Cross training


My drawing muscles are out of shape after a few months of underuse. As I get back to the habit of journaling again, I am taking my tools out one at a time to see how I want to work, how to express myself, how to become fluid and unconscious once again.

My first drawings felt scratchy and inept to me, so I put down the pen and picked up the brush, wanting to work in color and built up layers of perception. I drew my stuffed pheasant with my little winsor newton paint set and a sable brush.

My first attempt felt too stylized in the face and I didn’t capture the iridescence of the neck feathers.

This is more like it. He has a chckeny expression in his eye which is right. My brush also feels good in my hand and I can make all sorts of marks with it in a controlled fashion. Let’s have one more go.

My colors are nice and bright here. My little watercolor set, while filled with high quality paints, can sometime lead me to make murky and muddy paintings as I over mix.

I turn the page and the pheasant and get out some other media.

Roz had been extolling the virtues of gouache lately so I dust of my set of opaque watercolors and give it a whirl. It’s so different to work with colors that aren’t translucent; I’m used to layering and layering until things come into focus. These paints force me to commit much earlier to my tones. I also have to work from dark  to light, I think. Or maybe it’s the other way round. II dunno, I just can’t get the hang of it and cant be bothered to figure it out. Lots of other tricks in my bag to play with.

I have been using my Lamy Safari fountain pen for most of my drawings over the past year. I like the feel of the pen’s flow and the blackness of its line. It’s mildly flexible but I wish it was even springier. Drawing with a pen forces me to pay far more attention than does the brush; I am committed to every mark and I can draw much more specifically. My crosshatching is a little less even than I’d like it to be but I quite like this drawing.
I liked drawing this one more. It’s done with a dip pen and a steel nib (no idea which one — I have a big box of randomly collected one and I know by feel which ones I like best). This pen gives me much more variation in my lines and it’s more interesting to draw with. It’s trickier to control too. My lines are a less regular and perfect and I never know exactly how the nib will behave. The springiness also means it can spring back and attack the wielder, spraying splotches and drips or suddenly scarring the page with a dark irregular line. It’s an adventure.

I pick up my sable brush again and dip it into my India ink. It’s a feeing experience, like drawing with a super liquidy marker and also has a fair degree of unpredictability (Or is that just a function of the fact that I don’t really know what I’m doing?) I make a specific kind of graphic image with this brush, almost comic booky, and unlikely to become my everyday way of capturing the world around me. A fun detour nonetheless.

Colored pencils are just too much work. I don’t like swapping pencil after pencil to find the right color and then being limited to the hues I have ( and I have a huge collection of pencils, none of which are exactly right). I cross hatch and layer them to reproduce the colors I see but I don’t like the process or the results, I don’t like seeing white paper showing between the lines either. I am trying to approximate what I do with water colors and I may well be doing it wrong. Pencils do give one a fair amount of control and the colors are fairly bright but they are also smudgy and fiddly.

My love for Lucinda Rogers‘ work inspired me to combine a sper fat (B) Faber Castell PITT pen  with a super fine one (XS).  I’ve done a few drawings like this but I have  a lot to learn about this technique. I dont fully understand when to use the fat one and the XS doesn’t glide on the rough watercolor paper of my Moleskine.Still, it has a nutty quality that I like.Finally, I unpack my huge collection of Doc Martin’s super electric translucent water colors. I just love these colors, so bright and bold, but they need to be handled with care. Like colored pencils, they come in zillions of hues (I have over a hundred little eyedropper bottlesfull) but they can be mixed. They tend to be much more fluid that pan watercolors so it;s easy to overload the brush and make things gloppy. This isn’t the best example, but generally I love the ways paintings come out when I use this stuff.

This was a liberating experience and gave me lots to think about. I also got to know my pheasant roommate better, always a smart idea.

30 thoughts on “Cross training”

  1. I love this Danny. I’m doing something similar with icicles. It’s always a wonderful learning experience.


  2. Fun to see your various technical forays. Each has considerable charm and I like your playful approach to all of these mediums. Thank you so much for the link to Lucinda Rogers’ work… it is terrific!


  3. Fun to see your experiments, Danny, with these drawing mediums.
    My favorite (by fractions) is the funky final B&W drawing with the thick and thin lines, of your roommate looking me directly in the eye. And oh what eyes that birdy has!
    I used to vaccinate chickens when a teen, so I know that look, and I raised a small flock of pheasants one summer, for a Merit badge in the scouts.


  4. Danny, I love that you’re flexing your drawing muscles and sharing your experiments drawing your pheasant. Gouache is going to be a bit of a pain for anyone used to using the Doc Martin dyes that you use (you describe them as watercolors but aren’t you using the concentrated dyes that are fugitive—because otherwise I’ve been muttering at you unjustly?).

    It’s fun seeing how you’re feeling your way through the color, but what I really enjoy is your wonderful line quality, regardless of which pen you are using. The sable brush with the India ink gives the effect of the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. While you say you’ll not adopt this as your usual mode for observing the world you’ve managed to capture the essence of pheasant.

