Monday, 15 December 2014

New Year Resolution: Exploring oil painting

Unbelievable, that's is almost the end of the year again, already. Where has the time gone? And what happened to all those plans, goals, dreams and resolutions one tends to set oneself at the beginning of a new year? Well, one of my plans for 2013 had been to explore oil painting. It's something I've always wanted to do, but never dared. Then, at the end of last year, all determined, I bought some oil painting supplies. One day in spring, I set up a little still life, did a pencil drawing...

...made a value study with charcoal on a separate piece of paper....

... transfered the pencil drawing on to a canvas board, and started with the underpainting.

And that's as far as I got, I'm afraid. But at least the underpainting is now well and thoroughly dry, and ready for the next layer. And one of my New Year's resolutions for 2015 is to finish this painting. And explore and play with oils.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Life Drawing

I had been thinking about taking a life drawing class one day at the beginning of the year, but thought I was far from ready for that. In spring, I went to a portrait drawing classes again, which I had taken two years ago. I really enjoyed exploring the human face and drawing real people rather than working from photographs. Drawing the hole figure was the logical next step further. I wasn't sure if I was ready for the class yet, and I was thinking about it and arguing with myself all summer. But then, one's never really ready and fully prepared, and just a few days before class started at the end of September, I went for it. And I'm so glad I did. Every Saturday morning we explore a new technique or concept - mass, contour, line, tonal values, chiaroscuro etc. I love the structure of the class, starting with a bit of theory first, followed by putting it into practice, and building up on the past lessons. And as we are a small group of only seven, our teacher has enough time for helping each of us in turn with practical advise and critique. While the models in the portrait class had been volunteers, who did not always sit completely still, the models here are paid professionals, who are able to hold a pose without moving. Drawing them is a very different experience, not easy, but so rewarding. Most of the time, anyway. There's always the one or other drawing that just doesn't work, and is just frustrating, of course. We've had a different model for every class so far, mostly young women - only one man so far. Below are some of the drawings I did in class so far (I'm sorry about the bad quality of the photographs, but the days are getting shorter and greyer). I still got lots to learn...

Last Saturday, we went to the Archaeological Museum at the University, to draw in their cast collection. After having spent a good hour listening to our teacher explaining about different epochs and development of representing the human body in carved stone, we all wandered off to find a cast to draw. I liked the expression of this cast of a Roman copy of a Hellenic original, representing a man sharpening a sickle. I decided to concentrate just on on that, drawing only the head, instead of the whole figure (which was rather complicated, I save that for another day). There were some in my class who weren't happy about drawing dead models instead of life ones, but I must say I quite enjoyed it. It was nice not having to worry about time and instead being able to take as long as you need without having to fear your model changing the pose. I think it's a good exercise to draw such casts from time to time, to really study the features, proportions, expressions, poses etc., to get a feel for the human face and figure, and I'm sure it will be very useful for drawing from life.

I have a long way to go still, but I'm so glad I'm taking this course now. And I want to go back to the Archaeological museum too, and there are weekly life drawing sessions (not classes) here in Zürich too, which I yet have to check out. After all, it's practise, practise, practise that makes you improve your skills.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Exploring pencil drawing and keeping up with (almost) daily drawing

I'm trying to keep up my daily drawing after the 75 Day Sketch Challenge, and so far, I'm not doing too badly. I'm drawing almost every day, and if I miss a day, well, it's no big deal either. And I'm glad to have my pencil back, and am doing a lot of pencil only drawing. The pencil is a wonderful tool, perfect for learning about values. I'm very much enjoying to experiment with and really getting to know pencil drawing.

