Yesterday I was shown this tutorial by digital artist Nate Hallinan. Delighted by the tutorial’s clarity and subject, I started experimenting with the techniques. I’m having great fun playing with this and it’s given me some useful ideas about how to approach fluffy textures in Photoshop!
I realized today that I’ve been wrapped up in everything but sharing what I’m up to.
Besides getting pieces ready for the upcoming Zookeeper Auction, I’m taking a class in pen and ink drawing from Margaret Davidson at Gage Academy. Although I have some experience with pen and ink, the majority of that has been in stipple work. This class is giving me a chance to hone my skills in a wider range of ink techniques. The detail above is from a piece of homework. It’s not unusual for art students to be asked to try copying the work of a master in order to learn technique (and I assume to get into that artist’s head), but this is the first class I’ve taken that has regular homework involving copying. The above detail is from my attempt at copying a woodcut by the master Albrecht Durer. I can’t think of an artist whose line work impresses me more, so I’ve had a great deal of fun making the attempt. If you look at nothing else of his, at least check out his rhinoceros!
For this project I was given a photocopy of the piece on an 8.5×11″ piece of standard paper. I traced the main lines of the image as best I could onto tracing paper and transferred it to Bristol plate for the final drawing. That all took a long time. There are a lot of lines! From there I’ve worked with three different pen nibs. My favorite is the crowquill (Hunt 102). Most of the lines are drawn with that. For bolder lines I’ve pulled out a Hunt Globe 513EF, and for some finer lines the Hunt 104. The 104 has a very fine point and is my favorite for stippling.
I haven’t kept track of the hours in this piece, but I can tell it’s been a while over multiple days. I’ve had to stop for today because my hand is sore.
Below is a photo of the full piece in progress.
Although scratchboard work typically involves scratching through black ink to reveal a white layer, there are a variety of ways to involve color in the process. An artist can choose inks, watercolor, colored pencil or anything else they can dream up and either add it over the top of a scratched piece, tinting the scratches, or alternating layers of color and scratches for a more full-color approach.
Today I started playing around with colored inks on a piece of white clayboard. I started with a vague idea of what my cat’s eye looks like. It might have been a good idea to use a reference. I painted in a mix of ink, using a mix of black, sepia, green, yellow and blue for the various areas. I gave the ink a couple minutes to dry, then started scratching out highlights and lighter fur with a scratchboard tool.
I went back and forth with the ink and scratching a couple times to fine tune the image, sometimes applying ink with a pen and sometimes with the brush. I can dilute the ink to wash over scratched areas without completely losing the scratched lines or paint over completely to rework an area. Once the ink is on the clay it doesn’t budge and every scratch changes the surface of the clay permanently, so I wouldn’t want to make any major errors working this way.
It’s a fun technique with a lot of possibilities. I look forward to working through a full project this way. The color really pops on the white clay and scratching is perfect for fur or anything with fiddly little highlights.
The ink I tried today is designed for scratchboard use. That primarily means that it doesn’t leave a noticeable residue on top of black inked areas. I applied the ink with a small synthetic brush (dyed blackish a while ago from repeated use with black ink) and a dip pen with my favorite nib, the Hunt No. 102. For scratching I’m using the Speedball Scratch Knife 112, pictured here, and occasionally an X-acto No. 16 blade.
Here he is! I’m looking forward to donating a framed reproduction of this to the Zookeeper’s Auction later this fall.
I keep scratching away at this. One of these days it’ll be done.
This is one of my current projects, a jaguar cub on scratchboard. I’m working from a photo I took at the zoo of Kuwan, an adorable male cub. At least I’m almost sure it’s Kuwan.
Scratchboard involves scraping through a layer of dry ink to reveal a layer of white clay underneath. White clayboard is also available so an artist can either put ink or other materials (like colored pencil or paint) down on a board and then scratch through that instead. The exciting thing about scratchboard is that allows one to draw in white over darks. Many drawing and even painting materials require darks to go on over lights, so reserving thin white lines is challenging if not impossible. Scratchboard is all about thin white lines, so it’s perfect for subjects with pale whiskers and tufts of fur.
For tools I mostly use a Speedball scratch knife 112 nib (a sharp metal point that’s a lot like a pen nib and fits in a pen nib holder), an X-Acto 16 blade, a 4mm diameter fiberglass brush that’s rather like a clicky eraser, and whatever other pointy things I have nearby that might work. I have a large soft paintbrush handy to brush scratchings off the artwork.
The following three images show recent progress on Kuwan. It’s slow.
I realized I’d never posted the final image of Pete. Unfortunately graphite is a challenge to scan, so I might make another attempt at a later date. For now, this is a solid representation of the drawing. I hope you enjoy it.
I’m doing some art specifically for the Zookeeper’s Auction, an charity event scheduled for later this fall at Woodland Park Zoo. The subject: adorable zoo babies! One piece is finished and more are on the way. I look forward to sharing the auction art but I’m going to wait until it’s closer to auction time, so be sure to check back!
Pete’s not done yet, but I’m optimistic that I’ll have the drawing done by Thursday’s Endless Forms Most Beautiful reception so he’ll be in my portfolio. I lost a little bit of the shape of his lower lip somewhere along the way so I’m going to be double checking the drawing in that area when I start work on it next.
I’ve spent more time lately trying to sort out business stuff than drawing, and I’m a little sad about that. There’s a reason I went into art rather than business, but I understand being an artist does require a bit of each. I’ve finally gotten back to drawing and made more progress on Pete. Here he is, somewhat updated. I’ve been intensifying the shadows in his face and starting to get the hair growth pattern established on his arms and head.
This is Pete. He’s the patriarch of the Western Lowland Gorillas (group one) at the Woodland Park Zoo here in Seattle. He was born in the wild in 1968 like his counterpart, Nina. He has a fascinating face that I looked forward to drawing. I took this photo back in May and knew right away it would be a great reference to work from.
I’m rendering Pete in classic graphite for a couple reasons. For one thing, I already drew Nina in graphite and liked the idea of having a semi-matching pair. For another, there’s something incredibly soothing about drawing in graphite. I work slowly, gradually building up thin layers of graphite. It’s time consuming, but this approach gives me time to really settle into the drawing process. I have an ever-growing list of potential projects running through my head, and a lot to think about with the transition from classes to building a business. A detailed graphite drawing of Pete will help me take some deep breaths and slow down.
I can’t resist starting with eyes in a portrait because the expression is vital to a successful drawing, but other than that I try to not to focus too much on any one part at a time. If I work the entire drawing (or painting) at once I can keep the values (the range of dark to light) consistent across the whole thing. If I finish the drawing in sections I’m more likely to struggle with keeping it even. I’ve started with his eyes and I’m trying to build up the first layer of shading from there. There are only a few small areas in the whole drawing that will be white paper, so I’ve got a lot of shading to do!