2B or not 2B...

2B or not 2B? - That is the question all graphite artists will ask themselves... Which is the best grade for my work and where do I start? Well why not try something different by using the Derivan Liquid pencil.

Liquid Pencil has a creamy consistency, and its unique formula allows you to create beautiful graphite sketches using a brush. With excellent lightfast ratings, this non-toxic medium can open up new and exciting ways of working with graphite without having to worry about which grade to use when. It is easy to apply and can cover large areas quickly, gradually building up tones and detail, layer after layer. It's definitely not Much Ado About Nothing - try it for yourself and see how quickly your graphite creations will be just As You Like It...

Liquid Pencil comes in 2 formulas: Permanent and Rewettable.
The permanent, as the name indicates, is permanent when dry which means you can work very wet on the next layer without your previous layer being affected. The rewettable formula can be laid the same way as the permanent formula but it can also be reworked, lifted and moved even after it has dried.

Just like Graphite pencil, Liquid Pencil can be burnished to a shine or blended with your finger or blender. The rewettable formula can also be removed using an eraser, though darker tones will take more work to erase. Liquid pencil will work on any surface that will take traditional graphite, but I would advise using a heavier weight paper as you will be using wet washes.

Some of my favourite subjects are animals and birds and there is a lot of imagery on this subject throughout the Shakespeare plays, with a whole host of animals and birds being mentioned: Raven, Toad, Sparrow, Hawk, Swan, Peacock, Wren, Donkey, Hog, Owl, Bear, Hare and Lion to name just a few.

To celebrate Shakespeare day on the 23rd April I have found a quote which describes the feistiness on one of my favourite birds: the Wren.

"From whence himself does fly? He loves us not;
He wants the natural touch: for the poor wren,
The most diminutive of birds, will fight,
Her young ones in her nest, against the owl."
Macbeth Act 4 scene 2 (spoken by Lady Macduff)

Why not try Liquid Pencil yourself with this step-by-step guide to capturing the spirited nature of the Wren and see how the medium not only gives you all the tone and depth of traditional graphite, but also the organic sweep that painting with a brush provides.

Feisty Wren


  • Liquid Pencil Grey 9 rewettable
  • SAA Graphite Brush Set
  • Frisk Lay-Flat Sketch Pad

1 Initial sketch of Wren
I did the initial sketch using a traditional pencil but you can use a light wash of liquid pencil for the initial outline. I have used a Frisk Layflat Pad - The layflat is the perfect companion for the Liquid pencil as it offers you a dense 300gsm quality cartridge paper, capable of handling layered wet work, and with its unique design opens up to double the size of your original working area.

2 Build up of Tones
Now we can start to build up the first tones. Take a small amount out of the pot and put it on the edge of a small palette or tinting saucer. You can then add water to create the required tones. I would recommend having a piece of test paper at the side of the drawing to test the tone before applying to the painting. At this stage we can decide which areas are going to the lightest and the darkest. The SAA Graphite Brush set, developed with Liquid pencil in mind, offers you the opportunity to lay down washes in very fine detail.

3 Adding Detail
Using the smaller brushes, begin to add the details and build up more definition. The shapes these fine, detailed brushes make are perfect for the feathers. I am always surprised how quickly you can create a finished piece using the liquid pencils as you can build up the image quickly.

I love the sketchy feel you can get using a brush with Liquid Pencil but still retaining the graphite effect. The biggest problem I have is what to call my method of working. Am I drawing or painting...?

Dynamic Wren

4 Dynamic Wren
Another great benefit of Liquid Pencil is that you can use it like an ink to create splattering or dropping effects. This Wren has been given a sense of dynamic movement and ruffling feathers with a few spatters of liquid pencil around his tail and underside feathers. It's the perfect medium to stretch your imagination and make you think about more traditional formats in a whole new light.