I'm not a good cook, not at all, and I don't even enjoy it very much (which is probably partly due to the fact that I'm not very good at it). I bought that pumpkin a few weeks ago, mainly for the purpose of drawing it, and since I still don't really know what to do with it (most pumpkin recipes that I looked up are just too complicated for me), I guess a drawing subject will be this pumpkin's sole purpose. I also bought some lemons the other day. I like lemons, and in a weak moment at the supermarket, I thought that one should always have lemons in one's kitchen. Of course I don't really know what I should use them for, so they too, have become a drawing subject only. I found a recipe for lemon pasta yesterday, but it turned out to use lime instead of lemon, so that's that. Although my colleague told me that lemons were good for cleaning the sink and getting rid of lime stains, so there's still a chance that they'll be put to some good use.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Ink Tests - DeAtramentis Archive Ink and some Noodler's inks

I only discovered drawing with fountain pens at the beginning of this year, and I'm still trying out different pens and inks to find the 'perfect' ones. For the past few months, I've been using mainly three inks: Platinum Carbon black, Noodler's Brown and Noodler's Lexington Gray. I like these three colours, and I especially loved the Platinum Carbon, as it dries almost instantly and is a nice rich black. But because of its properties, this ink can be a bit hard on a fountain pen, and I haven't dared using it in a TSWSBI, my favourite pen at the moment, only in a Lamy Safari (which is a great pen too).

So I've been looking for alternative blacks, and also, I wanted to try out some different browns. I really like Noodler's Brown, but maybe a bit of a darker brown would be nice too. Last week, my order of some bottled inks and ink samples arrived. Two bottles of black ink - DeAtramentis Archive Ink and Noodler's Black (American) Eel, and a bottle of Noodler's 54th Massachusetts, a blue-black. And some ink samples: Noodler's Red Black, Noodler's Walnut, Noodler's Whaleman's Sepia, Noodler's Q'ternity and Noodler's Turquoise.

The following are, according to the manufacturer/reseller info, waterproof:
- De Atramentis Archive Ink
- Noodler's Black (American) Eel
- Noodler's 54th Massachusetts
- Noodler's Walnut
- Noodler's Whaleman's Sepia

Different papers take inks differently, so I tested them in the three sketchbooks I'm using at the moment, my trusted Moleskine Sketchbook, the Fabriano Venezia and the Stillman & Birn Alpha. And there's been quite some surprises.

DeAtramentis Archive Ink, Noodler's Whaleman's Sepia and Noodler's 54th Mass. are all waterproof, as stated. Noodler's Black Eel and Walnut, weren't. I had let the ink dry for a couple of hours before adding water, and tried again after 2 days. I hadn't filled any of the inks into a fountain pen, but used a dip pen instead, which has a much denser and uneven ink flow than a fountain pen. But they were still not waterproof.  The Sepia is almost too rich, it spread on the paper almost like it was blotting paper, and even bled through the page. Same with Noodler's Q'ternity.

Lots of bleeding through the page with some of the Noodler's, especially when water was added.

Fabriano Venezia
An older test with my three favourites Platinum Carbon, Noodler's Lexington Gray and Platinum Pigment Ink Sepia Brown. All dried quickly and are perfectly waterproof. Although the Platinum Sepia is a bit of a weird colour.

DeAtramentis proofed to be waterproof in this one, except for that patch of rich ink, which might just not have been completely dry, so that's okay. Noodler's 54th Mass did well again too. Both Noodler's Black Eel and Walnut dissolved when water was added. Noodler's Whaleman's Sepia dissolved only a little bit, it would take a light wash, I suppose, but it was the same problem with bleeding as in the Moleskine, only worse (and same again with the Q'ternity).

Stillman & Birn Alpha
Of the new inks, only Noodler's Massachusetts was completely waterproof. So too were the old Carbon Platinum and Noodler's Brown and Lexington Gray. DeAtramentis, and Noodler's Black Eel, Walnut and Sepia all dissolved when water was added.

I really was surprised with the results of the DeAtramentis Archive ink and Noodler's Black Eel. DeAtramentis was only completely waterproof in the Moleskine and the Venezia, and  Noodler's Black Eel in none of them. I know that they are both used by artists who use them with watercolours, and so need them to be waterproof. 
Noodler's Walnut, which is stated to be waterproof, wasn't at all, no matter which sketchbook. In fact, it reacted exactly the same as any of the other non-waterproof inks.
Noodler's Sepia was waterproof in the Moleskine, sort of waterproof in the Venezia, and not at all in the S&B Alpha. But then I'm not considering this ink anyway, as it's far too rich and spreads on the paper terribly, and even bleeds right through the page.


