Friday, April 19, 2013

Light Bulb Moments and Missed Opportunities

4/19/13 Pilot Iroshizuku Tsukushi ink, Zig marker, Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook
“What are you drawing?”
I was just finishing up the sketch of a bobcat skull mounted in a display case when I heard the tiny voice next to me asking the question. She couldn’t have been more than seven years old, and her hood was still dripping rainwater.
I showed her my sketch (below), and her already-large eyes opened even wider. She very articulately told me that she wanted to become a scientist someday. “Do you like to draw?” I asked. She nodded enthusiastically, so I suggested that the next time she comes, she could bring paper and a pencil and draw what she sees to get a head start on becoming a scientist. From her expression, I’d say the girl was having a light bulb moment.
Around the corner in the mastodon exhibit, I was again amused, as I often am in museums, by how little time people spend looking at the exhibits. Maybe I used to be that way before I began sketching, but I hope I took more than the five seconds or so that most visitors seem to take.
On any given day, I bet the Burke Museum is full of both light bulb moments as well as missed opportunities like these.
4/19/13 Pilot Iroshizuku Take-Sumi ink, Zig marker
Technical notes: At the same time that I got a sample of Pilot Iroshizuku Take-Sumi ink – my new favorite black ink – I also got a sample of Pilot Iroshizuku Tsukushi, which I thought might be a nice brown alternative to my favorite Diamine Chocolate Brown. Straight from the pen, it’s a warm medium brown, but when it’s washed, the shading turns mauve, or actually almost pink – too pink for me. Aside from the fun of being able to try lots of different ink colors, this is the best part about shopping for samples at – I can try out an ink and its shading properties before committing to a whole (in this case, $28!) bottle of the ink.
The mastodon sketch was done with my new Sailor calligraphy fountain pen. I’m still not adept at regulating the nib angle to control the line width, but it’s a fun pen to use and experiment with. In areas that will be shaded darker, I apply thicker lines of ink, which makes it easier to get a darker value. In theory, anyway. If I had greater control, I could probably vary the line width to a degree that shading wouldn't be necessary to imply the value differences. More practice, more practice. . . 


  1. Good sketches. It might be slightly less appropriate with a child than an adult... based on an idea here "— some people tell me that they used to like to draw and now they don’t do it anymore but they would love to get back to it. For those people, I now carry an extra pen and paper so I can tell them “draw with me right now”."

    So I'm now carrying an extra drawing tablet.

    1. What a great blog post you referred me to -- thanks! I've encountered a few interesting viewers while sketching, though no one's ever exposed his abs (thankfully!)! I like that idea about handing over a sketch pad!

      - Tina

  2. Funny to hear you mention how little time people spend looking at something, particularly somethings that they've paid to see. In talking with people at our Musee de la Civilisation, that time is roughly THREE SECONDS per item. And I think you're right that sketching changes all that. We just 'see' more.

    Also interested in your comments on Tsukushi ink. I had the same experience with Waterman's Absolute Brown, though in this case my buddy Yvan bought a bottle. Looks great as a brown line but becomes quite pink when washed. As you say...'too pink.'

    I do wish there was a different word/name for the Japanese "calligraphy" pens as it gives westerners a very incorrect view of them as they're so different from western calligraphy pens. I like my Hero pens but admit that I don't use them much.

    Cheers --- Larry
    Cheers --- Larry

    1. Larry: Yes, I agree -- the term "calligraphy" is misleading for those Asian pens. I like Scott "Taranaki Sketcher" Wilson's name for those nibs: Ski jump!


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