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.