I’ve had another enjoyable and sometimes challenging week of Holidays in Ink sketching. I’m finding the challenge and self-imposed accountability of daily sketching in ink is helping me in more ways than I expected. When I have not felt inspired or motivated, instead of deciding not to sketch or to only sketch what is familiar and easy for me, I have pushed myself to get started or to push beyond my comfort zone, and have invariably found that inspiration has followed effort. That’s been encouraging on those days and a good lesson for the future. Of course I have experienced that lesson in the past in many different contexts, but this has been a good refresher on that lesson and a good reminder that art is often a paradigm for the rest of life.
I have also very much benefitted from seeing what friends have done with their ink sketching. It’s always inspiring to me to see how others work and motivates me to tackle subjects or approaches I hadn’t previously considered. Of course, along with that comes the temptation I’m guessing most of us deal with to compare our work and ourselves to others, but that, too, has given me opportunity to evaluate my attitudes and to clarify my reasons for pursuing my art. I draw, sketch, and paint because I love doing it, because it is an ability God has given me for my own enjoyment and to bless others, and because I cannot not do art. Even on the rare occasions I decide not do it for some reason, I find myself doodling or, at the very least, sketching what I’m seeing in my mind or evaluating the colors, shapes, and beauty surrounding me– God’s amazing artwork in his creation.
Last Tuesday I pulled out Stephen’s photos of the Sharp-shinned Hawk I had sketched from life on Sunday. First I worked slowly and carefully sketching it in color, trying to get details just right. That sketch turned out looking like an uncomfortably stuffed taxidermy specimen. That evening before I went to bed I grabbed my Tombow Gray/Black Dual Tip Brush Pen and did a quick (about three minute) sketch of the Sharpie. I like the more spontaneous feel of that sketch much more than the carefully overdone version. (For some reason it scanned as green, but it’s actually gray.)
One artist I really like is Rien Poortvliet, a Dutch artist who sketched and painted many dogs, wild animals, and people. I especially love his fox sketches, and I’ve been wanting to get a better sense of fox structure so I can more successfully sketch them from life when they pay us their brief visits, so I decided to use some of his paintings as references.
After sketching the foxes, I decided to do a study of Canid skulls to become familiar with some of the similarities and differences. I did those over two days, since they took lots of time and focus. That was definitely not a relaxing subject for sketching!
After the first day of skull sketching I decided to return to one of my favorite subjects– trees. First I sketched one of our black locusts from the window of my prayer bungalow using a new-to-me ink that my friend Jamie Grossman had given me- Cacao du Bresil. What a fascinating color, somewhere between brown and gray with hints of pink and purple! I loaded it into a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and sketched the tree from the its western side in morning light. Then in the afternoon I sketched the eastern view of the same tree from our deck (it was chilly but sunny) using Yama Guri ink in my Hero 578 bent nib fountain pen. I love doing comparison sketches like that, and I love this gnarly tree who is full of character from many years of living.
After refreshing myself by doing tree sketches I was ready for a challenge again and finished up my skull sketch, then moved on to doing some contour line drawings, something I have only done a few times. The idea is to draw the outline of the subject in one continuous line, without shading, looking mostly at the object. I enjoyed this much more than I expected. Acadia kept moving, so I did several rather quick sketches of her.
Then yesterday I decided to move on to Blind Contour Line Drawings. That was much more challenging, even though I “cheated” a fair amount, so it wasn’t totally “blind,” as in drawing without looking at the paper at all. With the flowers I made the mistake of using water soluble ink, so when I went over it with watercolor, the ink ran, but I kind of like the effect. Maybe it distracts from how far off the mark my lines are. 😉 After struggling with the flowers (I always struggle with florals, even when looking at both paper and flowers), I decided to do a blind contour sketch of my favorite tree. That went better, and I will continue doing this exercise with subjects I love.
I’m looking forward to another good week of Holidays in Ink! This week I’m hoping to pull out Yupo paper and some markers to play with some different forms of ink, and I might also do a drip painting. That will definitely stretch me out of my comfort zone but should be fun!
Wow, Melissa, I have so much to say in response to seeing your work from this week! I’ll have to be concise so I can get to the studio, but here are some thoughts:
I love what you said about doing artwork even when we don’t feel inspired. We can’t catch the muse if we’re not there to do so! Sometimes she shows up, and sometimes not, but as you said, we need to do our part and have a little faith in the process.
I can see that you’ve started to focus more on pulling a page together compositionally, and thinking about your sketches not only individually, but as design elements on a page.
I really, really admire how you keep going back and studying that tree in your yard again and again, and always finding something new there. It’s a lesson on the power of revisiting familiar subjects. It makes me think of all the famous artists who have done big series of a subject — like Monet with his Haystacks and Water Lilies, and Van Gogh with that view from his window.
Your contour drawings of Acadia are really good! Bravo with the graceful forms and proportions. And the blind contour of the flowers with wash is so inspiring and gleeful. It makes me smile to look at it!
What a great week’s worth of art you produced. You should be really proud of yourself! (I’m proud of you too. 😉 )
I’m just seeing your comment now, but thank you so much for such thoughtful and encouraging words, Jamie! I have really been enjoying the ideas, prompts, and results we’ve been sharing, and I am learning a lot from you and from our back and forth about the prompts. I hadn’t thought of Monet and Van Gogh with their series in conjunction with sketching my tree, but I do love those series of theirs and have often thought of doing a series like that in watercolor. Maybe starting in ink is the way to do that! And yes, I am trying to get a better sense of page composition. That’s one of the reasons I love studying your sketchbook pages; you do a fabulous job with layout and balance on your pages. I look forward to seeing what you do over the coming weeks. 🙂