Posts Tagged ‘pen and ink’

Drawing Birds with Pen and Watercolour at DVSA!

04/05/2018

My workshop at the Dundas Valley School of Art yesterday was an introduction to drawing birds with pen and watercolour. We worked from photo reference, which I provided, and our first project was a ‘portrait’ of a male Pileated Woodpecker.

Proportion is very important when drawing birds. I taught the students how to create and work from a basic grid. Most had never used a grid and found it to be very useful.

I’ll show you my demonstration in three steps, starting with the pencil drawing.

Next came the watercolour. I did two values of most of the colours.

The final step was the penwork.

Even when working from a grid, this woodpecker is a challenging subject. We took our time and the care and patience resulted in some strong drawings.

Pileated Woodpecker Critique

I had prepared photo reference and studies of two other birds; a Canada Warbler and a Killdeer. Here are my studies.

Canada Warbler

Killdeer

The students didn’t get too far along with their second drawings but they enjoyed the process and learned a lot. They now feel better equipped to draw birds from their own photographs. Here’s a peek at the work in progress.

Works in progress

Works in progress

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Pen and Ink Basics at DVSA!

20/04/2018

Spring term has begun at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Yesterday, I was back in Studio 2 with an enthusiastic group of art students and our day was spent on pen and ink basics. We discussed the fundamental techniques such as hatching, cross-hatching, stippling and line weight. It’s not all technique when I teach, however! Technique without sound drawing fundamentals (light and shadow, a little bit of perspective, historical context, etc.) can result in a superficial learning experience. Mind you, it made for an intense and busy day.

The group completed three step-by-step exercises. For the first two, we worked from a diagram that I presented at the easel. This is the model for our second drawing.

But let’s get back to the beginning. Working from a diagram, we drew a pear. The technique we employed was cross-hatching and, in particular, a ‘parquet’ approach. This approach eliminates some baffling concerns. Which direction should the pen strokes take? The ‘parquet’ process begins with a very mechanical application. Careful attention is paid to a light source and the interlocking shapes of light and shadow. By the way, all of our drawings were started first with pencil.

The drawing is developed gradually with middle tones and darks. Edges are thoughtfully considered. Outlining is scrupulously avoided! Bit by bit, our flat shapes take on a more three-dimensional fullness.

Our next drawing was of a simple structure. I touched on only a few perspective basics. It was a pen and ink workshop, after all, and perspective lessons require time and a very well thought out presentation. We hatched our first values before cross-hatching. Again, the middle tones and darks were added gradually.

Let’s have a look at the first two student drawings. If you click on a critique image, you’ll see a larger version.

Pen and Ink Basics
Critique a

Pen and Ink Basics
Critique b

There was time for one more drawing. I’d brought in copies of a black and white photograph that I’d prepared for the students.

I did my pencil drawing while they finished up their first two exercises. Then, all gathered around for my pen and ink demonstration. I worked very quickly, taking about fifteen minutes, and reviewed many of the ideas we’d discussed over the course of the day.

The group didn’t have very much time to complete the final exercise but still managed to do quite well. It was a fine, full day in the studio. I’ll be teaching an Introduction to Drawing Birds with Pen and Watercolour workshop on Thursday, May 3 at DVSA. Why don’t you join us? Before I sign off, here are the brush and pail drawings.

Pen and Ink Basics
Critique c

Pen and Ink Basics
Critique d

Van Gogh and the Reed Pen at DVSA!

24/11/2017

Several years ago, I purchased a wonderful book of the drawings of Vincent Van Gogh. It’s a real doorstop and was published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I was particularly attracted to the reed pen drawings. Reeds, like quills, go back a long way as drawing instruments. Why did Vincent use them? The fluidity and expressive marks can’t be matched by steel nibs. Vincent was also broke most of the time and likely made his own pens.

Yesterday, I presented a one-day workshop at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I had harvested reeds from phragmites at a local wetland. The students just needed to bring their ink and paper.

I had cut enough pens for everyone ahead of time. Naturally, the students wanted the experience of cutting their own so I demonstrated and assisted with the process. Everyone made a successful pen and got through the entire day with very little maintenance.

