Sketching The Mundane, The Ugly, The Unseen

When I was first learning about urban sketching my mentor (though she didn’t know it) was Cathy Johnson.  I fell in love with her sketches, many of which appeared to me in books by her about nature, historical reinactment, and art books.  Another thing she showed me how interesting and beautiful an artist can make the mundane and ugly.  She’d paint broken down buildings as seen through rusty chain link fence.  She did a sketch of a bridge being torn apart.  And she did these things in a way that made you want to hang them on your living room wall.

I still aspire to have her abilities but one of the great things about being a sketcher is that with only a dollup of persistence you can try and try again.  I’ve spent more than a little time drawing the alleyways of the older parts of Quebec City.  These are cluttered, ill-maintained places that are mostly out of sight and out of mind.  While I may not have Cathy’s expertise, I do have her zeal and I’ve done another alley sketch.  Here it is, warts and all.  I really enjoyed doing it.

Fabriano Artistico (7.5×11), Pilot Cavalier, R&K Sketch Ink (Lily), Daniel Smith watercolor

Rohrer & Klingner Waterproof Sketch Inks

When I started sketching, there were two reasonable candidates if you wanted to use heavily sized watercolor paper and wanted to use watercolor over your pen sketches.  You could use Platinum Carbon Black ink, a pigmented ink, and Noodler’s Lexington Gray, which relied upon bonding to cellulose for its water resistance.  Lex Gray was only passable because it was a gray and when it smeared it didn’t create really bad smears.  I used both of them – a lot.

When DeAtramentis Document inks came to market, the stampede could be heard worldwide as we all rushed to our ink store to buy these waterproof inks. They’ve made a lot of us very happy, though these inks are a bit on the pricey side ($20/35ml).

The story could end right there except that I’m like a bass in the weeds, lunging out at every shiny object trolled in front of my nose by the pen/ink manufacturers.  When the Jet Pens newsletter featured Rohrer & Klingner Sketch Inks, my credit card warmed up, some buttons were pushed and I had three bottles of ink winging their way to chez moi.

There are actually 10 different colors in this ink line.  Each ink carries a female name and the bottle features a sketch of a woman.  Maybe I’m supposed to know who these women are but I don’t.  What I do know is that they are INK SKETCHES of women.  Did I mention that the inks are called Sketch Inks?  How cool is that?

More important, these inks are nano-pigmented inks that are suitable for fountain pens and they’re a lot cheaper than the DeAtramentis inks I use.  For $12 you get 50ml which works out to 24 cents/ml vs 57 cents/ml for DeAtramentis inks.  And the sketches on the bottle are really nice.  Did I mention that the inks are called Sketch Inks?  Very cool.

I bought bottles of Frieda (dark blue), Lily (dull brown), and Thea (dark grey).  The dark grey is the most exciting to me because it’s a gray like Lexington Gray but absolutely waterproof even on Fabriano Artistico.   The dull brown is very close to a color I’ve mixed using DeAtramentis Document Brown with a bit of black thrown in to neutralize it a bit.

One thing that’s great about the colors I got, and I presume the rest of the line, is their matte quality.  One thing I’ve never liked about Platinum Carbon Black is the shiny line quality.  They should blend well with watercolor.  Also, at least on the Emilio Braga paper I used for a quick test (below) these inks dry fast, really fast. (ed note: just tested on Fabriano and the ink didn’t smear after 5 seconds, maybe less).

I haven’t had a lot of time with them (just arrived last night) but I stuffed Frieda into a Pilot Cavalier (fine), Lily into a Lamy Safari (Xfine) and Thea in to a Pilot Falcon (SFine).   I scribbled a bit on photocopy paper and went to bed.  Figuring I needed something to show you beyond a picture of the bottles, I stopped while I was out and drew a lamp post and trashcan.  I drew this same thing with each ink, spending a few seconds more than 5 minutes on this scribbly page.  I apologize for them being different sizes; I didn’t plan as well as I might have.  Ultimately, you’ll be seeing a lot of sketches from my use of these inks; particularly the grey and brown.  I think I love my new lady friends.

Left to right: Frieda, Lily, Thea, Emilio Braga 4×6 notebook.