Monday, September 22, 2008

A Colored Pencil Love Affair

I love my husband and my daughters. I love my mom and my brother, and my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends...

...And I love my colored pencils. Oh, how I love those colored pencils!

I've gone on about my colored pencils before, and this most definitely will not be the last, but right now I am in such a colored pencil-loving mood, that I can't help but devote an entire post to them.

My colored pencil love affair began at the tender age of 12. Maybe that is why I can't shake the colored pencil. You never forget your first crush... and mine happened to be for a pack of 60 gorgeous black Design Spectracolor pencils with lovely colored tips.

I remember it well... the hours I used to spend holed up in my studio (aka my bedroom) while all the other kids were out at the mall, just rearranging my pencils so that the colored tips looked beautiful next to each other.

I kept sketchbook upon sketchbook, always filled with colored pencil illustrations that I drew with my beloved Design Spectracolors.

In high school, my pencil case fell apart and I bought them this vintage purse, so they could be lovingly tucked inside. My colored pencils were more stylish than I was.

I was also introduced to Prismacolor pencils, which are nice... but not Design Spectracolor. Any colored pencil artist who has tasted the beauty of a Design Spectacolor (I don't actually mean eat them) knows that a Prismacolor will never compare.

And then in 1998, Design Spectracolor pencils were discontinued. The company was bought by the company that owns Prismacolor, and then the Design Spectracolor was no more. At the age of 17, I cried. How could they do that to me? Didn't they know, didn't they understand that my pencils meant more to me than any boyfriend I'd ever had to that point (actually, I'd only had one, and only for a month. I was a late bloomer)?

And here I am, 10 years later. Still in love with my beloved Design Spectracolors, still devastated that they were discontinued, and more than happy to drop a small fortune for them on Ebay.

Last weekend, I spent about an hour with my racing heart in my throat, as I waited for an auction of 48 practically new Design Spectracolors in their original case, to end. Luckily, I learned about (bless the Etsy forums!!) and had set a snipe (I do not feel like a cheater, in case you are wondering. Those pencils were that important) and as luck would have it, I won!! It wasn't an easy feat, of course. Another colored pencil addict had snuck in their high bid in the last 10 seconds, and I probably would have lost had it not been for my 7-seconds-to-go snipe.

But I won, I won, I won won won... and I'm completely on the moon with happiness.

Sometimes tragedy does strike in the form of a chewed up colored pencil, complements of the family dog who is soooo on my hit list as a result. But for the most part, those pencils are cherished like a precious baby.

For all of you other colored pencil lovers out there, shout it loud and wear it proud. I found these awesome colored pencil accessories on Etsy, and just have to share.

The colored pencil jewelry from Stacey Dawn Designs is just too cute. I love her fabulous colored pencil bracelets, which look just fabulous and I'm sure have that gorgeous woody pencil smell. Mmmmm! And did I mention they are fabulous?

You can find her shop filled with fabulous (yes, fabulous!) pencil jewelry at

Jen Maestre has the coolest pendants, ACEOs, pins and sculptures made from colored pencils, that I have ever in my life seen. Actually, they are the only ones I have ever in my life seen, as I'm sure Jen is pretty much in her own niche.

I just love her pendants and awesome pencil urchins!! You can find her shop at




Anonymous said...

So...the jewelry and sculptures are nice...but...does it hurt you a little to see the pencils cut up like that? :)

idyll hands said...

This is a very sweet note about your love affair with the pencils. :)

Unknown said...

LOL, Leah, my answer is no, it doesn't hurt to see the pencils cut up, because they aren't Design Spectracolor pencils.

Morgan said...

I'm glad you love your pencils!

ps, I need another invoice :)

Giggleberry (Amy) said...

sounds like True Love to me!!!

Kylie Bowers said...

I love what you do with all those pencials you are a fantastic artist!

Momma J said...

You are too funny - I loved reading this blog!

Anonymous said...

If I ever have enough $$$ to do some sort of national Dreamy Giraffe ad...I SOOOOOOOOOO want you writing the copy, girl.

Even though I'm broke as a joke and really don't need to be buying something off the dollar menu at Wendy's at the had me ready to whip out my credit card and buy a set of those Design Spectracolors.

You had my Prismacolors, weeping,that surely, they would be taking a permanent vacation soon.

And then you had me, weeping, when I read the word "discontinued".

If they ever were to start producing them again, they should so pay you for this post.

Oh Mandie said...

Now this is a love story at its finest - you're like the Danielle Steele of the art world! :-)

I'm like that with paper - but luckily for me its dirt cheap and doubtful that paper will ever be discontinued!! lol

Denise Felton said...

Ooooooo. Now I want colored pencils. And I can't even draw. I've been in love with those urchin sculptures ever since I first saw them. Wasn't that a totally brilliant idea!

Rosebud Collection said...

I have to be truthful..I never realized how important a certain brand of pencils were..I though Perma was a good one..Boy, did I learn something new..So happy you got your brand..Thanks for the information.

Marcyanna said...

Unfortunately I have never had the oportunity to try those Design Spectracolor pencils. I have used Prisma all these years and never came across anything else. You make the Spectracolors sound so wonderful I am bummed that I can't even try them out!

BTW...I so love Jen Maestre too!


