Posts in Category: Ink


Escalation • 25.25" x 14.75" • 2015

Escalation • 25.25″ x 14.75″ • 2015

I came across an art show “call for entry” about an upcoming show looking for a range of commentary about guns. There are a lot of potential themes here: power, protection, sport, identity. The one that stuck with me was the use of a gun to amplify expression – specifically to sharpen and escalate an emotion.

The first part is in charcoal: a pointed finger, a direct expression that can still contain a great deal of context and shades of gray. By a subtle change of gesture – invoking a pointed gun – it both heightens the tension and throws a conflict into a stark contrast where fewer options exist. The use of ink also casts it in the light of something that has frozen in its state, a rendering that might be in a newspaper or book.

I came up with the gestures first and took a few reference photos. To get the best contrast, I moved around until I got the light source to the front and top of the pointed finger. I had the idea that the “gun” gesture hand should be more stark in appearance than the other. To figure out how this would look, I made a Photoshop mockup. While doing this I decided to try out different mat colors, and it occurred to me that I could make a custom mat shape too. I started with the standard mat rectangle and added angled edges to show the progression of the escalation.

Creating the charcoal hand was pretty straightforward. Charcoal is (relatively) forgiving: you can build up the shadows, and then pull back in the highlights and lighten areas with an eraser afterward. Ink: not so much. My first attempt was a bit messy, and I realized my reference photo for the gun gesture was a little bigger than the other. I decided to use the first reference photo for all of the hand except the thumb. This helped unify the two tremendously. I also changed my approach to the ink and used a brush pen so I could get more line variety. It took a lot of concentration to work this way, but more care in the linework paid off. Of course…when I cut the mat I realized I’d drawn the ink hand too close to the edge of the paper. To fix this, I cut out the hand and mounted it on a new piece of paper. Ta da!

Reference hand (plus cat)

Reference (plus cat)

Photoshop mockup

Photoshop mockup

Detail of charcoal hand

Detail of charcoal hand

Detail of ink hand

Detail of ink hand

Sketches: Steampunk Katherine

Point • 10 min pose

Point • 10 min pose

This month’s Two Buck Tuesday at Kaleid Gallery in SJ featured an opportunity for figure drawing amongst the regular mix of demonstrations, musicians, and artsy happenings. Since I missed the last two, I was glad to get a chance to go to this one. This evening had a first-time model, Katherine, whom the organizer had spotted at a steampunk convention and invited to model.

I wasn’t in a charcoal mood, so for this evening I used a few new Neuland markers and a basic drawing pad (Strathmore Drawing Medium, 14″x17″). The markers are great! I mostly used the fineOne Outliner (refillable!) and the feel of the nib and quality of the ink made me draw more deliberately with it. I’m very happy with the results and will probably use this from here on out. The highlights on the staff sketch are from the fineOne Brush tip with ink #803, a nice green/brown color that happened to match her fabric. I haven’t sketched much other than foliage with that one, but now that I see it’s a pretty good pairing with the black, I’ll use it with it again.

Bust • 10 min pose

Bust • 10 min pose

Grin • 5 min pose

Grin • 5 min pose

Brown • 20 min pose

Brown • 20 min pose

Staff • 20 min pose

Staff • 20 min pose

Back • 5 min pose

Back • 5 min pose

Stretch • 2 min pose

Stretch • 2 min pose


Inktober week 4: George

Inktober is done, and here’s the last batch of sketches: this time it’s George, age 76. Some of these expressions are very suitable for Halloween! [also see previous Inktober sketches ]

It’s been a fun exercise, though I like having these as pick-up projects rather than forcing a daily schedule. I’ll keep doing this and posting batches as they are ready. It’ll be a good project to have on hand if I’m more in the mood to draw people rather than my current object-sketching project, Undefined Variables.

Yeah, I'm not that thrilled with the straight-ahead shots either


Amused, in that slightly self-conscious way


I imagine him reacting to hearing someone else telling a story here


The word that comes to mind here is "egad!"


A bit unsure, but thinking it over




I'd be wincing too if someone drew my head this funny. Sorry about that


Inktober week 3: Maddie

This week in Inktober is Maddie, age 31. My pen may be running out, so hopefully it will last another two weeks. I realized that I sometimes start making these expressions too while I’m drawing them…which is probably a little odd in public.

Here’s the rest of my Inktober sketches in case you missed previous weeks.

A little too much drawn around the nose here, I think.


One of the best side-view poses for her.


Started paying attention to the unruly parts of the hair on this one; guess it goes with the mood?


Aw yeah.


Been having trouble getting the eye contact right on some of these, but I'm pretty happy with this one.

Not buying it

Another one meriting a bit of unruly hair. Something's about to do down!


Inktober week 2: Michael

For this week of Inktober I’ve been sketching Michael, 23 years old. Last week I decided to go directly to ink, and continued that this week. Like last week, the first one felt a bit awkward and got better with successive expressions. The mustache was a bit too heavy on the first, and I realized I needed to use a lighter mark to make it look right. It was also challenging to draw someone much younger (few creases!) so every mark counted. I finally noticed the small bit of a wave in his hair on the final drawing too.

Lots of stippling with his hairstyle! I enjoy stippling, but it takes a lot of patience. There are so many ways to unintentionally create strange patterns or marks, especially if you rush it. I usually end up blurring my vision a little bit and getting into an almost trancelike state to stipple consistently.

I've been starting with the neutral expressions to get a sense of their overall look.


Good hair on this one, and definitely a better mustache.




The eyes on this one look a little more accurate than on the smiling one.


Woo hoo!


This looks like it's saying "really? This is the one you chose?"


