Soapbox for September 2nd, 2009

Rick’s Soapbox 09-02-09

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009


Continuing the real-life saga of one man’s struggle against his art materials!

As promised last week, I want to touch on the subject of filling in large areas of black on your page.

Usually, in the course of inking a page, I’ll have filled in many of the smaller areas of black already, often as a way to get excess ink off the brush after dipping, so I can start inking finer lines than a full brush will allow. But when it comes to filling in large areas of black, I tend to leave them till the very end of inking a page for a couple of reasons.

First, I like having areas on the page where I can try out a line without worrying about messing it up.

Let’s say, for instance, that I want to make a line of a certain length that starts thin and gets thick, as I might if I were feathering into a shadow area. In that case I might try out the line once or twice in one of the areas that will later be covered by black. I’ll try a couple of strokes, and when I get it just the way I want it, while I’m still in the rhythm of making that particular line, I quickly move to the live area and make that stroke or strokes again.

If I had to use a scrap piece of paper, it could still be done, but I think it’s simply easier for your hand to retain the memory of how to make that particular line when you can get right to it without having to go back and forth between pieces of paper.

Second, since I generally ink on 2-ply bristol board, I find that filling in large areas of black tends to warp the board a little, sometimes quite a lot if the black area is very large.

This has the tendency to make fine line work near the warped area quite difficult because of the uneven surface it creates. Therefore, I like to make sure I’ve finished all the tricky line work in an area before filling in the blacks nearby.

I’ve found that the warping depends on the quality of the bristol board as well as its thickness. As you might expect, a 3-ply board warps much less (if at all) compared to a 2-ply board. But also the higher the quality of the board, the less warping it allows: Strathmore 500 series gives much less warping than the 400 series.

Warping also depends on the ink used, as some inks tend to be absorbed more and produce more warping than others.

Finally, I tend to wait till the very end of my inking session to fill in blacks because I like to switch to a larger, older brush for painting in large areas of black.

A Winsor and Newton #2 is generally too small to conveniently lay black into areas larger than a square inch or two. You’ll find you have to dip every few seconds just to keep enough ink on the brush to do the job. A #3 is better, but I like to use a #4 or larger. I can still get a decent point at the tip, which allows me good control at edges and corners, but it also holds enough ink that I’m not always dipping.

Also, I want to extend of the life of my good #2 brush as much as possible, and I’m guessing scrubbing a lot of black across a page might not be the best idea for this. Why shorten the life of your best brushes, when an older or cheaper brush will do?

For me, it’s an old #4 student grade brush, and I don’t care if it gets beat up!

Next Wednesday:
I’ll talk about working on backgrounds in: Inking With a Brush, part 16!

Ex animo!

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