Friday, May 14, 2010

On Drawing - charcoal, pen, biro, pencil, ink, pens and pastels ....

For the type of art I produce, drawing is really important. Basic making of marks with pencil, charcoal, ink and other media is an engaging activity, as well as beneficial to hand-to-eye coordination. Drawing is still considered an important discipline in academic art training, and through the objective of making it as realistic as possible, the use of the camera lucida and the camera obscura, in combination with drawing, gradually developed into the modern camera, which in a way allowed drawing itself to become 'free'. Twisty lines, heavy or soft, can form a shapt to suggest a mood, evoke a place, time, memory - all you need is a little imagination.

When out sketching, my line is expressive. My hand moves fast to capture the poses. Often I get two poses at a time, a subject puts down their arm, turns slightly, I end up with a figure with two heads and three arms, or sometimes two bellies.

 The surface I use is important. I love using watercolour paper with bite. The subtle but definite texture of the paper creates a wonderful tension with soft pencil and ink. When I use pencils, I use a 6B or an 8B, and with pencil I also have the option to paint the drawing with watercolour paint later. And the B pencils can be used in so many ways also, you can barely stroke the surface with the tip and get the softest, finest line, or you can lean on it and get thick, dense, heavy marks - and with practice, everything in between.

Funny story about the purple ink - I wanted some cartridged to fit a very good quality Parker pen I was given, but purple ink is hard to come by, but I happened to be in Silke's of Catherine Street, Limerick city, and they had a box of the things and going to send them back to the wholesale but I asked if I could buy them instead, so I got the whole box for just €20 - gift! I had tried it on watercolour paper and loved the effect, and how you can cross-hatch and everything with it. And I just love the colour purple anyway ....

Charcoal is fun, I like using it on coloured paper, especially black and white charcoal. I tend to use this for a slightly different drawing situation: studio life drawing. Charcoal is easier to use to create form when working contrasting colours, there's less need to work extremely fast, and there's more time to focus on the subject and graduations of light on the model's skin. I apply charcoal using the tip of one end, but you do get an interesting line if you use the long side of the charcoal, and you can drag it across the surface to create shading and form. It's a fabulous way of building up a drawing.

I have mentioned using ink on watercolour for line drawings when out sketching random people, but I have also used it with a Chinese rush and homemade bamboo pen. You can thin the ink with water, and use ink pigment solutions of various strengths for lighter or darker lines or areas, which is especially useful for landscape sketching. However, my main reason for liking this medium is because you get a line that seems to explore its own existence, as well as form a component of a drawing.

Biro, fine tip or roller ball pens make for interesting lines also. Because I find that you have to work that little more to make 'real' lines and shapes with a biro or fine tip pen, and create double, triple, quadruple lines to create a shape, you get something with great movement and energy. Yes, they can look bitty and messy, but that's verging into the area of personal taste - as an artist, I like that kind of exploration of and with the line, but I do realise that not everyone gets this.

[And I have to say that the original looks a lot better than this reproduction.]

Black roller ball pens make a strong statement, the lines are very definite and I find I draw differently with these, I look more and have to be much more decisive as to where and how I'm going to leave my mark. I absolutely LOVE the combination of this kind of mark on cream watercolour with bite, but of course it cannot used be watercolour paints, more's the pity. Well, I suppose I could afterwards, but the spontaneity of the line created in the inital drawing would be very, very difficult to recreate.

And last but not least: pastels. The great thing about pastels is that they are the 'grey area', if you'll pardon the expression used in this context, between drawing and painting. You can draw with them, and then you can build up the form and detail so that you end up with something that looks like a painting. Apparently Da Vinci was the first artist to use them, and they were popular during the 1700s also. And of course, if you are ever in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, you must go visit the pastel works on display there - they are absolutely stunning, vivid, alive, positively writhing across the 2-D surface. No reproduction I have ever seen has done them justice, these are works by true Masters of the medium, like Degas, Mary Cassatt, Renoir, Berthe Morisot, and others. I love oil pastels on coloured paper, very handy if you like working out of doors.

"Drawing is the root of everything"   - Vincent van Gogh.

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