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The Art of Visualizing Black & White

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A Drawing Tutorial on Visualizing
with a spontaneous technique in pencil and ink.

This tutorial is taken from my book "The Art of Visualizing Black & White - A Guide to Intuitive Drawing". It is being shown here to give those who may be considering purchasing the book an idea of what visualizing is all about.

There are a few similarities to my inking technique when compared to my painting technique. The obvious initial one is trying to aimlessly doodle with no preconceived thoughts or imagery. In this case I used a #8B sketching pencil for the first four stages. Some of the time when doing pencils for an inking I will go through up to about five sketches before one of them starts to give an indication of imagery that I would like to finish as an inking. If I was using an illustration board then I would obviously erase instead of starting over.

For this piece I only did two spontaneous original sketches before I settled on this one (Stage 1), that I would take to an inking finish.

Now that my brain sees an image coming out of the sketch (Stage 1 to Stage 2) I’ll refine it with more toning and control. It’s not necessary to bring it to a degree where the penciling looks like the finished stage because the inking will be the final stage. If I need to understand the toning better in certain areas then I will adjust those areas with more penciling. If I wanted the artwork to be a finished penciling then I would have started with either illustration board or with a heavier and better grade of paper. But for this image I definitely wanted the finish to be ink.

As I brought this sketch to the second phase of rendition, I thought it had potential but my mind’s eye had some objection to the curve of the wings. So in this case I did erase with a kneadable eraser just enough to be able to re-sketch the wings with a more desirable curve (Stage 3). Now I like it a little better. Sometimes once I have the idea, I may re-sketch on fresh paper using a light table, just to have a cleaner copy. I may not even bother using the light table just to have a more spontaneous (a freedom of expression - so to speak) approach with the acquired idea.

After adding the toning that I wanted (Stage 4) I did decide to redraw the image using my light table and a #HB pencil. My reasons being; I had quite a mess with using the #8B pencil and it was getting hard to see the detail which means it would of been even harder to see through the paper even though using a light table; and this way I would have the toned sketch off to the side so I could compare the inking progression with the toned sketch a lot easier. The problem with using regular copy paper with such a soft lead is that it does not lend itself well to repeated erasing and redrawing.

Stage 5 shows the pencil outline I re-did that will be under the inking on the light table. It’s not overly spectacular but it is enough to give me the basics. One of the fairly consistent things I do when I go to ink with a light table is that I use a coated paper. It’s super smooth finish gives a beautiful crisp pen line when using Pigma pens and equally crisp lines when using a brush. That being said, those aren’t even the main reasons I use coated paper. The real reason is that as I ink a drawing I try to still be spontaneous with detail, texture and toning and that leads to a few blips, blobs, goof-ups, mind changes and just plain old mistakes. The coated paper allows me to scrape (very gently) with an X-acto knife (I prefer a #16) any lines I want removed. I try to wait until I’m all done because even though this technique makes it quite easy and clean to remove ink, it does not prove very compatible with re-inking, because now the surface is no longer coated where I scraped and is down to the fibers of the paper. One of the paper brands I use is Utopia Gloss Coated 80# Text Bright White. Heavy brushed areas do not scrape as good probably because the ink is different or more concentrated as it comes from a jar, whereas the pens need to be able to maintain a draw from their reservoir so I can only assume they have an additive such as glyercin.

Stage 6 shows the inking about 50% underway. I opted to use a pen to start with because I could jiggle it to give a rougher edge to simulate feathered profiles. I could always go over areas and edges with a brush later to build contrast and shadow. Plus the pen came in useful for all the feathers. As I went along it became apparent that I was using the pen for everything. I found that interesting because I enjoy the variety of line a brush gives.

Stage 7 shows the finished inking. I did complete the entire piece using only a few drawing pens. I guess it just matters what kind of feeling the imagery has. Another good aspect of using a light table is that I don’t have to erase the penciling. When I work on illustration board and do have to erase, it seems the erasing tends to remove some of the ink as well. I believe that is because the ink is not sufficiently attached to the fibers of the paper but rather sits on the surface of the pencil so it ends up being minimally absorbed into the paper. This side effect is easily corrected in Photoshop. I must say the most fun part of this project was the time spent developing the idea with contrast and tone in pencil as in Stage 4.

This technique is one of nine step by step tutorials taken from my book “The Art of Visualizing Black & White - A Guide to Intuitive Drawing”, available on amazon.com.