Woodland sketch #2

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Woodland #2, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook, 7″ x 7″

Second in what might be a series of woodland sketches. I rather like this style of sketching, partially rendering the scene using ink and then going in with watercolour.  It’s really a variation on the line and wash style where you spend a little more time on the ink rendering. The colour of the moss on the tree is a little off. I’m not too worried about that; I think the bigger problem is that the texture of the moss is not apparent. I think I also overworked the background; it looks quite fussy and messy.

 

Woodland sketch #1

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Woodland sketch #1, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook, 7″ x 7″

I pass through this area often, it’s part of my regular running route. I really want to become better at rendering landscapes. I have a particular problem with foliage; trees, grasses, shrubs and the general mess of vegetation that you find outdoors. I tried a different approach here which I think worked well as a sketch. Initial quick rendering with a pen, a Lamy Safari fountain pen I think. Over this, I applied simple washes, let them dry and then came back and added additional layers as needed to get the values I wanted.

Tree sparrow

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Tree Sparrow #4, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook, 7″ x 7″

Another bird sketch – not entirely sure what it is but I think it is a tree sparrow or something similar. I don’t know too much about birds, in fact, I don’t really know anything at all worthwhile about birds and I find the whole issue of bird identification quite bewildering. Nevertheless, I am finding that they can be quite fun to try and sketch once in a while.

I was aiming for a much looser and expressive feel with these sketches. The result is certainly looser than my previous attempt but still a long way off from what I had envisioned originally. I might try and blame the paper for my failure to get the result I wanted but I think the problem is mainly me.

I actually made a couple more sketches of this bird, although those were so horrendously awful I decided they will stay hidden in my sketchbook forever. What you are seeing here are actually the third (below) and fourth (top) sketches. I do find there’s a lot of value in redrawing and repainting the same subject again and again. The repetition always leads to improvements and even if they are only incremental refinements, one is still learning.  At some point you have to call it quits, even if only temporarily, and in this case, after four iterations I’d had enough – I figured it was time to move on to other subjects and try something different.

In this first sketch, I used mainly a Pentel brush pen and a Pigma Micron. The brush pen lends itself to expressive mark-making though I do find it quite difficult to use effectively.  It’s a matter of control, the marks I make often end up completely different to those I intended. The bottom sketch was made using a Pigma Micron 01. Paints were mainly W&N Cotman; Sepia, Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre and Cobalt Blue.

 

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Tree Sparrow #3, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook, 7″ x 7″

Three little birds

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook, 7″ x 7″ (17.8cm x 17.8cm)

I’ve been meaning to try some sketches of birds for quite some time and at long last Ive done it.

I kind of messed up with the first sketch (hidden at the bottom of the page), of what I believe is a Bullfinch, so I think we’ll just call that one a test. I actually thought it was going alright until I started working on the background and that’s when it became just a  huge mess.  In the later sketches, I found that a more sparse treatment for the background worked much better.

The first sketch and the second one also were done in a Stillman & Birn Zeta series sketchbook (7″ x 7″), which has a smooth hot press surface. For the first sketch colours were mainly cadmium red pale hue and Payne’s Gray – I don’t recall the colours for the background. The second sketch, of a Nuthatch, was an improvement – the background foliage was nothing more than a random green mixture splashed onto the paper – the tree trunk was something similar but with a couple of brown mixtures.  The third sketch is of a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo. Again, this was completed in a Stillman & Birn sketchbook, but the Beta series, which has a cold press surface but is in the same 7″ x 7″ square format, which I find suits these sketches quite well.

 

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Nuthatch, Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook, 7″ x 7″ (17.8cm x 17.8cm)

The process for these sketches was essentially the same. Pencilling in lightly to establish the contours and the main shapes, then going over the sketches again with a Pigma Micron 01 and then finally, adding the watercolour. In the later sketches, I spent more time rendering the birds with the pen particularly with regard to modelling the form – which has the effect I think of simplifying the painting part of the process.

 

Bullfinch, Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook, 7″ x 7″ (17.8cm x 17.8cm)

Keeping the candle lit

Produced this a few months ago and then put it aside with the idea that I might come back to it and work on an improved version but so far that hasn’t happened.

For me, the main criticism is the “blotchiness” of the ink. Not entirely sure what the problem is here. It could be the paper; this was done on a cheap pulp paper and so I wonder whether a better quality paper might improve matters. It could also be the application technique – the ink was applied wet-on-dry and the ink seems to dry very quickly. The same problem has arisen is other ink washes that I’ve made, like this one and this one.  Before I do another of these I need to understand what the problem is here.

Shrine at Dewa Sanzan

This is a shrine at Dewa Sanzan in Yamagata prefecture, one of a group of shrines near the base of the trail to Mt. Haguro. This was meant as a quick-ish study, thinking about using this in a watercolour when I get back into that medium again. I messed up with this, there are some issues with the perspective on the wall of the shrine nearest the viewer. By the time I noticed there was a problem it was too late but I decided to try and at least progress it to a more complete state.

