Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ink and Charcoal

It was somewhat surprising for me to see that it has been almost an entire year since I've posted anything here.  For a large part of that time, I'd been distracted by non-art related things; during the last six months, however, I've actually been quite productive in learning and producing art.  I joined a fantastic website packed full of art instruction videos, downloads and helpful advice from other artists.  If you'd like to check them out, here is the link: Art Tutor.  There is a subscription fee to join but for anyone who has ever taken an art workshop, you will quickly see that the value you are getting for your money is incredible.  This site has really inspired me to step outside of my artistic comfort zone and explore other mediums and techniques.

So, I'm actually learning again... and since the main point of this blog has been for me to share with you what I've learned, the timing for jumping back in couldn't be better.

Let's start with ink and charcoal.  Joanne Boon Thomas often uses this method to do quick gray-scale studies and map out tonal values for her watercolors.  She has a video on Art Tutor called USING CHARCOAL: YORKSHIRE COTTAGE that explains this technique.  After watching her video, I gave it a try and the barn image below is the result.

Route 250 Barn
Route 250 Barn, 8x10 Landscape, Ink & Charcoal
Copyright 2013 Sarah Diane Salisbury
For reference, I used a photo I had taken about seven years ago of an old, (seemingly) abandoned barn I passed along the road on my way to work every day.  It seemed like ink and charcoal would be the perfect technique to capture the character of the building.  I initially did a line drawing of the image using a Faber Castell Pitt artist pen, superfine nib, in black.  Pitt pens are my favorite for any ink work.   They write smoothly, are made with waterproof, lightfast india ink and come in a variety of colors and nib sizes.  I did the initial drawing in pencil and then went over the lines I wanted to emphasize in ink.   I didn't use a ruler with this because, well, I don't think there was a straight line on this old barn and I felt that a free hand helped show how aged and worn it was.  The charcoal I used was General's compressed charcoal and the paper used was 11"x14" Canson XL Bristol.  My first attempts I tried the textured side of the paper but I didn't care for how the charcoal was blending so I started from scratch and used the smooth side instead.  I liked that much better.  Initially, I covered the majority of the ink drawing with a mid-tone grey using a dirty chamois cloth .  I then lifted out the areas on the roof and silo that reflected the most light with my trusty Papermate Tuff Stuff eraser stick.  Lastly, I added the darkest darks.  The texture in the trees are a combination of ink work and charcoal.  

Here was the main lesson I learned from this one.  The light source was actually coming from behind the building to the right, so there wasn't much contrast on the face of the barn.  In retrospect, I think I could have made this a better image (with more contrast) by taking some creative license and changing the light source rather than following what I saw in the original photographic reference.  I'm learning.  Overall though, I like this piece.  I had so much fun with this technique that I had to try another:

Walnut Grove Schoolhouse
Walnut Grove Schoolhouse, 11x14, Ink & Charcoal
Copyright 2013 Sarah Diane Salisbury
I followed the same basic process as before, but with this one I did use a ruler to help me get straighter lines.  Also, I used a kneaded eraser to lift out areas of sky light from the trees.  This is from another original photo reference of mine of an old one room school originally built in 1912 in Sand Creek township, North Vernon.  In 1990, it was cut into three pieces and moved to Muscatatuck Park in North Vernon for preservation.  I added the two little school girls from imagination because it made me think of Mary and Laura from Little House on The Prairie.

That's it for now folks.  I'm trying my hand at pastels right now so I'm looking forward to sharing some new things really soon.  I also invested in a nifty little HD camcorder and my goal is to (eventually) create a few video tutorials of my own.  So stay tuned!