May 23, 2014

Why I am a clever boy

The jobs I'm doing at the moment, and the ones I have lined up for June, are all for illustrations to be done in black & white. This is sort of a self-perpetuating process, I'm finding, and it really adds credence to the idea that what you put in your portfolio, is what you are going to get hired to do.
So, though I am desperate to do more coloured painting in the realms of faerie and fantasy art, the fact that I don't have enough of that sort of thing in my portfolio, means that I continue to get black & white commissions.
Don't get me wrong though, I loooove working in black & white too. My background is in working in that medium, and the process and natural progression of skill is endlessly fascinating to me.

I used to be one of those black & white artists that was absolutely petrified of using a brush, and would avoid it at all cost. The main cost of doing that, I feel, is the art itself. If you're a figurative artist, like me, there really is no substitute for a good brush. You can kind of create the same result with a pen or a nib, but nothing makes a more beautiful line than a brush, NOTHING! Sure, it has its drawbacks and areas of illustration that it isn't as beneficial, namely things like architectural work and straight lines. But if you're drawing an object from nature or a human figure, the brush reigns supreme.

I use this ink, personally-
Speedball Super Black India Ink
I've been using it for a couple of years and just love it. It's a little thicker than your typical india ink, almost goopy after a while of being exposed to air, but it is just so smooth and richly black. The thickness of it takes a little bit of a getting used to, and there's a lot of brush cleaning involved as it dries on the brush pretty quickly and can clog it up if you're not careful. But the results are worth the regular brush cleaning.

I know a lot of artists would dip their quill or brush right into this pot, but I've never been a fan of doing that. The prospect of dipping the implement in too far and getting too much ink on it, or the brush hitting the sides of the pot and then transferring the ink to your fingers when you grip it, have never been that appealing to me.
I much rather the ability to see the brush tip actually make contact with the ink, so this is what I do:

I transfer it to this plastic ink pot-

Once the ink is transferred, I shake it up and remove the lid, which has this little stick thingy underneath it-

It may look like a rigid straw, or something found in a spray bottle, but it is neither of these things. I think it is supposed to be a stirrer. The nifty thing is that at its end, there is a tiny little reservoir of what equates to about of drop of ink. 95% of the stirrer is solid, but the last little bit is a tiny receptacle-

I have found that this tiny amount of ink is just about the right amount to use up before the brush needs to be cleaned. So I dip the brush right into that little receptacle and go to work. It is clean, precise and efficient.

But there's only one problem. It's such a small lid and the plastic (while ribbed) can be slippery, and I live in constant fear of dropping that lid on a piece of artwork and, no doubt, ruining it. I've actually come close a couple of times.

But, thanks to my obvious genius, that problem has been recently solved. Easily, too-

Yep, it's exactly what it looks like. I took a bit of that DAS air-drying clay, wrapped it around the lid, pressed it on tight so that the ribbed contours were picked up in the mould, and let it dry up over a few days. Now, the lid slots perfectly into this little handle mould and I can get a much safer grip on it all-

Told you I'm a clever boy.
Back soon!

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