Project Friday: Getting Used to the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen—Part 3 of a 5 (at least) Part Series

April 27, 2012

120225OdditiesStylizedLeft: Pentel Pocket Brush Pen sketch on a page in a 9 x 12 inch Fabriano Venezia journal.

By now you've worked on the other two Project Friday posts relating to the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. You've carried the pen about with you for a weekend or week, sketching all your favorite stuff, experimenting with the lines and marks it can make, and worked on your control. You've also spent a week or weekend squinting at everything and trying to capture shadow shapes.

This weekend (or week) I'd like to suggest that you use the pen to develop your "editing" eye further by working on stylizing how you protray your subject. Use as few lines as possible and when you make a line go in and do so boldly, with conviction. Really carve the line out and enjoy the possibilities of moving the brush beneath your hand to vary the line.

At the top of this post you'll see a quick sketch I did of the owner of the "Obscura" the store featured on "Oddities."

I was just trying to capture the main features and really edit down my lines. (I'm working as I always do, directly with ink.)

For comparison you can look at another sketch I did of this man in which I was trying to be more "accurate." (Don't add paint to your sketches yet, that's for another day; right now we are focusing on your lines.)

Pick a subject that will either stay still (plants, sleeping animals, life drawing models) or use a photograph for these experiments. Focus on what are the essential lines of your subject. Which lines describe the shape, silhouette, or main features? Which lines can you leave out? Which lines define a form and give dimension? Look for areas of strongest contrast where light and dark areas meet—how essential is a line there? Or would a line there mess things up? Keep asking yourself these types of questions. In general you want to leave out any shading of the shadow areas. We're going for a stylized impression of something.

Something to think about as you do this week's assignment:

110814BDamonGardenLeft: Sketch of a garden gargoyle I've posted in a previous post. Read below for comments.

While I'm suggesting that you leave off using watercolor, gouache, or acrylics this week and still focus on your lines, I'm including this sketch to give you a preview of how you'll aim to edit your lines later when you are adding watercolor.

There are times when you'll need the hard black line of the PPBP and other times when it is better to describe those areas with your wash of color (see inside the mass of the gargoyle). Note that not all of these lines are necessary (or even wanted) in this example, but it was the first one I could think of to illustrate this point. Some lines are added here because I have to "remember" where the shape of the subject is and where I'm going to add the wash. If I were to refine this sketch into another version I would paint the background behind the wings and thus eliminate the need for any black ink on the wings. Inside the body as well there are areas where I could remove the lines.

Think about all that as you work this week focusing on editing out lines—while still making something recognizable. At least part of your work this week should be fast—very fast, so fast you hardly get to think, you just get to respond.

The reason for this is that if you work fast you can always slow down for accuracy, but you can't speed up easily when under pressure if you haven't been practicing that way (and here I'm assuming that you're going to go sketch in public and feel just a little pressure to get something down on paper so that your group of friends can move along). If you always run a slow couple miles for your workout you are never going to be able to race.

If one fast sketch doesn't work the remedy is simple. Take the information on what did and didn't work and immediately do another one using that information.

Sketch directly with your pen—I felt I had to say that because some of you might still be holding on to your pencil. Let it go. (If you were in class with me I would throw it on the ground and break the lead—I'm that serious about this.)

  1. Reply

    Well there you go again kicking it up another notch! I’m still following along virtually wearing my brush end down, I even started doing all my small drawings in the IFJM journal with PPBP. Now there is a challenge. I ordered a couple of new pens the other day so I have at least one with a fine point. Thanks for thinking up all these fun ideas for your virtual fans to try out.

    • Caroline
    • April 27, 2012

    I’m really enjoying this! I don’t have a PPBP as they seem to relabel them here so nothing matches your description, lol, but I do have a new Japanese brush pen I found, with replaceable fine tips, and a piston convertor, and am working along with that. Sort of like a fine water brush, but looks like a fountain pen and much nicer to use. Its much finer than the Blue Heron ones, which I also have, and like. It has Lexington Grey in it at the moment so I can find out what the fuss is all about as I use my fountain pens for black – at the moment.

