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My review of Holbein Coloured Pencils is finally here!

This blog is sponsored by Amazon. All opinions stated in this blog are my own.



It’s the review quite a few of you have been waiting for! For this review I take an in-depth look at Holbein Coloured Pencils.


Are you drooling over these pencils as much as I am? You can find them for sale at the following links:



The tutorial of “The Cliff Sentry” is also up on my Youtube channel. I use exclusively Holbein Coloured Pencils for this drawing- so if you want a better idea of how these pencils perform then it’s definitely worth checking out!

That’s about it for now – I have some VERY exciting news on the way, but for now I’ll leave you here! Until next time!

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Stabilo CarbOthello pastel pencils review and playing with Acrylic Paint

It’s that time of year again where all sorts of colds and bugs are going round, and unfortunately I finally succumbed to it this week! Being ill sucks but I was still determined to get some art done in between my sneezing and coughing!

My review of Stabilo CarbOthello pastel pencils is now available for you to watch on my Youtube channel, and I also show you how I drew my leopard portrait in pastels in this video too!

I’ve also been playing with my Rembrandt soft pastels for my upcoming review of them on YouTube! This landscape was a quick A4 study and took me around 50 minutes. Hopefully I should have a video about them up as soon as my voice recovers!


Recently, on a whim, I bought some Winsor and Newton Galeria acrylic paints to try out. I’ve not painted with acrylics since my art GCSE. It’s amazing how much you remember about a medium even after a decade! This is a little 2-hour test painting  on a cheap canvas board that I did with them using my own reference photo. Not the most exciting of paintings and the canvas texture was a little too rough to get detail in easily, but I just wanted to see what I was capable of!

This little guy is a blue tit on 18 x 12.5cm canvas board. Own reference photo used. It only took around two hours to complete!
This little guy is a blue tit on 18 x 12.5cm canvas board. Own reference photo used. It only took around two hours to complete!

I was surprised at just how much I enjoyed painting with them so I decided to start on a more serious project.

Yesterday I started a painting of a male greater kudu in acrylic. I’m doing this on an ampersand smooth board which was left over from a failed coloured pencil attempt (yay for recycling!) This is a very different way of working to what I’m used to in coloured pencils, so I’m finding it a little tricky! It’s so much fun though!



I need to stop working on so many pieces at once! Last but not least, I’m still working on my okapi drawing in coloured pencil. The okapi’s face is starting to come together now that most of the underpainting in that area is done! Started off with just blues and greens and black, but I added some reddish browns and bright purples into the shadows of the fur afterwards as an experiment, and WOW did it bring the animal to life!


There’s still a lot of work left to go on this guy but I’m having so much fun with those green and blue pencils that the time is flying by. It’s kind of hard to even tell what you’re looking at at this stage as none of the fur or fine details have been blocked in yet (!) but hopefully it’s going to start taking shape and start looking a lot more tangible soon.

Until next time!


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Staedtler Mars Lumograph Pencils Review

"Suki" - 11 x 14 inches, Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils on Strathmore Bristol Vellum. Art by Wild Portrait Artist.

My review on Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils is up on Youtube now! In the video I discuss my opinions and experiences using these pencils and show you how I used them for creating a drawing of my cat, Suki. Check it out if you’re interested in trying out this brand for your graphite drawings!

And here’s the finished drawing! I was having a bit of trouble photographing this piece without losing details because of the graphite shine. This is the best image I could get of it for now. Graphite can be a bit of a pain to photograph! I drew this as the companion piece of my drawing Toto, my other cat. I hope to eventually get them framed and have them side-by-side on my bedroom wall ❤

"Suki" - 11 x 14 inches, Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils on Strathmore Bristol Vellum
“Suki” – 11 x 14 inches, Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils on Strathmore Bristol Vellum

In the meantime my hard drive is in need of a serious clearout. I’ve currently been trawling through 480gb of wildlife photos and deleting the bad ones. And I only got into photography in January! I wish I hadn’t been so lazy and had deleted them as I went xD
There are so many. Help me.

Speaking of which, I’ve been spending some time uploading my photos to recently. This site provides artists with high quality reference photos that are royalty-free and high in detail for you to use in your artwork. You can find the jackdaw photo below and more on there, so check it out! 🙂

Caw caw mother cluckers.

After a bit of an uphill struggle the background for my hyacinth macaw coloured pencil drawing is complete! I was almost going to scrap this drawing but I managed to rescue it last night. Sorry for the bad photo quality.

