Posts Tagged ‘pen and ink’

Northern Mockingbird – Pen and Ink

26/01/2021

My hobby is birding. I’m quite passionate about it, as I am about art, and occasionally these two loves of my life converge. I don’t draw or paint birds very often although I tell myself that I should. I’ve taught a few workshops on the subject and have enjoyed the enthusiasm and talent that the students have shown.

I have a birding blog that may be seen here. If you’d like, have a look at the Drawings and Paintings page. Recently, I was updating the page and something moved me to draw a new bird. A Northern Mockingbird I photographed last week had been on my mind and I decided to give it a go. Then, realizing that I hadn’t posted on this blog in eons, I thought I’d scan the main steps and tell you a bit about my process.

The Drawing Board

I’ll start with the tools of the trade and my initial process. I work from my own photographs, which can be limiting because my camera skills are pedestrian. Still, once in a while I luck out and I had a nice image of the Northern Mockingbird (NOMO from here on). I duplicate the photo on my computer and convert the duplicate to black and white so I can better see the values. I grid the photo for accuracy. In this case, I wanted the drawing to be about 3/4 the size of the photo so I created a smaller rectangle of the exact same proportions and then gridded it. I work with a soft 2B pencil for all of the preliminary drawing. The softer the pencil, and lighter the touch, the easier it is to clean up the drawing later on with a kneaded eraser.

Evaluating the photograph at the outset is very important. Is anything unclear or confusing? In this case, I edited out several branches. Another concern was the bird’s tail. NOMOs have very long tails and the tilt of the body foreshortens the tail as it’s pointing slightly towards the viewer. I liked the pose, despite the potentially misleading tail position, and went ahead with it.

Step One

Next, I begin work with the pen and ink. I work with a traditional dipping pen. The Speedball nib is inserted into a holder. My ink of choice, since my teen years, is Speedball Super Black India Ink. I won’t bore you with every detail but I’m careful with how I dip and handle the pen to the point of ritual. Something works. I haven’t had a tragic blob in a long, long time. Note the ‘test’ sheet under the pen and pencil, though. It’s an indispensable tool. Note, also, the crumpled, ink-stained paper towel on the left. I’m obsessive about keeping my nib clean.

Tools of the Trade

I’m versed in many basic pen techniques and have taught them for decades. On my own, I have a few favourites and cross-hatching has always been foremost. My second step with the drawing is to explore the forms and, critically, to identify areas of the paper that will remain white. Stroke direction is fairly intuitive although I generally try to describe the underlying planes. The whole drawing is addressed once with these directional strokes (hatching). The cross-hatching comes next.

Step Two

Step Three is an effort to develop the relationships between the values. For the most part, the different areas are cross-hatched once only so the newer strokes overlap the original strokes just once. Yes, I’m patient. This step starts to show the different values in the plumage of the NOMO. This species displays a lovely, subtle range of greys and blacks with a brown eye. In a monochromatic drawing, these elements can only be suggested.

Step Three

In Step Four, I do a lot of work on the darks and blacks. While remaining as true as possible to plumage details, my goal is to give the drawing the strength and vitality of this beautiful, living creature. I don’t rush Step Four and take lots of breaks.

Step Four

Eventually, after long looks from several feet away, I call it a finished drawing. The unresolved look of the upper branch, still at Step Two, is deliberate. The drawing is approximately 7 x 8″. It’s on Strathmore Bristol paper, vellum surface.

LOCKDOWN DRAWINGS

24/08/2020

I’ve been doing a lot of pen and ink drawing during the pandemic. I use a traditional dipping pen with Speedball nibs, Speedball Super Black India Ink and, for some of the drawings, acrylic ink. Cross-hatching is the technique I employ. Cross-hatching with a pen has been one of my favourite creative activities since childhood. It relaxes me and allows me to gradually develop a range of values.

Lockdown Drawings reference photo

The starting point for these drawings is a rather ordinary photo I took of a back alley in Hamilton, Ontario. The cast/core shadow pattern had attracted me. I refined an overall shape from the pattern in the photo.

Lockdown Drawing #1

Each drawing is a variation of the shape and stays within it’s confines except for the occasional wandering line; a fairly obvious analogy of my behaviour during the lockdown.

Lockdown Drawing #2

My goal was to explore the infinite variety of options within a limited shape. Tonal gradations and the internal geometry of the shape are key concerns. The subtle gold lines in #2 are drawn with FW Artists Ink Gold, an acrylic ink.

Lockdown Drawing #3

Lockdown Drawing #4

Gold ink is used again in #3 and #4. These reproductions do not show the reflective quality of the gold ink. The originals definitely profit from the ‘gilt’ shine.

These are small drawings, approx. 8×8″. To date, there are sixteen drawings in the series.

Pen and Watercolour – More Texture and Composition at DVSA!

03/06/2019

Last Thursday, I was at the Dundas Valley School of Art to lead my fourth and final one-day workshop of the spring term. Two weeks prior, I’d presented a workshop of the same basic theme but our still-life was a collection of rusty and dusty gas cans. On Thursday, we worked from an equally interesting group of worn and distressed objects. Do you know what they are? If you live in a coastal area, you probably recognize them as fishing floats.