  2. Reply

    Wonder where you are Caroline that they don’t have PPBPs????
    Jet Pens carries them mail order if that helps.

    And if you go to this post you’ll see a photo of the PPBP next to Pentel’s color brush so you can tell them apart, and find out about differences

    It’s great that you’re working with another brush pen. I don’t know the Blue Heron pens you speak of.

    Have fun!

    • Diane
    • April 28, 2012

    I also am following along.
    Got my large format journal a couple of days ago and am now working in it. But I see that I tend to draw as if the journal was the smaller size and have not actually branched out into larger drawing size. Have to make more of an effort.
    And I am a complete beginner at portraits although these last two weeks I have drawn about 100 faces! I look at them and feel like I have been drawing caricatures rather than portraits. Not sure that is what I really want to do.
    Now to this week’s assignment….

  3. Reply

    Diane, I don’t know if this is the first time you’ve used the PPBP and if the caricature feeling you have is related to that first time and trying to edit things down from maybe more detailed work that you do in other media or whether it’s a longstanding drawing issue that you’re now just dealing with and the PPBP frustrates you further.

    But either way changing to the PPBP is going to have some effect on what the results are—that’s the lovely brush effect. And also in both situations it’s something that with more time working with the tool will yield different results as your control builds.

    Keep sketching those faces and anything else that interests you. Slow down a bit, perhaps, to get more detail that you’re used to in a couple sketches a day so you can touch what is familiar to you before you continue with your experiments.

    If the caricature aspect still bothers you and you feel you have enough control over the brush pen slow to a medium speed and focus on exact shapes which will elevate the caricature to a portrait—this shadow shape is here and shaped in this way, a triangular area is here and tilted this way, and in that way work across the planes of the face to get more accuracy. Don’t slow down your speed to a grindingly slow pace—keep the hand moving, but make sure your mind and hand are in agreement about where you want to put the lines and shapes so you can reclaim some of that accuracy it sounds like you’re used to.

    And don’t forget, at some point during the weekend or week (depending on how you’re doing this) go back to your “safe” medium which is what you normally would default to, and draw a bit with it before diving back into the PPBP.

    Have fun.

    Sometimes what we learn is that we don’t like what a tool does in our hand. But we can’t know that until we really, really give that tool a sustained effort. So Kudos for pushing through all those faces.

  4. Reply

    I’m still trying Roz, but it’s rough going! I’m not used to sketching directly with a pen and from my attempts so far, I’m not sure I’m ready for it. Maybe this lesson will go better because it is mostly the shading that is throwing me off, I think. I don’t really know how to shade properly with a pen. Shading the way I do with a pencil sure doesn’t work! I’ll keep working at it.

  5. Reply

    First off bravo Melisa for sketching directly when you aren’t used to doing so with ink! Get some really cheap paper, like bond paper and use that so you don’t have any feelings about “ruining” good drawing paper, if you feel you are wanting to stop. At this point it’s important to keep going.

    Shading with a pen, or a brush pen is a whole lot different than doing so with a pencil. Look at the hatch marks I make, the straight lines in the shaded areas, where I explore what is going to work or not. With Brush Pen it’s a pretty iffy thing unless you go in with a really clear idea (and I don’t always do unless I’m really focused).

    Take a moment to look at pen and ink drawings by masters. William Heath Robinson is a good one to look at, but you probably have favorite illustrators who sketch with a pen. Look in the shaded areas and see how they make the shadows with overlapping lines.

    When in doubt leave out the shading. I find with a brush pen if you get your edges (the areas you define with your lines) right, you don’t really need the ink shading, and later when you go in and paint, which we’ll talk about later, you can shade with paint, as I talked about in that gargoyle drawing.

    So keep at it, and look, really look hard, at the pen and ink illustrations of your favorite book illustrators to see how they placed pen strokes when building up shading. Then practice making blocks of that shading without even sketching, just to get used to the placement of lines, then sketch some more.

    Good luck.

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