Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Black Does the Work

2/13/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Delta sketchbook
A great admirer of the work of Steve Reddy, I once asked the Seattle artist and intrepid urban sketcher what techniques he uses to achieve the beautiful tonal variations and spatial depth seen in his sketches. He told me he puts a dilution of waterproof ink into a waterbrush to apply tonal washes. Even when he paints the sketch later with watercolors, he still applies shading initially with the ink dilution. Quoting another artist (whose name I didn’t catch, unfortunately), he added that his technique is based on the principle, “Black does the work, but color takes the credit.”
Hearing about his technique, I went home and immediately filled a waterbrush with diluted Platinum Carbon Black ink. Although I carried the waterbrush around in my bag for a few weeks, I never used it in the field because I wasn’t sure what to do. That was several months ago.
2/13/13 Platinum Carbon Black ink, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook

Yesterday I was looking for something else when I came across the waterbrush still filled with diluted Platinum Carbon. I decided to give it a try with a couple of simple still lifes. (I also amused myself with the example of self-referential metasketching above – a bottle of Platinum Carbon Black and a Lamy pen sketched with Platinum Carbon Black in a Lamy pen.)

I put the diluted-ink waterbrush back into my bag. I’m going to start letting black do more of the work.


  1. Nice sketches.

    I watched him sketch for a couple minutes at UW library. He was dipping his brush into a bottle of ink. I remember talking to him about this in Columbia City but I think there's more to it. He's also blogged about adding more shading once home.

  2. Nice sketch. I'll have to try that technique at some point.


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