I started this exercise exploring different types of marks in a number of different media. The brief suggested trying pencil, ballpoint pen, dip pen and ink and a drawing pen. I have all of these and so decided to follow the suggestion. For clarity I will give my thoughts on each of the type of marks I made separately to my thoughts on how well my use of each type of media worked or didn’t.
Straight Hatch Marks
I started using this type of hatching sticking strictly to horizontals, using very little (if any) outline. I used different pressures in combination with varied distances between lines to create darker or lighter tones. The closer together the marks and/or the heavier the pressure when making them the darker the tone, the same of course is true of the reverse. The finished result whilst showing form has a blurry, out of focus look and could be effective in certain situations. I can imagine using this technique sparingly maybe to show something buzzing or vibrating or perhaps a speeding car or the view from a train window.
After a couple of attempts in different media (pencil, nib pen) I decided that the horizontal hatch marks had limited use and decided to try instead to use a single direction without sticking strictly to straight or horizontal lines. I started working with/along the form of the subject. This worked a lot better there was a greater 3D effect and now the subject was still in place and I think a lot more representational and less graphic.
I liked the cross hatching technique, I found that I relied a lot more on instinct and I think once I have explained my process it will be understood why I feel that to be the case. I started by using horizontal marks only and covered the majority of the subject leaving only the highest lights completely blank, I then used verticals to cross over the horizontals (at 90 degrees) for the next shade down the diagonals in each direction, and so on crossing lines in different directions, getting darker and darker as I went. Now a third element has been introduced in order to create darker tones, the three now being; distance between lines, pressure used to create marks and now number of times a line crosses over itself. There are a now a huge number or variations of using these three techniques in different combinations to darken an area and so instinct kicks in and tells me where I should use one or all or a combination of these that pleases my eye. I worry this is a part of my personal voice that I will find extremely hard to define, especially in words. I like the effect of cross hatching It has a similar look to that of an etching and I can understand why this would be the case, using short, straight marks in a number of directions seems to me (without any knowledge or previous use) would be a good choice when using a tool to scratch into metal.
Stippling is a slow arduous process that involves using lots of tiny dots, closer together for darker tones and further apart for lighter. Whilst it takes a log time it is very forgiving, after all one tiny dot in the wrong place won’t effect the overall drawing too much. The overall effect is actually very pleasing to the eye and you almost feel as if you are looking at an optical illusion I did find however that unless you have a very dark colour it takes a lot to build up darks and in fact I found it difficult to get as dark as I would have liked in certain places without fully blocking in.
I used what I’ve been calling a squiggle technique which is basically just scribbling using tighter squiggles for darker areas and looser squiggles for lighter. This is a very quick and loose way of drawing, yet you still manage to get a nice 3d form to the image. Again it is quite a forgiving way of hatching especially if you start with aa lighter pressure and move gradually towards the darks. I tried not to take my pen off the paper and was reasonably successful at this, I may have skipped once or twice but this was more a concentration issue rather than a technical one.
Types of media used.
As previously mentioned I tried all of the above types of hatching using a range of media, these were; 2B pencil, nib pen, dip pen and ink and ballpoint pen or biro. I wasn’t overly happy with my first efforts in pencil it started off looking ok but as I worked on the page and closed my sketchbook in between etc. It began to smudge and fade. Perhaps I should have used a softer pencil although this by nature would tend to smudge more, giving less detail and becoming more of a tonal drawing. In reality, if using pencil when drawing, I would more likely use tone for creating darks and lights and use hatching and marks more for details. I found that the best effect was the stippling and whilst this was the hardest to lay down and the longest process, it smudged less. AS previously mentioned, I probably wouldn’t use pencil again for a drawing made purely from hatching.
Hatching is, as far as I can see, the only way to use a nib pen. You could probably add water for more effects and I will try this at some point but I imagine that this will only cause a bleed effect and that the main line would, for the most part, stay intact. The nib pen gives a bold, narrow line and although you can’t really vary the pressure to create lighter marks, I found that if you tilt the nib so that it is flatter against the paper it gives a sort of diluted mark almost as if the pen has begun to run out of ink. I would certainly use nib pen again for drawing, I like the graphic effect it leaves and find it strangely forgiving considering you are unable to erase or lighten marks.
