Wednesday, September 14, 2011

More Shorebirds in Ink

I picked up some acrylic paints and a couple of small stretched canvases yesterday. I haven't painted in oil or acrylic in about 20 years. But there has been a hankering, especially as I've gotten more comfortable using birds and nature as my subject. As I wait for inspiration, or perhaps courage, to hit me though and get me to start that first painting I continue to experiment with ball point pen and shorebirds.

I've always liked ink. It can be intimidating since it's permanent. You can't erase a line as you can with pencil. Since my lines tend to feel their way along, searching for the right contour, rather than precisely putting down the correct line as soon as the pen hits the paper this can present a problem. I'm likely to have a lot of exploratory lines. But this rarely bothers me. I tend to make the first lines light and then darken them when I'm more certain.

Of course this doesn't always work. Sometimes I make a dark line where I'm wanting to delineate the edge of a light object. The line looks wrong. But I just live with it. I think the appeal of ink is that it's permanent. So the same thing that makes it intimidating also makes it appealing. It's an odd thing. Still I like it. I don't have to worry as much about smudging as I do with pencil. And the end result almost always looks more like a finished work of art.

The 'quickest' line I ever found was made with a bamboo pen dipped in ink. It flew across the paper, often leaving huge ink drips in its way. I don't use it anymore. But there is a lot of speed in the Bic 537R ball point pen I'm testing out. There's nothing inherently good about quickness in a drawing instrument. But for me I think the appeal is that the pen can keep up with the speed of my thoughts or intuition on what to do next in the drawing. It just moves effortlessly, like there's a direct connection from my brain to the paper.

I have loved drawings for as long as I can remember. Not that I want to compare myself but when I try to render the mud and water in the drawings above I'm reminded of how much I used to love Rembrandt's drawings and the way his landscapes in pen and ink, and sometimes wash, seemed to so effortlessly portray land, water, sun and shade. They were a miracle of draftsmanship. I think it's partially remembering that aspect of his drawings and many other great drawings that keeps me interested in doing these.

As I said I do have some new acrylics and some new linoleum blocks. But for now I'm just captivated by pen and ink. The drawings are based on photos I took at Cape May in mid-August. I also did many field sketches and I'm sure that experience enters in as well. At top is a Pectoral Sandpiper. I probably should have elongated his neck just a tad. Below him the always striking Black Skimmer. I rarely see them as close as this one. So it was a great opportunity to sketch and take photos. Also in the drawing a small Least Sandpiper, hidden by some reeds. The Black Skimmer is such an unusual looking bird, and an elegant one, that I'm sure I will return to him.


Ellen Snyder said...

I love the least sandpiper hidden in the reeds. I miss seeing shorebirds. I used to spend more time on the coast, but have shifted my explorations inland. Thanks for each of your drawings that remind of shorebirds probing and running along the tidelines.

Ken Januski said...

Hi Ellen,

I'm happy to do what I can to remind you of shorebirds, partially because it means that we've been on vacation and I've had the opportunity to see some. I'm a latecomer to shorebirds but I've certainly come to love them.
I did get a kick out of that Least Sandpiper. The more you look at shorebirds the more you see how many of them are hidden in plain sight.