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Shrine at Dewa Sanzan, Strathmore 400 sketchbook, 5.5″ x 8.5″

 

Three sketches

While visiting Columbia, California earlier this year I really wanted to sit down and sketch some of the old buildings and other artefacts. That never worked out and so I had to settle for photographs instead.

I decided to make sketches based on some of those photos. I tried adopting a more loose and sketchy style. In the past, for ink sketches, I tend to work out a lot of the sketch in pencil beforehand, drawing these very lightly with an HB grade pencil and then go back over those lines with ink. With these sketches, I largely abandoned that approach, opting instead to do little to no pencil preparation.

The first sketch is of an old barn. I pencilled in the basic construction lines in pencil to get the proportion and perspective right and then used my Lamy Safari for everything else.

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Barn, Strathmore 400 series sketchbook, 5.5″ x 8.5″

With the Columbia Gazette building, I didn’t draw out any construction lines at all. It is a simple shape with no perspective to speak of and so construction lines aren’t really necessary here in any case. Some of the lines I’ve drawn are a bit wobbly, not exactly ruler straight. Actually, looking at it again pretty much everything has a wobbliness to it but I think that is part of the charm of sketches made in this way. Again, I used my Lamy Safari.

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Columbia Gazette building, Strathmore 400 series sketchbook, 5.5″ x 8.5″

This is an admittedly rough sketch of what was originally a cottage that was burnt down multiple times before being reconstructed for the last time in 1960. I believe it is currently used mainly as a training venue. This was completed mainly using Pigma Micron pens.

Cottage, Strathmore 400 series sketchbook, 5.5″ x 8.5″

Abandoned truck sketch #2

I revisited the abandoned Chevy truck from earlier but with a slightly modified composition.

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The sketch was completed in a new Stillman and Birn Zeta series sketchbook, in the square 7″ x 7″ format. It’s a sketchbook which I purchased eight or nine months ago now but I’ve been afraid to use it, for the simple reason that I didn’t feel that I should use a quality sketchbook like this until I felt I could produce something worthwhile. I should mention that Stillman & Birn sketchbooks are among the best sketchbooks currently available. I’ve realised for a while that with that kind of attitude the sketchbook was going to be sitting on a shelf gathering dust for a long, long time. So I’ve decided that I need to just start using it regardless of whether I felt my sketches were worthy or not.

I’ve again used pen and ink but have opted instead to use a water-soluble ink. This was something new for me which I was keen to try out.  With pure pen and ink, the impression of tone is created using strokes alone. With the water-soluble approach, the drawing is built using strokes as before but then, when you are ready, you dip a brush in water and then brush over the pen strokes. Some of the ink in the strokes is released and can be used to create an ink wash of sorts.

I used an inexpensive Pro Arte synthetic watercolour brush which I’ve reserved for working with ink. The pen work was completed using a Pilot G-Tec-C4 0.4mm rollerball, which of all the pens I have available seemed to work best. Before I started the drawing I performed a quick test using several pens and inks I had available. The results are shown below.

  1. The De Atramentis document ink was completely waterproof, as expected.
  2. The Pilot G-1 gel ink rollerball pen produced very good results. It doesn’t however, produce as fine a stroke as the G-Tec-C4. It also has blue ink, which I wasn’t particularly keen on using (there is a version of this pen with black ink but I don’t have this).
  3. The Pentel Hybrid (K105) worked well. It produces a finer stroke than the Pilot G1 but not quite as fine as the G-Tec-C4.
  4. The Mitsubishi Uni-Ball UMR-85N, a gel ink ballpoint cartridge, also worked well with a stroke with similar to the Pentel. It perhaps doesn’t release quite as much ink.
  5. Sakura Pigma Micron pens use waterproof ink so brushing over the marks made with this pen has no effect at all.
  6. The Pilot G-Tec-C4 produces a lovely fine stroke and it also releases a good amount of ink.

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Sketching practise: Pile of old books

Haven’t had a huge amount of time to work on anything much. Lately, I’ve felt that I needed to practise sketching more than I have been. Ideally, it would be a daily commitment but that doesn’t often work out.

Today’s sketch is a pile of old books! Completed this in my Strathmore 400 series recycled paper sketchbook using Pigma Micron pens. Reflecting on this and other sketches I notice a pattern of concentrating on the main subject and then ignoring everything else. The pile of books is simply sitting there isolated in a sea of white, whereas in real life the books are situated on an old table and there is a bookcase in the background. It would have been better to include that contextual information in the sketch. The other details wouldn’t need to be drawn in detail but merely hinted at so as to maintain the books as a focal point. It would make the sketch more interesting, drawing the viewer in and providing more detail for them to take in. This was something I consciously did when I created the sketch of an old Chevrolet truck.

Another criticism of this sketch is that while there are some strong highlights there are no really dark darks. Instead, the tonal range is from highlights to mid-tones when instead I think it should have included some areas of really dark darks. Then again it is a simple sketch so maybe I’m being too keen to criticise.

Pile of books, Strathmore 400 Series sketchbook, 5.5″ x 8″

Since Inktober I have felt more enthusiasm for pen and ink sketching. Eager to improve my skills and try out different styles of sketching, using different techniques and tools. I have bought some new art supplies and I have a huge list of ideas and things I want to try.