Where: Home, again
Trip Date: Every Day
Well, I didn’t get power back at my house until this past Sunday; a week after Irma came through. I never realized how nice air circulation was until I lived in a house with two dogs, three cats, and two other people who were unable to take a shower. It was an incredibly long week. To add insult to injury, my car decided to die this weekend as well. So for yet another week I am unable to travel. I have been trying to make it to Wilmington, North Carolina for the past three weeks, but that obviously hasn’t worked out yet. I can promise, however, that next week I will get back to my normal format, wherever the location may be.
Last week I showed you some of my old travel sketches. So I thought this week might be a good time to share a little more of my process. It is not an incredibly involved or very unique process, but you may find it interesting nonetheless.
For my finished artwork I usually use higher quality materials—nib pens, illustration board, etc…—but for sketching I like to keep it simple, and obviously I have to be able to fit at least some of what I need in my pockets.
As far as pencils go, I’m not picky. I tend to use a regular old mechanical pencil. For inking my sketches I prefer Micron pens. They are relatively cheap, and easily replaceable. Specifically I use the Micron size 01 for line-work, and a Pigma Graphic pen for larger areas of black.
Since I am rather hard on my brushes, I usually rely on cheaper packs with synthetic bristles. I favor round brushes of various sizes, but flats are very good for backgrounds and larger washes.
Now, a lot of people think I paint with watercolor, and that is an easy mistake to make. I actually do my painting in acrylic inks. They are a bit more opaque than watercolors, but they are completely waterproof once they dry. I have never been very good at color; I’ve always been better at—or more comfortable with—drawing in black and white. But through lots—and I mean lots—of practice I have learned to mix nearly any color I need with only seven different colors of ink: Brilliant Yellow, Process Magenta, Flame Red, Turquoise, Prussian Blue, Sap Green, and Burnt Umber. A limited palette just makes it easier on my brain.
I do all of my sketches in Moleskine watercolor notebooks. Any sketchbook with watercolor paper will do, but I find the texture of the Moleskine paper works best for my combination of pen drawing and wet on wet painting. They are also a nice compact size that is easy to travel with. Plus they just look classy (no, art is not free of vanity).
When I can, I try to do at least an initial pen sketch on location—I find sketches tend to feel more lively and spontaneous when done in person rather than from a photo. But, of course, that is not always possible: time can be limited, weather can change, bugs can attack. But either way, every sketch begins with reference—in person or with a photo. (I will use a sketch from This article from a few weeks ago as an example.)
Depending on the complexity of the drawing I may begin with a quick pencil sketch to block in major shapes and feel out the composition. Other times I throw caution to the wind and go straight at it with the pen.
Once I have most of the pen-work finished I move on to the painting. This part I have to do in my studio, as seven bottles of liquid ink do not travel into the field well. I begin with a loose first layer of ink, letting some of the colors bleed together. I don’t worry about this layer looking to neat, blended colors make the image more unified. After that has dried, I then go back with more saturated colors to define the shapes and values.
And since I am using opaque inks, after I have completed the painting stage, I go back with my pens and touch up any of my line-work that may be trying to disappear.
This whole process can take anywhere from half an hour to a couple of hours depending on how complex the drawing and how obsessive I am being. Once it is all finished, I go have a snack.
And here is a sketch of the messy workstation where it all happens.