31 May, 2012

Characters. The Sizzle Pie Pizza across from Powell's Books is a great place for people watching--or character sketching.

30 May, 2012

A subject that never gets boring: girls.

29 May, 2012

Some brave souls are out there everyday, risking their social connections by trying to raise the waistline of today's jeans. I salute you!

28 May, 2012

Giant bags. The home-made looking job secured with a hobo knot(!).

27 May, 2012

26 May, 2012


Extended gene pools of the famous.

25 May, 2012

I struggle with the landscapes. Documenting every chip of bark does not the landscape make.

24 May, 2012

Hands will always be hard.

23 May, 2012

PO'ed in the PDX.

22 May, 2012


Oof, have I been slipping...and I got a buncha' these. Just had to scan 'em.

We're in Portland now, BTW. Maybe I should re-design the blog as Brush Pen Portland...?

09 May, 2012

Brenno had picked out three sketches and asked about different effects. Let's check 'em out!

Basically, Brenno is wondering, when am I making super fine lines to get my halftone, and when am I dry brushing?

Generally, if you see a halftone on this site, 80% of the time it will be from a kind of dry brush/"fan brush" effect that I get from the way I hold the pen and spread the bristles. When I've got a wet brush that hasn't been particularly frizzed, any fanning of the bristles (either by mashing the brush against the paper as with the "fat stroke" or by tipping the brush onto the side of the bristles, √° la the "sidewinder") will put a kind of striation in the halftone. You can see this in these two examples Brenno singled out:
Striated brush stroke esp'ly noticeable on the Armco behind the hitchhiker (I mispelled it "armoco" above--sorry!).

Here's an example of fine lines.


Since really fine lines require the brush to be pretty saturated (but not too saturated!), it's hard to get your line razor-fine after you've been drawing for a few minutes (i.e., in the middle of a drawing)--it's almost like your bristles "overheat" as you draw, and need a rest to refill with ink. If you want really fine lines, this "overheating" condition will hold you up, even if your brush tip is pristine. The trade-off to "overheating" is you can now get a pretty subtle dry brush look without actually having to frizz your tip. This is because much of the ink has been brushed out of the bristles, hence the descriptor "dry brush"...but you figured that out already.

So typically I'll start a drawing making certain kinds of marks, (usually the very fine lines for a quick "lay-in"), then as the brush heats/dries, I adjust to more dry-brushy look. I can let the drawing sit a bit, then go back to it for some finishing detail work once the brush has "re-saturated" itself with ink.

Now, all this might sound to you like I'm completely in control while I'm executing any one of these drawings--NOT SO!! I'm usually very rushed, (not least 'cuz I'm trying to capture someone in motion), and very emotional--I see something I want to capture, and all my forethought goes out the window. I forget to plan, I don't react rationally to a changing brush, I get impatient, I mess up....

Basically, these drawings are a chronicle of constantly trying to atone for mistakes. 

Brenno, I hope that helps. Thanks so much for the thoughtful comments!
For Brenno, a pair of posts on materials and technique.

The pen I use 90% of the time is from a Japanese company called Muji. I found the pens in France, and now I order them through the mail from England because I can't read their French website. Here's the Muji site. Their wonderful brush pens are HERE. Just £ 2.50 per pen from the U.K. But made in Japan.

Here's the pen (on the bottom) compared to a typical felt-tip brush pen, in this case, the Faber-Castell PITT.
(I've wrote "5/08" on my Muji to know when I bought it. It helps me keep track not only of age, but use--the date gets worn off with use, so you can tell this one is almost virginal.)

Here's a tip comparison. You'll see right away why the Muji allows such thin lines.

You can see how thin the Muji tip is. I've made some (shaky) lines to show range. The PITT is much closer to a regular felt-tip pen. The Muji is a true brush pen. There are some excellent brush pens available here in the U.S.of A., usually reusable (which is nice!), but they have two drawbacks: they're pricey [$18 or so for the Pentel (not reusable? I forget) to the Kaimei ($80 or so)], and once their tip goes, they are (pretty much) useless.

The Muji is cheap (about $4.00 U.S., plus shipping from the U.K.), and even when the tip goes, you can use those brushes for dry-brush and halftone work. And although they are not reusable (no refillable/replaceable ink cartridge), the ink lasts a while--much longer than the tip!

