Normally when I buy a sketchbook it fills up with junk. I’ll have receipts from climbing trips and campgrounds taped to the pages alongside bad drawings of my hand, and maybe a smudged portrait of the pickup truck parked across the street. Oh, and plans for some new invention that becomes a one off. I litterally have a stack of sketchbooks going back to when I was 17. If I stacked them all up it would be two feet tall. And there might be 20 decent drawings altogether.
But ever since I got this new Strathmore Toned sketchbook I haven’t done a bad drawing. That’s 3 drawings on 3 pages, and none have bombed. Here are the last two. One is 6 hours of work, the other is 30 minutes. I’m using the Isograph pens plus the Sakura Gellyroll whites. I tried to put white ink in my 0.5 Isograph, but it didn’t flow well, so I ordered a 0.8…hoping the larger diameter can carry the white pigment better. I’ve also ordered the 0.1, which will do hair lines. Because I use them everyday, I’m leaving the ink in overnight…maybe clean them on the weekend. I’m getting over a bad cold…hoping it won’t mess with some upcoming holiday plans.
I got my Rotring Isograph pens from Germany today. Shipping took about a week. I’ve been using a hodgepodge of pens up until now: Dip quill pen, Pigma Pen, Pentel Hybrid ballpoints. But after pouring some ink into these Isograph pens I’m sold big time. They flow sooooo well. The Pentels Slicci pens were quite good but they tended to have flow issues at times, especially the 0.25 size, which is my favorite.
Drawing on gray paper
These Rotrings are the cats meow. This is the first time I’ve tried drawing with ink on a toned paper. The paper is Strathmore Series 400 Toned Gray, medium surface. By starting on a neutral ground (gray) I can add dark to push away, and white to pull highlights toward me. Any gray mid tones are already there…the paper is colored gray. This saves a tremendous amount of work, as compared to drawing on white paper. On white, you have to preserve the highlights by drawing around them, and then draw all the other tones, from darks to midtones. The technique has been around for centuries, but I recently discovered this new paper while studying the works of Kevin Keele. He also uses Prismacolor markers in a shade slightly darker than the paper…I’ve not mastered that yet, but I do like the idea.
I’m not sure how much trouble these Isographs will be to clean up. It took me 20 minutes to clean two pens, but it was my first time. If I was using them tomorrow I’m sure they’d be fine overnight. There are rubber seals in the caps. And the caps don’t just snap on, they screw on. People write online about using these pens for 30 years straight. This guy on YouTube says you can leave the ink in them for up to a week.
I’ve ordered some rOtring white ink so I don’t have to use the ballpoint Sakura Gelly Roller whites. They tend to ball up like most ballpoints, though I do like them. But pouring rOtring white ink into my Isograph should be far superior. I’m going to try it out today, as it just came in the mail. Or rather I should say, I had it shipped to the Amazon yellow box at Safeway.
Drawing from photos
On a side note, I swore years ago to never draw from photos. But similar to my rule about never top roping in climbing, I had to break my ‘draw from life’ rule to do dog portraits. They don’t hold still worth a darn. Plus I’ve got a bad cold, and don’t have the energy to stand out in the studio doing a still life…which was my other option today. I can do these dog studies sitting on my soft couch.
Anyway, here are the drawings, I’ve shown the 4 step progression of the drawing of Mary’s dog. Honeybear (my brothers dog) needs another couple hours work:
I’m not sure how it happened but I’ve fallen back into pen and ink. I’ve known I needed more practice at the craft of drawing for some time. For example, if you can’t draw, starting a painting is very hard. You try to draw the shapes, and they are all wrong. So from the very first half hour of work the painting will suck if you can’t draw. And a sucky start means the painting will get abandoned.
So when I was at a friends house and she showed me her dog drawings it occurred to me that I should get into pet portraiture. Everyone’s got a dog, except us, so why not do some dog portraits? I took some photos of her dog, got out my india ink dip pen and went to town. This is my first dog drawing ever:
That was so much fun I took a picture of my sons’s dog while we were dog sitting during their recent Hawaii trip. I used a dip pen some, but mostly I used Pigma markers. Those are disposable felt tipped markers that use permanent India Ink. They are lovely when new, but they only last a few drawings.
I loved the look of pen so much I decided to invest in some decent tools. After some online research I settled on a rotring isograph and ordered 3 from Germany. No one carries these high end pens anymore. Back before CAD they were the standard for architects and Graphic Designers. The darn things can last for up to 30 years. The only people using them now are Illustrators.
Anyway they took forever to arrive so I went down to the art store and picked up some high end permanent ink ballpoints made by Pentel. They are the Slicci model and come in widths from 0.25 to 0.8mm. Those things are quite nice! Super sweet thin lines, and they almost do a fade when used fast. I got a pack of 4 different sizes for $13. They seem quite a bit better than the Pigmas. It’s about time someone improved on the disposable Pigmas…they’ve had a 20 year run.
I wanted to do some work from life, instead of photos so I started this portrait today using the Pentel ballpoints. I hope to finish it tomorrow…or the next day. I’m so enamored with these tight little ballpoints the rotring technical pen may be a let down. Still, The refillable rotring’s have the ability to use white and black ink, which could be super awesome on gray paper. I hope to learn that technique in the coming weeks.
I love the way pen gets you in the zone so quickly. There is no erasing with pen and ink, so it forces clarity. And the 0.25mm tip is so light and wispy it’s almost like drawing with a 4h pencil. The lines are insignificant when laid down lightly so you can almost sketch with abandon. They don’t have an impact until you really lay in some hatching.
I did do my standard egg shape under drawing in a 4h pencil before starting in with the pen. No sense living dangerously. I was careful to measure out the center of the skull, the one quarter height of the upper lip, and the 5 eyes across measurement to get the nose and eyes looking real. You can see those faint 4h lines marking out 5 equal spaces across the eyes level. This will be a fun one to finish.