Derwent Artbars

A year after I added Derwent's Artbars to my arsenal, I have finally made friends with them!

Farmyard door £4.50

I first tried the artbars at an SAA (Society for all Artists) convention in Manchester in 2012. There were very many people there, room was hot, and for a village girl it was all rather overwhelming. I didn't stay long, but whilst I was there I watched a few people having a short workshop, and I tried out the artbars at a stand. I thought they had a lot of potential so bought the not-quite-starter box of 24.

Well when I got home I thought they were awful things! I really struggled to get anything decent - see my previous post here.

But in true British spirit, I will not be defeated. So when we were heading off to Cornwall for our 2 week summer holiday, I took a last minute decision to bring the artbars along for the ride. I already had my watercolours and my oils packed - I'm not sure what forces were at work to make me add the artbars, but believe me I'm very glad I did.

What fantastic weather we had! We were in the middle of that very rare thing, a British heatwave (the last one that I recall was in 1995) and as I reported in my last post on the subject, artbars work at their very best when they are warm. So each morning, whilst the teens snoozed, I took my breakfast and my artbars outside to the picnic bench and the most amazing view of Godrevy lighthouse, and painted. And painted. And painted.

Godrevy Lighthouse in Cornwall, England, £4

All of these are highly collectable miniature paintings. They are small enough to hang on the wall of a dolls house or display in a photo frame. An album of your collection on your coffee table makes an extremely good talking point too.

Beach £3.50

They also look great on a mini-easel.

Sand Dunes £4.50

A few top tips:

  • Artbars work best when warm
  • After a few hours in direct (British summer) sunshine, artbars begin to melt. They are still good for using on the brush, but no good for picking up and applying directly. 
  • The grater will not work with warm artbars, but the dog shaped multi-tool does work well, and I find it to be easier to be more specific with adding texture using this instead of the grater anyway.
  • A waterbrush does not work well with artbars - mine doesn't deliver enough water and just got clogged up with thick not-quite-dissolved wax.
  • I start by picking up lots of colour directly from the artbar with a wet brush and applying it to my paper or applying directly from the bar to the paper and dissolving with a wet brush.
  • You do not need to use watercolour paper, a thick card will suffice. Once the first layer of wax is down and dissolved , additional layers will glide over the top.
  • Apply additional wax as required to build up your painting. You CAN put light colours over dark ones.
Seals at Godrevy in Cornwall £4

  • Add texture by either
    • wetting an area and grating wax over it
Wild Flowers £3.50

    • dissolving a small area of your artbar and flicking it at the paper

Cornish Moorland £3.50

    • building up layers of dry wax and scrape back using the dog-shaped tool

Poppies £4

I hope this was helpful to you. I'd love to hear about your experiences of using artbars - please leave your own findings on artbars in the comments below.


  1. Good job, Stepahanie. I like them all. It looks as though you have these art bars # by now. Love the seals!

    1. Thanks Leslie - it took a while but I feel quite at home with the artbars now.

  2. Lovely pictures and great tips too .... the wax sounds fun :-)


    1. Thanks Hazel, now that I've got the hang of them they are great fun. I bought them when they were a fairly new product so there were no tutorials available at the time, and being so different to other mediums I have tried it was a struggle to begin with.

  3. Thanks for sharing how you got on.The dog shaped thing sounds interesting.

    1. It's surprisingly useful Tessa. I tried to include a link to a pic of one but blogger was having none of it.

  4. A super couple of blogs Stephie!! I have some art bars but like you, never used them am going away for a few days at the weekend and you might just have inspired me to take them with me too!!
    BTW, they would make a good subject for a workshop!!

    1. Thanks Judith, I'm glad you found them useful! Did you take yours away with you? How did you get on?

  5. Hi, was directed to you by Judith Farnworth's page. I bought the artbar starter pack but havnt used them myself, my friend who is a watercolour artist tried them quickl but neither of us had any idea how to use them, needless to say he wasnt overly impressed. I will try them now after reading your tips. thanks so much for that

    1. Hi Debbie, I really hope that my tips save you the heart ache I went through with them! I really do love my artbars now and often take them out and about with me. And shhh don't tell Judith but I even prefer them to my watercolours hehe ;)

      Have you seen my other 2 blogposts on the topic? and

  6. Very interesting indeed! I've just started to use my artbars, I've only got the 12 pack, just enough to see if I like them. I used a waterbrush for my first attempt with them and it seemed to work OK, must try using a paintbrush next time to compare how I get on. Can't wait to have another go with them now after reading this!


Thanks so much for dropping by, I do hope you enjoy reading my blog. Come on in, leave a comment and join the chat!