|1/11/14 Bic ballpoint pen, Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook|
(Lightning! Thunder! Hail! High winds! Torrential rain! A good day for still life studies at home.)
|1/11/14 Cretacolor Nero soft pencil, Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook|
It’s hard to do still life sketches of fruit without color. But every book and instructor of drawing advises using monochrome to study values to avoid being confused by hues. So today, on this incredibly stormy, colorless (but noisy!) day, monochrome it is.
My friend Janine has been practicing value studies with a ballpoint pen. I know some artists swear by ballpoint pen as an art medium because of its unexpected capacity to build value gradually when applied in layers, similar to the way graphite and colored pencils are used. I tend to think ballpoint pens are good for
nothing but hastily jotting a phone number
onto a pad in a hotel room, so you can imagine how excited I was to give this
medium a try. Still, I know it’s done (try Googling “art made with ballpoint
pen” for some stunning examples), so I tried to remain open-minded.
|1/11/14 Platinum Carbon ink, Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook|
|1/11/14 Private Reserve Velvet Black ink, Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook|
While I was at it, I did three more studies of the same still life: One with Cretacolor Nero soft pencil, one with waterproof Platinum Carbon ink (in a Lamy Safari pen), and one with water-soluble Private Reserve Velvet Black ink (in a Lamy Nexx) and a waterbrush wash.
Naturally, the pencil was the easiest to create soft tones with because it was soft enough to rub with my finger, like charcoal (but much less messy), and it was relatively fast because I could use the broad side of the lead. I’ve never been a big fan of crosshatching, and doing so with a fountain pen and Platinum Carbon was tedious and time-consuming. The Bic ballpoint pen (taken from a hotel room, of course) – though it did build up value slowly like pencil – smelled sour, and since I didn’t like smelling it, I wanted it to be done faster, so I tried applying more pressure, which wasn’t as effective as multiple layers applied with a light pressure (as is recommended with colored pencil). Even more tedious and time-consuming. My hand cramped up before I was done.
Of course, my favorite medium, both esthetically and for speed and efficiency, was the washed water-soluble fountain pen ink. I admit, though, that I wasn’t as successful at getting subtle variations in value by washing ink as I was with pencil.
(In some of these studies, you may see a slight ghost. That’s the sketch behind it showing through the Stillman & Birn Epsilon paper, which is surprisingly less opaque than the Gamma and Alpha of the same weight that I used exclusively before I started binding my own books. Its see-throughness is one reason I stopped using the Epsilon except for things like these studies.)