Ink Brush Fountain Pens are incredibly handy, yet I rarely reach for mine because it throws me out of my comfort zone.  Time for that to change….

Glass Inkwells No. 15

Glass Inkwells No. 15

The best way for me to become one with a tool that still feels foreign in my hand is to force myself to use it for an entire day…. and then to keep using it on a regular basis for at least a week.  This is day number one for my two ink brush fountain pens, a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and a Kuretake Sumi Brush Fountain Pen.

Glass Inkwells No. 16

Glass Inkwells No. 16

I’m working in a large sketchbook on rough watercolor paper.  The paper produces useful texture but not a smooth line.

Glass Inkwells No. 17

Glass Inkwells No. 17

Taking a break from my ink brush pens and returning to the easel to work on the orbs.

Sketchbook Drawing 1: Glass Inkwells No. 15 – ink

Sketchbook Drawing 2: Glass Inkwells No. 16 – ink and watercolor

Sketchbook Drawing 3: Glass Inkwells No. 17 – ink, watercolor and gouache

The struggle to describe form on a face continues….  still working from photographs …. ugh!

linking light shapes and dark shapes

Everything I’m working on right now relates not only to human figures, but to masses of trees and landscapes, too.  Returning to plein air painting made me realize I need to sharpen my eye and brain to organize the shapes of reality into strong patterns of abstraction.  I thought, after so many years of painting movement and abstraction that I would have broken my habit of duplicating reality when it is sitting still in front of me.  I was wrong!

Slowly, very slowly, I’m making progress.  Every ten minutes I want to stop this discipline and toss or platter a bit of paint, swirl a bit of ink and simply play with color and shapes.  I can feel myself tighten when I reach the limit of my ability in realistic drawing and painting.  I want to return to something I am comfortable with.  I want to do an ink drawing of the hollyhocks in bloom and color it in with gorgeous pinks and greens.  I want to dash off to a music festival with my dip pen and watercolor box.

My mother before I was born, great hat!

It’s hard to believe, but I worked on this little 5″ x 7″ sketch for four hours!  It looked fresh and alive after about half an hour, but the forms on the face were wrong.  I went back and forth with watercolor, then gouache, to bring back lights, to correct values of shadows, to simplify, to capture light falling on the different planes of the face.  It ended up an overworked mess, but I am satisfied with the head looking like a solid form that might actually have a skull inside of it.  In spite of knowing my anatomy, there is a glitch in my hand/brain/brush when I attempt to paint realistically.

V. D. King at the Grisly Pear

This is how I love to paint.  Why do I bother struggling with painting from photos, stiff and boring?  Because I want to bring the skill and knowledge I gain from that discipline into my plein air and moving figure paintings.  They will become more consistently stronger.  And ….. I want to keep breaking through my limitations.  Until I can paint from a photograph successfully with the result being as lovely, loose and descriptive as the portrait of V.D. King, I will not be satisfied.

Grumpy Chris as a toddler

I am as grumpy this morning as I was when the photo I worked from was taken.  What is it that makes a face look old?  look young? look middle-aged? When does the balance of hard edges and soft edges work in the composition of facial planes?

Top image: ink brush or ink brush and copic markers

Middle image: watercolor and gouache

Bottom image: watercolor

In spite of the gale winds, I sat among the blossoming trees drawing and painting, struggling to capture the essence of spring.  Ah…. the joys of painting en plein air.

White and Pink Magnolia Trees, Watercolor Sketchbook Page

Each time I packed up my supplies, hands frozen and chilled to the bone, I was snagged by a magnolia blossom that screamed to be immortalized in my sketchbook.  And to think that it was 80 degrees last week!

Magnolia Blossoms cv. Betty, watercolor Kosar Hybrid Magnolia

The Betty ( Kosar Hybrid Mangolia) blossoms were outrageously beautiful.  The bottom blossoms were painted in ink with my Kuretake Ink Brush.  There’s nothing like spring blossoms to inspire improving my skills with an ink brush.

Sketchbook pages:  I’m finding that spring warrants drawing first with a pencil rather than fountain pen.  Spring wants to be open form rather than the closed form I generally create with ink pens.

Here is another photo of a new painting hanging in the Bone and Joint area of St. Lukes Hospital in Bethlehem, PA.

Figures in Motion, Watercolor

Thanks to Monsoon Gallery in Bethlehem, PA for  providing this incredible opportunity for me to have my favorite work hung in a place of healing.  Erin did a fabulous job with the matting and framing!  I look forward to seeing the paintings in person.

Paintings in the hallway of St Lukes Hospital

All of the paintings were done in watercolor or pen and ink with watercolor.  They ranged in size from 18″ x 24″ up to 24″ x 48″ unmatted.  Some of them are figures in yoga postures, others are figures dancing and the large ones are of people in line, dancing, talking and interacting in one way or another.

Back to the old red sketchbook with crummy wood pulp paper.

Four variations of the top of Tom's Dresser

Another sketch from early morning pillow position.  I wanted to see how much ink bleed the refillable marker pen would cause on the yellowed pulp paper.  I have about fifteen more pages to go in this treasured sketchbook.  As I opened it this morning, the binding broke.  It clearly is ready for retirement.

I’ve ordered an empty Ciao Copic Marker to try filling with ink, maybe mixing Noodler’s ink with Copic Ink for fast drying when sketching while walking.  I like the brush-shaped tip of the Ciao Marker better than the wedge shape tip of the Preppy refillable marker.

Drawing: Preppy refillable marker filled with Noodler’s walnut ink.

My Noodler’s Flex Pen and a refillable brush pen work well together for quick value sketches that dry quickly and don’t require carrying water.  The water is in the brush pen, released by squeezing an open spot on the side of the pen.

Noodler's Green Marine Ink

I’ve had the brush pen for many years, abandoning it constantly because I couldn’t get it to do what I wanted it to do.  Pairing it with a fountain pen, it works beautifully.  I hadn’t tried using it only for water.  It failed miserably when I filled it with ink or watercolor.  I’ll post a drawing of the brush pen in a day or two.

I am determined to keep drawing masses of trees until I am a bit happier with my technique.  It is the edges that are so challenging.

Landscape: Noodler’s Flex Pen and Brush Pen using Noodler’s Green Marine Ink