On social media, pens, and birthdays

So I recently had a birthday. I’m officially over the hill. Mr Underhill at your service.

As part of my gifts my wonderful wife ordered me three pen samplers from Jetpen.com.  I’ve often perused there selection,  read the reviews and blog posts. But generally I stick with tried and true pens that I know work for me and I’m well… cheap. I hate splurging but birthday presents in our house are for things you want but wouldn’t buy under normal circumstances. So I asked the wife and she got them for me. Outside of them somehow getting on a plane to Guam and then back through Hawaii (I’m a bit jealous of how well traveled these pens are) they got here intact and only a bit late.

So after cleaning them off and looking them over I decided to share the a photo of them on a Facebook Inktober group. Just a simple picture of them laid out and a caption about my birthday presents arriving. Now when I post to this group I expect to get maybe 30 likes and a handful of comments. I think the most I’ve ever gotten was just over 100 and I was shocked. So my surprise and confusion in getting over 1000 likes and 100 comments in the last 24 hours is well placed. I mean, it’s just a bunch of pens right. It got me thinking though.

Three Jetpen samplers in all their glory.

What is the commonality on that group? Inking drawings and the tools that we use. In our culture marketing reigns Supreme. Everyone has a fantasy whether they admit it or not that their next purchase is going to take them to the next level. I’m that way with hunting equipment, hiking gear, exercise equipment, art supplies. There’s something ingrained in us that makes us think that an object will change our world and not hard work. Look at all the action movies, an weapon is discovered that will save the day. Our commercials tell us that their product is the best and will get us the object of our desire. The genie out of the bottle… but it doesn’t. Not without the hard work.

So, this afternoon I pulled out my sketchbook and all those pens and drew toadstools with them to see how they would do. Did they magically make my art sing? No. But they worked well and I know which I should use for what and got some drawing time in and that’s what will take my art to the next level.

Don’t get me wrong. A copic fineliner is head and shoulders above a old bic pen you have lying in a drawer somewhere but it comes down to the experience in the hand holding it.

So what are your favorite drawing tools?

Until next time, do art.


A walk on a trail and inspiration

Last week I decided to take a walk on one of the local trails over lunch. I needed some inspiration as I haven’t had much time to do art or when I had time it felt blocked.

Since it is winter and all the trees are bare it’s a good time to look at the structure of the trees. Similar to how you should know how the skeleton and muscles under the skin to draw realistic people it’s good to know what’s going on under all that foliage.

Naked trees!!!

I like to take photos on my phone for landscape ideas when I’m wandering about. Some of them could work well or at least give me ideas on how things should look. Perspective examples so to speak. Others are just for my imagination.

Do you see the lion or is it a baboon?

I took many that help with perspective, like when a path dips down to go under a bridge, or up and around a curve.

Down and around or up and around?

It was a good walk and perusing the photos afterwards leads to inspiration.   I tend to draw out the ideas on post-its so that I can rearrange them. Occasionally I’ll do them in my sketchbook but the bad ones put me off from these creative process, with Post-its I can just crumple them up and toss them into the circular file cabinet. Only one sparks my interest currently.

Photo and basic structure thumbnail

I suspect this weekend I’ll create a ink wash test piece in my sketchbook to get my values and focal points worked out and then create a watercolor out of it.

Until next time, do art.


What do you see?

Yesterday was a fun and successful day. On my way home from work I knew I wanted to work in ink, that it would be a night scene, and had to be loose. No other preconceived ideas, just have fun.

After dinner, working out, and some chores I settled into the studio with my sketchbook and inks.

Dr Ph Martin Bombay inks are really wonderful and versatile. I use them for nib work and as a acrylic paint. I spray them with water for effects, I thin them for light washes, mix them, just amazingly useful.

For this piece I used the dropper on the bottle to transfer the ink to the paper, sprayed it with water to spread and thin it and then brushed it to cover the whole page. After that the fun began. I used paper towel to lift the still wet ink to make clouds, fog, and the circle for the moon. The moon seemed to dim so I added some white paint to it.

