I’m Broken—People and the Pen “Dilemma”

January 25, 2011

See the post for a couple images and discussion of finding a pen that works, and a bunch of other stuff that I rant about.

Above: Some late night sketches of students from a yearbook, using the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and a little bit of red Holbein gouache in the background. (Handmade journal 8 x 10 inches, defunct drawing paper.)

I'm broken. I seem to be spending an awful lot of time sketching people—both live people at places I go and life drawing, and from photos from another time.

Before I go on about the series I've been working on (which involves people) I thought it would be fun to share these two journal pages which were made after the Portrait Party when practice was no longer urgent, and when I could have returned to dogs. 

There is something very fun about wielding the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen (and I have a post coming up about that too, but that's a topic for another day or this will be a mega post!). Throughout the practice for the Portrait Party, starting back in November and December of 2010 I was working with a Faber-Castel Pitt Artist Calligraphy Pen. I think that in 6 weeks I went through about 8 pens—I mean I wore them out and ran them out to dryness!

I loved that Calligraphy pen and I got some fun drawings out of it. But more than any other pen I have ever used there were just days when it was sort of lead in my hand (and I don't mean graphite). There wasn't any angle or any pressure that I could use to make it create a line I would enjoy. Then the next day all was happy again. (This dog sketch with the Faber-Castel Pitt Artist Calligraphy Pen is one of my favorite—everything was working out just right.)

I have thought and thought about it and don't know what is up with that, except that I take full responsibility for it and think it must be related to the lack of chocolate on any given day.

Mystery solved.

The Faber-Castel Pit Artist Calligraphy Pen remains one of my favorite pens, especially if I am sketching on Rives BFK or that Bogus stuff (but the old bogus not the new stuff, so there you have it).

Revving up for the Portrait Party I started to get a bit stressed as I had too many deadlines the week before and I had to redo the templates because of margin issues with the binding selection—small things that shouldn't take any time at all, but since I didn't have any time at all they seemed HUGE. And then I was sketching on Sunday morning and I felt it. I choked. I drew a sketch of a friend and it was trash. Then later I drew a couple celebrities while I was watching TV. Beyond trash. Then I thought, this is not going to work and I'm going to have to switch pens.

I did exactly that. I picked up a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and did a 2-minute sketch that actually looked like someone and sighed in relief. To test out my theory of which pen to take I did a practice sketch of Dick on Monday morning. The first one didn't look like him but the line was good. The second one, if one accounts for little warm up and some early morning eye issues with focusing and measuring, sealed the deal.

I drew with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen that evening at the party. (The paper wasn't what I had been practicing on. It was slicker so the sketch was loose and fast, but I was happy with it. While it didn't look a lot like Clare you could see some of Clare there, and she was happy. By the way, she has a beautiful nose I hope to get another chance to draw. That's the thing with drawing—you keep finding lovely things that call to you.)

So then what do I do when the party is a wrap? I come home and put stuff away. And then sit down and draw more people from an old yearbook. That's what you see today (two of my favorite spreads from the next day).

For me these sketches were about creating a line, not even a likeness. Just reconnecting with this pen, which is one I haven't used much since the conk on the head last year. I've missed this pen.

Now I can't stop using it again, which is fine. But I also can't stop drawing these faces from yearbooks. They make me happy.

This post actually does lead up to something and I'll have more to say about drawing from photographs later, but you'll have to wait for another day to find out what that is.

Go draw something that makes you happy! Don't worry if what you draw looks like what you were looking at. If you are really observing some portion of even the loosest drawing will show a likeness through even the darkest mess. The important thing, however, is to simply enjoy the process—the glide (or drag, depending on the paper) of the pen, the motion of your arm, the sound, the swoop, and of course, the smell of the paper. Just take all those things in, because if you do, you'll be back tomorrow to do it all over again, and again. And you'll see more and more truth in your lines. It won't matter if it isn't obvious to everyone else. You'll get it. That's the euphoria. You won't care if you're broken.

Above: Another couple of late night sketches from the same evening; also Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and some Holbein gouache. (I use Holbein in my journals sometimes when I want to get a chalkier look. Holbein doesn't rewet as well as my two favorite gouache paints: Schmincke and M. Graham). (Note: Hoedown is evidently one word and I wasn't sure when I wrote it on the page. My notes on the page relate to the television shows I'm watching/listening to as I sketch. You know, it's sort of like being in the wilderness and sketching birds and writing about something totally unrelated like a book I might be in the middle of, or a class idea I have, or a recipe I want to change.)

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