Crank up the Chroma

I really enjoyed Ric Burns’ two-part PBS documentary on Andy Warhol. Andy’s color sense was superb and it had an immediate effect on my painting.

I love my new paints a lot and I am trying to use my colors as fresh onto the page as possible. Somehow paint dies on the palette a bit but, when I layer pure colors onto the page, they remain vibrant. Compare this painting of Joe with the one I did with my old paint set and pre-Andy.

This poor critter was waiting for me on the way to work; I have never seen such a bird, alive or otherwise, in the city before. It took me two goes to capture his lines; I also had to remember his color scheme as I only could paint him when I got home in the evening

A Fountain of Learning

As my Rapidograph was still empty, I continued drawing with my green fountain pen. I drew this funny old car against the curb, managing to overcome my usual disasters with angled wheels. The ink in my fountain pen is not waterproof, so I just hit the shadows a little bit with a blue Crayola.

I change the color of the ink cartridge in my fountain pen every time one is empty so the ink is always changing hue. Right now it’s going from black to blue; next up is a vermillion cartridge, so I’ll be entering a sort of purple phase pretty soon.

Ronald Searle is my idol, my spiritual guide, my ideal. Drawing with his tool of choice, the fountain pen, made me want to look at his work again so when I got home, I filled up my Rapidograph with fresh India, opened my copies of Back to the Slaughterhouse and U.S.A. for Beginners and copied some works of the master, Then I drew my slumbering mini-pup, Tim.

New color

For the past couple of years, I have used a fairly good set of Grumbacher “Deluxe” watercolors in a big plastic box. They have served me well all over the world,and I have grown quite used to their slightly chalky hues and know how to mix virtually any hue with the two dozen pans in the palette.
I would compare painting with these Grumbachers to a $10 bottle of Merlot. Certainly not bottom of the barrel, not embarrassing, but I know there’s something a lot tastier out there, probably at a much higher price point. Every time I browse an art supply store, I glance into the locked-up showcase at the gleaming sets of real professional artists paints. They tend to start at about $75 and crest a C-note pretty quickly. Dear, even for a New York gazillionaire like me, and I usually end up shrugging and scoring another familiar old set of Grumbachers for about twenty bucks.

FInally, I caved and bought myself a teeny lovely set of Winsor-Newtons in a leather case for about $75 (they’re cheaper, I now see, on the web). There are only a dozen colors but they are revolutionizing how I paint. I have been using them to paint my #600 series of portraits and they are bright and bold like nothing I’ve used before, pushing me to wilder and wilder color combinations. They are so intense and creamy.
Just a wee dab on the end of my sable is like handling a freshly honed scalpel. A teeny touch and everything changes. I am mixing more and more on the page and forsaking my palette; I find this makes my colors crisper and stronger than anything Grumbacher could conceive.
I am not urging anyone else to use these paints. I know that Roz loves a man named Daniel Smith and that for many beginners a box of Crayola poster paints will get them on the road. But for me, right now, these are the perfect companions. It’s a new chapter, a new virulent sunset to rid off into.

I am now also firmly committed to my .35 Rapidograph. It hasn’t balked or clogged on me much and I’ve only had one brief leaking issue. The line is clean, consistent and yet somehow more liquidy and velvety and creamy than anything a disposable pen can give me. So far, it’s just conked out on me once far from home; I pulled out my trusty green fountain pen with its cheap water-soluble refill and polished off the drawing.