We all tested our pens on a common sheet. We used variations of a sepia ink. Some were dark brown and some were more reddish. Vincent used different types of ink. Often, he used black ink which has since faded to brown but he also used sepia.

I handed out reproductions of some of Vincent’s drawings and we started out by copying them. I wasn’t concerned with perfect copies, by any means, but the process of trying to re-create Vincent’s lines and marks was very instructive. All of us also gained a real appreciation for his genius.

We turned our newfound skills to our own imagery in the afternoon. Everyone had brought in photographs of rural subjects. I offered a few thoughts about interpretation of photos, ‘a la Vincent’.

Following that, we drew for the rest of the day. The mood in the studio was very positive and the students remarked many times on how much fun it was to draw with a reed pen of their own making. As usual, many were pooped when we gathered for our critique but happy and satisfied.

 

Introduction to Drawing Birds at DVSA!

03/11/2017

Yesterday, I was back at the Dundas Valley School of Art to teach a one-day workshop. Our medium was pen and ink and our theme was an introduction to drawing birds. I chatted a bit about famous bird artists like John James Audubon, James Fenwick Lansdowne and Robert Bateman and discussed their processes. We also talked about David Sibley and other excellent bird illustrators whose work informs the field guides used to identify birds. Artists past and present have worked from mounted specimens, skins, field sketches and photos. Our only option yesterday was to use photos as our reference. We worked from black and white photos as our drawings were in black and white, as well.

Proportion is important when drawing a bird. I used a simple grid approach and presented this to the students.

This is a Black-capped Chickadee, a common woodland and feeder bird in southern Ontario. I’m going to show you three steps of my demonstration. The first step establishes the main values throughout the drawing with hatching. I do not outline and I develop the darks very patiently. Most of the preliminary pencil drawing has been erased, including the grid, but not all.

I’ve used cross-hatching to emphasize plumage details and to stress ‘light and shadow’ in order to give the bird fullness and form.

I’ve developed the darks and added definition to areas like the undertail and legs. Note the gaps I’ve left around the edge of the bird such as the beak, upper breast, upper back, tail, legs and branch. Did you notice the gaps before I mentioned them? These gaps allow light to flow throughout the drawing and enhance the feeling of vitality. A heavy outline is not only unnecessary; it would flatten out the drawing and detract from the impression of fullness and liveliness.

The students followed my steps in order to understand the process. There were a lot of elements to consider and they did very well with the exercise.

Black-capped Chickadee Critique

Our afternoon drawing was a portrait of a Downy Woodpecker; another local favourite. Here’s my grid analysis and my unfinished demonstration.

I enjoyed the talented and enthusiastic group of students. Several were birders and many were members of the local Hamilton Naturalists’ Club. They worked hard and came away with a sound process for drawing birds at home from their photos. Let’s have a look at their Downy Woodpeckers.

Downy Woodpecker Critique

The ‘Dipping Pen’ at DVSA!

13/10/2017

Yesterday was my first day back at the Dundas Valley School of Art for the fall term. It was a one-day workshop and our theme was pen and ink drawing with the traditional dipping pen. All of my one-day pen and ink workshops to date have employed disposable sketching pens from Pilot, Micron and Staedtler. They’re easy to use; no muss and no fuss. They’re portable and I use them for sketching all the time. However, for my sustained studio drawings, I always use a good old metal nib and a bottle of India ink.

I’ve been drawing with these tools since I was a teenager. My all-time favourite ink is Speedball Super Black and I’ve always used their nibs and holders, as well. These are what I recommended on my material list for the workshop. I suggested a choice of three different nibs; 22B Extra Fine, 56 School and 99 Drawing. The paper I recommended was Strathmore Bristol. By the way, Speedball Super Black comes in an extremely practical bottle with a wide (easy for dipping) mouth and a wider (hard to knock over) base.

Decades of experience have taught me not just how to draw but how to manage the dipping pen. It’s very easy to make a mess and unfortunate blobs are common for the novice. I started the day with my hard-earned tips regarding the care, transport and use of the metal nib. Everything matters, especially how your work area is organized.

