Europe19: Caran D'Ache sponsorship for my Amsterdam workshops

August 14, 2019 | 9 Comments

An extra treat for me at this year’s Urban Sketchers Symposium in Amsterdam was that my workshops were sponsored by Caran d’Ache. This meant that all the people who signed up for my workshop received a special additional goodies bag from Caran d’Ache. Oh ah! How exciting! It was a very generous bag – but more about that later!

Caran D’Ache is a Swiss company who make a range of top quality products – made in Switzerland. I love the name and it has a very cool origin. From their website: Caran d’Ache comes from the word “karandash” that is the Russian term for “pencil” and in turn comes from the Turkish root “kara tash” which refers to black stone – the origins of graphite.

Here I am with Adrian Weber from Caran D’Ache holding the goodies bag. Adrian does amazing work with the Caran D’Ache products and I really wish that I’d had time to hang out and find out more about how he uses them. (Note: It was just so hard for me to have any quality time upstairs with the sponsors this year. It was like an oven up there as this photo reminds me!)

Those of you who have been following me for a while will know that, although my main medium is watercolour, my sketching kit has always included a selection of watercolour pencils. But in the last year or so I haven’t been using them as much. So when this offer of sponsorship came up I was very excited as, not only have I been wanting to try the new Museum range of Aquarelle pencils, but I’ve also been wanting to get back to using watercolour pencils again.

So far I’ve been super impressed by the Museum pencils – but I might have to leave a full review for another article.

Once the sponsorship arrangement was locked in, I bought a few pencils while I was in Paris to have a little play and then on arrival in Amsterdam there was a Caran d’Ache package waiting for me. I didn’t have a lot of time to get to know these products before my workshops!

The first thing I did when I received my samples was to do a colour chart and then immediately work out which colours in the 12 set would be the most useful for Amsterdam.  I didn’t have time to test all the colours therefore I wanted to reduce the selection! So this page shows that process. I was most interested in working out how to mix the dark brown of the Amsterdam buildings and green for the trees.

In my initial quick tests I was impressed by how smooth these pencils are. They are a joy to use to draw with  are richly pigmented.

And then it was time for the symposium….

Before my workshop each morning I made my way upstairs to collect the goodies bag for everyone. And here is my lovely volunteer from Workshop 1 waiting for the group to arrive.

Stillman and Birn also kindly donated some sample packs for us to use during the workshop – thanks!

Some participants were rather excited to get another goodie bag… and my workshop was dominated by red bags. (The official symposium bag was red as well!)

I gave a brief explanation of ways to use watercolour pencils. This is my summary page of different techniques with a very Dutch subject matter!

And then I used them (in association with my watercolour) for my quick demo.

Note: My workshop was called Dynamic Composition and I’ll share more about it in a separate article – coming soon.

So what was inside the goodie bag?

The big deal was a 12 set of the Museum Aquarelle Pencils! But there was also a tin of pencils including red, green and blue tinted graphite pencils. I’m not a big graphite user but these pencils look amazing. Here is a link to a YouTube video demonstration using them.

There was also a set of Fibralo water-soluble brush markers. Apart from using them for a few headings, I haven’t had a chance to test them further.

The bag also contained a set of waterbrushes with a pump refill (you can see them in the above video), a small spray bottle (useful for activating water-soluble pencils but also for cooling participants down in the heatwave!) and a Palette Aquarelle. As you can see I haven’t had a chance to open my palette but it’s designed for using aquarelle pencils/crayon more like paint. It looks like a really useful tool and here is a YouTube review of it.

So this was what was in the Caran d’Ache goodies bag for my workshops. It was very generous, wasn’t it?

With all the craziness of the symposium days (including beforehand and afterwards) I didn’t get much opportunity for solo sketching. I really need some focused time in order to fully explore the best way to use new products. So I still have a lot of exploring which I want to do with these products over the next few months. But here are a few sketches that I did manage to do with the Museum pencils while I was in Amsterdam.

And a few I did in Paris earlier during my trip using a few colours which I purchased while I was there.

I’ve gotten so used to sketching with ink lately that it has been a really refreshing challenge to use pencils again!

I can’t wait to test them further and come up with a personalised set of colours that work for me. I think I will need some more time poring over the colour chart to help me decide what colours I need to test next – it’s looking like more earth colours!

A huge thankyou to Caran d’Ache for your incredibly generous sponsorship. It was really special to be able to receive some of your gorgeous products to use and it was a huge surprise treat for my workshop participants – thanks again!

I hope that everyone who did my workshops will have fun using these lovely products and will let me know what you think of them!

And if you are interested in getting lots of yummy art supply images in your Instagram feed… here is the Caran d’Ache account to follow.

Note: Caran d’Ache sent me the art supplies shown above to test prior to my workshops but I have not received any payment from them. The opinions expressed in this article are my own and as you all know, I love to test out different brands and work out which suit me best. I’m still in this process of experimentation and will share more in a few months time.

So have you tried the museum pencils? Or any of the other Caran d’Ache products?



  • Martine Brink says:

    I was absolutely thrilled to get another goodies bag. I love the water soluble graphite pencils, especially the colored ones. I also love the water soluble pens. I didn’t experiment with the aquarel pencils yet, they seem a bit intimidating for me, since I have never used them before. But your examples in this post want me to go and try them out. Thanks a lot (and thanks to the caran d’ache people for the goodies bag).

  • Anne Marie Percival says:

    Lucky participants! I bought a few Museum Aquarelle pencils after you mentioned them and they are gorgeous…. far superior to any of the other (many) coloured pencils I have…. the Raw Sienna is very vibrant… just disappointed they don’t do a dark indigo

  • Kristine M Heilman says:

    I like your little DIY pencil sharpenings catcher! I found that the sharpeners with built-in catchers took up too much space, so I keep my little Kum sharpener in a very small (2″x 3″) zip lock bag. I sharpen right into the bag and the contraption takes up next to no space in my kit.

    I’ve only tried two Caran d’Ache products, both of which I love: I have one water brush and I adore the piston fill function; the other is their Full Blender Bright which is fabulous! They tend to break however so I wrap them in some washi tape for support and just peel away the washi when I need to sharpen.

  • Tina Koyama says:

    Wow, that’s a fantastic additional goodie bag from Caran d’Ache! I know how expensive the Museum Aquarelles are. I’ve been using them almost exclusively as my color medium for a few years now (when I quit using watercolor paints altogether), and I really love how highly pigmented they are. Was really surprised to hear you say they are firm and stay sharp for a long time — I have found them to be the softest watercolor pencils I’ve ever used (and I’ve tried most) — much softer than F-C Albrecht Durer — and they don’t retain a point for me at all. Maybe I am just really heavy-handed! Anyway, I’ll look forward to seeing more posts about how you use them.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Tina. Thanks for your comments. I haven’t tested the museum against the Faber Castellated until now and I just bought a new Albrecht Dürer (AD) pencil to compare. The museum are indeed softer than a new AD one. However my AD pencils have been in my kit with other media and I think get softer due to my abuse of them – drawing into the wet etc. so it wasn’t a fair comparison. I will be amending the text to reflect that.

  • What a great goodie bag! Your students must have felt like they won the lottery. It is nice to see you using watercolor pencils for a change. We visited a Blick Store in Brooklyn last year that had just opened. We got a lot of free goodies from Caran d’Ache too. They are very good at promoting their products.

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