I recently picked up a tube of Derivan Liquid Pencil. The website shows pictures of it in little jars, but mine looks like this.
As far as I can tell it's graphite in some sort of medium and was conceived as a substitute for powdered graphite. It comes in a few different colours, each of which is available in a permanent and rewettable variety. I got the permanent kind but I have since learned that the rewettable variety is not only rewettable but erasable too! It has a consistency close to oil paint and can be extended with water.
I don't generally write reviews of art supplies, but when I got this thing home and did a little research I was very discouraged by what I found. Despite having been available since 2007 (who knew!) there were very few user reviews or demos of the product outside of the company website. Most of the samples and techniques on the Derivan site seemed to emulate realistic pencil renderings of various degrees of complexity. Nobody seemed to be talking about the weird things this stuff can do, or using it in an exciting way. So without further preamble here is a short list of things you might not know or expect about Derivan Liquid Pencil: Grey 9 Permanent.
1) It is friendly to watercolour. After a certain amount of dry-time (more on this later) you can paint right over Liquid Pencil. I was also able to tint the product by wetting my brush in some watercolour before wetting and extending the Liquid Pencil, which gave an effect I would imagine is similar to the available coloured varieties. In fact, the product itself can be used much the same as watercolour: You can put down a stroke of Liquid Pencil and then come back in with a wet brush to drag, lighten or disperse the colour. It can also be used wet-on-wet for ink-like effects.
2) The permanent variety is rewettable. Sort of. Unlike ink, Liquid Pencil has some body and doesn't dry straight away. Before it dries completely the product can be worked with a wet brush and clear water (see above) to lighten areas. Doing this pushes the pigment around and areas of greater density begin to build up. Working this way has a vaguely sculptural aspect, not unlike using an eraser with powdered graphite.
3) The coolest thing about it has nothing to do with a pencil. Whatever binding agent or medium the graphite is in is incredibly slippery, making the product very mobile. Because it won't dry on contact, Liquid pencil can be pushed around on itself and the resulting brush strokes and textures can be pretty interesting. Once dry, it doesn't make the paper's surface slick like waxy or oil-based materials, or even like a regular pencil. As such it can be layered and would no doubt be a great tool for underpaintings.
Do you use Derivan Liquid Pencil? Do you know someone who is using it in a cool way? Let me know! For more reviews of this and that check out my other blog, Various and Sundry.