Last Wednesday, we worked with ink and shellac, which is basically beetle poo and meths. šŸ™‚ The idea was to continue to work with line and tone and build a bridge between drawing and painting (by introducing a brush).

Playing with marks

The first exercise was just to play and make as many kinds of marks as we could. We used a dipping pen, a brush, kebab sticks, small wooden spatulas, candle wax (to resist the ink), scrunched-up tin foil, plastic forks, straws, and salt (to absorb some of the ink and leave an interesting pattern). We also added water to the ink to create a wash.

I really enjoyed this. You can see the fun I had above. And I really liked the combination of the monochromatic ink with splashes of the yellow shellac mixed in.

A couple of specific things I enjoyed were tipping the paper up and letting the ink run, and flicking ink from a brush onto the paper. (You can also use a toothbrush for this.) But also just using the brush. I can see that black ink can be very beautiful.

I didn’t enjoy using my dipping pen so much because it was very scratchy, and I had to get it at just the right angle to produce a line. But I think that was more down to the kind of dipping pen I had, which was very thin. I’ll have to experiment with others.

I found that paper towels were good for soaking up ink if I’d put too much down, and creating interesting tonal variation. They were also good for creating gradients by dragging them along the paper.

Sketching from David Hockney

The second exercise was to create four small sketches (using a few of the different kinds of techniques we’d experimented with) of some black and white David Hockney photographs.

I haven’t posted photographs of my results here for a couple of reasons:

  • I couldn’t actually find the particular photos online to be able to send a reproduction request through David’s site.
  • Getting permission through David’s site is pretty involved and can take up to five days. Even if I’d found the photos, I might not have attempted it.

A few of my sketches were OK, but I completely stuffed one of them up. I think I dipped my brush in the undiluted ink when I meant to dip it in the water to create a wash. I filled an area with black that was supposed to be a lighter gradient. Doh!

Matthew gave me a great piece of advice: “Locate the darks first; don’t go full dark to begin with”.

Still, I found ink quite tricky to deal with. I imagine watercolour is similar in that it’s unpredictable.

I did attempt another sketch in the weekend (from another one of David’s photos), and that turned out much better, but unfortunately I can’t post it. I also let the kids play with my ink and charcoal, and they quite enjoyed that. It was a bit of a mess to clean up afterwards!

Other things Matthew covered

  • The golden ratio/divine proportion. Apparently the rule of thirds, which I was familiar with, is derived from the golden ratio. I need to read more about that though.
  • Making a composition frame with our fingers and thumbs (for when we’re out and about and don’t have a cardboard frame).
  • Dipping a round brush into water to get the nice point back again.
  • Shaking ink, because the pigment sinks to the bottom.
  • Using an old brush for shellac. Matthew also said to clean it within about 10 minutes, or the shellac will dry on it, and it’ll be unusable.
  • Laying shellac over top of dry ink to create a veil/the impression of distance. It’s like glazing in painting.

Tomorrow night, we finally get out the paints!

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