Anonymous said...

I must share a funny story with you.
Recently I started drawing again. Due to circumstances in my life, I had given it up over 10 years ago. I LOVE Spectracolors, and have a 24 piece set, though quite a few are tiny nubs. I decided to splurge and buy myself a bigger set.
After looking all over the internet, I discovered they were discontinued. NOOOOO! I found blogs and forums of other Sectracolor lovers...and I saved a link to some of them to read at a later date.
Fast forward...a set of 48 specs was up on Ebay. I promptly bid on them. Then smeone swooped in at the last second and won them! I will admit it, I used some choice words. All night.
Fast forward again. I decide to read some of those links I had saved...and looky who I find.

esque said...

I love pencils too! My favorites are from Caran D'Ache which seem to be hard to find in the States but are basically a Swiss staple.

Unknown said...

Anonymous, now I feel like a bully!!

Well, I'm currently out of cash and not looking for another set, so you wont have to worry about me swooping in and swiping them! I hope you find another set!!

Kim said...

I loved reading this!

Anonymous said...

Heehee...well, I feel better knowing they went to someone like you. ;) Your artwork is a joy to look at!
I wanted to ask you, have you ever tried Faber Castell Polychromos? (I havent, they are olil based instead of wax, was just wondering how they compare to Spectracolors). I just am having a hard time digging on Prismacolors! Wah!!

Anonymous said...

Wow...I just ran across this! Of course I share your great love of colored pencils and Jenn Mastere is a friend of mine and shares the love too. Thanks for featuring us in you lovley story I loved reading it!!! Stacey

Anonymous said...

where do you buy them my sister is also in love with them then our cousin stole them at 1 of our family gatherings please reply soon trying possibly to get them before the holidays but i dont think i will becuase christmas is 6 days away<333thank in advance <3

Unknown said...

wcchampps - I bought them on Ebay. I just searched for the pencils and there was a listing.

Good luck finding them! They are very difficult to get a hold of!

JohnnyG said...

Wow, I only just came across this page - while searching to find out what happened to my beloved Design SpectraColors. I have jealously guarded my set for years - afraid to use them up because I couldn't find any more. Now I know why.

I have tried others, but as yet, I haven't found anything that compares. They are quite literally the best colored pencils I have ever used.

If any other die-hard SpectraColor fan has found anything that's as good, I would love to hear about it.

artybecca said...

I have a set of 96 Spectracolors that I think I bought in the early 1980's. They sat idle for many years when I quit drawing for a long time. Recently when I went to find them again I didn't know where they were. Finally, while cleaning out a closet last week I found them and they really are nice as I remembered. The only part I didn't remember is that they were Spectacolors, not Prismacolors. I always referred to them as "my set of Prismacolors" and had no recollection until last week what they actually were. (I also had no idea that they no longer make them. Figures!)

Chris Sobieniak said...

I still have my 24 set I bought back in the mid 90's I used for a few school projects. My brother though bought the fancy larger set that came in a plastic fold-out case. I see leftover stock and some used pencils do show up on eBay otherwise (alongside the original Blackwing 102's that would go in the hundreds, another fine pencil that was discontinued due to a unreparable machine to make the metal clasps in those things).

Judy AWE said...

I found this post when I searched to buy Spectracolor online. Nooo! I bought mine from a young girl at a garage sale. I like Prismacolor, too. Other pencils, other than my first awesome watercolor pencils, just aren't the same.

Unknown said...

Of the same opinion on design spectracolor pencils!! Such a terrible day when they turned in their keys.

I was asked my opinion recently by someone who wants to gift a good set of colored pencils to another 12 year old (my neice) who is just beginning her artistic journey. Although I feel very lucky to have found many Design Spectracolor pencils in my area over the years at the odd garage sale and thrift stores, I would feel very guilty to suggest them to a budding artist just because they are so difficult to find (and expensive if the seller knows what they have) and will only become more scarce. So, I can't recommend them to her.

Because of my luck on finding Design Specracolor pencils I have not had the need to move on to other brands myself, and as such find myself clueless on other contemporary cored pencil brands.

As such, perhaps you may have an idea on what other brand(s) are close in their superb blending characteristics, deep and thick and rich color and the superbly balanced consistency to do crisp detail work when sharp while maintaining that rich buttery smoothness needed to lay down quick and satisfyingly layerable yet blendable block color? So, what do you think may be the best honorary title holder in the void left by the tragic loss of Design Spectracolor?

P.S. I think I may have lost that auction to you back in 2008 (both my wife and I are on a perpetual search for them and will pick them up at nearly any price that approaches reasonability). In any case, best wishes and make sure to use those pencil extenders for when they get too short for comfort... they only get smaller with age!

Unknown said...

Hey, thanks for asking my colored pencil thoughts (and sorry if I snaked that set your wife had her bid for - haha I do love them so!)

My latest colored pencil obsession is the Faber-Castell Polychromos set - they're incredible! A similar soft lead as the Design Spectracolor pencils, and I love them much more than the harder lead of Prismacolor pencils (which are also great, but I prefer sod lead)

I have the 60 color set of Faber-Castell Polychromos, and the colors blend gorgeously together. I definitely recommend!

Thanks for the message, and I hope your niece enjoys her new pencils!

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