My demonstrations were similar to those of the first workshop. Our basic process was to draw with pencil, paint with watercolour and then add ink. Along the way, we used different materials and techniques to create texture. Soft-edge techniques, wax, dry-brush and other ideas were presented. We began with a practice sheet of swatches and experiments.

You may have noticed that our still-life has a lot of white in it. The four whites enclosed by the blue area on the sheet below are all different from each other; some warmer and some cooler.

Our next step was a sheet of studies of individual objects.

We’ll take a closer look at the old cork net float from the sheet above. Note the pen work on the edge of the object. Texture isn’t present only in the ‘interior’ of the object. What is done on the edges is very important.

Eventually, we had a look at the study sheets created by the students.

Study Sheets

We cover a lot of territory in these workshops. Following lunch, I discussed some basic thoughts about composition, including the rule of thirds. Our goal was to create a composition and work on it for the afternoon. Each student selected and composed an area of the still-life.

Also, I talked about some common problems in compositions such as run-on lines, edge issues, kisses and spatial relationships.

The rest of the day was spent working diligently and thoughtfully on the work. As usual, not everyone finished their piece but these workshops are about learning and taking ideas away for future use; process over product. Here are the works in progress:

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

Pen and Watercolour: Texture and Composition at DVSA!

20/05/2019

Last Thursday, I was at the Dundas Valley School of Art to present a one-day workshop. Our primary goal was to combine pen and watercolour to create interesting textures and apply them to this unique still-life. There are many ways to create texture with watercolours. Some of the more contemporary processes can involve the use of salt, saran wrap and scraping with credit cards. We did experiment with wax as a resist material, but I focused more on what the paint itself could do and on brush-handling. Wet touching wet and it’s polar opposite, drybrush, were discussed. We started out by trying the different ideas on a work or study sheet. This allowed for experimentation and play.

Next, we all painted a sheet of studies of some of the objects in the still-life. The first step was pencil drawing followed by watercolour.

The final step was the pen. Many artists prefer to do the pen work first and then ‘tint’ the drawing with watercolour. I favour doing the watercolour first followed by the pen. Neither approach is right or wrong. One way may suit a certain goal more than the other.

Here are the studies created by the students.

Thursday Critique a

After lunch, we talked about selecting a composition from the still-life and began work on a sustained piece. My demonstration shows how I zoomed in and cropped an area of the still-life. Also, I created a ‘background’ from my imagination and memory.

Pen and watercolour is a great combination whether you use it in your sketchbook or for more sustained work. The students all would have liked a bit more time to work on their efforts. I take the blame for that. On Thursday, May 30, I’ll be back at DVSA for another day entitled Pen and Watercolour: More Texture and Composition. There will be a different, but equally interesting, still-life and I guarantee more time to spend on the sustained compositions. In the meantime, have a look a the work and don’t forget to click on any critique image to view a larger version.

Thursday Critique b

Pen and Ink Basics at DVSA!

21/04/2019

Spring term is underway at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I’m scheduled to teach four one-day workshops and the first took place last Thursday. Pen and Ink Basics is exactly as it sounds. My goal was to introduce the students to the core techniques of pen and ink drawing. We used sketching pens for this workshop as it cut down on overturned bottles of India ink and allowed everyone to focus on the techniques.

It’s not all about technique, however. I simply cannot teach drawing without discussing fundamentals and principles. The most important for us on Thursday was ‘light and shadow’.

Before we started our first pen and ink exercise, I worked at an easel and presented a few ideas about ‘light and shadow’ and it’s effect on basic volumes. Next, we started on our first drawing; a pear. The students worked from my diagrams/models. Remember that our goal was to gain some fluency with the techniques. The day was not about creating original works of art. I demonstrated the steps one at a time.

Where does one begin with a pen and ink drawing? First of all, we decided to use cross-hatching as our technique. That was all very well but what direction should the lines follow? I presented an approach that I call ‘parquet’ and you can probably tell where I got the name. The initial work with the parquet approach looks very mechanical and the emphasis is on overall shape and value rather than stroke direction.

As you can see, the first step was only the beginning. We continued to develop the drawing until it gained a three-dimensional quality. We talked about edge versus outline as well as other considerations.

In total, we did three drawings over the course of the day. Our second exercise was the ball cap and we used stippling as our technique. Our final drawing was the teapot. We combined cross-hatching (although not with parquet) with line variety.

The students were keen and brought a lot of energy to the projects. We wrapped up with a look at the drawings. Click on the image to view a larger version.

Thursday Critique

Vermont 2018 – Wednesday at Bread and Puppets!

06/10/2018

I’m devoting an entire post to Wednesday (September 26). We woke up to more foul weather but I had a plan. I’d already made arrangements to sketch and paint indoors in the fascinating Bread and Puppet Museum. Bread and Puppet Theater is a celebrated organization that strives for social justice through wonderful outdoor performances. Click on one of the links here and read all about their endeavours!

So, working ‘en plein air’ was put on hold for the day but painting in the museum was a terrific consolation and a unique Vermont experience.

