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Pen and ink on wood with Varnish

I’ve seen some great pen and ink art on wood but there is very little information out there on how to do it.

Here is what I discovered:

I use high end furniture grade one quarter inch 5 ply white maple plywood for my oil paintings. It’s $104 a sheet of 4′ x 8′. It has a flawless surface on both sides.

I decided to use some to make a small wood box, which I then decorated with pen and ink. My ink was rOtring black, Platinum Carbon black and Sakura Jelly Roll white.

I sanded the wood with 300 grit paper then sealed with two coats of Gamblin PVA size, sanding before and after both size coats.

The drawing process felt normal, though the PVA size was slightly less absorbent than paper, so I was careful not to touch the lines if they looked wet. Really the ink only needed 10 seconds to dry, if that. I did a pure ink sketch, no pencil underneath.

After drawing, I waited a day then used Gamblin Gamvar oil painting varnish to seal the drawing and protect it from wear and tear. Both the black and white ink survived the varnishing perfectly. This looks like a great way do pen art because you don’t have to put it under glass or use matts. It’s just like an oil painting, no glass needed.

Oh, and the new paddle works well. It is heavier, so some of my shots were going off the table. I’m learning to hit the ball softer since the paddle has more inertia than my old one.

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Faucett and a portrait

I’ve been doing a lot of pen and ink. I try to do at least a sketch every day and often a longer drawing like these two.

It’s been two weeks since I had my finger worked on. It’s been stiff since Thanksgiving, but just in the last week I took the big bandage off. I was playing lots of ping pong, but because my bandage was in the way I couldn’t really see the progress I’ve been making.

Today I had just a small bandaid on and suddenly I was playing the best ping pong I’ve ever played. If a serve or returned ball had the least bit of float I was able to slow down time and see the ball floating almost in slow motion. I’d do a short pause to get my hand positioned on the paddle just right, then smack it over the net so hard it was rarely returned. Many of the serves coming toward me turned into lightning quick slams. It’s a great technique because it (depending on the player) intimidates the server and leads to even more floaters.

I was getting spanked on the some  of the serves, and I was making my normal errors. We’ve got some great players down there. But generally I was truly surprised at how well I was playing.

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Paradise opened up

Sue, Lisa and I skied Paradise last Sunday. Snow was breakable crust on our first run taking Sue back to the car. Then Lisa and I skinned back up to base of Pan and dropped over the side to the east where it was more breakable crust. When we traversed over to the hill above the road bridge we found boilerplate where there is normally nice powder. We skied down the ice on our edges. It was easy turning on the ice, but hairy because a fall would have been almost out of control. We do both have Whippets, so we might have been able to arrest.

At the bottom of the hill we saw good tracks coming down Mazama and wondered if there might be good snow over there…since we hadn’t found any yet. We skinned up and got lucky. There was a nice 2 inches of powder over the ice and we had a great run down to the bridge along the snow  covered creek.

Lisa’s friend was up there working and gave us a tour of one of the buildings. I’ve been rebuilding a custom theme in wordpress, trying to re-learn the stuff I used to teach back when we still had a web program and taught theme building.

And I finished my parrot drawing. I need to find something else to draw. I’ve been thinking about doing a huge 20 x 30″ canvas of Joshua Tree. I have those 3 sketches and it might be fun to do a wild and crazy palette knife painting of Cyclops Rock. I’m in the mood to sling some color around. All this pen and ink is fine…but I miss me some color.

Our Corolla had been parked for a couple months after hemorrhaging oil and showing a low oil light. I youtubed the process and decided it was too hard. My mechanic got in there and found that the front gaskets on the crankshaft and cam shaft were original and hard as wood. One had blown up. While he was in there he replaced the water pump,  timing belt, a couple other belts, plus the coolant and an oil change.

I told him to just tow it the dump if it looked risky. But even after sitting two months it started right up. Made a few weird knocking noises…but I think that was normal. It drove down there sounding like it’s old self. That engine has a sweet little rhythm. He seemed to think so too…and I am $980 poorer. Still, you can’t buy a car that reliable for that much…and I like having a spare car. We have no new cars anymore. Rav4 has 110k, Tacoma has 240k, so this Corolla is my backup car. It’s nice to have a spare.

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gym – ping pong and a parrot

Since returning from Jtree I’ve got back into the swing of things with ping pong and the climbing gym. My first few games were pretty rough, a lot of bad balls. But now I’ve got a versatile serve, and a decent number of my slams work. I was climbing so badly when I first returned that I’d have to hang 4 times on the way up a 10 minus. After a month of hitting it twice a week my power is returning and I led two of the steep tens cleanly.

I drove out to Orting to shoot some reference photos of a friends African Gray parrot. He is a former student and a super nice guy. I always admired his intelligence and life experience. He’s 82 now and still sharp as a tack…and he has this super cool parrot. I’ve got the drawing almost finished, and as usual there are some huge errors. Pen is super frustrating that way. Errors happen, and you have to leave them. Anyway this is about two hours in. I’ll post the finished one soon.

George the parrot
George the parrot
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The family dog

Clint got a dog 7 years ago when he bought his house. He brought Wyatt over this week and I set up my bright video light to shoot some reference photos. With the bright light I was able to shoot them at F-8. My 24-105L lens has image stabilization, which meant I was shooting at 1/125 of a second with ISO set at 1600.

For decades I swore I would never draw from photos…but recently I’ve made an exception for animals. No matter how much you pay them they won’t sit still. The statue and the shoe were done from life. Last is a capture from Paradise, where the snow has been falling during the gubmint shutdown.

