Review by Tina Koyama
Years ago when I was making abstract, mixed-media collages, one of my favorite media was Caran d’Ache Neocolor II water-soluble wax pastels. I don’t use them for urban sketching because the broad crayon sticks require larger paper than I want to carry, but I remember the fun of making huge scribbles, and then releasing the pigments with water. When I saw a set of Rikagaku Kitpas Wet-Erase Crayons (set of 12 for $16), they immediately called to mind that kind of fun, but at a lower price than artist-quality Neocolors.
The box, which secures with an elastic band, includes a small well for water. The lid can be used to make color swatches or sketches that will wipe clean like a whiteboard.
I chose the set in which each crayon is encased in a plastic holder that retracts the crayon tip when not in use and keeps hands clean during use. (JetPens also offers a second set of 12 chunkier, paper-wrapped crayons for the same price.) The retractable mechanism seemed like an unnecessary gadget when I first saw it, but as soon as I used it, I liked it – it does keep my hands cleaner and probably also prevents the soft sticks from breaking.
“Sure to please people of all ages, especially kids,” Kitpas crayons are much softer than Crayolas or Neocolor IIs. Applied to paper, they feel more like lipstick – very smooth, waxy and slippery. Like a grease pencil, they can also be used on windows, plastic, whiteboards and other non-porous surfaces, then easily wiped clean.
Caution: They remain tacky and smudgeable, even when you may not want them to. For example, to carry that glass jar back into the house after taking the photo, I had put it under my forearm so I could carry other things. The crayon left marks on my arm and shirt. I also found traces on my scan bed after scanning the sketch. Easily removed from all surfaces with a towel, however.
I tested the Kitpas with techniques I commonly use with water-soluble pencils (tests made on 140-pound Canson XL mixed media paper). The crayons don’t contain as much pigment as artist-quality products do, but they release adequately with water applied with a brush or finger.
Although the view isn’t inspiring, our backyard deck is shady and comfortable all day. On a warm Sunday afternoon, I took the Kitpas set out there to sketch the unkempt bushes and trees between our yard and our neighbors’. After scribbling on the color, I used a spritzer to activate the pigment efficiently and touched it up with a waterbrush. After it dried, I scribbled on a bit more dry crayon in some areas. Because they are so soft and slippery, they are fun and easy for loose, free sketching and less intimidating than high-priced, artist-quality sticks. (Sketch made on 113-pound Fabriano Accademia watercolor paper.)
My natural tendency is to make sketches that are more tightly rendered and detailed than I sometimes want. Using fat crayons is a sure antidote for that kind of tightness – no tiny details possible! If you don’t need artist quality, Kitpas crayons are a good value. Your kids might like them too, but get them their own set so you won’t have to fight over them.
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