Friday, December 31, 2010

Ballpoint pen drawing technique; a suitable pen and paper.

Selection of drawings (books) 
This blog post provides information about my Ballpoint pen drawing technique. The choice of pens, paper and drawing approach - the desired effect. I thought it necessary to showcase my drawing technique, whilst refining the form and shape of my next ceramic object, a decoy-duck. The object will form part of my next ceramic installation entitled, and the ship sails on (follow-link outlining the concept, references and the design development of the idea). What follows is a step by step account of my drawing technique; from concept to the side and top view (final stages shown below).
I had a side view of the intended form and shape of ceramic object (image on the left), but not a top view, an image required  to compile the next set of drawings; determining the next few sequences of the animated projection.
Table of contents:
  1. History and advantages
  2. Disadvantages
  3. How to hone your ballpoint pen drawing skills
  4. The desired effect required.
  5. Choosing the right ballpoint pen
  6. Choosing suitable paper and or drawing book
  7. Drawing technique and process.
P.S. For the best of my ballpoint pen drawings follow the provided link.

A selection of  drawings
1.) History and preference:
Why draw with a ballpoint pen (and not rollerball pens and or pencils). 
I started drawing with ballpoint pens whilst a Fine Art student at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town (SA) in 1982. Mainly for the following reasons. 
The first advantage of drawing with a ballpoint pen, is being able to also draw on the reverse side and follow-on pages in a bound sketch book, without having the drawn image transferred / traced onto the next page - a carbon copy of you're drawing (the way carbon copy cheque books work) and or the ink bleeding through (as the case when drawing with a rollerball pen. Drawing with pencils requires you to draw on either separate papers and or with a cardboard in between the pages (to protect the next page and or previous drawings. The other reason being the thin lines you are able to get without ever having to sharpen the lead, as you do when drawing with pencils (very fine clutch pencils were not yet then available). You also only need one great pen, instead of a selection of different pencils - a range of pencils from the very hard to the very soft ones (H-HB-B). 
Decoy duck 1st stage (blue)
Decoy duck 1st stage (black)
2.) Disadvantages
The ink in the Big ballpoint pen eventually fades (if drawing is exposed to light) - the only option is to scan the image and print on ascid-free paper. One therefore cant really sell the original drawing - this is the reason why I purchase bound sketchbooks to draw in. No loose pages that can lie around and fade with time.
You can't use a rubber, you therefore cant make serious mistakes - you therefore rely allot more on close observation of the object and or subject matter as well as the planning of the drawing. 
Drawing of an asparagus dish, completed in 1984.
Whilst on a study trip in Europe. 
3.) Hone your ballpoint pen drawing skills. Should you wish to refine your drawing skills, then drawing with a ballpoint pen in a bound sketchbook is excellent discipline. I honed my drawings skills whilst traveling abroad visiting art museums; drawing artifacts, sculptures, ornaments and carvings etc. Some of the objects were large, whilst other objects were rather small, capturing the object in pen required very careful observation. More importantly, you only had a minute or two to capture the chosen object on paper. Careful observation was therefore of paramount importance, reading the negative and positive forms and shapes quickly, whilst recording the object frantically. Often they all appeared on the same page and the same scale. This was the best exercise and or learning experience for me. Whilst having coffee and or sitting having lunch, a few minutes after the museum visit, I would do the shading, trying to recall the look and feel of the drawn object and or artifact. Your brain therefore develops a visual depository of objects and artifacts, down to the finest of detail and texture, including proportion and scale. Your quick drawing judgement and observation is refined.
Decoy duck 2nd stage (blue)
Decoy duck 2nd stage (black)
4.) The desired effect of drawing with ballpoint pens (not a rollerball - water-based liquid or gelled ink, as opposed to the Big ballpoint oil-based pen)

Achieving the right result and or the desired drawing effect depends on the right pen and suitable paper. Drawing with the normal big pens; the very cheap fine ones, allows you to crosshatch and achieve a tonal variation in the distribution of ink on paper. This is more evident when using a heavier paper - the best weight being a 150 grams, it is more absorbent and tolerant of excessive cross hatching, without pressing hard on the pen. You can build up layer upon layer of crosshatched fine lines. The oil based ink distributed onto the paper does so without warping the paper due to excessive crosshatching (rollerball pens are less tolerant). Eventually you are  drawing layer upon layer of layer of ink. This is mainly achieved with a pen that does not distribute its ink too quickly; the pen slowly releases ink without having to press hard on the pen and or paper. One starts off lightly and slowly and later darker and harder to create the shadows and or desired 3 dimensional modeling effect.
Decoy duck 3rd stage (blue)

Decoy duck 3rd stage (black)

Decoy duck, 4th and final stage (black) I was not happy
with the end result, hence the 2nd attempt in blue.

