Friday, March 22, 2013

Multimedia Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak at Higbee Beach. Multimedia drawing by Ken Januski.

A few days ago I got an email from Stillman & Birn, makers of high quality sketchbooks, to see if I'd be interested in doing a demo using their sketchbooks at nearby Merion Art and Repro Center.

Before I answered I wanted to go through my Stillman and Birn sketchbooks and reevaluate them. What I found was not a complete surprise: I've used them mainly to make studies for more developed work. Not that I haven't used them for finished work as well.

In fact I've used them for just about everything: ballpoint pen, ballpoint pen and watercolor, pencil, watercolor, pastel, oil pastel and Caran d'Ache Neocolor II Crayons. I've used them for both short studies and more developed work. What's particularly striking is that I can find almost all of these media used in just one sketchbook! That's very unusual I think, to have such a versatile paper.

When I talked to Michael from Stillman and Birn on the phone we decided to follow through on the demo. It will be on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at Merion Art and Repro Center and will particularly stress the multimedia, especially wet media, capabilities of the Stillman and Birn sketchbooks.

It's been a while since I've used them especially for more developed work so I decided yesterday that it was time to get experimenting. Above is a 9x12 sketch on Stillman and Birn Delta paper. I started off with a pencil sketch of a beautiful Blue Grosbeak seen last October at Higbee Beach in Cape May, NJ. I then started adding color with Caran D'Ache NeoColor II Crayons. As I did so I used first a waterbrush then just a regular watercolor brush to pick up the pigment from the crayons and move it around to create patches of color.

I could have made the bird much bigger but I'm not all that fond of bird portraits. I prefer birds situated in the environment in which you really see them - in this case primarily hackberry trees I believe. The problem with using so much of the design for vegetation is that it's easy to make an undifferentiated mess of it. I spent more time on it than I did on the grosbeak. Finally I decided that I needed to add white gouache in order to bring out the light color of the hackberry branches, a color that dominates the scene. That is pretty much the last step here.

I've enjoyed experimenting with the crayons on this paper. And the paper has fared beautifully as it always does. It really holds up to a lot of work and rework. To me that makes it perfect for working through ideas. The fact that it is good quality paper as well means that when I'm finished if I'm happy with the work it can be taken out of the sketchbook and framed as a finished work. I don't have to say: 'Too bad I didn't do it on better paper.'

As I said I enjoyed this. But I think that I can still learn a lot before the demo. So most likely you'll be seeing a number of works in this media over the coming weeks.

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