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Brushing Up on Brushwork

July 24, 2013

130630ActorsLeft: A partial page from my 11 x 14 inch Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media hardbound journal. Top portion of the page is a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen sketch, bottom portion is a sketch using washes of gouache. Both were done directly with no-underdrawing. (The pages in this journal don't fit on my scanner but you are seeing the important bit, which is the man with the beard.)

Readers of my blog know that I'm pretty much addicted to the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. I love the strident black ink lines that respond to the slightest pressure: it's just plain fun. But it's also fun to work with a regular watercolor brush and sketch with watercolor (or diluted washes of gouache as shown here).

I have been practicing this on my own over the past year trying to find less strident ways to render line in quick sketches.

Then in the middle of July I took a workshop with Stephan Orsak at the Atelier—"Drawing Methods of the Old Masters." The class wasn't about drawing with walnut ink and chalk and stuff the old masters might have used, though we were encouraged to use those materials if we wanted. The class focused on the visual concepts of seeing and translating those observations to paper quickly: thrilling, rivetting, and completely beyond me to explain in a short post, or even a long post. It's material I'll be digesting for years as I try to incorporate some of the concepts into my own drawing practice.

One thing, however, was immediately reinforced: drawing with the brush. Seeing the way Orsak does it is something to aspire to. In the meantime I've taken his many pointers to heart and have been experimenting and pushing myself. As with most variations of approach that differ from what we are currently doing (and comfortable doing) one progresses a little, falls back a lot, and so on. I might get a sense that I'm moving my eye about correctly, but then my hand won't go where the eye is going—or my hands won't adapt to flailing around with two brushes (one to put on color, one to wash it off or dilute it and spread it around). Part of the problem is that I shouldn't be flailing.

Above is one of my pre-workshop attempts made while watching an episode of "Inspector Lewis." The guest actor had a really interesting beard which you'll see more of on another day. I focus on line instead of shape and value, which is something I have to constantly remind myself not to do.

I'll share some of the other brushwork sketches I've been doing lately from before the class, during the class, and after the class, in the coming weeks as I get them scanned.

I also have to say how fun it has been to have an 11 x 14 inch journal of Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper—sheer joy. Twenty-two inches of space in my lap as I sketch with the open book! A delight. I hope to video tape a flip-through of the journal at some point so you can see full pages.

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