“End of Day” is a short series of three 6″ x 6″ drawings on clear gessoed wood created for the 6x6x6 Community Art Show at the Alberta Street Gallery. As it often happens, small format lends itself nicely to experiments, and the main thing I wanted to find out here was how well multiple layers of colored pencil on a primed wooden panel would accept ink.
The answer is: not really well if it is a felt tip pen, better if the tip is a soft brush, but an actual brush dipped into India ink is the easiest way. Really, should’ve used a brush or at least a brush pen from the beginning, but I wanted to exhaust all available pen options first. And no, this is not an exaggeration: I went through dozens of different pen brands before one finally sort of worked.
It may be that I didn’t sand the clear gesso enough and that made the texture get in the way of pens. I am going to try the same combination of colored pencils and black pen on clear wood to be sure.
This series started with a title, and that almost never happens to me. By the time I sketched the very first piece I could not remember how exactly I came up with “Stories of the Forest,” but the initial idea was to make ink drawings of groups of trees and shrubs that would gradually fade into the paper collage background to showcase the beauty of common plant inhabitants of Western Oregon forests where I often hike. Every little plant, every shrub and tree have a story to tell if we look close, and together they weave a more complicated story that makes some unassuming spot in the forest look amazing.
It all looked good in pencil, but moving forward with inking was a different story. It looked too busy. Varying density of strokes and dots didn’t really work, so two ruined drawings I decided to change the approach. Maybe pen and ink was not the right choice for what I wanted to achieve, or maybe (and more likely) I failed to collaborate with my pens properly.
So I started to remove details that were less essential from my sketches, starting with varied growth under and behind tree branches, then with nonessential branches themselves. I do all corrections on tracing paper laid on top of the original sketch that needs to be improved. This considerably speeds up the process and keeps new ideas flowing without interruption of redrawing the same parts of a sketch.
And that’s how I’ve ended up with just a few leaves and scarcely spaced branches, letting the gently colored background to hint at whatever a viewer wants to see in the finished piece. There is special beauty in simplicity, and that old saying “less is more” gave me exactly what I wanted.