Saturday, October 10, 2015

What Pens Have Taught Me

10/10/15 ink, colored pencil
Yesterday I complained that Inktober was making me crave color. Nothing in Inktober’s rules says that color can’t be added to an ink drawing, but using only ink in drawings I tag with #inktober is a self-imposed rule to keep myself from doing the same ol’ thing of making a line drawing and then adding color. (Actually, I’ve already broken that rule by adding colored pencils a couple of times. No point in having self-imposed rules if I’m not going to break them! 😀)

I have to say, though, that despite the color complaint, I am genuinely enjoying the challenge of focusing on ink this month. Although ink can be applied with a brush (and I’ve done that, too, a couple of times), the easiest way to use it is with a pen, and a pen by its very nature emphasizes line work over shape or color. I’ve known for a long time that drawing and line work are the elements that interest and engage me most when I’m sketching. I’m a draw-er more than a painter, so even when I miss color, I’m not necessarily missing paint.
10/9/15 ink

It will come to no surprise to you when I say I have plenty of pens to choose from, and I’ve inked up an entire arsenal of fountain pens for Inktober. My favorite Sailor fude pens are working as hard as ever, and now so are the Pilot Parallels. I’m also trying a pen with a new-to-me nib (no spoilers here – review coming soon!) that is quickly becoming a favorite.

I’m dusting off some techniques this month, too. For example, after my ink-drawing class ended in June, outdoor sketching weather began, and I couldn’t see myself hatching on location, so I haven’t done any since. But hatching is ideal for a rainy day like today, so I gave it a shot with the red-eyed tree frogs, above (from a calendar photo). My technique is rusty, but I haven’t forgotten how much I enjoy that kind of seemingly tedious work.

10/9/15 ink
During my first couple years of sketching, I thought that making a line drawing was only the preliminary step to ultimately painting or adding some other color medium. Yet many times I felt that I had ruined a relatively good drawing by adding mediocre watercolors; I should have left well enough alone!

The past year or two I’ve gradually come to realize that a drawing isn’t always a preliminary to something; if it’s strong, it can and possibly should stand alone. (In fact, a weak drawing will not be improved by the addition of color.) Of course, all I have to do is look at the drawings of Frank Ching, Paul Heaston, Don Colley, Van Gogh, Raphael and many, many other masters to know this, but somehow this plain truth hasn’t always been apparent to me, especially about my own work.
10/9/15 ink

While sketching pine and fir trees with paint has been an ongoing struggle for me, with a pen (especially those funky Parallels), it’s much easier to express the graceful (even if asymmetrical!) delicacy of their branches. For me, a pen is the right tool for that job.

When sketching people, I’ve long avoided adding more than spots of token color to hats or other clothing. That’s because early on I discovered that the more time I spend trying to get accurate skin tones with watercolor, the less I pay attention to drawing well and getting delicate facial and other contours right. And it didn’t take me long to realize that I wanted to focus on drawing people well, not painting them. Again, a pen is simply a better tool for what I want to express when I sketch a person.
10/8/15 inks, colored pencil

None of this is to say that I can live by pen alone (didn’t I start this blog post with a complaint about craving color?). It’s just my homage to a tool I’ve come to understand, use and respect more over time as it has helped me to express certain things I can’t express with other media. It’s not the only tool, but for me, it’s often exactly the right tool.

10/9/15 ink

10/9/15 ink

10/9/15 ink
10/3/15 ink
10/9/15 ink

2 comments:

  1. Your ink lines are getting better and better. Love that tree frog and the shading you did with the ink.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Fountain pens rule! Your frogs are cute, TIna. I really like your small people sketches. No color required. --- Larry

    ReplyDelete

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