Review by Tina Koyama
On top of all the usual excitement over the release of the latest ArtSnacks box, the March edition was a celebration: ArtSnacks’ birthday! For four years, this subscription service has been curating a monthly assortment of fine art and craft supplies to art material junkies like me.
The March box included two tubes of M. Graham & Co. watercolor paints (Terra Rosa and Titanium White Opaque), a Protégé Taklon Paint Brush by Connoisseur, a Koh-I-Noor Triograph 2B graphite pencil, and a small sample pad of Stonehenge Aqua Hotpress watercolor paper by Legion Paper. As a birthday commemoration, subscribers also received an ArtSnacks logo magnet, which I promptly put on my metal file cabinet. Of course, the box also included a snack – a piece of WarHeads Extreme Sour candy (which was sadly long gone by the time I took this photo!).
Having paints, a brush and watercolor paper in the same box meant that I could conveniently try out all three items at once. First, the brush: From images I saw on Instagram, subscribers received a variety of brush styles. I got a No. 5 round, which I’m very happy with because it’s a versatile size that works well in my small sketchbooks. The synthetic bristles snap back nicely, and it retains its point well. I used the Terra Rosa to paint a small pear, and I like the control I had with wide strokes of paint, as well as the fine point on the pear’s stem.
I’d heard that M. Graham paints were unique in that they contain honey to keep the pigments moist. I squirted out a bit more Terra Rosa onto my palette than I had intended because it has a very loose consistency that reminds me very much of honey. The paint is so intense and rich that I could mix in quite a bit of water without diluting the hue. I’m not familiar with this color in other paint brands, so I don’t know how the particular pigments contribute to the consistency, but it appears very concentrated. A little would go a long way with these paints!
The Titanium White Opaque wasn’t nearly as runny as the Terra Rosa. After my pear sketch dried completely, I added a dab of white as a highlight to the upper part of the pear, and it dried nearly as opaque as when it was wet.
I made swatches of both paints over some ink lines so you could see their opacity.
Now, about that paper. In addition to making the pear sketch above, I ran a few of my favorite drawing media over it – the Triograph pencil that came in my box, a traditional and a water-soluble colored pencil, a fountain pen and a brush pen. On the side of the paper that would be considered the front (if you think of the pad’s cover as the front), the surface is considerably more toothy than the back, which is much smoother and without a visible texture. You can see the difference, especially, in the pencil tests. (The pear sketch was painted on the back side.)
The front side feels a bit too rough for hotpress; I found it unpleasant under a fountain pen, which is often what I use for line work before painting. It’s really a two-sided paper – coldpress on one side and hotpress on the other! The paper’s substantial weight is not indicated on the sample pad, but I’d guess it’s at least 140 pound. The sizing is beautiful – I love the way water-soluble media wash out with a rich bloom.
(Out of curiosity, I compared it with the sample pad of Stonehenge Aqua Coldpress paper that I had received in a previous ArtSnacks box. The coldpress has a strong texture, as I’d expect, and it’s consistent on both sides.)
Of the items in the March box, I’m having the most fun with the pencil, which is a jumbo-size, triangular graphite. It’s the biggest graphite pencil I own, so I thought it was appropriate to take it out for a spin on National Pencil Day! (For the sketch below, I used the Plumchester sketchbook, which is one of my favorites with graphite.)
The 2B core is firm enough that it easily retains a point for details. At the same time, that extra-thick core held flat against the paper makes for fast, easy shading. I thought the chunky triangular shape might be unwieldy for drawing, but it is surprisingly secure. The core reminds me of a carpenter’s pencil, but the body is much more comfortable to use.
I like the lightly varnished natural finish and the lacquered end cap.
I scribbled with it on the Plumchester paper, gave the marks a finger smudge and erased with a Tombow Mono Zero eraser. Smudging and erasing were typical of a 2B core, and it felt similar in softness to a Palomino 2B and Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2B.
The Triograph does not fit in any sharpener I own (and I own quite a few). However, taking a knife to it was a prime opportunity to give that deliciously thick core a chisel point, which will be even more fun for the next sketch!