Monday, November 3, 2014

All About Ink (Part 1)

Last October I participated in the Inktober drawing challenge in which artists draw one ink drawing a day for the whole month and then post them on social media hatshtagged  #inktober. The goal is to improve one's inking skills and develop positive drawing habits.  For more details, here is Jake Parker's (the founder of the challenge) website.

It's my first time joining an online challenge of any kind and now after doing it for the whole month, I could say I've thoroughly enjoyed it and have developed a positive attitude (and habit) on my drawing. I must admit, I am not an inker to start with. I do use the ink brush occasionally for quick character sketches but haven't really done much more. So my goal in joining Inktober was to get from level zero to level 1 in my inking skills. Of course, there were days when I questioned the sanity of doing it specially when all I wanted was to sleep after having a very tiring day or days where I was tempted to skip because I did have valid reasons, right? (so I tell myself). So I was honestly surprised that I was able to ink every day, rain or shine, grumbling or smiling, awake or semi-awake. If anything, I am proud of myself for being able to show up on the blank page every night, facing my doubts, battling my fears and pushing that ink brush around like a wand dispelling all these monsters away. This is probably why I'm happy with my inktober experience. And this feeling is what I will take with me when I am faced with another blank page battle in the future. "I can ink you! Yaaaaghh!" is my running battle cry.

I gathered my tools (below), all of them except for the Pentel Pocket brush are old pens I've collected over the years (and barely used). I bought the Pentel pocket brush specially for inktober as I've read good reviews about it from an artist's website (I can't remember who it was anymore, maybe it was from the artist, Will Terry) and thought I'd try it. It is pretty pricey considering there's the cheaper Micron brush pen and the bigger Pentel color brushes available as well. But as I later found out, it was totally worth it. I found the Micron brush pen too short, so while it could go to a fine point with it's smaller tip, I found the degree of control I have on it was limited. The Pentel color brush on the other hand, was a bit too big and clunky. It was harder to get it's tip to produce fine lines. It was useful though for covering wide spaces. The Pentel pocket brush, in my opinion, is the best option out there as it offers a very fine point, great control, and is more sensitive to pressure so I could easily change the line width from thin to thick smoothly. The only disadvantage I find with using the pen ink brushes in general is that you couldn't do the dry brush technique with them (unless they are running out of ink). For dry brushing, sable brushes work best. I use the Windsor & Newton's #2 watercolor brush and any water-resistant black ink available.

From Left: eraser, Staedler pencil, white gel pen, micron pen, Pentel pocket brush (my favorite), Pentel color brush, Rotring Art pen (extra fine)
And this is where I'd say, it is hugely important to choose your tools well because the tool you use greatly influences the results of your drawing. I didn't choose my paper well this time. I used a bunch of ordinary stapled bond paper booklet for my ink illustrations which at the start were great but as I got into trying more techniques, I found its limitations irritating (e.g., the ink blots so it was hard inking the tiny eyes without obliterating the white space in the eyeballs, it could take a limited number of pencil erasures before it gets too thin and would have holes). I did get through and finished the whole booklet about a week before the end of Inktober and had gotten to move on using a decent fabriano watercolor paper to ink on. And oh glory, what a difference the paper made! The ink made its mark beautifully on its surface, it had very distinct edges, the pencil marks erased well, I didn't have to worry about blotting and paper holes, and even the texture was an added delight. I would definitely be using this paper or similar papers for ink like Bristol, for next year's inktober.

And so this was my very first sketch below. At that time, I was quite pleased with it. It looked decent considering I did it on the fly, no initial pencil sketch or anything. Just spontaneous inking on the page. I used the Pentel color brush, took a picture of the drawing using my phone and then changed the black ink color to blue using the phone app. I thought I captured Julia's and Mingming's expressions well and was glad I add the touch of the plant on it that provided some texture.

First Inktober drawing

In one of my next ink drawings, I experimented mixing the broad brush strokes with the smaller linear strokes of the art pen. Doing this one, I realized that I love inking the details of textiles and clothing. Not only does it add to the character, visually, it adds contrast and texture. While doing this, I remembered the works of Japanese and Chinese artists who are masters at painting with ink brushes and proceeded to do some research. There were a lot of magnificent works online. One of the modern artists I found, whose works I like and admire is Yuko Shimizu. (
Fox Samurai

Not all successful and talented artists have the added bonus of being prolific on social media. Yuko is quite generous in sharing her work, process and thoughts. That's one of the things I like about her. She has a blog and facebook account where she shares her thoughts frequently. Yuko works with a special Japanese brush (she had shipped from Japan) and uses Dr. Ph Martin's black ink exclusively. She works in ink and then colors it in photoshop. Her ink work is amazing. Just look at those textures! It is complex and simple at the same time. I love how she tackles the details of different materials (i.e., water, wool, hair, metal etc.). From looking at her works, I learned the value of using the dry brush technique and the use of negative space. There is a sense of "fluidity" in her strokes, which I suspect would only come when one had done a whole lot of inking like she did. Amateur inkers like me could learn a lot from studying her work.

Below are two samples of her vast work:

The Wild Wild Chase by Yuko Shimizu
Hair tree by Yuko Shimizu

(More about ink in my next blog post. To be continued....)

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