Tag Archives: #portraitdrawing

Experimenting with Materials (2) – Elegant Writer

Elegant Writer is a special type of water-soluble marker that bleeds in various colors. They have chiseled nibs and are probably made for calligraphy. I couldn’t remember when I bought my set, but somehow for many years, rarely used them. It’s time to give these markers a chance before they completely dry out.

Black Elegant Writer on paper:

Dorian, marker on paper, 10 x 14 in, July 2020

Add water to the above drawing:

Dorian, marker on paper, July 2020

Blue and black:

Serge, marker on paper, 7 x 8 in, July 2020

Testing other colors:

Colorful features, July 2020

A few notes:

  • I used regular Canson drawing paper, and I believe to what extend it’s soluble depends on paper. So test it.
  • The black one is the most interesting. It bleeds in blueish, greenish and reddish gray and really adds to the drawing.
  • The blue one gives out some pinkish hue in addition to blue, but the green, red and the brown ones are pretty much just their own colors.
  • The red, blue and green colors are more staining than black.
  • I have no training in calligraphy, but I can see a trained hand could produce more interesting lines with a chiseled nib.

Loosen up

Feeling very tongue-tied recently, and I am constantly looking for things to loosen up. I’ve been practicing figure drawing for a while and mainly paying attention to proportion, anatomy and value. I understand there are a lot more to practice in each area, but I thought maybe I could take a break, try a different approach, loose, casual, and free?

For years I have in my possession a great book by Bill Buchman called Expressive Figure Drawing. It is full of eye-opening and inspiring artworks, and each time I went through it, I had the feeling that I want to fly (not literally or course, with my pen and brushes and colors). So once again I went through the book, dug out some colorful ink and dipping pens (free dancing colorful lines is another dream of mine), and ready, set, go –

Bridgette, 9 x 12 in, June 2020
Jeff, 9 x 12 in, June 2020

LOL at myself, what a tangled and tightened mess! The second I picked up the pen, my attention was all on accuracy and likeness. I managed to approach value with a different method, but there’s no real freedom in it. I think it’s probably because even though I have learned the basics of figure drawing, I haven’t practiced enough to internalize them yet. I guess I can only set myself free when I am able to deliver the correct proportion, anatomy and values without thinking about them. More practice, in other words.

On the other hand, these drawings do reflect my current mental status – neurotic but still managed. 😂

More on Color Studies (1) – Verdaccio

Verdaccio is a greenish gray color achieved by mixing of black (often mars , yellow, and white. It’s used by old masters for underpainting, especially in fresco painting. In portrait or figure painting, the greenish gray served as a complementary to the pinkish flesh color, and it also creates a contrast in temperature. The result is a more vibrant skin tone.

Contemporary artist Cuong Nguyen applies the verdaccio technique to not only oil painting, but also pastel and watercolor, with stunning result.

Here is a poster from his oil painting workshop:

MICHAEL.jpg
Cuong Nguyen, oil painting, workshop poster.

Here is a screenshot from his pastel drawing youtube video:

You can see in pastel drawing, Cuong really pushes the green. Another sample from him:

Cuong_Nguyen_workshops

Don’t be fooled by the layout of the above poster though. This is not a 4 or 5 step drawing. You need to sharpen your pastel pencils, apply lightly, and work many, many, many layers.

I tried this method in a simplified way during a life drawing session, and here’s the result:

Wenda, pastel on paper, 18 x 24 in, 2019

Since camera was not allowed during life drawing, I didn’t record the early stage of this piece. I did start with leaf green, and my fellow artists thought I was going for a Halloween theme. Here are some other things I noticed:

  • CarbOthello pastel pencils are great. Versatility and control at the same time.
  • While it takes many layers to cover the green, a little bit showing through is not that bad. After all, our veins are sort of that color.
  • If you want to achieve Cuong’s level realism, you need a better quality paper to take more layers; keep your pencils sharp (which I totally ignored), and a lot of patience.
  • Be careful about the fixatives. I used Krylon Workable Fixatif. It makes my drawing darker and grainier.

Some day, I’ll try this verdaccio technique in oil.

Try New Things (2) – Ballpoint Pen

I’ve seen many people doodling and sketching with ballpoint pen before, but I never tried. I like the flow and the fineness of a micron or sharpie better. A ballpoint pen is just something you use for it’s conveniency and economy, right? How far can you push it as an art tool? Well, according to British artist James Mylne, this far:

James Mylne (b. 1981), Polo Pony 1 (2008), Ballpoint pen on paper

Look at the range of values a single Bic Cristal could deliver!

No, I am not going to attempt that. I have neither the skill nor the patience. Mr. Mylne’s drawings average 60-100 hours per piece, with the longest 310 hours. While photorealism is probably always time-consuming regardless of the medium, ballpoint pen is extremely tricky because it’s a one way street. You can only go from light to dark, no erasing, no lifting, no painting over.

Still intrigued, I decided to at least give sketching with the Bic a try:

Portrait of a man, ballpoint pen
Portrait of a man, ballpoint pen, 2019. Model from NMA.

And here’s what I learned:

Compare to micron or sharpie, the touches are closer to those of using a graphite pencil. Especially in shading, with good control, you can go lighter than an ink pen, and build up a wider range of values.

Just like a micron or sharpie, since you can’t erase, it exposes all the weakness in your drawing. You need to be mindful about each mark throughout the working process. Scary, right? But also good learning opportunity. If there’s a unwanted mark, the only remedy is to work it into the drawing somehow. This is challenging, may not be possible sometimes, but lots of fun. A few missteps can lead to something unexpected:

Portrait of Jorgie, ballpoint pen
Portrait of Jorgie, ballpoint pen, 2019 Model from Croquis Cafe

Don’t forget to keep a tissue paper handy because you need to constantly remove the buildup at the tip.

By the way, do check out James Mylne’s gallery. It’s not just photorealism, but also a lot of humor.