Pens of the Moment

These days, I have quite a nice little arsenal of pens (here each presents a self-portrait), and they are influencing how and what I draw more and more.
First off is (1) my trusty nib holder. It’s a General’s #204B with a cork finger grip area, now deeply dyed with a couple of years of various inks. Despite my collection of nibs, this one is permanently in my holder: aHunt Ex-Fine Ball Pointed (my sight is beginning to go and Jack had to read the tiny letters off the nib) with a nice big reservoir hole. It’s a squishy nib that can draw very fine lines or big fat ones.
(2) came from Venice with my Friend, Tom. The holder is champagne colored Murano glass with steel hardware and it’s a lot more solid and weighty than everyday pen. I like the weight but am nervous to carry it away from my desk. It came with this nib that looks like a steak knife which lays down sharp lines, a little less flexible that the Hunt. In my current journal I am only drawing in browns, blacks and yellows � my main inks are Doc Martins’ radiant concentrated Sepia and Golden Brown and Daler-Rowney’s FW Acrylic Artist Ink. The former is a little more transparent that I always want, the latter is thicker, almost like paint and takes a while to dry.
(3) I’ve mentioned my bamboo pen before. I use it with any ink but most often Sum-i ink in a heavy stone inkwell. It draws all sorts of line depending on how hard I press and feels lovely and organic.
(4) is a Faber Castell PITT pen, brown ink, preferably, S or F, and usually in my pocket. The ink is permanent so I can watercolor over it right away and depending on the age of the pen it can be smooth and creamy or scratchy and textured. I can draw very little broken lines with it or bear down and make dark ones. It’s less alive than dip pens but the best marker I’ve found.
(5) After years of searching, I found a fountain pen I really like. I got it in Italy: a Columbus Maxima and it’s very heavy and silver and cost about 80 Euros. I use disposable cartridges with non-waterproof ink which I can smear with a wet fingertip. At first, I thought the tip was too stiff but I carry it with me everywhere and it had become a good friend.
These pens tell me quite a lot about my drawing at this stage. I like dip pens because they slow me down — I take my time with open bottles of ink and the small load of ink they can sustain. It also makes me feel connected to centuries of artists who worked in just this way. My love of technical pens like the Rapidoliner has ben replaced by a desire for variable lines that give drawings more interest and life.
It’s also interesting to see how my pen choices have changed. Here’s the inventory I did a year and a half ago. The entire original cast has changed.

Technologica Artistica di Roma

So there have been various technical questions from readers who wonder what sort of mountain of gear I have brought with me here to the Holy City to get shit* onto paper and onto this site. It’s an important and pressing issue so I will explore it here in full.
Here’re the highlights: I carry an aluminum alloy Soltek Pro Easel in a calfskin and spandex torsal harness and a Herman Miller folding titanium stool with translucent Cygnus mesh; a 22×30″ Roma Luss Journal re-bound with 300 lb. Fabriano Artistico Cold Press; a full set of Series 44-14 Dan Smith Autograph Series Watercolor Round brushes in Russian winter male Kolinsky sable fur; my trusty 18 Kt rose gold finished Mother of Pearl 85th Anniversary Aurora fountain pen and three different sets of Daniel Smith watercolor pans, each customized for optimal performance under varying heat and humidity conditions.
Oh, and my personal assistant, Franellika, carries a 72″ linen parasol; two Art Bin Ultimate Solutions tote full of miscellaneous markers, pencils, paints, brushes, scalpels, quills, sandwiches, and iced martini fixins; a fully loaded iPod plus backup; a portable library of travel guides, art monographs and r.crumb sketchbooks; and a yellowing skull for contemplation
Back at the hotel, I have two Power Mac G5s (2.7GHz dual-processors) each rigged up to 30-inch Cinema HD Displays and 2-terrabyte external drives; I digitize my drawings with my Aztek Premier drum scanner and run off prints of each page on my HP Color LaserJet 3700dtn Printer. The gear takes up most of the extra hotel room I set up as EDM production HQ but it’s worth it to bring you my high quality art work in the sort of breath taking verisimilitude you have come to expect from this site.
Any further questions on techniques? Please post a comment and/or refer to this profile of my usual gear inventory and inventory of art supplies. Rome-21.jpg

—— *My language may be a little questionable today as I have discovered my new favorite filthy thing: The Dawn and Drew Show, the fucking funniest thing I have heard at least since coming to Italy if not before, and am listening to it on iTunes while I write this)