I had prepared a morning demonstration with the museum in mind. I used cool greys mixed from Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna to develop a value study. I’ve simplified the process to show you three steps.

There are three values in Step One; the white of the paper, a light middle value and a darker middle value. I’ve preserved the paper white in the foreground to enhance a feeling of depth.

I’ve added more values in Step Two. The greatest contrast is in the two foreground characters.

There were some intermediate steps but this is the final version. Once the values were developed, I gently ‘glazed’ colour over the local areas. That was my offering for Wednesday morning. We headed to the museum and this is what we found.

What a great day! Thanks so much to the Bread and Puppet Museum for hosting us. Now, let’s go back to Highland Lodge and the Ski Hut Studio for our critique. Don’t forget to click on a critique image if you’d like to view a larger version.

We weren’t done yet in Vermont. Stay tuned for our exploits on Thursday and Friday.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

Wednesday Critique c

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction to Portrait in Pen and Ink at DVSA!

15/06/2018

Yesterday, I was back in Studio Two at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I taught a one-day workshop entitled Introduction to Portrait in Pen and Ink. At the outset, I explained to the students that our focus would be on proportion, light and shadow and simplification of form. I started out at my easel on an 18 x 24″ pad of Cartridge paper and, using markers, illustrated and discussed the basic proportions of the head. Also, I elaborated on the eye, nose and mouth.

Our first exercise was based on details from two Old Master paintings. I had reproduced the images in black and white to make the light and shadow as clear as possible. You may recognize the enigmatic smile on the left. It’s the Mona LIsa by Leonardo da Vinci. On the right, the detail is taken from the Annunciata di Palermo by Antonello da Messina.

The vast majority of my teaching practice is based on direct observation; still-life and en plein air landscape, for example. I use photographic reference very rarely but most frequently in one-day workshops of this nature. We always discuss the pros and cons of working from photos and the importance of understanding the underlying forms and volumes in our subject matter. In addition to that, I always try to select photographic images that portray light and shadow as well as possible.

   

Something else I rarely employ in my teaching is a straight-edge or ruler. However, I suggested that we all use a grid to transfer the proportions of the photo onto our drawing paper so a ruler was necessary.

Pen and ink technique was our next topic and we used hatching and cross-hatching for the most part. The Mona Lisa smile was the greater challenge of the first two exercises. Everyone strove to understand the structure of the nose and mouth from the shapes and values in the photo they were given. Here are my demonstrations.

These two exercises took up two thirds of our day but there was no rush as a lot of experience was gained. The commitment and enthusiasm of the students is evident in their drawings.

I issued each student two photos for our final exercise. These images were selected from the internet and used for educational purposes only. Each student was given a choice of drawing either the male or female portrait.

  

We followed the same process for the most part but I talked about a few new things with my demonstration. One of those things was the technique of stippling and how it could be mingled with hatching in a pen and ink drawing. Also, I showed them a demonstration of a pure stippling drawing that I’d done several years ago.

This is my demonstration of the male portrait. Do you recognize him?

The students did very well with their portrait drawings but most weren’t finished when we ran out of time. I elected to allow them the remaining time to draw rather than present the work for a critique so, unfortunately, you won’t be able to see their work. Trust me. They were looking good.

That’s it for my spring term workshops at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I’ll be back in the fall. In the meantime, stay tuned for posts from my Plein Air Toronto watercolour workshop which starts next Monday!

 

The Dramatic Pen at DVSA!

25/05/2018

I was at the Dundas Valley School of Art yesterday, joined by a full studio of enthusiastic art students. The title of the workshop, the Dramatic Pen, refers to the use of black and white ink on a toned or tinted paper. This practice goes back a long way. We looked at a book of German drawings and I’m showing a few here from the great Albrecht Dürer.

The paper colour in the German drawings varied from grays to blues, greens, deep reds and exciting purples. The tone of the paper, regardless of colour, acts as a middle tone. The colour of the paper often dramatized and enhanced the subject.

 

The tools of our trade were fairly simple. Pigment ink pens in black and white were used. The white pen is a Uniball Signo broad. I would have preferred a somewhat finer nib but it was unavailable at our local art supply store. The black pen is a #8 Pilot drawing pen. Our paper is Canson pastel paper, purchased in a pad.

We kicked off with a discussion of basic volumes and principles of light and shadow. This gave us a chance to try out the pens and work on our cross-hatching technique. Note that the white is reserved exclusively for areas of direct light.

Our next project was of a garlic and each student was issued one. The creases in the skin of the garlic helped us decide on line direction. Here are two steps of my demonstration:

The students selected the paper colour of their own choice. They did a great job with their garlics. If you click on any of the critique images, you’ll see a larger version.

Garlic critique a

Garlic critique b

Our final drawing was of a beautiful Henry Moore sculpture. Wait a minute! That sure resembles a dog chew. No offence intended to the great Henry Moore. The organic quality of the dog chew made it a good subject. Have a look at two steps of my demonstration. I added a bit of stippling to this study.

Once the comments about dog chews died down, everyone applied themselves to the task at hand.

I’m offering one more workshop this spring; Introduction to Portraiture in Pen and Ink on Thursday, June 14. Stay tuned!

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

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