Back in January 2005 Berol/Sanford stopped making their hugely popular Karisma Colored Pencils. Sales had fallen, production costs were high and since then Prismacolor pencils have been the go-to pencil for coloured pencil artists everywhere. That tide is currently turning I think as production of Prismas, the quality of Prismas and general opinion of them have fallen. I have spoken of this previously and one look at the Colored Pencil forum on WetCanvas will show that I am not a lone voice.
Anyway back to Karismas. My only experience of these pencils was a paltry couple of inches of pink pencil in a much used box in a school art department. I used it to draw Rihanna’s hair for pupils. The subject left a little to be desired (hey, I like her music just not much interest in drawing her over and over again), but the pencil itself was fantastic. Y’know when artists talk about symbiosis with their materials, well, I knew exactly how this pencil would perform, I knew it would do exactly what I wanted and each time it delivered a dense, smooth whoosh of colour. It never disappointed. It sharpened beautifully even the meagre 2 inch that I was drawing with.
So every so often I check in at eBay where occasionally a box, a clutch of pencils, the odd pencil comes up for sale. And over at 1Buy1Pencils, they sell some remaining pencils. Ideally, I wanted a box of 36 and untouched would be lovely. It seemed like a wish too far. Unless, of course, I was willing to pay £100+ for 36 pencils! I bid on a few boxes, lost all of the auctions and dreamed of having enough spare cash to afford the £300+ for bigger boxes…I kept watching.
And last week, my attention paid off. A seller put a box of 36 up for sale at a fairly reasonable Buy It Now price and I snapped it up. I told Mr. S. afterwards. They arrived today:
As is my habit, I made my little colour chart; for information as much as fun.
I am pleased to report that the pencils didn’t disappoint. They are wonderfully creamy and smooth, dense pigment fills the tooth (and I use pretty rough watercolour paper for my colour cards). The colours are rich and bright and the ones you need to be dark (Tuscan Red, Indigo Blue, Sepia) are exactly that. I like Sepia, I find it a useful pencil in most of my drawings but all too often the Sepia pencil in any brand/collection can be scratchy and unusable but this Karisma Sepia was just as good as the rest of the box.
The pencils themselves are encased in clear varnished cedar wood with the pencil information on the barrels in black. The end has the famous Karisma wedge shape giving you a bright splash of the core colour.
The box also came with the original leaflet providing lightfastness information and information about the Karisma Watercolor pencils. Karisma rate lightfastness on a 1 to 8 scale, 1 being the least and 8 being the most lightfast. Oranges and yellows are mostly about 8, reds range between 2 and 7, greens 5 and 7, blues 4 to 7, purples are very low at 2 and 3, greys and browns between 6 to 8 and black at 8. Pretty much typical of most coloured pencil collections. Pinks and purples are always the main worry.
Now that I have them…what do I do with them? I can look at them and enjoy them, but can I bring myself to use them? Sharpen them? With a rapidly depleting and extremely expensive stock, it’d have to be a pretty special painting! But boy, am I happy today.