General’s White Charcoal versus Derwent Drawing Pencil (Chinese White)

Alright.  I just finished my freakin’ drawing for the Figure Drawing class.  I’m not posting it yet because there’s somewhere else it needs to go, first.  But at least, that’s one assignment down.  It’s due tomorrow night.

What I thought I’d talk about is the difference in working properties I’ve found between the General’s White Charcoal (I believe this is Titanium White, though I haven’t been able to find a proper MSDS even at the General’s site) and the Derwent Drawing Pencil I was using, in Chinese White.  I’m confident enough that the artwork turns out differently enough, to be able to …well, say something about it.

I’m actually running out of the General’s White Charcoal.  After a lot of hemming and hawing, I did make it to the drawing table, today.  I frigging Love having a drawing table — it was my sibling’s, and I’m using it now.  The only drawback is having the dust (and material fragments) collecting at the bottom edge, because the top is softwood, and so I don’t feel confident in using a wet rag or anything to clean it up.  But I am thinking that even in the Studio at my school, the easels get this kind of dusty buildup, so maybe it’s just a sign of use?  (I just remembered those soft brushes I can use to dust off the top, too!  Cool!  A way I can clean it!)

Anyway, I have a few pictures to show you.

This was probably my favorite piece made with the General's White Charcoal.
This was probably my favorite piece made with the General’s White Charcoal and probably Alphacolor Char-Kole (I can tell by the gritty feel), on black paper.  30-minute study?

The first image is one that I have severely cropped as the full version has full nudity.  But nothing above an 18+ rating is really visible, here.  The model was holding a clear ball full of some kind of fluid (actually two fluids which were separate), and yellow glitter.

I’m fairly certain this was made with General’s White Charcoal — I made the mistake of mixing up all of my white drawing pastels and crayons and etc. (as well as all of my black charcoals, only in a different tin), so there is a remote possibility that this is white Prismacolor NuPastel.  However, I don’t think this is the case…the NuPastel kind of breaks up roughly over the surface of the paper (kind of like what you can see in the upper left corner, there) in a way that’s difficult to smooth out, and has a code “211-P” stamped into it.  The NuPastel is also a tiny bit wider than the General’s White Charcoal, and comes with lacquer on the outside, to reduce dustiness in storage.

I wouldn’t have been able to tell any of that here, because I was working with a piece that was rubbed down on all edges already (it’s almost a toothpick, now)…but it’s a possible way to initially distinguish them.  I also have heard from my prof that NuPastel is a bit waxier than General’s White Charcoal (to me, if I’m right, the latter feels drier and dustier), which is why I can feel confident at all in saying that maybe there were some White Charcoal pieces in there.  I’m not sure why it’s called “White Charcoal,” because it probably is composed of hard pastel material — but it does smudge almost as easily as compressed charcoal.  Maybe that is what they were getting at, with the name…

On the other hand, here is a piece I made using the Derwent Drawing Pencil in Chinese White:

This, on the other hand, is what I was able to capture in 15 or so minutes with a white Derwent Drawing Pencil.
This is what I was able to capture in 15 or so minutes with a white Derwent Drawing Pencil, on the same black paper.

You can really see the difference, yes?  The Derwent was actually a wooden pencil with a white, wax-based, pigmented core.  I would say I worked into this minorly with black charcoal, but I can’t remember where, and the photo isn’t showing it (unlike in one other photo I’ve got, which clearly shows the area I blocked out, after getting too much white in there and being too scared to erase).

The trident-looking thing is an antler, by the way.  🙂

The most gigantic difference between the Derwent and the General’s is the smudginess and adhesion of pigment between the two different media.  Derwent pencil hardly smudges at all — it’s waxy, not quite as opaque, and will only really smudge if you run your hand over loose pigment on the surface of the paper, hence grinding it in.  Even then, because it seems less highly pigmented, the smudges may not be apparent.

General’s, on the other hand, is very malleable — it smudges extremely easily, and really didn’t adhere even after I went over it with two coats of Krylon Workable Fixatif (granted that the fixative may not have adhered because of windiness).  Messiness aside, its strength is probably its smudge-ability.  It enables solid and dense coats of tone, and extremely subtle gradations between tones, whereas the Derwents are more of a typical “drawing” medium and tend less toward being a “painterly” medium.  The “painterly” effect, which I really, really like, but which still scares me, is illustrated below:

Second example of the General's White Charcoal, for reference.
Second example of the General’s White Charcoal, for reference.  This was probably a 15-minute study (if I’m right, and this was the female model).

To the left, this is also General’s White Charcoal.  Somehow, I got the pigment to look fluid and not rough, like it was in the first image.  I’ve been playing around with Blick soft pastels…the more expensive version, which are AP Nontoxic, rather than the cheaper ones which had a CL sticker on them when I picked them up.  Breathing pastel dust and smelling it for hours later is scary enough when it’s nontoxic, OK?  😉  I thought I’d be able to handle the ones which require caution, but I really can’t tell what about it is toxic and what the routes of entry are (skin contact? inhalation?).  The MSDS doesn’t help, and it’s a store brand — why does the store not have the store-brand MSDS???  So it’s a bit unnerving.

But anyway — this third image is really just to illustrate that the first image was not a fluke.  I can get some really nice images with these, though the dust does scare me, which is why I finished the background of my drawing-to-turn-in with only Derwent Drawing Pencil.  I didn’t want to have to spray fixative on it again, given that I had to spray outside during daylight hours, and was being rebellious enough not to wear my respirator (which I’m not even sure I have the right cartridges for, as regards organics like propane or vinyl).  I’m kind of regretting it now, because the Pencil doesn’t enable those areas of wash like the White Charcoal does, or broad strokes of color like the latter, either.

Really, to give you an idea about this, Derwent Drawing Pencils are like very soft colored pencils — even to the extent that one can use a pencil sharpener on them (they don’t require sharpening with a knife).  General’s White Charcoal is more like a chalk pastel, and as my prof was saying in my Painting class — pastels kind of bridge the area between painting and drawing.  I don’t quite logically understand it, but experientially, and process-wise, I’m starting to do so.


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Haru ("Codey") is a third-year Master's student in Library and Information Science, hoping to find a way to fuse their desire to make the world a better place and to finance their art.

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