Next came the trees. Both rigger brush and nib were used. As I worked I decided that I wanted a couple birds in the branches so these trees had to have branches by the moon and then some in front of it to push it back.

At this point I thought since I had some birds, maybe I should add some bats flitting about. Then the animals and people worked their way in. At this point I wet a wadded up paper towel and added yellow and red hues to it to make it glow. I thought about splattering some titanium white and creating halos around them on it to add fireflies but thought it might make it too busy.

What do you think?

So after finishing it I showed it to my daughter and she asked if there was a creepy thin man hiding behind the tree. Then after posting it a friend asked if there was a little lost boy there. Each person that views our art brings their life experience to it and creates their own story in it if we let them. A painting is a open door into the worlds we create. A snapshot in time and they bring themselves to it. I really prefer to let the viewers write their own story in my art. I think it reaches more people that way.

What do you think?


Ink landscape and musings about the creative process

So life is busy as usual. Is it busy work to distract myself or am I genuinely busy? I don’t know. Social media can be a huge time sink if I let it. I finished this piece in my Canson 7×10″ multimedia sketchbook this week. It’s finally done and I thought I’d share it.

I had found a photograph on the web that inspired me. What inspired me about it? I liked the framing of it. The way the rocks seemed to cascade down the slope, the trees formed a path. I started out thinking I would combine using my Copic Multiliners with my Tombow dual tip markers. I did my initial under drawing and then used the tombows for the background trees and sky and I think it works well.

Excuse the photo, it was late and the lighting in my dining room isn’t the best

But as I tried to bring it forward the effect wasn’t as pleasant to my eyes. It felt like it conflicted with the sharpness of the line work when I used it for shadowing under the distant trees.

How many times do we as artists draw,  paint,  write ourselves into a corner?  At that moment in time I was looking at it going “Oh God, this is awful! What was I thinking?  It’s ruined.   Into the bin with it! Start over!” but as I’ve written before there’s always a ugly stage in all art and we need to work past it.

Off on a tangent, sorry…

I don’t know how many times I’ve been reading a scifi or fantasy series and thought “Ohhh…I wonder how the author is going to write the protagonist out of this one?”. I remember one series that I really enjoyed. J. V. Jones’ Cavern of Black Ice. The author’s style and descriptive writing really drew me in and to be honest was the only reason I picked up a book to read that wasn’t a technical manual in years. After the first book I really looked forward to the second book. When the second book came out I enjoyed it but by the end all I could think was that I didn’t know how she could write the heroes out of their situations without using a deus ex machina. The next book was supposed to come out soon so I waited, and waited, and waited. The book was delayed a very long time it felt like and when it came out I felt disappointed in the resolutions. This is not to say I regret reading her books. They are really wonderful and I still recommend them to anyone interested in fantasy works but it felt like she, like many of us, had painted herself into a corner.

We now return you to our regularly schedule program

The middle ground was killing me… how much detail?!?

In the end I continued on with my multiliners and have a nice piece but I wonder… should I have finished the piece with Dr. Ph Martin Bombay inks to colorize it? Do some watercolor washes? I really don’t know. I kept fiddling with it. Adding more details until I wasn’t.


Any suggestions?


Back to it

With Inktober over and work and life being full I’ve only managed to do one piece. I grabbed a scrap piece of Arches 300# watercolor paper it’s 7.5×11″. It’s a river bank scene.

It felt good to work on it. I think I’m subconsciously working on a plan fir a series because I seem to be adding similar elements to different pieces. I’ll have to wait and see where it will go.

Until next time.


The end of this year’s Inktober

I would be lying if I says I finished the challenge this year. As you can see from my previous posts I only made it through day 14.

Am I disappointed? Yes. I really wanted to complete it this year. However, life got busy as always so I will look at the positives of it instead of feeling dejected and beat myself up.

