Review – General’s Compressed Charcoal

As I’ve mentioned before, I haven’t significantly used charcoals in my artwork for most of my “career”, but recently stepped up and created a couple series using charcoal almost exclusively. For this I of course had to purchase most of the basic supplies for creating a charcoal drawing. As it happens, General’s produces a wide variety of inexpensive and readily available art supplies and they were the first ones I ran into when looking for compressed charcoal. I expected them to work, but not be anything spectacular. Was I right?

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The set contains 4 sticks of charcoal that have been broken down and then compressed with a binder in 4 different hardnesses (2B{x2, in my pack}, 4B, and 6B). Each creates a relatively smooth and richly dark line that is very easy to smear and blend but very difficult to erase. The softer sticks do indeed create a darker and more consistent line but unsurprisingly seem to disappear in your hand while you’re using them. When compared to the “natural” vine charcoal these darker and more difficult-to-erase lines serve a different purpose: they are for further on in drawing’s development, when you are beyond the sketching stage and have most of the structure of your image created.

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In my experience, these General’s sticks performed adequately. They were certainly darker and smoother than cheaper ones found in “sketching kits” that you can buy at department stores. However, they do still go down in a bit of a “chunky” pattern and aren’t true black. There is also a bit of a problem with breaking, but that’s just par for the course with this type of product. If you’re used to crayons, you’ll have to be very careful when handling these, or you can be like many artists I’ve seen and “pre-”break them in half before actually using them, which also makes it easier to get in close and work on detail areas.

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These guys pretty much keep pace with a lot of General’s products. They work well, are easily available, and don’t break the bank (though they’re actually closer to the top end of the price spectrum in this case). They are a fine solution for people at all skill levels with the studio space to set up and use charcoals.

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Review – General’s Woodless Graphite Pencil Comparison with Cretacolor Monolith

So, last week I reviewed the Cretacolor Monolith all-graphite pencil. This week I was going to review the General’s Woodless pencil, but I realized how similar they are, so I will simply be talking about the differences in the two.

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The General’s pencil had (I have an older one) an inferior set of markings on the side that wore off quickly and easily. If the newer versions have a similar ink I’d say this is a downside as you can’t see what you’re using. The outer coating is a darker color, which has no real effect except aesthetics. And the back end is a bit more flat.

Is the quality the same? I can’t tell for sure, as they both seem the same, but if I must hazard a guess I’d say that the General’s pencil is a bit more fragile. But for all I know they could be made by the same company.

All in all I’d have to say that if you were going to pick between the two it might not even matter. Whether or not your local store (or where you shop most) carries them, and the color are the two biggest factors I can think of. Really it’s just a toss up. (But don’t actually do that: the pencils might break!)

Review – General’s Jumbo Kneaded Rubber Eraser

So what’s something every artist needs but no one talks about? If you answered eraser, congratulations! You get a digital cookie. Now then, let’s talk about a good eraser, a General’s Jumbo Kneaded Rubber eraser.

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Kneaded rubber erasers are really cool. They bend and twist into any shape you like, they don’t leave any shavings behind, and they can be used for a long time. They “clean” themselves a little when you knead them, allowing you to use them more regularly, and without smearing. They are rubber, so they come apart and back together. This particular brand comes in a nice square and works perfectly.

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All-in-all, even though there’s little to say about them, they are amazingly handy tools to have around, and much superior to any other eraser you’ll find, though much more expensive.