Inktober week 1: Roshan

I’m participating in Inktober, an annual event since 2009 that’s an excuse to practice inking. I decided to practice facial expressions as a counterpoint to my Statement series of paintings.

Here are the rules I’m following: pick one person from the excellent Facial Expressions reference book, and each week, focus only on that person and draw a different expression every day. The book is a wonderful reference of people of a mix of ethnicity, body type, and gender, from 20’s to 80’s.

This week I chose Roshan, a 47-year old woman. I started off by penciling first and then inking. I’d barely started on the eye when I quickly realized that the Uniball Vision I was using put out too much ink for the notebook I’m using (a blank thin-paged paper-cover Moleskine). I switched to a Micron 02 (0.3mm) since the paper is so delicate. It’s much easier to draw creases and wrinkles when drawing with thinner lines overall. It feels slightly like cheating to me because I’ve been drawing with thicker (more unforgiving) lines. I figure if I do this for a while I can get more confident about working back to the thicker lines. I felt like it lost a bit of the expressiveness by drawing it in two stages (pencils & ink) so for the rest I used ink only. Week 1 is done!

A good starter post.


I can imagine the sound she's making here.

Oh boy

This is my favorite one, with the head tilt, wide-eyed, with a tiny bit of a grimace.


A little more subdued, thinking or resting.


Or possibly defiant.

Deep in thought

Getting back to editorial cartooning

The final color version

Nothing like deadlines to get motivated! The Union of Concerned Scientists puts out a calendar every year with editorial cartoons about scientific integrity. I learned about the contest a couple of years ago, and somehow, each year, I let the deadline slip away from me. This year, the day before the deadline I realized it was about to happen again–and it occurred to me that the only way to break this was to treat this with the same urgency as the cartoons I drew for the Mustang Daily.

When I was doing this every day, the absolute fastest I could create a cartoon from start to finish (picking a topic, figuring out what to say, sorting out the layout, pencilling and inking) was an hour. I decided that I’d give myself twenty minutes to think of something to do. If I came up with something decent, I’d see it through. In college I used to run through the AP wire for story ideas; for this, I browsed through the UCS website to get a sense of the topics.

After twenty minutes, I had two ideas very roughly sketched out. Enough to go on! I drew these two cartoons in just under two hours. The siren lobbyists made it to the finals, which means they’ll be in the calendar. Will they end up on the cover? Perhaps, if I get enough votes!

The extent of the planning

A little social media commentary

The finalist!

Japantown SJ

View from Roy’s Coffee (SJ Japantown)

I have no explanation for the recent art hiatus other than a mental block. Been doing a little embroidery, a little drawing, a little pumpkin carving. Oh, and I ended up on a jury for a criminal case for almost a month. While in the courtroom, I got a notebook to keep track of details. During the little bits of downtime when the lawyers approached the bench, I started sketching things around the courtroom. Unfortunately the notebook has to stay in the custody of the court, so those handful of sketches are probably destroyed by now. But…it did get me sketching again, and it left me with a little free time during lunch.

The Hall of Justice is about seven or eight blocks from San Jose’s Japantown, so I had lots of lunches down there. It’s tiny–just a couple of blocks long–and just a cool little place with some great restaurants. I frequented a coffee shop called Roy’s Station which is in a remodeled auto service station, complete with original 50’s Coke machine. If you go, try the Spiced Dirty Chai (unsweetened chai + espresso). I’d had a few artist trading cards with me, so I started sketching the view from Roy’s. It was originally just the card on the right, but I felt it was a bit stark so I added another to make it a bit more complete.

It’s not quite accurate as I sat in three different spots, and it reminded me of how freaking hard it is to get perspective looking right. Even if I had a straight edge, get the vanishing points just a tad off and it’s going to look wrong. I like it as it looks, but when I was sitting in front of the real thing I winced at how torqued some of the distances ended up. Note to self: pick out the repeating patterns, like the flags, first and work from there…

That pointy thing on the far right is a sculpture. According to the guy that came and chatted with me for a bit during day 2 on this, represents how the lives of Japanese-American citizens were forced in a new direction during WWII. Fortunately, the local community was able to get re-established in the same spot after the war, and preserve a very cool part of SJ.

V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta

Remember, remember

I was in the mood for a little high-contrast inking yesterday, so I picked this pose is from the back of V for Vendetta DVD case.

The black ink from the brush pen was not very dark at all. Rather than try to black it out entirely, I added an extra layer of crosshatching which gives it a nice depth. The gray is from a Prismacolor art marker with a fantastically overpowering scent. My head hurts thinking about it.

It seemed unfinished with an empty background, so I decided to throw in a dramatically-angled Parliament building. After I drew it I realized you can see his hair hanging down. Hmm. Instead, image you’re looking at it from an angle, and it’s windy up there.

True size: 2.5″x3.5″. Completed over a leisurely two hours watching TV, including the much-needed-end to Heroes.

PS3 Pointilism


Nearly life-size (the drawing, not the controller)

I admire inkers who can make beautiful gradations with such an unforgiving medium. I did a little pointilism in high school, and again in college, but not since then and have been nostalgic for the look of it. For one particularly large project in college, I bought eight or nine of the same kind of pen; there’s not only variation in the fluidity of ink from the pen nib, but also in the color of the ink itself between some batches. Laying down a consistent dot takes intense concentration, and I caught myself holding my breath while inking parts of this once I found the right rhythm.

This is a PlayStation 3 controller, a common fixture on our couch. I’ve been looking for something fun and artsy to do while watching TV, and pointilism, I’m afraid, is not it. I forgot how much concentration this style of drawing takes. This was drawn on an “artist trading card”-sized bristol paper, created during three TV-and-drawing sessions of 3-4 hours each.