Saturday, July 12, 2014

Starting a Pen and Ink Illustration...

 Pen and Ink...

 About five years ago I got serious about writing 'Quick Sketching with Ron Husband'. This meant all other art related activities would have to take a back seat so I could dedicate my 'spare time' to the book project which, at the time I called 'What's in a Line'( my editor suggested the name change and a couple of chapter re-namings).

  At that time I was working full time in Disney's publication department, teaching figure drawing at Gnomon School one night a week, and had taken on various freelance projects. I'd produced a string of pen and ink illustrations in the past, and from about 2006 and leading up to my hiatus from extra curricular art activities and projects in 2009, I had committed myself to complete one 23" x 29" pen and ink project a year. Working a couple hours a night and on weekends, four illustrations were completed in that time frame.

  For the last four and a half years writing my book swallowed up all my spare time. Now I am back to my committed goal of an illustration a year.

My subject matter...

     I chose to focus my research on African American subjects in the 1930's United States south for these particular projects. Black ink on white illustration board for me was as natural as a nod to the black and white photographs of that era.

   Here are examples of my use of pen and ink, cross hatching style, and subject matter from my 2006 'Baptism' and 2007 'Juke Joint Saturday Night'.

(Baptism- portion of the original 23"x 29")

(Juke Joint Saturday Night- portion of the original 23" x 29")

  Each successive illustration got more challenging, complicated and fun as the years unfolded.

  My years in animation have left the lasting impression on me to know the real so that it (the real) can be caricatured. Thus I am constantly in search for that jumping off point, something I can point to as my point of departure into the fantastic, yet grounded in reality. Consequently I am always on the lookout for a photograph that will jump start my imagination. Sometimes I will find a photo I like and keep it for years before the proper motivation and circumstances bring it to the forefront of my thought processes.

 Years ago I came across a photograph of a baseball park and saw the potential in what it could become. I filed it away for future reference and the future is here, my jumping off point.

  Again from my animation days, research comes into focus. Since I have been in this genre for some time, I had some knowledge of the clothing being worn. Today we dress casually for sporting events, but in the thirties and even into the 1950's a ballgame was a dressy affair and this aspect of the spectators at the game had to be depicted realistically to add credibility to the piece.

  The uniforms of the players and umpire were easy to research. There are numerous photographs of that era in circulation and a lot of good reading on the history of Negro League Baseball before Jackie Robinson made it into the major leagues.

Thumbnails in my sketchbook...
  Thumbnailing is a must to get an overall view of the artwork and to work out any business. Thumbs also help one visualize the placement of characters so that they do not overlap in such a way that their individuality gets lost. It is important that every action reads and that each character is clearly defined in silhouette. (Sounds like discussing a scene handout with the director.)

(Thumbnails from a page in my sketchbook..)

(...more thumbnails from my sketchbook)


  My sketchbook is constantly by my side. Not only to quick sketch what I observe (basketball players) but whenever I get an inspiration (for my next illustration), I can jot down images so I'll have a permanent record of that particular thought. I think of the work in the pages of my sketchbooks as practicing/preparation for the real stuff.

The ingredients...

  I start out with Strathmore 500 Bristol 2-ply illustration board...

  an HB pencil works best for me at this point...

  blown up/down to the size I want, the photograph reference is pencilled in.
  Then, just add people.

  Keeping in mind one definition of a good gesture of a figure is one in which the figure is about to do something or just finished doing something...and let the fun begin.
(Pencil image, adding people...)

(...more people...)

(...and more people.)

( Final pencil image, ruler used for straight lines in ink.)
  After the pencil work is completed, I'll ink all pencil lines and add the cross hatching style using a mechanical pen.

  My goal is to have the finished piece stand up from a distance and up close with each individual section contributing to the whole piece of artwork and it must be fun to look at, a piece of eye candy as the old saying goes.

  We'll see in a couple of months if all this comes about.

I'll keep you posted...