The pencils just weren’t sticking to the paper in the top right corner so I couldn’t get the area dark enough or a smooth gradient into the browns no matter how much I sprayed it with textured fixative, and I kept getting these ugly vertical lines from the texture of the paper showing through. I managed to rescue it by burnishing with my Luminance pencils, thankfully.

I think this is more an issue with Uart 800 paper than anything else. The sandy texture is so fine that it just can’t hold much pencil. The vertical lines are not something I’ve really noticed before in my previous drawing with this paper but I can see it being a bit of an issue. I’ll be trying out Fisher 400 paper soon and seeing how that compares.

In the meantime, I can’t wait to start colouring that macaw! I’ve been itching to draw something blue for ages!

Sorry for the bad photo quality, it was kind of late at night! Or early in the morning, depending on how you look at it! Hehe 😛

Until next time!


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Powder Blender tutorial!

"At the Edge" - 29 x 22cm, coloured pencil on UArt 800-grain paper. Made using the Colored Pencil Painting Kit. Art by Wild Portrait Artist. Available for sale.

Phew! A lot of updates this week. 3 completed full-blown drawings and two videos within one week is probably my best ever rate of production, though I should probably sleep at some point! 😂

Earlier on in the week I recorded an in-depth video review of the full coloured pencil painting kit  in which I discuss my opinions and my experiences with the powder blender and the rest of the Painting Kit range! If you have any interest in the powder blender and the rest of the kit, please do check it out! Also, if you live in the UK, Jacksonsart will be getting it in stock by the end of September! 😀

"The Alien" - 29 x 22cm, colored pencil on UArt 800-grain paper. Created using brushandpencil Powder Blender and Textured Fixative by Alyona Nickelsen
“The Alien” – 29 x 22cm, colored pencil on UArt 800-grain paper. Created using brushandpencil Powder Blender and Textured Fixative.

This is the drawing I made using the powder blender for my review. This piece only took me 6 hours!!! That is SUPER fast considering most pieces of this size, without the background, can take me upwards of 12+ hours usually! I still can’t believe how quickly I flew through this piece! I also made a commentated video tutorial for this drawing too which you can see below, which shows you just how easy the powder blender is to use with coloured pencil!



And last but not least, this drawing was fresh off the easel last night. Again, created with the Colored Pencil Painting Kit by Brush and Pencil. I love jumping spiders, they are such inquisitive little guys!  The video tutorial of me drawing this little guy will be out on Friday next week! Reference photo used from Roverhate on Pixabay.


"At the Edge" - 29 x 22cm, coloured pencil on UArt 800-grain paper. Made using the Colored Pencil Painting Kit.
“At the Edge” – 29 x 22cm, coloured pencil on UArt 800-grain paper. Made using the Colored Pencil Painting Kit.

That’s about it for this week! Phew! I think I need to lie down and sleep now! Stay tuned next week as Monday’s Art Tips video will be a mini-tutorial on how to spray fixative onto your drawings properly, and on Friday I’ll be posting the fully-commentated tutorial of my jumping spider drawing!

Adios, amigos!

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Caran d’Ache Neocolor II product review and lightfastness ratings

This blog is sponsored by Amazon. All opinions stated in this blog are my own.

This review discusses watersoluble Caran D’ache Neocolor II wax pastels, not to be confused with Neocolor I, which are not water soluble.

The lightfastness ratings of every crayon in the range can be found at the bottom of this page, click here to jump to the ratings!

Let me start off by saying that I absolutely love Caran d’Ache to bits. They are my favourite brand of art supplies. This review might be a little biased in favor of their products, but I am biased towards them for a reason as Caran d’Ache really do make excellent art products.

My Amazon Black Friday haul (plus one nosy Toto!). I nabbed the set of 126 Neocolor IIs for £140. Usually the price fluctuates between £165-200 at most reasonable online retailers. Yes I really have been stalking them that long hoping for a price drop!

Box Contents

Described as “water soluble wax pastels,” Neocolor IIs are part of an increasingly popular but reletively new emerging medium.

The set consists of 126 colours, 10 of which are metallic. The full set contains a very nice, wide range of greens, blues and purples. There are perhaps not as many greys and browns as I would like – but because the crayons are so versitile it’s not that much of an issue. You can just mix colours with water until you find the one you need. Because of this, if you don’t feel you can afford the rather steep price of the full set of 126, it’s still worth getting even just a small set to play with for the time being (which is what I actually did initially, back in August). The metallic crayons are a nice addition but are perhaps not quite metallic enough in my eye – much of the shine disappears when water is added.

moon .jpg
“Moon” – A quick doodle in my sketchbook testing out the metallic neocolors. This was made using ‘metallic violet’ and ‘white’ only.

