The Land of Pre-Retirement Art Supplies

Upon realizing that our income will be substantially less upon retirement in the summer, I thought I’d better get the Faber-Castell Polychromos coloured pencils that have been on my wish list. I’ve been stocking up on odd things for about two years, knowing that the time would come when I can’t afford more than an inexpensive top-up of favourite colours or paper.

So I downloaded and printed the full colour chart, and then printed out which colours come in the 24, 36, and 60-pencil sets. Most of the pencils included in sets are extraneous bumph, I know this from once buying the full set of Prismacolor coloured pencils, and the Polychromos are similar in that regard, but more expensive, so it all needed to be sorted through carefully.

Then I wrote out the recommended Polychromos pencil colours from two hardcover books I own on botanical painting with coloured pencils. Then I made lists of what I needed if I bought each set, realizing the the 36 and 60 sets were well above my means and had too many odd colours I didn’t want. That left the set of 24, which contained several of my required base colours, plus a few colours I would use for things other than botanicals, like lizards for instance.


Finally, after that, I correlated it all using symbols and colours on the colour chart to make a decision. Then I honed and razored the list down to 23 extra pencils, leaving me with a purchase of 47 pencils. This took me several hours, and several hours to let it sit so I could think about it, and then some double-checking and fiddling with taking more things off the list.


Got that? Ha-ha, I used to do accounting, it’s all in the details and correlations!

Hopefully they won’t mess up the colours when picking my order at the warehouse. While gulping at the price, I feel confident that I made the right decision in getting these at a time when I could just squeak by to afford them with a strict budget and colour restraint. I am looking forward to trying them out.

I’ve got all kinds of paper, several different kinds and brands of graphite pencils, coloured pencils, bottled ink and dip pens and nibs, a few Micron markers, watercolours and watercolour pencils, Conté pencils, soft pastels, gouache, white and black gesso, a paper cutter, bookbinding threads and supplies, several sketchbooks, many art technique books, some storage, and templates and handmade journals, and lots of different brushes. Absolutely everything I ever wanted 20 years ago in the realm of wished-for art supplies.

Have heart if you’re just starting out, it takes a while to pinpoint what you want, and save for it and procure it. It literally took me 20 years from the time I first bought a set of coloured pencils to chip away and buy this and that. In the last year I spent more simply because I knew it was my last opportunity to buy anything.

Such bounty, such richness, it’s a great feeling for the days ahead.



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4 Responses to The Land of Pre-Retirement Art Supplies

  1. Roseanne Dix says:

    Judy as always, am in awe of your skills (in any field you turn your hand to – even making lists !). I have ‘been with you’over the last 20 years and I know that the next 20 are going to be rewarding and fulfilling. So look forward to seeing some new beautiful art work.

    • JJ ColourArt says:

      As you might imagine, I sometimes drive the spouse crazy with my perfectionism and detailed mind.

      Thanks, I hope I get 20 years, you never know do you? It would be nice, finally, after all these years, getting down to making art daily.

  2. ironwing says:

    I’ll be curious to see what you think of these. I looked at this color chart:

    There do seem to be a lot of near-duplicates in the full set.

    I got a few Derwent Coloursoft pencils for specific subjects (red flowers, etc.) but most of the colors seem a bit bright, like most brands.

    So far I’m sticking with the Derwent Drawing set, but they’re less like colored pencils and more like really nice crayons, or maybe it’s just that my use of them is crayon-like!

    • JJ ColourArt says:

      The regular pencils (the round ones) are the ones I ordered. Okay, now some of the greens are quite vivid. In the set I bought they included the somewhat garish 163 Emerald Green, so when I ordered I got some of the quieter greens. I got lists of good greens from two books. My set came with 171 Light Green which is sort of a pale green like you might see in a cacti or a leaf. Other than those two I had to buy greens separately.

      “Botanical Drawing in Color” by Wendy Hollender – she uses just 20 colours in total! Unbelievable, and she makes the point that she uses some of the brighter greens because you can always tone them down with layers but the reverse isn’t true–you can’t perk up a dull colour. Made sense to me.

      “Botanical Portraits with Colored Pencils” by Ann Swan was the other book with F-C Polychromos recommendations. She had a lot more greens so I bopped them into the mix. These are the extra greens I added.

      170 May Green
      168 Earth Green – yellowish moss green
      172 Earth Green – grey green
      173 Olive Green
      174 Chrome Green Opaque
      278 Chrome Oxide Green
      167 Permanent Green Olive

      The Wendy Hollender book has some great tips for blending and toning down more vivid colours. You could have a look at that from a library perhaps? I tend to prefer grey greens so I liked her approach to toning things down.

      I found with the set of 36 (and definitely with the set of 60) that some of the blues looked almost the same. It seemed more practical to get the Ultramarine, Light Ultramarine, and Phthalo Blue in the 24 set and concentrate on the greens and some extra yellows, violets, reds that were more subdued. 175 Dark Sepia is gorgeous worked up in botanicals judging by these two books. That was a must to buy extra for me. 187 Burnt Ochre came with the set and 283 Burnt Siena I bought extra. The other blue I bought was 153 Cobalt Turquoise, another tip from Wendy Hollender and 157 Dark Indigo which is lovely like the Dark Sepia.

      Ann Swan uses a few Prismacolor pencils as well for botanical colours that are not carried in other lines of pencils, and I already had those.

      I thought about these for some time. I wasn’t able to get the full Derwent Coloursoft set you have, just a couple of colours, so I thought I’d try these as well. My order hasn’t gone through yet, so I hope that goes through okay.

      As far as the watercolour pencils (the Albrecht Durer line) I don’t have the money and I find my Staedtler aquarelle pencils suit me nicely in a set of 36. The Durer sets–look at all those similar blues and oranges and orange-reds–seems unnecessary to me.

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