Putting Prang to the Test

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

Part of the fun of back-to-school, is all the fresh new supplies!

This month, I was thrilled to receive a box of goodies from the Dixon Ticonderoga Company, featuring several of their art supplies (as well as a group of competitor's products) for me to put to the test.

I began with a set of Prang Large Triangular Colored Pencils...

These colorful pencils have a unique, chunky triangular shape which makes them easy to hold - for both big and small hands.

OnceI  started working with the pencils, I noticed immediately how "creamy" they were... they seemed to just glide on the paper. By comparison, a leading competitor's brand was kind of "scratchy".

The Prang colors were rich and bold and the variety was fantastic. I'm a big fan of metallics so I was especially taken with the inclusion of silver and gold. The pencil sharpener (two pencil sizes) was a nice added bonus.

All of that aside, I wanted to make sure these colored pencils could stand up to the "Drop Test".

I let the pencils go from a standing position and they hit the floor, hard. But -- not a tip snapped off! Nor was there a fracture inside the wood. These puppies are strong!

Grade: A+

Next, I tried out Prang's Classic Art Markers...

Now, here's the problem I have with most markers. They dry out!

To deal with this problem, Prang has created a marker with an exceptionally long cap-off life. I put this claim to the test but leaving the cap off of a Prang marker for an entire day - plus one hour.  And guess what?

I was ridiculously surprised to see that the marker worked as well without the cap, as with. Which begs the question... how on earth do they do that??? By comparison, when I left the cap off a competitor's marker, it started to fade after just 8 hours.

Prang's marker colors are bright, bold and smooth - no scratchy drawings here! And, they are completely odor-free, which is a huge plus. They are also quick drying, which means less chance of little hands becoming covered in a colorful mess.

As if all this wasn't terrific enough, the caps on these markers are super easy to pop off and on, so even the youngest in your classroom can get to work straight away, without adult assistance.

Grade: A+

After the markers, it was time to dig into some paint...

Prang Oval Semi-Moist Watercolors feature eight colors and a wooden-handle paintbrush. We tried them out on a simple sheet of poster board, rather than watercolor paper. Reason being... a lot of classrooms simply don't have the funds to purchase expensive papers. 

Happily, the paint performed very well on the poster board. I found the Prang colors to be rich, and not at all chalky. 

Even though the set came with secondary colors, I thought I would try mixing my own, just to see how the paint performed. 

The Prang colors I mixed up were "earthy" compared to the colors of a competing brand (which were a little more pastel).  I suppose you could say the Prang colors were closer to nature. For example, I would choose Prang's green over the competitor's if I were trying to paint a realistic looking tree.

Next, I wanted to see just how washable these paints were, because - let's face it - kids + paint = mess. Am I right? 

So,  I covered my hands with paint and waited for it to dry.

All it took to clean my hands was a quick warm water wash with a touch of dish soap. 


Then, I "dropped" the paint on a 100% cotton t-shirt.

And guess what?

The paint was washable :)

This brings us to the paintbrush.

The brush held water really well and could be used to create large and small lines and areas of color. 


While it was great to have a brush included with the kit,  the quality of the tool was a disappointment.  From the first dip into water, the bristles began to fall out of the brush. While it certainly was not the end of the world, it was distracting and I can see students becoming frustrated with having to pick little hairs out of their artwork. The quality of the paint more than makes up for this though. Just make sure you have your own brushes on hand before using...

Grade: A+ for the paint
Grade: C for the paintbrush

Finally, I opened the pack of Ticonderoga Pencils...

I have personally been using these pencils in my own studio for years. They are beyond terrific and they always pass the "Drop Test". The lead in these pencils will not break. It really won't! It even stands up to youngsters who like to press HARD on the tips of their pencils :)

You can get a nice variety of shades with just one pencil, making it a terrific choice for the art room.

Grade: A+

Painting in public. Or not.

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

It should be fairly obvious to everyone by now, that I am not a people person. It's not that I don't like people (well, most people), it's that I'm just really, really uncomfortable around them. 

