last four I've done were all completely burnished with many layers, four or five at least, completely covering the background with mixed colors. They came out great, but now I'm longing to do some easy ones again too!

Derwent colored pencils are great for a textured "drawing-looking" look where the paper is left blank to show through some of it and the lines are loose or crosshatched or the shading fades to background and looks pencilish. I should try for some realistic hawks done that way, on deep colored Canson Mi-Tientes.
May. 24th, 2008 06:52 am (UTC)
I was terribly tempted to buy a new box of Derwents yesterday; I saw the box of 36 on sale at Big W for $27, but talked myself out of it by reminding myself that I had a set at home and that they were still good if I could find them. So then I found them, so that's all right.

The Changeling character will definitely be kept; she's a boggan wilder with a 'toy' wombat as a companion, and I'm so annoyed that the game never happened, so I will hang on to the character sheet in the hope that someone else will run a game soon. I have the vaguest of vague ideas about running a one-shot game set around the idea Ashcombe Maze being a freehold that's slowly being drained of glamour that the characters need to find a way to replenish, but I'd like to play properly in the world first before trying to run anything.

I've had similar line-visibility issues for cutting stuff when I (very rarely) do things with fabric. A three-pack of fabric pencils more or less solved that issue: there's not much that either blue, white or orange won't show up on.

I love reading about all your special art supplies. My Derwents are about the fanciest art stuff I have. I tend to draw on white A4 printer paper (Reflex recycled, not that it's special or anything), or if I want to draw on bigger paper I have an A2 and an A3 pad stashed beside the computer desk. I don't draw nearly as much as I write, though. I usually have a notebook with me for writing, but if I don't, I have been known to take notes in the message thingy on my mobile phone, or to jot things down on paper napkins, or (most often) scribble on my own hand or forearm.

The white lines on dark paper could be good -- some really crisp line drawings instead of the uber-detailed stuff you've been doing. Not that the marbles aren't incredible, but having a bit of a rest is a good thing too, like switching to drabble writing after NaNoWriMo.
May. 24th, 2008 07:48 am (UTC)
Yeah, it's like when I go from doing my How To articles to leaping into doing a fantasy novel where I don't have to pay attention to the facts and once again I have characters, conflict, immersive setting and snappy lines -- none of which really make it into How to Draw articles except the occasional snappy line if it happens. I'm really tempted to do some of the white and black on gray drawings too, with Conte sketch pencils or Col-Erase -- with Col-Erase they'd be more crosshatching and more detail than my Five Minute Art ones, something in between.

I love my insanely luxurious art studio. It's all piled up in one corner like a packrat stash, a scribbler's lair, and I keep rotating colored pencils sets so they don't really wear down that fast. Except for the Prismacolors, which do whenever I do a good sized piece. They wear down very fast.

You probably ought to splurge and pick up a good drawing pad sometime with acid-free art paper. Whenever I work on normal printer paper, inevitably I do something so good that I'll really regret watching it yellow and crumble over the years. But even dimestore drawing pads are good acid free paper.

Besides, you resisted the temptation of the extra set of Derwents, though that would've been incentive to do lots of coloured pencils drawings! Thus you've got the spending money to get good drawing paper. What I found after I started getting decent sketchbooks is that if I had enough pages, I was not afraid to actually use it for drawing.

I can recommend a good bargain one, if it's available in the UK -- Canson Universal Recycled wirebound sketchbooks are fantastic, they reach my green side by being made from postconsumer waste as well as factory leftovers, and they are good acid free lasting art paper if I happen to do something good on them. The other great bargain I found was a pack of three Canson Biggie pads, one with 100 sheets, one with thinner paper and 125 sheets, and one with 40 or 50 sheets of lightweight watercolor paper. They were selling it as a bundle on Blick.

So if you watch for bargains especially at online art supply companies, you might find a good thick pad or sketchbook for a price that doesn't leave you feeling like you blew a fortune on your hobby or it's too good to ruin by daring to draw on it. I run into that sometimes on my best papers. It took me forever to actually use my Rising Stonehenge 100% rag paper -- and now I love it, absolutely addicted to it like with the Prismacolors. I think there are some UK brands that are cheaper to you than they are to me, you could look into what's local.

