My latest kick, inspired by this guy’s blog, is sketching with a brush pen, which literally has bristles instead of a felt tip or a nib. Up until this year, actually, I had always associated sketching with pencils, and was surprised to find ink, in various forms, provides a more pleasurable sketching experience. And of all the implements I’ve used recently, I think the brush tops them all.
I think what it comes down to is that when you sketch with pencil, you run the risk of being too “precious,” as my drawing teacher says. In other words, you get caught up in refining little details until you’ve sucked most of the spontaneity out of the drawing. With something as indelible and hard to control as a brush, you have to live with what you’ve slapped on the page.
Since there’s no “undo,” as with a computer or a pencil, I can’t dive right into these loose sketches. I have to measure, and really think about my composition before I start drawing. After laying down a few conservative strokes, I measure once more. It may seem to contradict the notion of spontaneity, but really it’s about setting the stage for the next phase, where I let my eyes and hand have at it, and my brain checks out.
I’m not very skilled with the brush yet, but I can say that these drawings in pencil would have taken longer, would have resulted in more frustration than meditation, and wouldn’t be as fun to look at afterward.
Eventually, I plan to dive back into a comic strip, and although I’ll probably ink it digitally, I’m toying with the idea of using the brush pen for background art. I’m always amazed at how artists like Walt Kelly and Milton Caniff were able to render things like foliage with a few well-placed strokes of the brush.