Unfortunately I experienced issues with the ‘metallic silver’ Neocolor II. It was dried out and cracked, and would not activate with water – this is probably a manufacturing fault as I’ve seen a lot of people have had issues with it, including JenW Fine Arts and my artist friend Sian Morgan. After contacting the art store she bought it from, Sian was sent a working replacement and was told that the issues she was having were probably due to a bad batch.

The set also comes with an inculded metal tin containing a 2-hole KUM Magnesium pencil sharpener, one Technalo B watersoluble graphite pencil, two sponges, a hog hair brush, and a metal scraper. These are very nice additions to the set though it’s a shame that no proper paintbrush was included. The hog hair brush is far too wide and stiff to get any good detail or small brushstrokes and is in my opinion much more suited to mixing colours on a pallette, and the sponges are not much more suitible for similar reasons. The KUM pencil sharpener is very, very good – it’s the only sharpener I can find that you can sharpen Neocolors with, without them gumming up the sharpener or not even fitting in the hole. It works really well for fragile pencils too. I don’t know where I’d be without this sharpener, it’s brilliant.

Test Paintings and Techniques


To put this medium to the test, I decided to do a couple of test paintings, trying out and combining different techniques. This included wetting the crayon itself, or using dry crayons over washes, heating up the paper with a hair dryer to melt the crayons onto the paper, and creating my own pan palette by disolving shavings of crayon with water onto my palette as if I were using watercolours.


coastal sunset in neocolor ii watermarked
“Coastal Sunset” 33.5 x 23cm painting, Caran d’Ache Neocolor IIs on Fabriano Artistico HP watercolour paper.
“Dressed in Gold” unfinished work in progress.  33 x 24cm painting, Caran d’Ache Neocolor IIs on Frabriano Artistico HP watercolour paper.

Using the Neocolor IIs dry with hard pressure creates a very nice, thick and solid layer of colour, with a look and feel that is very similar to oil pastels. This effect is even easier to achieve when heating up the paper or the pastels with a hair dryer or using tools such as the Icarus Board. Using them dry with light pressure creates a crayon-like texture, showing the tooth of the paper underneath. I think this is my favourite technique especially when done over the top of an underpainting (as shown in “Coastal Sunset” above). You can also add water after laying down the crayons dry or paint with a paintbrush and use the crayons as a palette to create a painted look very reminiscent of gouache.

You always know what colours to expect when using Neocolor IIs wet or dry. A lot of other brands in this medium look a little dull when used dry and get a lot more vibrant when water is added, which personally I have never liked. Neocolor IIs have the rare advantage in this medium to look nearly exactly the same colour dry as when wet, making it much easier to judge values and hues, and thusly to combine wet and dry techniques.

Once the crayons have been water activated, they can be repetedly wet and reworked as many times as you like. This may be a turn off for some, but I think this is one of the strengths of the Neocolor IIs. The crayons are so opaque that layering is still very easy, even with them remaining water soluble after the first wash. You can work from dark to light or light to dark, both work really well.

Another strength of them being rewettable is erasing – if you make a mistake, most of the pigment can be lifted off by dabbing it with a damp cloth and the remaining errant pigment can be covered up with additional layers of crayon.

Mixed Media Possibilities

Neocolor IIs are great for mixed media projects and cover well on many different kinds of surface because they are so opaque. Pretty much the only thing they don’t work very well on is glass.

These crayons work very well with coloured pencils and also permanent markers. They are best used as an underpainting when combined with coloured pencils. As usual with coloured pencils you are best working from light to dark as lighter shades of coloured pencil don’t show up very well over the top of a dark neocolor II wash. Another caveat to bear in mind is that you can’t use paint thinner when mixing coloured pencils and neocolors as it will cause the neocolor underpainting to shift and lift all of your coloured pencil layers off.


With markers, I found that they are best used on top, after adding a “base” layer of marker underneath. You can start dark or light with the markers, the neocolours are so opaque that they easily show up over the markers.


All in all I am very excited about the posibilities of using these in conjunction with coloured pencils. It would certainly signitificantly cut down the time it takes to draw backgrounds and large areas of flat colour!

I love the way they work with my Faber Castell Pitt pens too – though I don’t use markers all that much.


