The Road To Waterproof Brown Inks For Sketching

Recently I wrote about the new Platinum gall inks and noted that they aren’t waterproof in the way that watercolorists need them to be waterproof.  They’re more like the Noodler’s “bulletproof” claim of water resistance.  You couldn’t remove a signature from a check, but the color bleeds when these inks are used on good watercolor paper.  The reasons may be different for Noodler’s vs Platinum gall inks but the results are the same.

Many of us have spent a lot of money trying to find a truly waterproof brown ink we can shove through our fountain pens.  Heck, I spent $30 on the Platinum ink even after I’d found a really good solution just because I was curious.  Anyways, my post on the Platinum inks resulted in some discussion and I thought I’d tell you about my solution.

Jane Blundell did an extensive analysis of the DeAtramentis Document inks where she mixed entire color wheels with these inks.  They are all quite waterproof and fountain pen friendly.  Making matters even better for the in mixer, DeAtramentis sells a “dilution solution” which is just like the ink but without the pigment.  I use Document Black, diluted 5:1 (dilution:ink) to generate a dark gray that’s similar in color to Noodler’s Lexington Gray but is more waterproof and its lower contrast to white paper works better when you’re going to use watercolors on your drawings.

DeAtramentis Document Brown leans towards red, pretty close to a burnt sienna color.  It works well as a sketching color but on white paper, just like black ink, its contrast is very high.  I’ve tried just diluting it and that works but, to my eye, it accentuates the red component of the ink and I’ve never liked that very much.  So, what to do.

Mix a bit of blue with it, that’s what.  Just like mixing ultramarine blue to burnt sienna, if you mix in enough blue you get gray.  But if I add only a few drops of blue, I get a nice, walnut brown that works really well for me.  I’m not going to tell you how many drops or anything like that.  Achieving the color YOU want will require a bit of trial and error on your part.  Personally, I don’t worry about too much.  I mix small quantities, and test with a dip pen until I get the color I want.  The next time I might get a slightly different color.  I don’t really care because my goal is to tone down the contrast of the ink with the paper, not achieve some particular color.

To the cost of this adventure.  A bottle of Document Brown (35ml) will cost you around $20 and the dilution solution (250ml) is another $20.  That’s pretty expensive but, depending upon how much of the dilution solution you use, you also end up with a lot of ink.  Adding another $20 for a bottle of blue really boosts the price and I’d recommend just buying a sample unless you plan on drawing with blue.  It doesn’t take much to achieve the shift shown above.

Finally, here’s a drawing I started on one of the few outdoor sketching days we’ve had thus far.  Watercolor will come but for now you can see the results of my “walnut” ink.  I think the contrast here is a bit more in the scan than on paper.

Fabriano Artistico (9×12), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Brown + blue

April Showers Keeps Urban Sketchers Indoors

Every spring, towards the end of March, we get a big snow storm.  People here call it the St. Patrick’s Day storm.  It comes just as we start to think that spring has sprung so it’s always a let-down.  What follows, without fail is a couple weeks of rain, which is good because it melts the snow, gets road salt dust out of the air, and generally does a spring cleaning of the city.

It’s sure hard to take, however, when you’re an urban sketcher who has been cooped up for the last five months.  In desperation I picked up some veggies while we were shopping, including an heirloom tomato that I thought could be a nice subject for a still life painting.  Ha… me trying to paint.  What a joke.  Anyways, this is what came of that idea.  I’m still pretty lost when it comes to paint and fuzzy sticks but I had fun doing this one.  Hope it stops raining soon.

Fabriano Artistico CP (7×11), Daniel Smith watercolors

A Street Sketcher Tries To Paint

Last Sunday we had our monthly sketchcrawl and it was a unique event.  We gathered at the main Quebec City library, in a large room associated with their art collection.  We were tasked with finding a painting we liked and then doing our own take on the subject matter.  There were, I think, nine of us and we had a lot of fun, particularly because we were all in the same room so we could talk.  I tend to go silent when I sketch but I took breaks to see what others were doing.

