In my second year of high school, I had an art teacher who took a bit of a shine to me.
The fact in itself was not surprising – I was a quiet, hard-working kid, the sort that teachers loved and other pupils viewed as fair game – but art was never a subject I had any particular gift for, so the whole situation was pretty awkward. I remember one Wednesday when, the class proving more difficult than usual to control, everybody else was made to write lines while I was allowed to sit in the corner, drawing motorcycles with Indian ink (the teacher had a thing for motorbikes). It was like somebody had spray-painted over the target already on my head in those days in bright red. And I’d probably have found the lines easier.
I’m always reminded of that teacher when I work with Cass Art, the London-founded art supplies store that opened in Glasgow last year. Like her, Cass Art has always demonstrated a faith in me that goes far beyond my limited artistic talents. I suspect it’s because I embody their “let’s fill this town with artists” manifesto, which is based around giving anybody access to the supplies they need to exercise their creativity.
A few weeks ago I received a very special package: a big box of the new Winsor & Newton Pigment Markers*, complete with a special pad on which to draw with them. These pens are pretty special: highly pigmented, with special ink that will last for 100 years without fading, in colours that can be built up, blended and softened just like paint. The box even came with ‘blender’ pens, both colourless and white, to enable me to do just that.
It was a lot of pressure.
And so the markers stayed in their box until, a couple of weeks ago, my blogging bestie/wee sis Charlotte of Colours and Carousels ran me home after a blogging event and stayed for kitty cuddles and pizza. She was the first to have a play with them and drew this lovely portrait of her cat, Ginger. However she forgot to autograph the drawing so I did it for her (I don’t see it replacing her excellent Claire Barclay header any time soon though).
My first big love from the box was the petrol blue colour I used for the “carousels” part of Charlotte’s blog name above. It just glides onto the paper, and you can see how it’s pigmented more like a paint than a traditional felt-tip pen. Each marker has a wide nib at one end, which I’ve found great for big, loopy writing, and a fine nib for more detailed drawing.
I’ve heard, and read, about the increasing popularity of “adult colouring books” as a means of coping with stress. They’re something I’ve been intrigued by, if not a little cynical about (something to do with the price of them, I think) for a long time – but there was no denying how relaxing it was to switch off from the usual stresses and scrawl on a piece of paper. I’ve been looking for a hobby that doesn’t involve writing for a while – maybe this is it.
One of the most interesting things about the Windsor & Newton markers is the range of surfaces they write on: foam board, canvas, tracing paper, plastics – “even glass”, according to the letter I got with the package. My first thought was to draw all over the windows and the mirrors, but apparently – according to Stringer – actual grown-ups don’t write motivational messages on the bathroom mirror to make them smile when they’re getting ready in the morning. Luckily I had a hand-held one to experiment with.
Winsor & Newton Pigment Markers are available in over 100 colours from Cass Art online, and in stores soon. And if you’re in Glasgow, learn how to get the best out of the pens at an interactive workshop, hosted by illustrator Rebecca Osbourne, on Saturday 21st November.
DISCLAIMER: I was sent a box of pigment markers for review purposes but all opinions are honest and unbiased. See my full disclosure policy.