SketchBox May 2023

Having seen unboxing and testing videos of May’s art supplies, I was keen to try them, but I knew the box wouldn’t arrive until mid-March. A week before, I started picking reference photos from my phone and tested drawing the subjects in pen and watercolour marker. Of course, when it did arrive I was already ‘over’ those ideas and entirely different photos caught my attention.

The box contained graphite pencils, a white pastel pencil, liquid graphite and a lovely warm gold glimmer ink. There was also a pad of toned paper, a sharpener, a brush and an eraser pencil. The only supply I didn’t like was the eraser pencil, which was rather hard and scuffed the paper surface, so I used a standard eraser instead.

The first artwork was of a cat stretching, because it captured the feeling of “gimme, gimme right now”.

It didn’t come as well as I hoped, but it gave me a feel for the materials and taught me to avoid drawing with pencil until the ink or graphite was well and truly dry. Two days later I had a bit more time and did three pieces that I like much more. The suggested theme was “shadow”, so I looked for reference photos that might suit. The first was of our cat gazing out of the window. Most of it was drawn with pencil, with the liquid graphite added for the deepest shadow on the cat and day bed, and of course the glimmer ink watered down a little.

Then I found a reference for a sports car. After an initial sketch with pencils, I explored mixing the glimmer ink with the liquid graphite. It makes a useful greenish tone. By diluting, layering or mixing the graphite, ink and white pastel I could get quite a range out of what was a quite limited colour palette.

And finally, I tackled one of a heritage building at night. This took the longest, because of all the decorative details. The darkest areas are painted with liquid graphite – even the 14B pencil couldn’t approach it in blackness. I diluted the glimmer ink quite a bit to get more of a yellow shade than shimmery effect on the stone walls. The white pastel was used only on the light, and love how it conveys the glow.

Overall, this was a much more ‘arty’ box of materials, and much easier to use, than the previous box. I can see myself using everything in it again. Even the eraser pencil, which might prove more suitable on a different, stronger ground or be good for tweaking the surface colouring on a sculpture. My favourite was the liquid graphite, but I was most surprised by the versatility of the glimmer ink. SketchBOX have hinted that the next box will contain them, which I would very much like.