I chose a large watercolor of a bunch of kids playing in tide pools, thinking I could turn it into a fun sketch.  I started by blocking out the locations of the kids, indicating the horizon and generally getting the sense of what I wanted to do.

Then it happened.  I decided that rather than starting to draw with my fountain pen, I’d indicate the shadow areas to begine to define the kids.  This led to adding some color and I was like Alice falling into Wonderland as things quickly went out of control.  The first thing I realized was that converting a large (22×30 painting) into a 7×10 sketch wasn’t consistent with the amount of detail I was planning and so some reassessment took place.  That wasn’t so bad as my skills with a a fuzzy stick leave much to be desired.  I was really wishing I had my fountain pen in hand rather than a fuzzy stick.

But I persisted, doing things for the first time at every turn.  Still, the sketch started to look suspiciously like kids in tide pools so I convinced myself it wouldn’t be that bad.  Eventually, as a last step, I did get out a fountain pen and added some lines and details, though I kept things a bit vague.  I learned a lot, including how much I need to learn about watercolors.  While it was frustrating at times, it was also a lot of fun.  Maybe I’ll figure out fuzzy sticks eventually.

I had a hard time scanning this one.  I suppose it was because of all the very pale blues in the sky and water but I gave up and took this cell phone photo of it.  The colors aren’t quite right and the lighting isn’t even, but you can get an idea of what it looks like, I think.

Fabriano Artistico CP 7×10, Daniel Smith watercolors

Drawing For My Daughter

My daughter was home for Christmas and she asked if she could have one of my sketches to hang in her apartment.  Since I do my drawing in sketchbooks, granting her request was difficult, so I decided to do a drawing for her on Fabriano Artistico cold-press paper.  It’s really a pleasure to have unlimited time and to work at a table and without needing to juggle the tools as I sit on a tripod stool.  I drew one of my favorite scenes in Quebec City and here is the result.

This project is something of a landmark for me as well.  It’s the first time I’ve ever matted one of my drawings.  Heck, it’s the first time I’ve ever cut a mat.  It was fun.  It improved the look of the drawing. I might do it again.  She was happy with it.  I hope you do too.

 

Sketching The Red Door

I love the doors of Quebec.  I’ve often thought that an entire sketchbook filled with doors and windows of Quebec City would be great.  If were even a little bit organized in my approach to sketching, I might just do one.  For today, though, here’s a single door, well actually two of them, done from a photo (my photo) on 7.5×11 Fabriano Artistico cold press.  I love this paper but it’s a bit rough for my very fine fountain pens.

2016-11-25door

Domestic Sketching: Quebec City When I Was Born

I’ve mentioned that this winter I was going to try to learn to draw at an indoor workspace and to draw from photos.  I know it sounds odd to those of you who do it all the time, but I’ve spent five years drawing on location and have a really hard time drawing in a ‘studio’ or from photos.

In this I’m very much like the dog that’s got to walk around in circles a couple times before it lays down.  Location sketching, for me, is about discovering something to draw, which requires wandering a bit.  There is no wandering in a studio.  Once I get going on an indoor drawing I seem to be able to do it and even enjoy it, but initiating the behavior… that’s harder.

I decided it was time, though, to draw from a photo.  Looking for something that would motivate me to do so, I decided that I should draw from a photo that is not of something I can go out and see.  The idea of historic sketching must have come from my watching the new Timeless series, which is about time travel, but as I already have a lot of historic photos of Quebec City I thought that was where I should begin.  I chose a photo of a trolley, both because I like trolleys and because it was taken in the year that I was born.

