The Coloured Pencil
iPhoneOgraphy – 19 Jun 2016 (Day 171/366)
A colored pencil, coloured pencil (see spelling differences) or pencil crayon is an art medium constructed of a narrow, pigmented core encased in a wooden cylindrical case. Unlike graphite and charcoal pencils, colored pencils’ cores are wax- or oil-based and contain varying proportions of pigments, additives, and binding agents. Water-soluble (watercolor) pencils and pastel pencils are also manufactured as well as colored leads for mechanical pencils.
Colored pencils vary greatly in terms of quality and usability; concentration of pigments in the core, lightfastness of the pigments, durability of the colored pencil, and softness of the lead are some indicators of a brand’s quality and, consequently, its market price. There is no general quality difference between wax/oil-based and water-soluble colored pencils, although some manufacturers rate their water-soluble pencils as less lightfast than their similar wax/oil-based pencils. Rising popularity of colored pencils as an art medium sparked the beginning of the Colored Pencil Society of America (CPSA). According to its website, “[CPSA] was founded in 1990 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to artists over 18 years of age working with colored pencil”. The CPSA not only promotes colored pencil art as fine art, but also strives to set lightfastness standards for colored pencil manufacturers. Other countries such as United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia and Mexico – among many others – have formed their own organizations and societies for colored pencil artists. In Canada, colored pencils are known as pencil crayons.
The history of the colored pencil is not entirely clear. The use of wax-based mediums in crayons is well-documented, however, and can be traced back to the Greek Golden Age, and was later documented by Roman scholar, Pliny the Elder. Wax-based materials have appealed to artists for centuries due to their resistance to decay, the vividness and brilliance of their colors, and their unique rendering qualities. Although colored pencils had been used for “checking and marking” for decades prior, it was not until the early 20th century that artist-quality colored pencils were produced. Manufacturers that began producing artist-grade colored pencils included Faver-Castell in 1908 and Caran d’Ache in 1924, followed by Berol Prismacolor in 1938. Other notable manufacturers include Blick Studio, Cretacolor, Derwent, Koh-I-Noor Hardmuth, Lyra, Schwan-Stabilo, and Stardtler.