Thursday, February 18, 2016

Trials and Rewards of Ink Drawing and Painting

Black Crowned Night Heron, Greater Yellowlegs and Short-billed Dowitcher. Brush Pen Sketch by Ken Januski.

I first saw the possibilities of working in ink when doing life drawing through adult education classes in San Francisco many years ago. I'm sure this was precipitated by examples from Matisse and Picasso as well as the more contemporary Richard Diebenkorn and Elmer Bischoff, the latter two more for their use of line and wash rather than just line as with Matisse and Picasso. In any case once I tried it myself I was thrilled, particularly in doing large, very quick drawings from live poses.

I really haven't been too successful in using ink with wildlife art, particularly bird art though I have done quite a bit of it. I think the main reason is that the pens I used didn't have as much fluidity as I would have liked. That has changed however ever since I started using the Kuretake Brush Pen and to a lesser extent pens from other manufacturers. Since they're made to mimic oriental brushes it's no surprise that they have a lot of expressive possibility.

Nonetheless ink is also fairly unforgiving. You can't erase mistakes. Either try to work around them or start a new drawing. I've done more than my share of bad drawings so far in 2016. But the ones on this page from today and yesterday are fairly successful in my estimation.

The one at top is based on a photo that is quite a few years old. It has always struck me as full of possibility: all those Greater Yellowlegs with one Short-billed Dowitcher and then the barely visible Black-crowned Night Heron looming over them. I think finally I've captured some of the possibilities of that photo.

If you look at much wildlife art, online or elsewhere, you can see a whole lot of big expressive eyes and a lot of fur and feather details. Someone must go for this because there is a never-ending torrent of it. I'll say no more than that the type of work I'm showing here is in deliberate contrast to it. It is very difficult to believe that the same subject can create such thoroughly different responses.

Great Blue Heron. Brush Pen Sketch by Ken Januski.

As I've mentioned before I'll sometimes work from a particular photo, or even take that photo in the first place, because I can see the entire bird, feet and all. That was the case with this Great Blue Heron seen at Maumee State Park a couple of years ago. I like to see the feet as well because they are very important in showing how the bird has distributed his weight. It adds to the sense of life, much more so than the glint in the big eye of some bird in a more 'realistic' painting or drawing.

Great Blue Heron. Brush Pen Sketch by Ken Januski.

I do think Great Blue Herons must have just about the most predictably interesting shapes of all birds in the eastern U.S. That was the motivation in the remaining sketches on this page. Their shapes are just too interesting to pass up. I only wish I'd had a better view of the feet!

Great Blue Heron. Brush Pen Sketch by Ken Januski.

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