I started by lightly drawing everything using a Platinum Carbon Pen, keeping the lines very light so I could cover my errors if needed.  This is what I ended up with:

7.5x11 Fabriano Artistico cold press, Platinum Carbon pen

7.5×11 Fabriano Artistico cold press, Platinum Carbon pen

To bring a more solid nature to the drawing I started increasing the contrast, using a Platinum 3776 pen and a Platinum brush pen.  This got the drawing to this point:

2016-11-21trolly_bwThen it was time for color and touch up.  I still struggle with watercolors but at least I’m starting to pay attention to it.  I was pretty happy with the results.  Hope you are as well.  I think I’ll be doing more historic sketching.

2016-11-21trolley

Domestic Sketching: Let’s Try Imagining A Pine Tree

It seems there will be a continuing series of sketches being done by this urban sketcher that have nothing to do with urban sketching.  I’m forcing myself to draw at my desk.  I’ve even cleaned it off so I don’t have to shove stuff out of the way to do it.  I’m going to call this domestic sketching and label results as such.

Anyways, my first sketch was a small, defoliated tree and I thought it only fitting that I should follow it up with a pine tree.  As it turned out, I drew two of them, the second coming simply because I wanted to try to do a classic Christmas tree shape.  Probably shouldn’t have cuz it looks out of place in this sketch, at least to me.  One thing I’ve noticed about sketching at home, with good light, a desk and a good chair.  The sketching is a whole lot easier.

Fabriano Artistico (7.5x11), Pilot Falcon

Fabriano Artistico (7.5×11), Pilot Falcon

Drawing Trees In The Morning

I mentioned that I’m trying to get myself drawing at home rather than on the street.  It sure is a struggle and I’ve definitely got to get a place set up to do it.  But I’m pretty good at the clear-the-deck arm sweep that will shove a bunch of stuff out of the way and provide me a place for some paper.

That’s what I did the morning I decided to draw a clump of foliage.  Notice that I’m not setting my sites too high.  I have to convince my brain that it should be drawing in the morning while I’m having my morning coffee and I don’t want to discourage it.  I did upgrade my paper, though.  This one was done on Fabriano Artistico CP, which may be a bit to rough for my fine fountain pens but we’ll see.

Platinum 3776 SF, Platinum Carbon Black

Platinum 3776 SF, Platinum Carbon Black

One thing is clear.  It’s a LOT easier to draw and paint in a studio with the paper resting on a flat surface.  Heck, it’s not even windy (grin).

A Sketching Challenge: Chapel Altar

I love drawing the ornaments and carvings in churches but confess that I find most churches to be pretentious.  Still, there I was, in the chapel associated with the Musée d’Amérique francophone when I got the bright idea to sketch the huge, monolithic, altar.  Because of the complicated nature of it, doing a proper, accurate drawing would have required many hours.  I only had two.

So I “steeled” myself (i.e. tried to channel Liz Steel) and set to work.  My eyes crossed several times as I tried to draw all the bits and details of this 30-foot high structure.  It was both fun and tiring, and it humbled me a bit, which I guess is the goal of such structures.

Musee d'Amerique chapel altar

Fabriano Artistico CP (7.5×11), Pilot Metropolitan, DeAtramentis Document Black

Collectif Rendevous At The Museum Of Civilisation

The Collectif group in Quebec City held its annual rendevous at Quebec’s Musée de la civilisation last Saturday.  Unfortunately, a bunch of the regulars were playing snowbirds in one for or another and so turnout was down from previous years.  Nevertheless, we had a great time.

I started sketching in the Egypt exhibit, where I drew this pharoah mask.  I used Faber-Castell Albrecht-Durer watercolor pencils for color.  It’s hard to deal with color in that exhibit because it’s so dark so it’s hard to know what you’ve got until you’re done and eating lunch (grin).

Pharoah mask, Egypt

Fabriano Artistico CP, DeAtramentis Document Black, Pilot Falcon

I took a short break by wandering around a bit and when I saw this large Australian aboriginal totem I had to translate it to paper.  Pretty simple drawing.  Lots of fun.  It’s good to be back out sketching.

Australian totem

Fabriano Artistico CP, DeAtramentis Document Black, Pilot Metropolitan