If you don't believe me, just go ahead and try to strike up a conversation. I'll want to chat (I really will) but in the end, we'll both be hearing crickets. (Or worse. )

And the thing is, the thoughts in my head are often far more interesting (albeit more inappropriate) than what comes out of my mouth.

It is for this reason that painting in public is excruciatingly painful for me. Because, you know... people. And while most folks are delightful, some are less than sublime and others are downright offensive. I get it, they don't know what to say either. I mean, artists are weird and you never know when one of them is going to cut off an ear or develop syphilis, right?

Trouble is, I don't have the nerve to speak my mind -- in person.  However, in print I'm such a charmer. That's a joke, by the way.

So, here, in no particular order...  are 20 comments and questions heard while painting in public -- followed by my responses. And my thoughts. 

"Are you an artist?" 


What I say: Yes.

What I'm thinking: Of course not, I’m a dental hygienist. See my utensils?

"Did you paint that?"


What I say: Yes.

What I'm thinking: Actually no, I just tossed the guy who was here into the ocean so I could steal his canvas.

"I can’t draw a straight line."


What I say: That’s funny, neither can I. (smiles)

What I'm thinking: Well aren't you original. It's not like I haven't heard that 1000 times before.

"I don’t have a creative bone in my body." 


What I say: Oh, heh heh. Um.

What I'm thinking: I’m not sure what you want me to say here. I'm sorry?

"My Great Aunt was an artist."


What I say: Oh, that's nice.

What I'm thinking: I'm so freaking happy for you.

"Do you make a living from art?"


What I say: It can be difficult, but I make out okay.

What I'm thinking: That depends. Do you have a better offer?

"Do you have a day job?"


What I say: I'm an artist.

What I'm thinking: Would it be fun if I told you I was a brain surgeon?
ps: It's 11'oclock in the morning. This is daytime.

"I wish I could paint." 


What I say: You might surprise yourself.

What I'm thinking:  I wish I had an invisibility shield. Zap. Crap. Nope, not working.

"You are so creative." 


What I say: Thank you.

What I'm thinking:  I’ll bet you’re proud of me too.

"How much would you charge for a painting of ____________?" 


What I say: For this size? Around $100.00.

What I'm thinking: Thanks for asking but I know you're just making small talk and have absolutely no intention of buying my work so shoo.

"How long will it take you to finish that?" 


What I say: Oh, another hour or so.

What I'm thinking: Four hundred and thirty-three hours. And 17 seconds. Give or take. Thanks for asking.

"Do you show your work in, you know, galleries?" 


What I say: Sometimes.

What I'm thinking: Mostly I show in meat-packing factories. But galleries might be something for me to look into. Thank god I ran into you.

"Do you know _________? She’s an artist too. I love her work."


What I say: Yes, I know her.

What I'm thinking: Yes, I know her. She's kind of a shithead and the fact that you like her work makes me question your judgement. 

"Did you go to school for art?" 

What I say: Yes.

What I'm thinking: I thought you might be a snob but now I know for sure.

"Did you draw that out first?"


What I say: No.

What I'm thinking: If I say yes does that make me a failure in your eyes?

"What are you painting?"


What I say: Oh, just that boat over there.

What I'm thinking: Ok Sherlock. It’s a boat. A freaking boat. It’s that boat, in the harbor, right in front of me. Can you stop talking now?

"Is that paint by number?" 


What I say: Haha. No.

What I'm thinking: Haha. I'll be your wife regrets marrying you.

"Is that from memory?"


What I say: No.

What I'm thinking: Yes. I am Just. That. Good. Would you like me to paint you a horse now?

"Do you paint by heart?"


What I say: Not usually.

What I'm thinking:  I don’t even know what that means.

"Good luck to you!" 


What I say: Thank you.

What I'm thinking: Seriously? Good luck to me? WTF?

"Can I take a photo?" 


What I say: Sure

What I'm thinking: What not? You’ve stolen my time, you might as well steal my soul too.

Yeah, I know that was 21 comments/questions. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

And now, because I can't be the only artist who has painted in public (with expected results), I have created a handy visual aid.

You're welcome.

No, really.