I am excited to join my sister Melissa in posting artwork on the Syncopated Sketchbook blog! Although the majority of the postings will still be made by Melissa, I will periodically contribute as a guest and post some of my own artwork to complement hers.
Art is not part of my profession, but I’ve always had a passion for it and have always been interested in exploring my talents in the area. My experience to date has been largely with pencil drawings. Although I tend to draw buildings and architecture most often, I also like to create likenesses as well.
Inspired by Melissa’s wonderful 20-minute sketches, and especially by her pen-and-ink drawings, I decided that it was time for me to give it a try, so I’ve made a new year’s resolution for 2012 to hone my skills at pen-and-ink and to create at least one completed drawing per month for the entire year. In addition to Melissa’s work, I’ve especially found inspiration in local artist Michael S. Smith – I love his drawings and own quite a few. I’m amazed by the intricate detail and seeming perfection of his work.
My only experience so far with pen-and-ink as a medium was for a drawing I did for my daughter as a Christmas present last year. I drew her name in a stylized manner, reminiscent of turn-of-the-century graphics, a particular area of interest of mine.
In order to learn a little more about the medium, I purchased Claudia Nice’s book, “First Steps Drawing in Pen & Ink.” It has proven very useful already in learning about the tools and techniques. I already have a set of pens that I purchased for my daughter's project last year (Pigma “Micron” series pens), so the only other thing to purchase was a sketchbook. On Melissa’s recommendation I decided on a simple 5.5” x 8” mixed media sketchbook.
In general, I am very interested in buildings and architecture, and I think that much of my art in 2012 will revolve around this subject matter. Perhaps it appeals to my engineering background, or perhaps it just seems a little easier to do for me. Regardless, the city of Rochester, especially the downtown area, has been very inspirational for me, and I am very much looking forward to tackling some drawing challenges revolving around the downtown areas – the Rochester skyline, the High Falls area, etc.
I work in the High Falls area, near Brown’s Race and the Pont de Rennes bridge. So recently I took a little excursion to take some photos and become inspired. I got some great photos and will very much look forward to drawing them once my skills are a bit more honed.
In the meantime, for my first drawing project, I decided to begin with something a lot simpler, some of my daughter’s blocks. As Claudia Nice recommends, I began by making a simple pencil sketch, I then added ink to create a line drawing, and I then utilized various shading techniques to add depth and dimension. Along the way I made notes on the drawing, capturing information about the tools I used (e.g. the different pen thicknesses), and some key learnings.
Even though it was a relatively simple sketch and it didn’t take very long (about 40 minutes), I definitely learned a few things along the way which will be useful as I continue to create more drawings.
For example: Straight lines are tricky to do in a freehand manner. For this drawing I made the conscious decision not to use a ruler in order to try my hand at it. I will probably often rely on the use of a ruler going forward, especially to capture the crisp lines of buildings.
Additionally, although I was drawing cubes, one of the simplest shapes available, getting the perspective just right was very tricky as well. My engineering background has taught me about using squares and 30-60-90 triangles as drawing aids, and I will perhaps at times employ these as well in the future. An additional technique that I will likely employ is creating a grid on the source photo and utilizing the reference points of the grid for key reference points on the drawing.
The “mixed media” sketch paper itself was not as smooth as I was expecting. It tended to absorb the ink a little more than I thought it would, and any given line in fact came out a little thinner than I thought it would. As a result, the paper is very “forgiving” for things like fine line shading (for example, on the sides of the blocks).
I don’t think I will be using the .5mm pen too much. I tried it for the stippling, but it was too fat for that. I think it will likely be relegated for use with thick structural lines and to blacken very dark shadows. I found myself using the .35mm and .25mm pens most often, and I assume this will likely continue going forward depending on my subject matter.
My overall learning from this sketch is that I am anxious to attempt something more ambitious and see how I do!