The students were given about a half hour to try out their materials, experimenting with marks and strokes and getting a feel for the nibs. Next, I handed out a template of a basic feather shape. With my demonstration, I discussed mark-making and patterns. It gave the students a chance to unleash their imaginations while practicing with their new tools. They took to it very well. The usual problems were encountered but the only real disaster was a coffee spill! The three recommended nibs were tried by most of the students and the 99 Drawing was considered to be the most difficult to use. It’s very sensitive to pressure and wonderful to work with but may require a little more experience in order to gain confidence with it. Have a look at the feathers. Click on the image for an enlarged version. There’s some lovely detail to enjoy!

Our second drawing was of a leaf. I issued handouts with a black and white photo of the leaf. It wasn’t a very good photo, a bit blurry, so we discussed ways to clarify and simplify the image. My demonstration dealt again with technique but also with the concept of ‘light and shadow’.

We took our time with the leaf drawings and they were very successful. Overall, it was an enjoyable day with an enthusiastic and talented group of art students. My next one-day workshop at DVSA is an Introduction to Drawing Birds with pen and ink and takes place on Thursday, November 2. Care to join us?

Plein Air Toronto 2017 – Last Two Days!

28/06/2017

Click on our First Three Days if you somehow missed the last post. Day four of Plein Air Toronto 2017 was Thursday of last week and the weather, which had been tricky all week, took a turn for the worst. I made arrangements for us to sketch in pen and ink all day long and without any concerns about rain. The catch was that our plein air artists were going indoors for the day. We met in the morning at the Gardiner Museum, which is dedicated to historic and contemporary ceramic art.

It’s a beautiful museum but it’s difficult to gather the entire group at once for a demonstration or critique. I handed out a prepared sheet showing basic pen techniques in the morning. Later, I gathered a small group of pen and ink novices and sketched a Pre-Columbian figure as I discussed my thoughts.

It was a great day and don’t forget the excellent restaurant when you visit the Gardiner. Friday was yet another challenging weather day. However, I don’t have almost thirty years of experience for nothing. We met at University College on the lovely downtown campus of the University of Toronto.

The College has a large interior courtyard surrounded, on two sides, by wide colonnades. We were high and dry and had plenty of subject matter through the arches. Even the arches themselves attracted the eye of our artists.

I brought in some examples of pen and watercolour studies, done on the U of T campus, to get the morning started. As the group worked, I began a watercolour of my own for a change. Several of the new students expressed interest in my approach and process. I began with a sketch to resolve a composition and then drew it up on a sheet of watercolour paper.

  

I wasn’t able to finish the piece by the end of the day as I had teaching responsibilities. I pulled it together later in my studio.

Enough about me! Let’s have a look at our day at University College.

Eventually, it was time for our last critique of the week. The skies cleared just enough and we gathered one more time. What a great group! I thank them all for their cheerful participation and also thank you for following, commenting and liking the posts. Plein Air Toronto will be back next year. Now, for a look at the work from Friday.

University College
Critique a

University College
Critique b

Introduction to Drawing Cats at DVSA!

11/06/2017

Two weeks ago, I led a one-day workshop at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Our theme was dogs and our medium was pen with watercolour. Last Thursday, I was back and it was time to draw cats!

All of our cat drawings were done from photo reference. I began the day with a look at the skeleton of a cat followed by some tips on drawing the creatures. We usually complete two drawings and start a third over the course of a day.

Our first challenge on Thursday was a calico. I drew the cat with pencil and followed that with some initial pen work.

The next stop was to establish the colours with watercolour. The washes were perfectly dry before I went back in with more pen.

Our next subject was a portrait of a Himalayan kitten. Again, I started with the pencil drawing but this time I applied the watercolour before the pen.

Once dry, it was time to add the pen. The relationship and balance between the amount of pen and watercolour can be unique to each drawing. The pen work in this drawing is much more restrained than in that of the calico. If I was somehow able to eliminate the watercolour, would there be enough penwork to describe the kitten? Maybe not, but they work together effectively.

I presented a much more playful approach to our final drawing of a sleeping tabby. Pencil first before using the pen in a linear manner. Line variety and weight is the key here.

I tried to maintain the playful feel with a non-literal approach to colour. Washes of Pthalo Green and Rose Madder Quinacridone (basically, a cool green and a cool red) were allowed to run into each other. Not all of the students completed this drawing before we ran out of time but they enjoyed the different process.