Dip pen and ink
I love the richness of colour you get from using a dip pen with ink. If you look at the photo above you will see just how dark and bold the marks are. It has a very loose and free feel about it and I find myself swooping the pen across the page quickly and loosely (except for the stippling). Varying the pressure doesn’t make the marks lighter/darker but narrower/wider with quite a bit of variation. The main downside is having to continually dip the ink Back into the well and whilst this can interrupt the flow it can also be of benefit as once the ink begins to run out in the nib you can use the lighter marks produced to your advantage. If you use the nib on its side it produces a scratchy feel which gives an etched look to the finish.
Ballpoint pen (Biro)
I only had a blue biro to hand which may perhaps have affected my stance on using this medium. I have to say I felt like I was doodling whilst using it and this probably goes back to my school days when I was often found being berated for doodling in my exercise books. The overall effect though was ok and whilst it would almost certainly have looked better in black (especially against the other sketches) I was reasonably pleased. It was also reasonably smooth for such a cheaply mass produced item and I was able to manipulate the pen in certain ways to achieve lighter and darker marks. I was at least in part pleasantly surprised with using the biro.
I think in general, unless you wanted to create a certain effect for a specific purpose you would use a combination of these marks in variety to achieve a certain look for a particular texture or detail. It reminded me a little of the exercise “Experimenting with Texture” where I would naturally and without paying too much attention to what I was doing, use a specific pattern or mark to create a detail or effect specific to that texture, this time of course I was aware of what I was doing and I think these initial experiments helped me with the next stage of drawing a group of objects in line. I think for a drawing purely in line the best medium to use is nib pen though of course for any medium you would use hatching to some extent or another making it a very important technique to master. I am still reading The Practice of Science and Drawing by Harold Speed (1913) and in this book there is an entire chapter dedicated to Line drawing (chapter IV), within this chapter he states:
“If the student neglects line drawing, his work will lack the expressive significance of form that only a feeling for lines seem to have the secret of conveying” (Speed 1913)
This quote to me sums up this exercise and I will endeavour to bear it in mind going forward.
Drawing a group of objects using Line
With my experimentation done I moved on to the task of drawing a group of objects using only line and through my previous experience, decided to use the nib pen. I chose to use 2 dice, some playing cards and some gambling chips, the cards in particular interested me as they have little to no 3d form and this – reading ahead a little – is something that is mentioned, with regard to light, in the next paragraph of the course guide i.e. how light behaves on a flat surface. They also all have very simple outlining shapes which I thought would be ideal and follow on from the previous part of this exercise. I started by sketching all of these items from different angles, using different marks and set them up in different ways. I also tried some blind contour drawing to get my arm, wrist, shoulder etc. moving. I the looked at some different compositions. One thing I struggled with was the size of the subjects, they are all extremely small and therefore picking up detail becomes extremely difficult, it was for this reason I decided to work on a smaller scale than I had done in previous exercises and given the nature of the medium I ended up drawing on some A4 Bristol Board. Another complication was that whilst I had been practising drawing light dice with black spots, my son lost one whilst playing with them ad so I ended up drawing the dark dice with the white spots which of course is the polar opposite and so I had to adjust a little.
I was conscious whilst drawing to use a variety of line and marks I.e. stipple, cross hatch, straight hatch, along contour etc. unlike in the experimentation stage where I stuck a lot more rigidly to a certain type of line, I thought this would give a lot more realism to the outcome. I believe that it did. Overall I am happy with the drawing, I did find it difficult to create tone on the cards as the ambient light made the light falling on them a little flat. I did use a little artistic license here and emphasised certain areas and I think this worked quite well. I had a few issues with the perspective, in places it is a little out – such as the right hand side of the left die and the bottom of the stack of chips, I also thinks it looks a little like the top 2 playing cards are standing up a little. I am not too concerned about this though as it is not really what the exercise is about and so I wasn’t really concentrating on that side of the drawing too much. In terms of light and darks I think I have done a good job. Each part of the subject looks three dimensional where it should and conveys light and dark in the correct places. The cast shadows are realistic and you can see that the light is coming from above and slightly from the left. You can also see the reflected light from the stack of chips onto the right hand side of the right hand die, which was where it was most apparent. It does have a slightly graphic feel but I think that was to be expected and I quite like that style.
Speed, Harold (1913) – The Practice and Science of Drawing, Dover publications inc.