I really loved my Platinum Carbon Ink. I believed it to be as black as can be, and I was quite surprised to see that, next to DeAtramentis Archive Ink, it looked quite a bit pale (you can't see it very well on these scans, I'm afraid). I have filled one of my TSWBIs with this ink and am going to try it out a bit more, and hope that it will be as waterproof as it is supposed to be. There is another waterproof black ink, DeAtramentis Document Ink. I'm not sure what exactly the difference is between the two, but I want to try that one out too eventually. As to the Noodler's Black Eel, I'm not quite sure what to do with that one.

As to alternative browns, well, the Noodler's Sepia is definitely not an option. I would  have liked to have Noodler's Walnut as a darker alternative to Noodler's Brown, but as it turned out not to be waterproof at all in my tests, it's no good. So I'm going to stick with Noodler's Brown. I do like the colour, so that's not a problem. DeAtramentis also makes a brown ink, and I hope to try that one too some time, so there might still be another option.

I've always liked blue-black ins, it's the standard in my fountain pen I use for writing, and has been for the past almost 20 years, so I wanted to add one for drawing too. Colourwise I would have prefered Noodler's Q'ternity, but apart from not being waterproof, it also spread and bled on the page, so that's no option. Noodler's 54th Massachusetts is a little bit dull, I think, but it proofed to be perfectly waterproof in all three sketchbook, so I'm going to use that one for now and see how it works and how I like it.

Of the remaining non-waterproof inks, I really like Noodler's Red Black. It is a rich, dark colour that dissolves into a beautiful bright red when water is added. I think it could be used for some nice effects for drawings (As could Noodler's Walnut for that matter, since it is not, after all, waterproof).  I also liked Noodler's Turquoise, it's a beautiful colour, both with and without water, but I just don't really see it as a colour for drawing that I would use much. So I guess I'll just use up the ink sample, and that's that.

This has turned into a very long post, but I am always interested in reading about other people's experiences with different mediums, and so I hope that this post will be of interest to some of you too. And I'd be happy to hear of your own experiences with these, or with other, inks.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

AWLOC #28 - 32

It's been a while since I posted some collages for my A Whole Lot of Collages project for this year. As you can see, I haven't really made very many. Good thing I didn't make this a one-a-day project. Well, I knew why... It's not that I don't enjoy making them (although the glue bit sometimes gets a bit too much, I'm just not very good with glue), but it's just that there are other things that are more important to me right now, such as drawing. And there just isn't enough time for everything. 

I did these back in June already, actually, and they've been sitting on my desk since then. I just couldn't come up with names for them, let alone editing them in Lightroom and Photoshop (I can't even remember last time I properly edited some photos). But this morning, I tidied up my desk, and finally got them done.

For these, I printed the vintage images on tracing paper and glued them over different backgrounds made from pages from a Japanese journal, patterned papers and Washi tape. I like the slightly haunted look this gives to these beautiful old portraits, but they can be a bit tricky when glueing on to the backgrounds. Although they don't look quite as wrinkly as in the photo in reality.

There might not be any more collages for this year, but I hope to find time and inspiration now and again to do some. It's quite a different way of creating than with pencil, pen or paint brush, and a bit of variation and experimentation is always a good thing.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

75 Day Sketch Challenge: The End - The Beginning

At last. I meant to write this post over two weeks ago, right after having finished my 75 Day Sketch Challenge. But October hasn't been good to me healthwise, and I didn't have the energy to do anything at all, really. But things are looking up now, and it's time to finally get this post written and posted.

Considering how miserably I have failed with most of the challenges I have tried to undertake in the past few years, I really didn't expect much when I started with this one. I didn't really believe that I would manage to do 75 sketches in 75 days, but decided to just start and not think too much about it. Well, not only did I do 75 drawings in 75 days, but I actually did one sketch a day, for 75 days. And I must admit, that I'm feeling quite a bit proud of myself :)

So here are the last six sketches. The last day of the challenge was a Sunday, so I took my time to sketch all the different pens I used for the drawings.