Because they are so versitile, Caran d’Ache Neocolor IIs are a great tool for any artist, be it realism, impressionism, abstract, illustration, the list goes on. This medium works really well for all of them! You can use so many different techniques with them too, I only barely touched the tip of the iceberg in this review and I could go on forever about them (though I think this review is far too long as it is!).  You are hard pressed to find a better watersoluble crayon with lightfastness ratings as good as the Neocolor II line too – see the below section for more information.

There’s no contest, really. These watersoluble pastels are a cut above the rest. All in all I rate the Caran d’Ache Neocolor II line…


Excellent quality, fun and versatile. If you can afford them, they are worth it!

Amazon normally have some fantastic offers going on sets of these – you can purchase them via the links below:





Lightfastness Ratings

The lightfastness ratings for the Neocolor II line have proved somewhat difficult to chase down. The only mention of it in the set’s brochure and packaging is the statement that the pastels have “excellent lightfastness.” Not including the lightfastness information in the packaging seems like a bit of an oversight, as it is usually readily available and easily accessable for most of Caran D’ache’s products.

There was also next to no further information online, so I contacted Caran D’ache directly requesting the individual lightfastness ratings of each crayon. They very kindly replied back with all the star ratings and gave me permission to share them all with you.  To my surprise and delight, only 12 out of the set of 126 colours for the Neocolor II line are not lightfast, two of which being fugitive colours. Water soluble mediums tend to be a little iffy when it comes to fading over time, so this is fantastic news for fine artists hoping to create works that will last. I would still err on the side of caution however – be sure to frame your work using archival quality materials and put it behind UV glass just in case.

Below are the ratings for each pastel. Pastels given a three-star rating will last for 100 years or more, two-star rating for 20 years, one star for 5 years and a slash (/) denotes fugitive colours that fade quickly. Generally speaking three-star and two-star rated colours are sufficiently lightfast. Avoid using one star and slashed colours in work that you wish to preserve.

neocolor ii lightfastness ratings.jpg

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Product Review: Faber Castell Graphite Aquarelle watersoluble graphite pencils

Disclaimer: Please be advised that this blog is not affiliated with any art supply manufacturers/providers and that anything stated in this blog post is solely the opinion of the blogger.

graphite aquarelles

There is a good range of values in the set but I found myself only needing the 8B and HB.
There is a good range of values in the set but I found myself only needing the 8B and HB.

The set comes with five pencils ranging from HB to 8B as well as an included paint brush. There is a good range of values in the set but I found myself only needing the 8B and HB. The price point of these pencils is very reasonable at around £6 and the pencils themselves are of good quality. I experienced no issues with the wood casing or breaking leads at any point during my use of them.

In my tests I looked at how Faber Castell Graphite Aquarelles compare to normal graphite pencils in texture, how easy they are to erase, how much of the original pencil lines remain when water activating them, and paint brush quality.

The Graphite Aquarelles feel “gummier” than normal graphite, almost waxy. Despite the difference in feel they are still lovely, smooth and soft to draw with. They are not as dark as I would like, however (The Faber Castell 9000 8B is a little bit darker than the Graphite Aquarelle 8B). Pencil marks also become lighter when water activated. Once water activated they stay water-soluble, so you are still able to wet an area multiple times. Because of this, you can continuously layer and re-wet over the top to create much darker areas of pencil.

You can also achieve even darker tones when wiping the pencil onto a wet paintbrush directly before “painting” it onto the paper.

Normal graphite and other dry mediums like coloured pencil work really well over the top of these pencils after they have been water activated which is fantastic for mixed-media projects. There is graphite shine present when the pencils are applied dry but it completely disappears and the drawing turns matte when water activated.

When wetting sketched lines of graphite, the lines are still slightly visible depending on how dark the pencil is and how hard I pressed with the pencil, but most disappear when using a gentle circular scrubbing motion with the brush.The brush itself is of good quality and size. It is easy to do small details and large washes with just the one brush. I didn’t find myself reaching for my usual set of brushes at all during my test drawing of a snail (seen below).

I found the Graphite Aquarelles were excellent for creating base washes before adding more fine detail on top. Even though the 8B isn’t very dark, it’s easy to get very dark areas by continuously layering and wetting those areas.

The Eraser Test

This test was conducted using a Tombow mono-eraser, a Faber Castell putty eraser and a Faber Castell dust free rubber eraser, as well as a damp paper towel for the water-activated graphite eraser test.

The Graphite Aquarelles erase like normal graphite before activated, though they are perhaps a little more difficult to get up off the paper.

