In Praise of Pencil Crayons

trail bird markerWhen it comes to sun-bleaching and weather resistance, pencil crayons surprisingly outperform other mediums that would seem better suited against the elements.

Artwork has long inhabited the landscape in and around the fields and forests of Rosewood, beginning along the hedgerows and fences of my parents’ neighboring farm to the north, where my aunt Dorothy spent many summers painting fantastical images on large smooth field stones, as well as country-themed murals across the barn. Inspired by her work—an ethereal blend of abstract, realism and influences from First Nations traditions—I tried to lend a similar hand to Rosewood by rendering creations onto stones and wooden panels and setting them along gardens and paths, and the effect can be magical. There’s something primal and familiar about artwork encountered outdoors on natural material. Yet for all the art that once illuminated the land, much of it has returned to source.

Moisture lifted and flaked away most of my aunt’s rock paintings. Similarly, relentless summer sun flaked away the largest of the barn murals on the eastern-facing side of the building, which was surprising, as the mural had been created using exterior house paints. At Rosewood, permanent ink on rock slowly washed away, and of the rainbow of permanent ink colors used on wood, all save black, orange and yellow survived only for a few months. It was dismaying. In envisioning a place rich with outdoor art, the challenges of outdoor art degradation seemed extreme. So I tried an experiment.

Rendering a design onto found wood, I colored the interior using pencil crayons. The colors didn’t stand as richly as colored permanent inks, but they blended nicely and subtly accentuated the wood grain. Coating the finished design with water-based Varathane, I set the design as a path marker, and after two years, the colors remain unchanged. Color that lasts on rock remains an ongoing exploration, but for the time being, pencil crayons appear to be a simple, affordable and accessible medium for anyone to create lasting outdoor color on wood.

Copyright © 2015, Xristopher Bland for abmCreative. All rights reserved. Contact


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