The December box was very festive! ArtSnacks' usual neon green tissue paper looks so Christmassy alongside the little peppermint stick and other red items~ Christmas is my favorite time of year, so I began to love this box the moment I looked inside. I couldn't wait to eat that peppermint stick!
I'm actually a bit sad to have neglected this box; all the items here are a drawing-artist's dream! Drawing is my favorite and most accessible way to create art so all the supplies in this box are great for me. Maybe I'll do a super-late ArtSnacks Challenge with them, just to make sure they get their fair share of attention. It seems a shame not to, with a box so perfectly matched to my tastes.
Here's what came in my December box [specific attributes in brackets]:
- Pentalic Drawing Pencils, 6 Degree Set
- Faber-Castel Colored Art Eraser (i.e. Kneaded Eraser) [red]
- Uni POSCA Paint Marker [black]
- Prismacolor Premier Illustration Marker [01, fine line, black]
This first item, the Pentalic drawing pencil set, is the only thing from this box I haven't used properly. I've done some scribbles to demonstrate the pencils' general capabilities but I haven't actually created a drawing with them yet. (Just another reason to do a late ArtSnacks Challenge!) Despite this, I'm already very happy with this pencil set.
For one, the tin case is awesome. It's hinged (so I won't misplace the lid!), made of stiff metal that'll withstand most bumps and scrapes, with grooves in the bottom for each pencil to rest in, and a layer of padding on the lid to protect the contents. This would be a great item to take traveling--on a daily commute, a trip the park, even camping or hiking--it's slim enough to fit in a pocket and study enough to keep the pencils safe.
On top of that, receiving a matching, balanced, and well-ranged set of six (pre-sharpened!) pencils is very impressive! Most art subscription boxes I've received feature just one pencil from a certain brand or line, maybe two or three if they're colored or otherwise significantly different, but this is the first time I've received a full set like this. It's less like an art snack and more like an art appetizer!
In the photo above, I went through some basic pencilling techniques with each hardness. I hope it presents a general idea of what the pencils are capable of. During that brief demo, I didn't notice any glaring problems; smooth, consistent, responsive, and comfortable, these tools behaved just as well as any other artist-quality pencil I've ever tried.
I suppose this next item, the Faber-Castell kneaded eraser, also hasn't been used as fully as it might. Unlike the pencil set, however, this isn't something that needs extensive testing to determine whether it performs well or not. I'll definitely use it if I do a late ArtSnacks Challenge, but I'm not going out of my way to make sure it receives a lot of immediate use.
All I really had to do in order to evaluate this eraser was feel the kneaded texture and see how well it removed graphite from the page. The texture was good. Easy to mold, soft, but not stringy or overly dry. I was able to form the eraser without trouble and it kept its shape as well as can be expected. The erasing capabilities were also good. For my test, I pulled up a line of graphite from each of the demo scribbles I had previously done with the pencils. Even on the dark 8B, the eraser was able to clean up quite well.
What really sets this Faber-Castell kneaded eraser apart is its pretty red color and the handy storage case. The color is, of course, just a visual bonus. It doesn't affect the item's performance, but it's still really fun! Sure, it'll eventually be dulled when it's full of graphite and charcoal, but I think even then it'll appear more cheerful than the typical lifeless grey of your standard kneaded eraser. (I wonder if everyone got red or if I just lucked out in receiving my favorite color...)
Unlike the coloration, the storage case is a much more tangible advantage for this product. The biggest problem I have with kneaded erasers is they dry out over time, becoming more and more difficult to manipulate. This is especially frustrating when warming up an eraser that hasn't been used for a while. Of course, the material the eraser picks up as it's used probably contributes to its eventual stiff demise, but at least having a case to slow moisture loss will allow the eraser to last longer than it might otherwise.
The Posca paint marker has so far proven to be a relatively unique item in its category. Most paint markers I've used come with huge tips that only make them useful for larger drawings and filling in broad areas. The Posca, on the other hand, has a lovely small tip that lines almost like a felt-tip pen.
Aside from the uniquely small tip, I'm also pleased with this marker's visual design. The body is chunky and squat, with a matching cap and useful information printed clearly and cheerfully all around. It's very cute to look at and satisfying to hold.
Unfortunately, despite the marker's visual and physical appeal, it has some conspicuous problems. As you can see in the images above, the paint delivery is not particularly reliable. When I first primed the tip, a sizable drip of paint plopped out without warning. At first I thought this was just a 'new marker problem', that perhaps I shook or pumped the marker too much before its first use, but the marker again delivered too much paint the second time I used it (a few days later). Thankfully, once the initial overflow of paint is used up, perhaps on a scrap paper, the delivery evens out, but there is a second issue that isn't as easily avoided.
In the upper-right image (click to enlarge) the curly-cue and Xs are riddled with tiny paint splatters ("Eeek..." is my initial reaction to this unexpected event!). This happened simply as I was pulling the marker tip across the page. This paper isn't particularly toothy, so I can only conclude something about the marker itself causes this to happen. I hoped this was a kink that could be worked out as the marker got broken in, but, after a flawless second attempt, it started spattering paint again during its third use. It seems the only way to avoid this issue is to draw very slowly and lightly, but that's not easy to always remember or follow through on, nor is it a very reasonable expectation for a tool like this anyway.
At least I can praise the paint itself. I really love the thick texture and subtle shine when it dries.
The last item I received in the December 2014 ArtSnacks box is a Prismacolor Illustration Marker. The menu describes three tip types--I got a fine liner--but I'm not sure if colors other than black were sent out. If you got a different color, let me know!
I've only tested this marker (really, in my mind this is a pen, but I'll try to go with the product's official description) on its own. Since I haven't used it in conjunction with anything else (e.g. Copic markers, watercolor) I can't say whether or not it plays well with others. By itself, it seems to be a fairly standard, reliable tool with a nice dark ink that is smoothly and consistently delivered. In that respect, it quite reminds me of my go-to inking pens (Sakura Pigma). I'll be interested to see if this Illustration Marker does well with my Copic markers; if so, I could consider it further when it comes time to buy more inking pens, especially if the price is right.
Here's a bonus photo. This is the Aquabee Co-Mo Sketch Pad, which I received in the 2014 Studio Collection, but the sticker is from this ArtSnacks box. I've always liked to put stickers on my sketchbooks but it's even better when I can use my ArtSnacks stickers to label my ArtSnacks paper pads!
And there we have the last ArtSnacks box of 2014! Only a month or two late, ha ha ha. Let me know if you have any questions about the tools featured here. If I don't know the answer off-hand, I can always experiment or research to find out! For those of you who also got the December box, let me know if yours was different and what you think of the products you received!