Wirebound sketchbooks are the most convenient though, with tape bound pads a good second. Wirebound ones are usually microperforated so you can rip a sheet out if you want to sell the art, though I hang onto bad drawings so that later I can look back and go "Wow, I have really improved." Same with unfinished drawings. Sometimes I get so much better that I look back at an unfinished drawing, think it was bad and don't want to bother finishing! Or get an idea from it and do it again, but better.

Date everything. That always cheers me up, seeing dates on things I've done.

It's freaky, this year I've had another conscious leap in skill, a couple of them. One in sketching, the other in serious colored pencil realism. I feel like these marbles are going to improve my landscapes, florals and illustrations even beyond what I was getting before.

So true about blue, orange and white pencils. I got a white fabric marking pencil at a sewing store once, got it home and realized it was just a white watercolor pencil. May be cheaper picking up scholastic watercolor pencils for fabric marking, they run very cheap. Faber-Castell Red Line children's ones are cheap and excellent, I got them for my granddaughter.

Oh that's cool your boggan wilder. You have me all interested in Changeling again. I'm not sure what type of fae I would run now. Might be a cat pooka, a young tom with a friendly yet mischievous personality. I can so see a blue-eyed, brown-haired teenage boy with a deadpan look of feline innocence...
May. 24th, 2008 08:01 am (UTC)
I am also procrastinating on going to bed. lol

Age 54 and I'm still reacting to bedtime like a little kid.

Anyway, if you pick up enough good art paper, it stops being too good to use. Or if you get a wirebound sketchbook with lots of recycled pages and a sheet of good watercolour paper, then the watercolour paper can be carefully stored away as too good to use but the sketchbook is all right to scribble and experiment in. It helps me to break its virginity. I'll store a new sketchbook for months without touching it, and even notice the edges yellowing from smoke or whatever, or see a coffee stain on the side from it being banged around, before doing something in it.

Unless as soon as I get it, I open it up and put something in. I actually filled my 9" x 12" Canson Universal Recycled sketchbook, the honking big 100 page one that I was sure would wind up getting wet and ruined before I used all the pages. It seems to take forever for me to fill one.

But that was before I started actually sketching, when any page I drew on had to become a perfect finished drawing or I thought of it as wasted. Most of the filled-up sketchbook now actually has sketches in it, scribbly fast drawings of this and that. Cartoons I dashed off to illustrate eHow articles.

I also like the cheap Pro Art wirebound hardback ones. The first sketchbook I actually finished since high school was one of those, 4" x 6", and I finished it about a year and a half ago -- and a lot of pages are colour charts for coloured pencils sets. I went through the second one a lot faster. I bought the Leonardo da Vinci Sketchbook on sale at ASW and read it, and the article suggested filling a sketchbook a month.

I couldn't do that without actually drawing fast and scribbling and not worrying about bad drawings or unfinished ones.

One that I'm taking out again in November for my Nanowrimo is my Bienfang Notesketch. Wirebound, cardboard covers, each page has the left side blank for sketching and the right side with lines for writing. I had this idea of doing a field journal for the world of my fantasy novel. I filled about four or five pages so far with things from Eastcliffe from The Necromancer's Tale, not all of which got into the book.

But I think I may get that out and putter with it during Nanowrimo again this year whatever genre I write, because I can use it to jot changes or ideas as I go and sketch the things in it quick the way I did those Five Minute ACEOs, not really try for good drawings but fast ones. If I fill it up I can get a new one.

What I really want is to get the half size one and fill it up with dino-drawings and dino-details for my Three Day Novel. I'm researching Albertasaurus sarcophagus to be my protagonist and have this monster book of dinosaurs that I got on sale at Amazon -- 733 pages and hardly any pictures! Most of the pictures are line drawings of bones. It's a scientist's reference, not a pop science thing with lots of paintings in it.

I need to filter through it for everything that lived in the same area and time as Albertasaurus so that I know what it ate and where it slept and everything about it. It's a good reference, but I'm going to be bouncing between that and Wikipedia and google a lot, I think.

Actually it sounds like a plan. I should get the smaller one because I do quick-sketch now, and if I put my sketches of the creatures into my book, my notesketch book will be a much handier reference during Labor Day Weekend than The Dinosauria. I don't need to go into any of the later animals or earlier animals or animals that only lived in Mongolia. I need the Canadian dinosaurs of the early Cretaceous. If I took notes the way I did in college, and drew with the notes, that would help a lot more than anything else I could do -- tons more than typing notes I'll never reread in text files.

Okay, I need to do that. lol
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


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Robert A. Sloan, author of Raven Dance

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