Saturday, November 3, 2012

C is for Crazy for Caran D'ache Crayons

Caran DAche Neocolor II Watersoluble Crayons

As an art teacher, I try to introduce my students to new and interesting materials that are easy to work with and produce great results. I also strive to find inexpensive ways to provide great materials to try out at a the lowest cost possible. So - I go to garage sales and look for art supplies. Last summer I found a great stash of brushes, a cool collapsible easel, tons of crayons, an assortment of interesting papers (I am always amazed at the things people get rid of), and lots more. Then, I hit the mother lode. For just a few dollars, I found a shopping bag filled with all kinds of art related odds and ends. Several canvases, half dozen drawing pads, a painter's apron, and at the very bottom, several tins of pastels and what looked like weird crayons.

I spent several lovely summer afternoons trying out all the new things I'd found - fat oil pastels, unusual (to me) soft pastels from France, and finally, those weird crayons. Caran DAche Neocolor II Watersoluble Crayons. The very first time I played with them - drawing little boxes to test each color, and adding water to see the results - I knew I had found my new favorite art toy. You can draw with them just like crayons, you can blend the colors with ease, and when you add water, the colors become as vivid as the rainbow.

I knew these were the perfect way to encourage my senior art students to get comfortable with color mixing and painting. As I have mentioned, working with (very) senior artists presents many challenges. Several have trouble seeing, others have limited ability in their hands. But, the thick crayons are easy to handle, and the amazing colors that appear when water is added is bright enough for even dimming eyesight to see. Most of all, these water soluble crayons offer tremendous opportunities for creativity, and surprisingly beautiful results in a the span of a single class. (see the beautiful paintings in yesterday's post)

I could not wait to see what my young students could do with them, and designed a landscape project (image above) to take advantage of the crayon's ability to make drawing easy, and allow the kids to use brushes to dissolve the pigment into soft, vibrant, almost water color backgrounds. Once this dries, you can go back and add more crayon, blend in another layer of color wet or dry, or, draw on top with markers or pencils. As you can see from these paintings below - results are lovely.

One more thing. These crayons are not inexpensive - but, I believe that good quality materials are worth the investment because the results are often improved by the more vibrant color, especially when used with good quality water color paper, or interesting texture. These crayons combine the ease of a crayon with the beauty of watercolor. They are a great substitute for color pencils or pan paints. Most of all, they are a huge hit with students of all ages and levels of ability. I recommend them highly.