Early Stage: “Somebody’s Home”

Early Stage: “Somebody’s Home”

During #Inktober 2017, I stretched out quite a bit, trying new things. I found that many of the skills I’ve been using for my pencil sketches translated surprisingly well to pen and ink. When I first started using drafting pens back in the 1980’s, I was mimicking the amazing engravings of Albrecht Dürer (as best I could!) and trying to get every scratch to line up perfectly. What I discovered this last month was that I’m more expressive when I stay loose. The first gray stage of this forest interior, “Somebody’s Home,” is a good example of what I mean.

WIP_SomebodysHome

Early gray value block-in for “Somebody’s Home.”

In the past, I would have planned all of this out ahead of time, and painstakingly drawn every leaf. While it’s all well and good to do that, I’ve discovered that my style is actually less meticulous now, and I’m having lots of fun letting things direct themselves more.

Note that the tree trunks are mostly denoted by directional curved lines. I find that if work from the bottom of the page to the top, I can use the heel of my hand as resistance, which helps me to make relatively evenly spaced marks, but I don’t try to make them exactly the same curve or distance apart. I don’t even try to make them fit precisely within the faint pencil marks that delineate the trunks. Everything else is about “flow,” how the textures will lead the eye.

The bracken on the forest floor is done in patches. Later on, I use some of the gaps or overlapping marks as inspiration for where sticks and pits might go.

Here’s the final result. (More discussion below the picture.)

20171027_Inktober_SomebodysHome

“Somebody’s Home” – Pen and Ink – 10.5×7.5″/20.5×18 cm

You can probably pick out some of the new things I’ve added, and some bits I actually “removed.” With ink, everything is additive: there is no undoing a mark, no chance to erase. If it’s going to be removed, it’s got to be morphed into something else or obliterated in shadow!

I have it easy, though. Back in the 1500’s, Dürer was making grooves in metal with a “burin” or “graver.” Every stroke counted. I’ve always been intrigued by this bit of “The Knight, Death and the Devil,” below, in which the master seems to have corrected a mistake. Look at the light “swoosh” shape that mimics the base of the hoof, and the two bright lines that might have been the initial position of the horse’s shank.

DurerMistake

Yeah, I think we can let that bit pass for a twig or blade of grass. Amazing.

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Inktober 2017 Recap

It all started with a friend’s innocent question: “Are you going to do #Inktober this year?” I’ve done ink of various kinds for years, but I’ve not focused on pen and ink for a long time. With Hi-Tec’s wonderful technical pens, I got a lot more experience. Inktober is, essentially, a challenge to do 31 ink drawings in 31 days.

Here are mine from 2017, pretty much in chronological order:

Thwackenheimer Luminescence Converter

FloatingSkyMachine1_Sketch_LoRes

Just finished a small sketch this morning. Made me wonder what this thing does–besides float, of course.

Back in the late 2100s, Beryl Thwackenheimer devised a means by which to levitate a solid object by harnessing the energy shifts caused by variances in luminescence. Subtle changes in cloud formations, or even the appearance of a meteor in the night sky could actually cause the object to counteract gravity. The technique proved so effective that her first successful prototype got away from her before she had completed building it. These days, virtually every appliance and vehicle uses some version of the Thwackenheimer luminescence converter.

A flaw in Thwackenheimer’s system design causes the unit to repel any approaching object (like the ground, an ornithopter, or even a net). The extreme efficiency of this function has rendered impossible any attempts at recovery. It’s been a hundred and fifty years now, and fortunately, no one’s transporter has been damaged by the rogue prototype.

It’s still up there somewhere. No one can catch it and bring it down.

Coit Tower

CoitLiveShot_20170623The others had gone for a walk while I had to wrap up some other business, but I still had an hour and a half before lunch. I left the apartment where we’re staying in San Francisco, and headed out to the waterfront again. I wanted to see the Coit Tower again. When my wife Ping and I first visited San Francisco several years ago, we hiked up to the tower, and, just a couple of days ago, our friend Shya took us up there for a view of the city.

You can see the tower from several places on the waterfront, but it’s not particularly close. I found a decent spot by the Exploratorium where I had a clear view of it. The wind blew strongly enough that I wondered if I would lose one of the water brush covers! The ink dried very fast, but I was able to get a pretty good likeness of the tower in about half an hour.

Then I had to run back, so I wouldn’t be late for lunch!

 

CoitFromExpl_SFO

CoitFromExpl_SFO_Inktense_Informal

The final image.

 

 

 

New Clipboard Sketching Setup

SketchbookNew1Sketchbooks keep everything together in a book form, but I found them to be generally too thick and heavy. For a firm surface, I wanted a stiff backing sheet and cover (more weight). When the pages shifted, the graphite rubbed off. To save weight and preserve the artwork, I tore out completed drawings as soon as I got home. Then I had to trim off the ragged bits before scanning. If I was going to be on the road awhile, I might start a new sketchbook because the one I’m not-quite-finished-with may not have enough pages for the trip.  I sometimes reused the covers of an empty sketchbook, but more often I just recycled them.

SketchbookNew2After using up dozens of sketchbooks, I decided to try something a bit more “green”: a covered clipboard. This one is A5 size (half a sheet of letter-size paper), so it’s easily portable. I fold the cover all the way around to the back, so it’s no bigger than a normal sketchbook, and it’s plenty stiff. To keep the pencil digging into the paper below, I clip a thin, firm sheet of plastic under the current work-in-progress.

I’ve been using this setup for about a year now. The clipboard turned out to be even easier to hold than the old sketchbook, in either landscape or portrait orientation. It’s light, comfortable and unobtrusive. My 2mm/6B drafting pencil and .5mm/2B mechanical pencil work for everything from rough textures and dark shading to fine details. I use a small kneaded eraser to clean up smudges and pull out highlights. Sometimes I’ll use white charcoal for duotones. I’m considering ditching my retractable eraser, since I rarely use it. Maybe I can find a smaller pencil case.

SketchbookNew3Finished drawings are now put away inside a folded sheet of copy paper clipped in behind the paper stash. When I get home, I take them out, ready to scan. The clip holds everything firmly, so there is less shifting during transport. Very little graphite or white charcoal rubs off. These days, I carry a mix of loose sheets in a variety of colors and textures–just enough to give me options, and only as much as I need for the day. If I’m heading out on a longer trip, I keep an extra assortment in the suitcase. Finished work is removed from the clipboard and stored with the extra stash, and new sheets are added to the clipboard to replace the used ones.

This setup allows for more flexibility and it’s turned out to be less expensive (since I can buy loose sheets), thinner, lighter, and easier to use than a sketchbook. What about longevity? Well, back in 1995, I bought a covered clipboard for my legal pad at work. The “hinge” has split a few inches, but I still use it for writing. That’s a pretty good track record, I think.