The Eraser Test illustrates quite well that you have to plan ahead with this medium, as once the pencil is down on the paper and water has been added it is very difficult to remove.The tombow and dust free rubber eraser are still usable to a certain extent though they can only lighten the area slightly, but the putty eraser could barely lift anything off. You can also use a wet paper towel to lift graphite back off the paper in the same way you would when using watercolours. You will not be able to get the paper back to being completely white even before water activation no matter which eraser you use. If you wish to keep an area completely white I would recommend the easier option of using masking fluid before applying any pencil marks.


Graphite Aquarelles are great for creating watercolour-esque paintings without the hassle of watercolours. They are ideal for illustrators but might be a little hard to use for realism and hyper-realism. These pencils are also great for getting areas of graphite down quickly and useful for concept sketches. The brush that comes with the set is of good quality and I didn’t feel myself wanting to use other brushes instead for my test drawing. The graphite shine disappears when water activated which means you don’t have a battle with the lighting when trying to get good photos of your work. The only thing I wish was better would be the 8B, as it is not quite dark enough for my liking. As someone who has never enjoyed watercolours all that much I was surprised just how much fun these pencils were to use. Highly recommended. A medium in its own right.


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Product Review: Derwent Graphic Pencils

Disclaimer: Please be advised that this blog is not affiliated with any art supply manufacturers/providers and that anything stated in this blog post is solely the opinion of the blogger.

EDIT: This review was for the old version of Derwent Graphic pencils. They have since been reformulated and repackaged. As such this review is out of date. I will be doing a review of the revised version of Derwent Graphic pencils soon.

DSCF8663Being an artist whom works regularly in graphite I try to experiment with as many different brands of pencil as possible. Caran D’ache Grafwood pencils are my current tools of choice, however my interest was peaked when a fellow artist was having a discussion on Facebook about how happy she was with using Derwent Graphic pencils for her portraits. Curious, I decided to hop down to my local stationery shop to buy them and try them out.

I bought the tin of 12 pencils ranging in shades from 9B to H, but you can also get a set of 6B to 4H depending on your needs, and both sets of twelve are currently priced at £5.99 each, working out at just 50p for each pencil.

My first impressions of the pencils were that they felt rather cheap to hold as the paint on the wood casings are unvarnished, which is a little uncomfortable to grip. Each pencil has a 6-sided barrel which stops it from rolling about on your table, helpful if you like to draw on a slightly sloped surface.

Straight out of the tin, the pencils appeared to be very poorly sharpened, as the wood casing was almost all the way up one side of the lead point in most of the harder leads, and most of the leads were fairly blunt. Because of this, I immediately found myself having to sharpen them before using them.wood problem

The pencil leads appeared to be very brittle, and I struggled to get a sharp point without the lead breaking, even when using Derwent’s own battery-powered sharpener. I had to sharpen the B and 9B pencils down by almost a 3rd of their original length before I finally got a sharp point without the lead breaking and had similar problems with the other very soft leads (5B-8B). I found that there were also issues with the wood when sharpening. The wood casing frequently splinters and does not get cut off very cleanly even when using a battery-powered sharpener.

Shade test of the Derwent Graphic set:

shadesComparison to Caran D’ache Grafwood:

derwent v CD

When actually testing the pencils I unfortuantely ran into more issues. The pencil leads of the Derwent Graphic pencils feel very gritty, and even the softer leads do not feel very smooth laying down. It was difficult to achieve strokes as smooth and dark as the CD Grafwood pencils, even when pressing as hard as I could. There was very little difference in the darkness values of the 7B, 8B and 9B Derwent Graphic pencils. The leads of the pencils were also very crumbly and I found that the ends kept snapping when pressing a little harder with the pencils. One redeeming quality is that when using a blending stick, the Derwent Graphic pencils blend very nicely, even smoother than my Caran D’ache Grafwood pencils, in fact.

Final Verdict:

A number of graphite artists love Derwent Graphic pencils and proclaim them to be the best choice of graphite pencil. I disagree. From my experience with them, they certainly don’t live up to the critical acclaim that I’ve seen from other reviewers. It may just be that I was unlucky and bought a set from a bad batch, however upon asking around on various art forums I found that other people have encountered similar problems with this product, namely the lead quality and breakage issues, and even misaligned lead in the barrels in some cases. The Derwent Graphic’s best quality is its price point, and I can see them being an ideal choice for beginner artists and students. Personally I do not believe that they are of professional quality.

All in all, I give these pencils…