Things that went right

My hatching improved immensely. I’m more consistent with the line thickness, spacing, and direction. They aren’t all random. I’ve even done more curved hatching.

My composition is better. Everything wasn’t just thrown on the paper to get it done because it was late, and I was tired and I don’t wanna do that prompt Waaa!

Things that went wrong

Because I was more focused things took longer and I think I burned out. I did better, I think I did two more days than last year, but I burned out none the less.

Because I was focused on using hatching I didn’t use brush pens or do shading with washes. Actually, this was because the sketchbook I was using wasn’t a good choice for washes. I adapted but I wasn’t happy about it.

Lessons learned and take aways

My theme fell to the wayside pretty much before I started. I wanted to add animals and people to each piece. Next year I will not use the official prompt list. I’ll create something that aligns with my art goals. to avoid burn out or incorporate the prompts into one large piece.

I’ll ensure that I pick the correct paper for my style and if it isn’t working I won’t dig in and be stubborn “I paid good money for this durn it! I’ll make it work!”. I’ll set it aside until I find something to use it for.

So here is the piece I did on the 30th. My scanner doesn’t like picking out the details for some reason so I appologize for the phone camera image.

Forest Spirit

As you can see I’ve used hatching, stippling and brushwork and there are little background characters. I’m happy with it.

See you in the next post and enjoy your art, whatever it may be.


Inktober 9-13

It has been a busy week or two. I was off in the mountains for five days and only penciled my Inktober pieces and that whole life/ work being busy has kept me on my toes.

I shall persevere! Here are the drawings for days nine through 13 and a bit of commentary for each one.

Day 9 – Swing

I really wanted to go detailed and bury myself in this one but I didn’t have time so I held off. I’m beginning to think I’ll be redoing some of these prompts in greater detail. Things I liked about this one: I feel like I have the wind blowing left to right consistently, the tree is fairly good. Things I don’t like: I didn’t realize until now just how barren that middle ground looks.

Day 9-Swing

Day 10 – Pattern

After a few days walking through the Rockies it’s hard not to see patterns in the trees and that’s what day 10 was about for me. Seeing the different clusters of aspens and pines.

Day 10 – Patterns

Day 11 – Snow

My first thoughts on this was snowflakes but it’s October and even though we’ve already had our first snow I wanted to keep it Octobery and so they became cobweb snowflakes.

Day 11 – Snow

Day 12 – Dragon

Dragons, oh dragons, how I love them. However I’m horrible at drawing them with all the time in the world so I decided to do a dragon in the style of the coats of arms. Did I hit it?

Day 12 – Dragon

Day 13 – Ash

I had no idea where to go with this prompt. Honestly I found myself scraping through it. Spilled ash from the wood stove? The spade falling in midair and scattering ash everywhere? This one was a struggle. I’m happy with the stove pipe and the spade. Everything else… room for improvement there is and that’s what the challenge is about. Improvement.

Day 13 – Ash

I hope if you stuck with me this far you’ve enjoyed my commentary.

Who else is struggling? Any victories in your art?


Inktober Days: 5, 6 &7

It feels like Inktober has been going on forever but we’ve only had seven days so far.

Build started out in my mind as something larger but I decided to go smaller with better details. So some wooden building blocks that a toddler would play with.

For day 6 I thought about bodybuilders and action heroes. You know husky. Many others did the dog breed Huskie so I didn’t want to do that, though it would fit in with my goal of including animals. As I was getting ready to start I thought about the old comic characters Sarge from Beetle Bailey, Garfield the cat, and Hagar the Horrible (who really wasn’t so horrible) and decided to go that route.

The piece isn’t perfect. The proportions are off a bit but I enjoyed drawing it (my first comic character) and I learned from it.

Day 7 was something I was looking forward too. I had in my mind a enchanted forest to go with the promopt “enchanted”. Alas, by the end of the day I was running out of time so it became a bit frenzied but I think I hit the points I wanted to. There is darkness and light. A bit of whimsy. What do you think?