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Floose the crag dog

I finished my drawing of the dog that shared our campspot down in Jtree. This mellow dog got a lot attention from the people sitting around the fire. At one point there was a van of 4 twenty something climber girls sitting around the fire. The darn dog spent the evening walking from one person to the next, soaking up all the attention he could get. His owner Lilly had put a furry leopard hat on his head to keep him warm – it was in the twenties. We were all laughing as the dog simply put up with the hat, and kept coming around for hugs.

My buddy Chad later joked that he wished he could have borrowed the hat from the dog. His plan was to walk around on his hands and knees wearing the leopard hat, see if he could get some similar attention from the ladies. That was one lucky dog.

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Holidays 2018

I’ve not written in a month. On December 12 I finished a my second dog drawing and mailed them both off to my brother. He knew I was into pen and ink and had taken the photographs of his dog and a friends dog with his new Nikon full frame DSLR.

~

I was fully expecting them to think they were bad because so much of my art simply gets shelved. But to my great surprise, he sent me a nice check for the two drawings. Pricing pet drawings is anybodies guess. A quick check on etsy has prices ranging from $28 to $350. Mine take me around 6 hours to draw. Assuming I was drawing well, what would an hourly wage be? The whole artist pricing structure is a mystery.

With school out and commissions in the mail I was a free man. I drove to Jtree in 30 hours. It took me 4 hours to get the 30 miles from Tacoma to Olympia thanks to a massive truck wreck that blocked all lanes of I-5. At 2 AM I slept in a rest area somewhere in southern Oregon, woke up at dawn and drove the rest of the way to Jtree, arriving at 1 AM. I didn’t know it that night, but there is now free BLM land camping down there. I learned about it from a friend who is a travel nurse. He lives in his van and parks it either there or in the hospital parking lot. The BLM camping has been there forever…I just never hunted it down.

Day 2

Hooked up with my friend Richard and Annie. We did a bunch of routes around Hidden Valley including Bousioneer and Hands Off. We loaned our top rope to Lilly and Matia who didn’t want to do the down climb off The Blob. Matia invited me to camp with them since they had an extra parking spot. Making friends at Jtree is the only way to get a camping spot. The campground is permanently full with climbers…but if you make a friend, you are golden.

Day 3

Richard and I met up with L. at Hemingway where we climbed White Lightning 5.7 and Overseer 5.9. It got cold so we diverted to some sunny walls in the afternoon.

Day 4

Richard advised me to take a rest day every 3 days to keep my fingertips healthy.  I painted the West face of Chimney Rock while Lilly drew the same scene in colored pencil.

Day 5

Richard set me up with Annie and we spent the day doing easy stuff like Mikes books and Double Dip. Annie is a lot of fun and works as a Nurse Practitioner.

Day 6

Richard, L. and Todd Gordon picked me up and drove us out to Outer Mongolia. It’s a one hour approach along the boy scout trail. Todd lives in Jtree and is a super nice guy. Later in the trip he invited everyone to his house for New Years. I chose to do the usual bonfire at Hiden Valley but regretted it. There were 3 drunks this year and it sort of sucked the fun out of it. I heard that Todd’s friend John Long was there. Several of my friends were there and got to meet the legendary Largo.

Day 7

I took my campmate Lily over to Echo where we did double dip. I talked her into doing her first lead ever over by the Solarium. She aced it.

Day 8

was another rest day. I painted chimney again, but from the north. The weather had been baking for a week straight by now.

Day 9

Chad arrived while Richard, Annie, L. and I were doing a moonrise picnic on Cyclops. Chad is a great partner and a very funny guy. I’m well known for making easy climbs look hard. Chad makes hard climbs look easy.

The days blur together

The routes blur together after Chad arrived. It got cold for the last two weeks. We still climbed but had to stay on the sunny sides. Here is a brief list:

Flake – me
Orphan – me
Dandelion – Chad
Bousonier – both
Papa Woolsey – both, Chad onsighted it in the dark
Double Cross and Sexy Grandma – both
Chalk up another one – Chad
Damper and Pinched Rib – me and Chad respectively
Stick to what – me
Popes crack & Touch and go – Chad
Heart and sole – Chad
Fisticuffs – me

Breakfast and the shutdown

Chad loaned me some bacon, man that stuff is good! There is something about camping in 15 degree weather that makes me hungry for old fashioned unhealthy fat. After the first week the government shutdown happened. The rangers opened the camping pay box and stopped charging for camping. They basically walked away from the park, leaving the doors wide open and all the park offices shuttered. There were still LEO’s patrolling and responding to rescues and car accidents…but it was a weird time in the park.

On 1-02-19 they shut down the campgrounds, turning the park into a day use area. It seemed dumb because our restrooms and dumpsters were in fine shape. Volunteers (Todd included) were bringing up TP. The only bad thing I saw was cars parked illegally and one tent set up on a trail by hung over New Years eve partiers. There were TV crews up there so I guess there was chaos in other areas of the park, but we didn’t see it.

Last rest day

I was unhappy with this painting of Cyclops. I couldn’t get it off life support and considered wiping it down to blank canvas. But before that happened I decided to throw in some blue. It may be breathing now. Several friends who saw it liked it.

I’m home now and unemployed until April when I may have an opportunity to teach again. Trouble is I need a job right now…bills to pay and all that. I’m going to start looking for work this week. My wife saw me typing all this stuff and asked me who reads it. I told her no one, except maybe me in 5 years when I’m looking back and wondering where the time went. It’s fun to have a record.

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Strathmore toned paper

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.

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Rotring Isograph pens for Illustration art

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.

Clean up

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: