Friday, April 12, 2013

It Ought to Be a Crime

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Crayon and wash by Ken Januski

Wood Thrush in Hercules Club. Crayon and wash by Ken Januski

Well yes, putting a zip line in the Wissahickon(see image at top right) ought to be a crime. You can read about it at Alliance for Preservation of the Wissahickon. But that's not what I'm writing about even though it's much on my mind. On a more positive note I'm thinking about how it ought to be a crime to have as much fun as you sometimes do when making art.

All in all it balances out though. For all the fun there are plenty of struggles, both technical and inspirational. But sometimes you just have fun. That's been pretty much the case for me ever since I started experimenting with Stillman and Birn sketchbooks about three weeks ago in preparation for my demonstraton at Merion Repro and Art on April 27. It's especially been enjoyable because I've been using Caran d'Ache Neocolor II water soluble crayons.

I know this may be getting to be a bit much. Just how much am I being paid to keep up these testimonials? Being a natural skeptic I understand where a reader might have doubts. But I am quite serious when I say how enjoyable it's been. Today's surprise, and yesterday's as well, was a Zeta sketchbook.  A very heavy duty paper, made especially for mixed media and with a plate finish.

It turns out that the plate finish is a pleasure to draw lines on. The pencil just sails along.The newest drawing of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker began with a detailed pencil drawing. My intent, as in many of these, is to make more of a painting than a drawing, but they generally start with a lengthy drawing. I feel freer to  take liberties with color and shape when I know I'm anchored by a solid drawing.

I was curious as to whether or not I could on both sides of a piece of the Zeta paper without what was on one side affecting the other side. So after paintng the Wood Thrush yesterday I painted the Sapsucker on the other side of the same paper. Almost no warping at all, and certainly no bleed of the color from one side to another. I don't normally work this way but I figured it was a good experiment. Now you know.

One problem I've always had with crayons is that they don't hold a point. I suppose they could be sharpened to a point in some way but I've never tried. But I don't really need to. Over the last few days I've discovered that I can touch a small wet waterbrush to the crayon itself and pick up some pigment. If the brush is small then I can make a small fine line in the same color as the crayon, almost like having a laser crayon sharpener.

I've also never had much luck with waterbrushes. Three weeks of experimentation has taught me a lot though. So I now have a handy toolkit for working on live color sketches: my Stillman and Birn sketchbooks,my Caran d'Ache crayons and some waterbrushes. If the rain ever ends here I'll soon give them a try in the field.

I believe that many people use such a setup for journaling, especially nature journaling. Long ago I realized that I wasn't a nature journalist. But I enjoy many who are. And I can see why many might find this sketching setup something they'd be happy with.

Speaking of work and fun in art, I wasn't having fun when I saw that one of my  Zeta sketchbooks was square. I've always thought it nearly impossible to work in that format. On the other hand I always like a challenge. In the end the square format turned out not to be a problem at all. Life is full of surprises.

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