Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mixin’ Up the Media

This detail of a sketch I posted on 6/7/14 shows how I used water-soluble colored
pencils to give the boat masts and railing a contrasting texture to push them into the
background. Gray ink in a waterbrush made the quick shadows.
Have you noticed that I’ve been mixing up the media in my sketches more lately? A year ago when I wanted color in sketches, I typically used only watercolor (plus the occasional Zig Clean Color marker). Although my natural tendency to want to experiment with inks, markers and colored pencils compels me to always carry a lot of different media in my bag, I used them only sporadically and somewhat hesitantly.

Taking workshops from Lynne Chapman and Inma Serrano at the Urban Sketching Symposium last year encouraged me to be bolder. Inma, in particular, is the diva of mixed media. I watched in amazement as she grabbed brushes, markers, crayons, colored pencils, pens – sometimes holding more than one implement at a time! – to make expressive strokes of color and line in whatever way suited her at the moment. Although I still have a ways to go before I’m as intuitive and free-spirited as she is, I’ve been gradually adding different media for specific purposes.

This is half of a sketch posted on 5/1/14. The sky
is a wash of watercolor, while Zig markers
are used to spot-color the cranes. A Pitt Artist Pen
ghosts in background buildings. 
Watercolor still provides my main color washes, while Zig Clean Color markers are ideal for small, bright spots. A Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen with a brush tip in light gray is my current go-to marker when I want to ghost in some background buildings or people (it’s waterproof, so I can still paint a wash of sky over it). A waterbrush filled with gray water-soluble ink (such as Diamine Grey or Pilot Iroshizuku Kiri-Same) makes excellent fast shadows. Water-soluble colored pencils (Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle pencils are a current favorite) are soft enough that they pick up the grain in the cold press Canson XL paper I’ve been using, adding a contrasting texture to smooth washes of wet media. (See examples above and at left.)

The top two swatches are Cobalt and Ultramarine
 watercolor. The lower swatch is Pilot Iroshizuku
Tsuyu-kusa ink -- a close match to both.
One effect that isn’t easy to produce with any other medium is a broad wash of blue sky in my favorite watercolors for that – French Ultramarine and Cobalt Blue. The easy trick of filling a waterbrush with gray ink for shadows gave me the idea to try it with the sky, too. I picked out a few’s ink samples that come close to sky paint hues, and I think Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuyu-kusa comes closest – about halfway between Ultramarine and Cobalt (right).

Tsuyu-kusa ink applied straight with a
waterbrush (top) and wet-on-wet
As I mentioned in my previous post, the sky is rarely solid blue in Seattle; usually it’s a mix of white and gray clouds with patches of blue behind it. I found that Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-Syogun ink is a soft, cool gray that works well in that mix (see below). It doesn’t granulate beautifully the way watercolors do (Quinacridone Sienna and Ultramarine, a watercolor mix I learned from Gail Wong last year in her Line to Color workshop, is my favorite cloudy gray hue), but it’s a lot faster.

As we all know, waterbrushes aren’t the best implement for getting nice washes of sky. But the trick I use is to mist the paper first with clean water, and then even a mediocre waterbrush will spread ink like watercolor.

You may be wondering: Why go to all that trouble to use other media? Why not use plain and simple watercolors? For an urban sketcher, watercolor seems like an ideal medium; I can mix nearly any hue I want from a limited number of paints. But often I don’t have a comfortable spot to sit and paint with watercolors, which makes mixing difficult, and sometimes I don’t even want to take the time to attach my clip-on paint palette to facilitate painting while standing. Sometimes I love the ease of grabbing a waterbrush from my bag with one hand and being done. It’s also fun – I love mixin’ it up.

6/10/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-Syogun and Tsuyu-Kusa inks, Canson XL 140 lb. paper

1 comment:

  1. I like reading about your use of the different media and your reasons why...something I wouldn't have thought to do. I'm learning from you too.


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