    I too enjoy ink, because as you say it makes us commit. One thing I’m curious about, in your color examples you didn’t use any ink at all and just worked with the brush. I know you often work in line and then add color washes. Were you just trying to push away from that usual approach on this day? All the ink drawings stand alone so maybe you just didn’t feel the need to add color.

    I have to look at Lucinda’s work. I’ve been seeing a lot of “reportage” people using thin and thick lines and a lot of architecture people. It always looks vibrant.


  5. Forgot to ask if you have ever tried watercolour pencils. I like all of your drawings here but my favourites are the ones done with coloured pencils, the Lamy pen drawing, and the India ink drawing.


    1. Yes, my pencils are watercolor ones but I dont love the effect — too anemic as watercolors, too ill-defined for pencils. Again, a sever judgment founded probably on limited use.


  6. Danny, I just looked at Lucinda’s work which is wonderful. I especially like her use of line with simple blocks of color on a colored ground. I’m going to check out some more.


  7. Of them all I like the inked ones best. I adore the two with the bird looking directly at ME. He has so much life and character. Perhaps it’s the funky fuzzy tufts.

    Seeing all the experimentation goads me into trying more combinations and subjects. My dog’s toy basket is full of abandoned stuffed animals (dusty, cough). Even a fuzzy red chicken!


  8. Danny lovely to see you drawing again, and clearly having fun with it along the way. I just wanted to say that my daughter has used your art as inspiration for her own art at school for her sixth form art project. I hadn’t realised that getting her to watch your videos, of both yourself and Jack had rubbed off on her. I think as Jack is a similar age to her I thought it might be interesting for her to see what someone of her own age is up to. Little did I know that amongst her other artists, there you were! Her subject is structure, as she has been inspired by some of your travel drawing, especially your visit to Paris. So over the Easter Holidays her teacher will no doubt discover you as well as she reads up what Josephine has written! The Internet has made the whole world seem that much smaller.


  9. Excellent work Danny. I love seeing the same subject being discovered and rediscovered in different media. Exploration, especially when your creative muscle is out of shape, is a great way to get comfortable sketching again. Since each of these examples are exclusively one media, you might enjoy combining your favorites. Recently, I saw some great sketches that were first drawn in colored pencil and then filled with watercolor washes. But what ever you choose to work in, I’m glad to see you’re enjoying the process!


  10. Thanks Dad I enjoyed your exploration of other mediums. Been wanting to use my gouche and working from dark to light will help. Now I just have to change one more habit and perhaps more than one. Dorothy


  11. Danny, I love the way you are articulate and are honest and unapologetic about your art as you work through each medium. I think as artists we are so critical of ourselves when what our artist truly needs is TLC in order to grow. I love the way you say “As I get back I to the habit of journaling again, I am taking my tools out one at a time to see how I want to work, how to express myself, how to become fluid and unconscious once again”….Journaling is so wonderful because one can approach it without expectation and use it to feel the materials and the subject matter and how the two flow together. You continue to inspire me!


  12. I truly appreciated your description and re-exploration of various mediums. I think many of us experience the “when did I forget how to draw?” after an absence. I also use the Lamy at times, but it is not conducive to washes after.
    I use gouache to lay down washes of the primary tone, then detail with colored pencil. It avoids the work of filling in white space. Sometimes I add more detail with pen and ink after.
    Looking forward to your book/s.


  13. I enjoyed reading your comments in regards to the implementation of each medium. I know you are analyzing your work with a critical eye, but I think you’re being too critical on yourself! Techniques that you saw wrong in this effort or that, I thought, are you kidding me? I love them! Always keep going, Danny, you are a wonderful artist in all formats.

    (I will say that I agree with you on the colored pencils (not your rendition, just the medium.) I find myself feeling, when I use them, that there’s just not something “juicy” enough in the result I have with them.)


  14. Love the exercise. It gives me an idea about my “Painting a Day” project – I’ve been working mostly in watercolor and/or acrylics but I will have to try using all sorts of different media that I’ve used in the past (where did I put that set of gouache paints???). I hadn’t thought about doing that – but it could be very fun!


  15. Thank you Danny for your continued inspiration. The exploration of one topic in a variety of media and contrasting views is something I should do more of, in order to learn more about each object, and of course myself. Thanks again.


  16. I feel truly blessed to have the luxury of receiving your experience, your drawings and thoughts, at the comfort of my own bed- relaxing and so interesting- most of all inspirering- hard to fall asleep now- but so worth it. Can´t wait to strengthen my drawing-muscles too now!


  17. Danny I really enjoy your site, I saw you speak at HOW a few years back and that got me back to sketching and drawing. I also really like my Lamy Safari pen, may I ask what ink do you use for your Lamy pen and or other fountain pens?

    Thanks again for the wonderful site and drawings.


  18. Hi Danny! Wow! I just stumbled upon your blog after seeing a video of you drawing/painting breakfast in a sketchbook. I love your stuff! Please keep drawing/painting. I’m a follower now, thanks for putting it all out there.



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