I feel a real empathy with Derwent.
You see Derwent are based in the wettest place in England; Cumbria, and I am based in the second wettest place in England; West Cornwall.
So I should have known really that testing a water based product outside, even on a bright, warm spring day would be a mistake.
Trouble is when I see a bright blue sky, I somehow deep down feel that it isn’t going to rain for ages.
Instead I manage a mere 25 minutes painting time before the rain starts to fall and I abandon ship to the comfort of my studio.
But 25 minutes is enough when using one of the fastest mediums that I have ever come across.
Derwent Inktense blocks are amazing, no word of a lie.
A block of intense ink, (hence the clever little name,) a block that is so adaptable to water based techniques that I feel instantly at home using them, having never used one before.
I begin by loosely sketching on my still life composition using a block of red completely dry. The block marks the surface in a way very similar to pastel but without the annoying chalky dust stuff, and the pigment is incredibly vibrant.
The magic begins though when I add a touch of water to my sketched lines.
Suddenly the ink spreads in a way akin to good quality watercolour, it’s richness unfolding into the clear water leaving a beautiful translucent wash.
Of course you may well ask, “Why not simply use watercolour?”
Well; and here is just one of the advantages of Inktense; the washes dry permanent, yes, permanent.
This in turn means that when dry I can work over the top of washes without moving or damaging the work underneath, this also means that it is easy to glaze the jewel like colours without creating the common ‘pool of mud’ problem.
How cool is that?
I also get very excited when I work back into the wash with the dry block. I can create all sorts of textures and varying degrees of saturation simply by dipping, drawing, brushing, washing and smearing with my fingers.
But you know me, brushes alone simply are not enough, so I fetch my box of rummaged paraphernalia.
This little treasure box of mine contains sponges, knives, sticks, bits of rope, stamps, old toothbrushes…basically anything that I can make a mark with.
The blocks sponge on exactly as I expected, flicked on perfectly and dripped and ran just as I demanded.
And all with a positive, bright, flamboyant intensity.
None of this wishy-washy malarkey.
If you are of a delicate nature and prefer not to cover your fingers in sticky ink, Derwent dutifully supply a nifty little rubbery holder thingy.
I must admit that I prefer the control of the ‘finger to block’ contact and choose to dispense with the services of the Gripper block.
Being able to draw with dry colour into wet washes is a real treat, you can of course use water-soluble pencils for similar effects but the similarity ends there.
These Inktense blocks are fifty times larger than a coloured pencil lead and a whole lot more intense.
This in turn means that you can work big, quickly and spontaneously.
And of course the twin attributes of Mr Quick and Mrs Spontaneous really come into its own when the sweet Cornish mizzle appears.
All in all, Derwent have really nailed it with these little blocks, and if they ever manage to make an Inktense block version of opaque white (there you go Derwent, there is your challenge!) this product really will have it all.
I’m heading to Lands End this evening with these new little Inktense friends of mine to capture the sunset over the Scillies.
I’m in good company as Turner painted that very same view and Turner would have loved this stuff, I just know it.