Thursday, November 12, 2015

ArtGraf Water Soluble Graphite: One Stick, Infinite Possibilities!

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Okay, so these sticks come in packs of two, and "infinite" may be an exaggeration, but in this case the truth would make a long, boring title. I have reviewed a few different water soluble graphite pencils in the past, and that experimentation has encouraged me to try other brands of this medium. I went for one of the most praised brands of water soluble graphite: ArtGraf. The sticks are the least expensive members of this line, so I decided to try them out for this review.

In my opinion, pencils limit the medium's potential because you can only do so much with that 2-3 mm core. A big chunk of graphite is as liberating as charcoal, and a big chunk of water soluble graphite is downright magical.  ArtGraph sticks do not have a specific degree on the label. They just say "soft", which is accurate since you can achieve very dark values with very little pressure. On the other hand, you can make light washes by grabbing the graphite from the stick with a wet brush. These are really light washes compared to the darker values you get from applying the graphite to the paper dry. Drawing on wet paper with a dry ArtGraf stick is interesting as well.

Sketch of woman's head using ArtGraf Water Soluble Graphite

Above:  I made the large sketch using the ArtGraf crayon and the smaller sketch using a Koh-I-Noor Aquarell graphite pencil. Pencils are better for the detailed bits, but the chunky graphite makes it easy to cover larger areas. If you look closely at the thumbnail sketch, you can see pencil marks where the lead made indents in the paper. This would come in handy for rendering textures, but most of us do not want these lines interfering with a solid wash or stroke of tone. The paper I used is Canson XL cold press watercolor paper.


Well, erasing dry graphite is no big deal as it works the same way as a regular pencil mark. If you go back to erase marks that have been activated with water and allowed to dry, it gets a little trickier. Unless the marks are faints washes, you are probably not going to get the original paper shade back. You can still lighten areas, but if you want any areas of paper to remain pristine, it is best to use a frisket, masking fluid, stencil or tape to keep the graphite off that area.

While the limited erasing ability may be annoying, the upside is that after the piece is dry, you can touch it without smudging the graphite. During my experiments, I tested the darkest washes by rubbing the areas with my fingers. Yes, there was a little transfer, but it was so faint that I could not make a fingerprint on a clean piece of paper with the residue. Toothier watercolor papers will hold more graphite, so the smudge resistance will decrease with heavier applications of tone. You can counteract this by adding more water or working in layers, allowing each to layer to dry before applying the next.

Well, It took me long enough to finish this article! I started it over a month ago, but so many things came up, and I have to work a little harder now to get extra holiday money. I am still dedicated to this blog, however. I am working on some artsy gifts right now, and I will be posting some images and information about the mediums I use. Are you making any of your holiday gifts? If so, please share your ideas!