Winsor & Newton Pigment Markers

(Chronicle of a death foretold?) 

I discovered Winsor & Newton Pigment Markers not even a year ago, a bit by accident, watching some videos on Youtube. Actually, I knew they existed, I remember being offered them at an art supplies store in London, however I didn’t like their performance, mostly due to that streakiness I have been against to for so long. But after watching these videos, some features caught my attention. First of all, lightfastness. This is the one aspect I pay the most attention to, as most of my customers know. Then, I saw these youtubers doing impressive things with the pigment markers, much different from what I saw at the shop a couple of years ago. “What? You can blend them? Painterly effect? Lightfast?” The die was cast. The same day, I found a very good deal for a 36-marker set and a small A5 Pigment Marker Paper pad, so I ordered it and, as soon as I received it, started playing non-stop… I LOVED THEM.

My first experiment was painting some leaves from my garden (which was instantly sold, that must be a sign, I thought). I really enjoyed how I could blend colours just with the tip of my fingers, without any solvents or other tools. Being used to working with colour pencils, this was definitely a breakthrough. What could take weeks to complete with colour pencils now could be finished in just a couple of days. The main issue was the extreme thinness of the special paper. But they worked, anyway.  

During the following weeks I kept practising and making some other pieces, “Big Bang”, “Goliath’s mercy”, “Icarus prisoner”, “Poseidon’s wrath”… I also noticed that, apart from the already mentioned paper thinness, the nibs on these markers are quite delicate. Also, I found that the design of the caps contribute to a premature wear of the nibs. But even so, pigment markers were still great fun (and they became basically my main tool). 

Just out of curiosity, I contacted Winsor & Newton to check whether they produced pigment marker paper larger than the A3 pads I found online. They don’t. But my next challenge was working on a larger piece using these markers.  

For the experiment, I used Fabriano Accademia 200 gsm paper coated with W&N Galleria gesso, I used this combination for working with mixed media in the past and it worked beautifully. In this case it didn’t. My first attempt to do my “Rise of Prometheus” was on a large A1ish piece, initially the background went well, even the eagle, however I noticed that the pigment markers sort of messed with the gesso at the end, or at least that was my impression, for the pigment was eventually becoming unworkable. This was more obvious on the main character’s belly, which due to this issue with the pigments looked like having a skin condition.  

I must also note that, during all this process, a couple of nibs for the blender markers were completely gone.  

Mission aborted, then. I went back to my A3 pad and repeated the whole piece (but smaller). Even though completing it was quite fast, I wasn’t really happy with the experience, especially with the nibs wearing that much, due to the gessoed paper but also to the design of the caps. 

So this is a love/hate story with pigment markers, they’re still enjoyable as long as you use the proper paper, which is something we should tell all shops AND youtubers off about, for most of the reviews and showcases have been done on normal/printer paper, which definitely limits the possibilities of these markers.  

In my case, I will keep using my pigment markers for sure, but only while my stash lasts. Also, I have the impression that Winsor & Newton are not really interested on continuing the production of this product which, even though it’s a very clever concept, has been terribly marketed and designed. I’ve seen quite a few good deals and sales on these markers, so it’s maybe a good opportunity to give them a try, even if their presence in the market is not guaranteed… At the end of the day, it’s all about having fun with your art supplies!.  

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