Inktober 2017

Hey, for those of you following #Inktober 2017, I’m adding my images to their respective pages here on the Mark Ivan Cole blog. As usual, the latest images are on top. You can also follow me on Facebook, where I’m posting daily all through Inktober!

I’ve added the #Inktober hashtag to a board on Pinterest, as well, so you can find my stuff there.

This has been an interesting challenge! I’ve not done pen and ink with such intensity for a long, long time, and it’s been fun to get back into it. I’m taking the opportunity to both reacquaint myself with some old techniques and stretch out and take some risks. Not everything has been an unqualified success–at least from the perspective of “what I intended to do!” That’s what risks are about, eh?

For an intro to what Inktober is all about, here’s Jake Parker on what got it started and what it is.

Try it! Show us how it goes!


“Some Guy” – Pen and Ink #Inktober 2017

Self-Evolving Portrait: Gareth

20170730_SEP_Gareth_Duotone_15x22Self-Evolving Portrait: “Gareth”
– Graphite and white charcoal on colored paper
– 5.9×8.3″/15×21 cm

He came from a long line of wanderers, each of whom had passed on this wanderlust to an only child. Gareth was the first to be born a male. His mother had been his greatest mentor. Half a century after her death, he still followed her example: he never stopped moving, and he told no one where he’d been. Unlike his forebears, however, he had brought no child of his own into this world. The little orphan girl he found huddled in the bole of a tree had rendered that unnecessary. Ten years on, she had grown strong, with her own ideas and a will of iron. Every day, she became more of a handful. Good, he thought. It will serve her well. He relished the certainty that she would one day go where he had not.


Sitting in the hospital while waiting for my wife’s appointment number to come up is as good a time as any to do a self-evolving portrait. I put a sheet of colored paper in my sketch clipboard and started with the usual squiggly shading. After I covered about half the page, something suggested itself. More accurately, “someone suggested himself.”

From that point on, it was just a matter of accentuating and clarifying the image as it emerged on the paper. I used the kneaded eraser to fade out the lines on the lower right and to clear some key highlight areas on the nose and forehead before adding the white charcoal.

Lysistrata Returns

LysistrataReturns_AC_50x65“Lysistrata Returns”
– Acrylic on canvas/linen, 19.7×25.6″/50x65cm

I’ve been doing graphite drawings and duotones that seem to take on a life of their own. My imagination has always been vivid, but these drawings seem to take on a life of their own as I work on them. As the drawing progresses, I reach deeper, responding to what suggests itself on the page. All kinds of unintended elements somehow include themselves in the image.

This image introduces that same process to a new medium. It started as a partial figure in an 11×14″ sketchbook. I extended the original drawing to map out the whole figure and then transferred it to canvas. The entire background and much of the figure was improvised directly on the canvas.

As I brainstormed on a title for this painting, a name–or at least part of it–popped into my head. It sounded familiar. I did an online search and realized a sort of connection. When my wife heard the name, she immediately seized upon it, not knowing the story behind it.

So here we have it: “Lysistrata Returns.” Whatever the tale once was, from the look on her face, the tone has clearly changed.

Was It Really There?


We got up to have coffee, like we do pretty much every morning. On this day, though, everything was different. We weren’t in our usual house in Beitou. We found ourselves looking out the large, east-facing glass windows of a double door. A heavy overcast hung low overhead, obscuring even the foothills.

But that is not what made us gasp in wonder.

The sun was breaking through a hole in the cloud cover, somewhere to the northeast on this early summer day. It cast a beam through the mist, lighting up the edges of the trees, tracing the rise of the far ridges that climbed up into the gloom overhead.

A vision emerged momentarily from the mist, then faded from view as the clouds began to roil. We stared. The shaft of light grew stronger, glancing off of this and that, though we could not easily tell what we saw. As the light shifted again, we seemed to be gazing at a castle whose walls and towers were only just visible in the hazy dawn. A castle? No, a whole city, perhaps!

The sun continued to rise, widening the hole in the clouds, illuminating the mists in the vales between the ridgelines. The entire fairy city came into focus for a few brief moments: great walls and towers, a cluster of houses, a massive gate, perhaps. It was all there. Still, at this distance, we questioned whether we were seeing clearly.

The overcast began to lift, too light now to obscure the view. When we looked again, the fairy city had vanished.

Was it ever there? We think so.

Later in the day, I did my best to paint it from memory.

Time for a New Hat


The old Scala hat had gone from one side of the world to the other and back again. I bought it in California, and it had shaded me from the sun at sea level in Taipei, Taiwan, on the battlements of India’s Amer Fort, up Platteklip Gorge to the top of South Africa’s Table Mountain, and all the way to 4,500 meters at the foot of Yangmaiyong in Yading, China. It had been to the icy summit of Germany’s Zugspitze and on the storied hills of Toledo, Spain.

In the middle of some Turkish ruins, I had this exchange with a Korean tourist.

Him (pointing at my hat): Where’s your horse?
Me (looking around frantically): I lost my horse??!

I was always glad the hat was crushable. Stuffed in a backpack countless times, it still kept its shape–for the most part, anyway. Over the years, it had lost its little split leather adornment. The metal rivet that used to hold that piece had rusted beyond recognition. The liner of the inner hat band had disintegrated.

About a year ago, I cleaned it rather badly, so the crown was now skewed, and the brim dipped too low over my eyes. It had lost some stiffness so it flopped around when the wind was strong. Maybe it was time to replace it. I checked online. Nothing. It wasn’t even mentioned on the company website.

Back in California, the San Francisco REI still had a few. I browsed the rack, hoping for the best. They were all the wrong size. I asked the staff to see if they had back stock. No such luck, but while they were looking I  spied the hat on a mannequin. It fit me! “Take it!” they said.

I did. It was the only one my size in the whole store. Apparently, the company stopped making this model. We went online and found another one in black. Only one. We ordered that one, too.

It was such a good hat,
And it’s still a good hat.
Well, I guess that’s that:
It’s time for a new hat.