5.) Choosing a pen.
Choosing the right ballpoint pen is of paramount importance, obviously it depends on your own  preference. I require a pen that releases ink slowly and creates lines that are very fine and thin without distributing a thick blob of ink on the paper. I normally go to an art-shop and or a stationary shop, show them my drawings and ask for permission to test the Big fine pens on the shelf and or in the boxes, and by way of testing, choose the right ones - those pens that distributes the ink slowly but constantly. Only a select few of the pens release the ink slowly. Most ballpoint pens distribute ink very fast, is very dark and more than often leaves blobs of ink on the paper that smudges. You therefore have to clean the nib regularly with tissue paper after a few minutes of drawing. It is also very difficult to build up layers of fine lines and achieve a variation in tonal values - layers of fine and lighter tones. 
Drawing with a rollerball pen - enlarge the drawing that will reveal
the ink of the drawing on the previous page
 bleeding through the paper
6.) Choosing the right paper (drawing books).
I have drawn on every conceivable paper; smooth, fine, various grades of textured papers, tracing papers, cartridge paper, heavy weight watercolour papers, very fine and or shiny papers including oiled newsprints, to mention a few. The most suitable paper for my drawing technique is slightly textured paper with a weight of a 150 grams. The lighter weights tend to warp - see image above. The heavy weight paper allows the ink to penetrate the paper-fibre and is strong enough to take severe crosshatching, layer upon layer of ink without damaging it. It allows you, as mentioned above, to build up layers of fine lines, drawing eventually on the previous layer of ink, its as if the surface is being burnished, polished if you like, without loosing the desired tonal value.
Decoy duck 6th stage (blue)
Concept drawing of decoy duck.
7.) Drawing technique and or process. I always do a series of sketches to create the general form first - determining the look and the feel, the form and shape, including the volume of the to be sculpted ceramic product. I then have the option to photostat the chosen image to the desired scale to make the final drawing (to be traced). Because my images are sometimes symmetrical and or very volumetric, I first draw the desired form and shape on tracing paper, allowing me to change the shape and to copy the traced image to create the other - symmetrical side. I can fold the transfer paper and copy it onto the other side. The same way Tattoo artists trace the image onto the skin. 
Using tracing paper to achieve symmetry

Once happy with the form and symmetrical shape, I carefully transfer the image onto the right page in my sketchbook with as little damage to the paper as is possible. You don't want to create too many indentations / grooves in the paper caused by the weight of the pencil when tracing and or drawing directly.

Use a rubber to get rid of drawing marks.
Using a rubber and then redrawing and redrawing until the correct form and shape is created; constantly rubbing out and redrawing causes groove like textures in the paper - this will affect the surface of the paper and create the 'white grooves' when doing the cross hatching. 
Decoy duck 6th stage (blue)
Decoy duck 7th & final stage (blue)


walking beyond said...

amazing drawing, and amazing technique. your blog is an inspiration for me, thanks!!

jim said...

damn, eugene, this may be my favorite post that you've ever done or at least a tie between that and the one you linked to that has all your drawings. i love love love the shot of all the sketchbooks and really like the asparagus drawing too. and the progression of how you go from start to finish is so thorough as only you can do so well. it's strange because there are so many pens available now that i was unaware that those bic pens still existed. when i was a boy, it was my favorite and the entire end was all brass, not just the tip that houses the ball. i used to get 8.5 x 11 mimeographed contours of the world map and write the names of each country and it's capital squeezed into the whole map and that's why i needed the fine point bic. now that i think of it much of africa has changed since i used to do that. anyway, i love the post and it is inspiring. i might do a post soon about this but i think you'd be interested more than most but i got sofia a small sketchbook and she took it upon herself to use a book that has illustrations of 150 or so fairies and copy each fairy to a separate page in her book. i'm so proud of her for her initiative and she's about halfway through already... maybe she'll be a lifelong drawer too. happy new year.

Γεράσιμος Μοσχονάς Γρίβας said...

Superb art, wonderful technique!!

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