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)

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Rosendal experience is more than just another country retreat.

It is indeed necessary to post a selection of images, visual experiences encountered during my recent weekend-away at Daniel van der Merwe's Rosendal country home. The pruned tree and seeds sown recently have flourished under the incessant spring/summer showers, transforming Rosendal and it's surrounding areas into a most spectacular visual experience (visit link to Rosendal's facebook page for up-to-date insight into happenings). Google earth map of Rosendal town.
This is in sharp contrast to the images posted on the previous blog entry - taken towards the end of the winter season. Even the gravel roads provided creative inspiration; the sand shaped and formed by the gushing waters that rushed down the resistance-free grid of town-planning lanes. 

The local bird life and pets; geese, ducks, the rooster and its submissive hen, including the exhilarated city cat (Daniel's Yeoville based pet) enjoyed the hot sun baking down on the rain soaked and brightly coloured landscape. The vast array of flowers, although an endearing feast to the eye whilst enlightening the soul, also provided nourishment for the two beehives on the property. The two armies of bees provided its unfair share of excitement - sending the arms of the locals swinging as they tried to fend off possible bee stings.

The trip down had been an anxious one; dark-clouds looming with more pending rain,  making the roads slippery and the water-filled potholes an even greater threat on this, the shortest, yet scenic route to this remote location. However the favourable weekend weather forecast and intermittent bright-blue sky patches provided a comfortable and safe journey there and back. The weekend was fabulous with lunches and dinners at homes with spectacular, priceless and unhindered views of the green-veldt, sandstone mountains and farm-dams. 
Ons kuier op Wessel van Huyssteen se stoep
This is an idyllic part of the country that is unspoiled by development, the only eyebrow-raised constructions is that of the architect Daniel van der Merwe. He designed a number of eye catching Green homesteads using alternative building materials - situated on the north-east-side of the town (visit link to Visi images and text). There seems to be a reluctance amongst the local residence in support of development, even though there is a readiness to want to capatalise on every extra cent to-be-spent. Local designer-makers have eagerly established themselves in carefully considered homesteads and trend-setting galleries and or period-based trading stores. 
Daniel van der Merwe in the gallery
Turksvy Trading

The history of Rosendal and the region is captured in every object imaginable, displayed to maximum effect in recreated structures reminiscent of years gone by. Dahla Hulme, Meerkatkolonie, and Sandra Lemmer, Turksvy Trading, have created local arts and craft including furniture outlets that truly inspires the heart and soul. Buy a piece and add meaning to your life - objects that will imbue your home with true happiness (to refer to Alain De Botton's phrase - cited in his book titled Architecture of Happiness)

The Rosendal Hotel
If you are looking for a quiet in the country bygone-era experience, then Rosendal is truly it. The new hotel, The Rosendal, offering the comfort and lazy option experience without the over exposed Clarence glamour of being seen wining and dining. If the eye is the window to the soul, then Rosendal in all its present summer splendour, is more than just another country retreat - offering the soul a revitalizing experience; an authentic festive season getaway from the buzzing city life. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Start of Summer Holidays; House vd Merwe de Rosendal

The back stoep
It's that time of the year, summer recess, and I am off to Rosendal, a three and a half hour drive to the Eastern Free-state. Daniel van der Merwe, a dear friend of mine, owns a fabulous country home with a marvelous garden, fresh herbs and greens for the table. 
A view of the dorp, kerk and a property that's for sale.
A small town with a tight-nit community where the goings-on is on the tip of everyone's tongue. Great wine and company with stimulating conversations around home-cooked lunches and dinners, is just what's needed. 
Xiaxuan reading on the back stoep.
The stoep en die troon daar agter.
An opportunity to read and with my sketch book at hand, enough time to reflect and act on the next phase of the conceptual development of my latest ceramic installation - The ship sails on (follow link). I have had fabulous weekends at this country retreat - close to the famous Rusters-valley (follow the link to amazing images of a spectacular spot on earth) - where we often partied the night away to rave music provided by Djs from all over the world (especially the Equinox experience held in September).The place burnt down a few years ago - see images of the fire.
Dinning room.
An hour and half from Clarence, the preferred destination of the upmarket-set, Rosendal is a much more quiet and intimate spot. No flashy restaurants, shops and galleries, although the new Hotel, De Rosendal, has brought new faces to wonder round the deserted streets. 
Driveway with garden
The frequent visitors ensure sales at the only three surviving antique/gallery outlets that are here-to-stay. They contribute to the survival of the local community and the struggling economy. There was a surge in property sales a few years ago and prospects looked great for the developers, but the economic meltdown has delayed an encroachment on our place of solitude. 
The pond and geese,
Gate to solitude haven
Images taken with my cell phone camera, a Noikia E72. 5.0 MPix, a few months ago, Mr Hugh Frazer (we have a photographic competition going). Cant wait to post the recess images to be taken with my new toy, the Sony NEX 5. Trust you will all enjoy the festive season and get rested before the new year with all it's challenges. For all you potters working towards meeting looming international ceramic competition deadlines, such as Mino etc. good luck with the firings.