And here are some thoughts about my experiences withe the challenge:
  • The pencil:  I found the no pencil rule restricting at times. I really like graphite, and I missed it and the option of picking up and experimenting with whatever medium I felt like. And while I can understand the idea behind the no pencil rule, I'm afraid it's not for me. At least not as a permanent rule, which far too often carries the implication that certain tools, such as the pencil, are inferior. There are no inferior tools or techniques, and pencil and eraser are as valuable for whatever purpose you use it as every other tool. There are only tools and techniques that suit you and your style better or less well. Banning a certain tool from your tool box doens't make you a better draughtsman. The only thing that makes you better at drawing is to draw. As much as possible. Experiment with different tools, and with time you will find out which ones suit you best, in gerneral, and in certain situations, styles or techniques. We all work differently, and therefore have different ways to achieve the results we want. And all of them are equally fine. Whatever works for you.
  • The sketchbook: I dedicated a special sketchbook to the challenge, a little square Handbook. It's great to flick through its pages and see all the drawings in one book. The paper was suited well enough for the mediums I used, and its size meant that it was convenient to carry with my everywhere. But at times, I really would have prefered a different format, different paper. I know now that, at least for the moment, I don't want to use just one sketchbook, but different ones, for different purposes and moods.

  • Perfection: Because of the sketchbook I used, and because of my decision to share all of my drawings online, I ended up being a bit afraid to mess up too much. So I wasn't quite experimenting as boldly as I would have liked. I still pushed my boundaries, and a little bit of collage covered up one drawing that was beyond rescue, but I'm looking forward to experiment more now, without the pressure of the result having to look neat and comfortable enough to share.

  • Drawing daily / Daily drawing: I really enjoyed drawing daily, even if it was just a very quick 5 minutes sketch. I know now that I can fit something in every day, no matter how little time. But at times, I found it a bit difficult having to come up with a complete drawing every day. I'm looking forward to be able to take more time for a drawing, to work on it over several days if I feel like doing something more elaborate. I definitely want to keep drawing every day, but it doesn't have to be a drawing a day.

  • Pens: I used a number of different pens, and I really got to know them, and which one I like best. Apart from my Lamy and TWSBI fountain pens, I really enjoyed drawing with fineliners. The Copic Multiliner SP is expensive, but has a nice range of colours as well as matching brush pens. For a simple black pen, the Unipin Fineliner is definitely my favourite at the moment, especially the 0.05. I just love those very, very fine lines. Add a 0.1 and a 0.3 and a couple of brush pens and the odd ballpoint, and I'm happy.

  • Lettering: At the beginning, I only added a sort of title and maybe some comment at times to my drawings, but in the course of the 75 days, I really started to enjoy adding more elaborate lettering and writing. A drawing without it would have felt imcomplete. I definitely want to spend more time exploring lettering and journaling.

  • Goal: My main goal was to get into a regular, if possible daily, drawing habit. In that respect, the challenge was a 100% success.
Of course, the end of the challenge is only the beginning, or maybe the continuing. Anyway, of lots of drawing, hopefully daily, of experimenting of all kinds, of pushing boundaries and comfort zone leaving, of trying out new things, learning, improving... and most of all, having lots of fun with it.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

75 Day Sketch Challenge - No. 58-69

The end is near! Only 6 to go. Or rather 5, as I did No. 70 in my lunch break today. I've mentioned before that I'm glad when it's over, for various reasons. And I'll write a post about the whole experience next week, when I'm all done and finished with it, so I'm not saying much about it today.

Just one funny thing that I noticed these past few days. Whereas at the beginning of and well into the challenge, most of my drawings where done with lots of colour, and all kinds of different pens, it seems that in the past few days, I find myself more and more drawn to the simple black pen - my favourite UniPin 0.05 fineliner. Love this pen.