I won’t be back at DVSA until next fall but I’ve got an exciting lineup of pen and ink and watercolour workshops on the calendar. It’s been an enjoyable spring term with a great bunch of enthusiastic and talented students. Have a peek at their drawings of cats.

Drawing Cats-Critique a

Drawing Cats-Critique b

Introduction to Drawing Dogs at DVSA

29/05/2017

Last Thursday, it was another day of pen and watercolour at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Our theme was dogs and we really had no choice but to work from photographs. I provided the photo reference. I also issued a printed handout showing the skeleton of a dog. My intention was not to be too scientific or absolutely anatomically perfect but it definitely helped us understand the basic structure underneath all of that cuddly fur.

I started each exercise by demonstrating on an 18 x 24″ pad of cartridge paper at an easel. Using coloured markers, I presented an approach to capturing the proportions and dynamics of the subject. Dog Number One was a Golden Retriever.

Following the discussion, I switched to watercolour paper and drew the dog in pencil. My next step was with pen. I paid attention to the direction of my pen strokes in order to convey a feeling of fur.

It was time for watercolour! I wet the entire dog with water. While nice and wet, I added the orange/gold wash and let it run a bit. Note that some areas, particularly the legs, are whiter than the rest of the dog. It took a while for the wash to dry but eventually it did. I then worked back in with the pen, adding more definition to the head. I left it at this point but could have done more penwork throughout the body.

Dog Number Two was a West Highland Terrier. I started out on the easel again. I considered light and shadow for this exercise as I wanted to preserve the white of the paper for the lightest areas on the dog.

This time we painted first, wet onto the dry paper. Using a neutral grey, I tried to establish the light and shadow as well as a shaggy feel. A bit of colour was added to the ears and some other spots.

Once again, stroke direction was important with the pen.

We didn’t have much time left for Dog Number Three but I wanted to do a portrait and this Beagle puppy was perfect. After drawing it with pencil, I added the colour washes. The lightest colour was first and the darkest last.

I did some quick pen work and left it unfinished. The students didn’t have time to do this exercise but some wanted to try it at home.

We were dog-tired at the end of a long day of learning. There was a good energy in the room as we looked at the drawings.

Drawing Dogs –
Critique a

Drawing Dogs –
Critique b

I’ll be back at DVSA on Thursday, June 8, for the last workshop in the series. Guess what we’ll be drawing? That’s right; cats! Join us.

 

 

Intro to Pen with Wash and Watercolour at DVSA!

15/05/2017

I was back at the Dundas Valley School of Art last Thursday. Our workshop was an Introduction to Pen with Wash and Watercolour and we completed three drawings and some studies over the course of the day. We started off with a relatively simple subject; a jalapeño pepper.

The first step was to position the pepper in profile. Next, we drew it in pencil. Following the pencil, we hatched and cross-hatched with our pens. The green wash was next and we left some paper white for highlights. A cool grey wash was added to the cast shadow area. Once the washes had dried, we worked back in with pen.

Before we began our next drawing, we did a few studies of curving volumes and considered how they would receive light from above. After those studies, I pulled out my surprise. Dog chews!

Am I crazy? The students may have thought so at first but they really enjoyed studying these interesting forms. Using our studies as reference, we drew the chews in pencil and then added a brown wash to indicate the areas of core shadow. The penwork was our last step and we tried to follow the forms with our strokes. Also, note the upper edges of the chew. There is no hard outline! Gaps have been left to allow light to flow into the object from the surrounding paper.

Our final subject was quite different and we varied our approach with it. Pencil first and the colour washes second. Pen was used for shadow and to define the various planes.

 

Everyone was exhausted at the end of the day and that’s a good thing. Learning and concentrating can be very tiring. Still, we had time for a look at the work. My next workshop at DVSA is drawing dogs with pen and watercolour and takes place on Thursday, May 25. Care to join us?

Pen, Wash & Watercolour
Critique a

Pen, Wash & Watercolour
Critique b

 

 

Barry’s Birds for Wood Duck magazine – April and May

05/05/2017

These pen and ink drawings were my submissions for the April and May issues of the Wood Duck, the magazine of the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club. The monthly feature is called Barry’s Birds.

Killdeer-
April

Sharp-shinned Hawk-
May