Wednesday, March 30, 2011


A warm-up experiment with using different inks along the lines of the earlier post about black-on-black. I learnt a new word the other day: a much better artsy-fartsy-sounding term than what I've been using all these years ("scribbling"). "Scumbling" is usually used in context with painting, as a dry-brush technique similar to glazing. However, in drawing it's used to describe random texture of scribbled marks to achieve a gradient in value. In pen & ink it works along the same principles of hatching, crosshatching or stippling (it's almost as good as stippling for a way to relieve stress, that or developing repetitive motion injury). The contrast between areas can be controlled through a combination of varying pressure and/or by using a range of different nibs for different line weights, plus increasing or decreasing the density of marks.
Such loose linework has always been great to experiment with in beginning art classes, as it shows how gestural and spontaneous using the medium can actually be for those who are maybe intimidated by the all-or-nothing immediacy of pen & ink. Doodling with ball-point pens in particular lends itself to quick studies using scumbling, or for anything big and hairy (occupational hazard of Alaskan cartooning). 
Here is an excellent example in this technique from the cartoonist Edward Koren, who uses it exclusively to achieve his* signature style:

*A really great podcast interviewing Koren (and his cat) as part of Vermont Public Radio's "Visiting Artists" series is here.

Whenever I take a hike I'll have a stash of scrap paper tucked in a pocket to sit and sketch out anything that catches my eye. If the mind wanders, the feet will follow... or is it the other way around? Right down the street from our house here in Maine is a nondescript trailhead that leads right to the shore: a little sliver of solitude courtesy of Maine Coast Heritage Trust. This a statewide land conservation organization that works to cultivate opportunities for the public to enjoy Maine's beauty, often by shepherding donated parcels from private ownership into adjacent state park land. This particular path, the "Blue Horizon Preserve," makes for a quick jaunt through the woods to a sweet spot to catch the ocean breeze and maybe fish about for any ideas that might come swimming to the surface.

“... a vague and deceitful sketch, a game for children and uneducated men” 
- Michelangelo (on landscapes)

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