Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Brush Painting and Brush Pen Painting

Adult and Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Brush Painting by Ken Januski.

I continue on my seemingly never-ending digression into Chinese brush painting and painting with a Sumi brush pen. I had originally tried a brush pen last summer because I wanted to experiment with line weight and shape in my woodcuts and linocuts, a la ukiyo-e woodblocks.

I soon found though that to create variety in line weight and shape using a brush requires a mastery far beyond me. I had to just stumble along. In the process I got more and more interested in brush painting itself, though more in the Chinese tradition than in the Japanese surprisingly.

As I looked more at Chinese brush painting in particular I appreciated how often rich almost coloristic paintings could be made with just the black ink of an ink stick and various amounts of water. But this then becomes much more of a painting than a drawing, as much or more about areas of ink as lines of ink.

The two drawings at top, both done today, have Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers as their subject. The one on the left is an adult male. The one on the right is the far less colorful immature sapsucker. But the richness of color, especially the dirty dishwater 'yellow' belly, is what convinced me to use a brush, with its various values of black and gray, rather than just line. I almost certainly will never use what I've learned in a print, mainly because it is so painterly. But the beauty of ink washes was just too much to resist.

In the western tradition artists as varied as Rembrandt and Richard Diebenkorn were masters of wash drawings, and I've always loved them. It is amazing what you can do with black and white and gray!!

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher at Bartram's Garden. Brush Pen Painting by Ken Januski.

Most of my work of the last week or more however has been done with a brush pen. Here line is king and it is very useful to force yourself to see birds or any other object strictly in terms of line. I do think this type of linear drawing is at the heart of most art of most cultures. Because ink is so unforgiving you either have to get the line right the first time or find some convincing way to either repair it or make it seem unimportant. This type of drawing can be a bit nerve-wracking since it is so easy to make mistakes. But it also forces you to take chances, to force yourself a bit further than you want to go. I've never been a big believer in the True Art Involves Taking Chances philosophy but in moderation it is often both useful and invigorating. Above the subject is a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher seen at Bartram's Garden.

The rest of the brush pen drawings below are pretty well explained by their captions. Most are done in less than five minutes. This is almost inevitable when you're using a brush pen. The lines move incredibly quickly and if you let your pen rest on the paper you'll soon have a blob rather than a crisp line. So the drawings/paintings move very quickly.

Snowy Egret at Jake's Landing. Brush Pen Painting by Ken Januski.

Spotted Sandpiper. Brush Pen Painting by Ken Januski.

In the drawing above I've tried to capture something that I always notice when looking at Spotted Sandpipers, their relatively thick and blunt bill. That's really all I was trying to show here, along with the combined horizontal lines of the front leg and the back underside of the bird. Sometimes something as simple as that seems worthwhile trying to get down on paper.

Juvenile Tri-colored Herons at Heinz NWR. Brush Pen Painting by Ken Januski.

FOY Warbling Vireo in Paperbark Birch. Brush Pen Painting by Ken Januski

Above I was interested in showing how the first of year Warbling Vireo was making a very common bird movement, wiping the side of his bill on a branch. If you've seen many birds you'll realize how common this is. As well I like the visual element of all the catkins and tried to capture that.

In the drawing below my only real goal was to try to capture the oversized legs of the Willet. I think I was successful at that but I made the torso itself a bit short and out of proportion. Still it looks like a Willet and so I decided to show it.

Willet at Reed's Beech. Brush Pen Painting by Ken Januski.

Wilson's Snipe at Ottawa NWR. Brush Pen Painting by Ken Januski.

Finally one of a number of Wilson's Snipe seen on some cold and wet days at Ottawa NWR a couple of falls ago right before thecongressional Republicans shut down the government and the nation's wildlife refuges. I do remember that Mr.'TrustTed' Cruz!

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