Here's that new Muji compared to one whose tip has been frizzed by inexpert use (read--me drawing with it):
Here's the new brush showing us the lifestyle choices that will lead to it losing its tip--a.k.a., getting "frizzed." Pressure on the pen results in the bristles "splitting," yielding an interesting (if unpredictable) mark:
You can see even tho' the frizzed pen can no longer make a fine line, it does still have plenty of ink, and can still lay down a nice block of tone.
Brenno wanted to know about specific marks I'd made in the past. I'm so flattered I will make one more post to address this question--specifically.
Here's the basic run down on the brush strokes I use, going across the page left to right:

1. Finest Lines are reserved for fine hatching (which can look like halftone), construction lines at the beginning of the drawing, and small detail. I use 'em esp'ly at the beginning of a drawing, as this is moment when the brush is "freshest," and therefore most likely to have a good enough tip to lay down these very fine lines. Even in the course of a single drawing the tip will get fuzzed, and/or the tip won't be saturated with enough ink to let me make a fine, wet line.

To get  my thinnest lines: (1) the tip's got to have enough ink that it won't start dry-brushing on me (2) I "find my range" (a.k.a furthest distance I can hold the brush from the page and still make contact). To do this I start with the brush above the page and begin "ghosting" or practicing the motion for the mark I want to put down, lowering the brush with each stroke until I make contact--I won't "feel" the page, but I'll see the pen begin to make a wisp of a mark--when I do, I maintain that brush height and proceed with making my mark(s), making sure to (3) put almost no pressure on the brush as I'm doing this. This is one of the great things about these Muji pens--although they're cheap, they've got a very fine tip with a lot of spring in it. That means when they're fresh the tip almost wants to "grab" the page--I think of the way the foot of an ant can just barely make contact with a surface, yet get enough grip to hold that bug upside down.

2. Normal Lines are done like the finest lines, (often tracing the line I want in the air a few times before "range-finding" my way down to the page), but I add slight pressure to the pen. These are the marks I'm making 50% of the time. You can see how varying the pressure really varies the lines. (Note: this pen was dry-brushing a bit too much on me this morning for me to get a really good array of line variants, but you get the idea). Again, it's the spring in the tip that allows for a lot of the liveliness you see in the drawings on this site.

3. Fat Strokes are done by adding pressure. It doesn't take much pressure to get the bristles to really flare like this--or break! This straight-to-the-page pressure really thrashes the brushes fast, so I try to limit it to a flourish here and there. If you're clever, you can drag the brush almost parallel to the page to get the bristles to flare without a lot of pressure, and then keep that shape to sweep in a few marks. Even this is really hard on the shape of the brush, and you'll lose your consistent tip in no time. To forestall this awful moment, I use a compromise brush stroke called....

4. The Sidewinder. To do this I lay the brush way down and swipe the side of the bristles against the page. It can give interesting, if erratic results. You can sweep into this brush stroke from any other position, i.e., I can start off drawing a normal line, with the brush basically perpendicular to the page, but then I swing the brush onto it's side and transition my line into a wider, softer-edged "sidewinder" mark. Allows me to get good line variation without having to constantly stop and start my lines, too. Speed is of the essence when you're drawing from life--esp'ly when the subjects are unwitting civilians.

An important tip: While rolling the barrel of the pen from upright to this sidewinder position, I try to give the pen a little twist so the bristles won't get caught between the lowering action of the pen and the page--if they do get caught, they can flare out and catch--and this hastens the death of the tip. But if I can roll the barrel, the bristles will tuck in on themselves, and the brush will transition from contacting the page with its TIP (a.k.a., the ends of all the brush hairs), and onto the shafts, or sides of all these hairs. This prolongs brush life.  

It's a handy stroke for keeping speed and spontaneity without destroying the brush before I'm done with the sketch. Also, I can go back in on these sidewinder marks and reinforce or refine them, usually weighting one edge or the other (example in the drawing above, lower right-hand corner). And another variant on this is turning the whole pen as I'm making one of these sidewinders--a lot of times I turn the brush into the direction I'm going with the line, so the brush almost becomes a wet mop I'm dragging behind my hand movement--depending on the angle between brush and page, this can fan the bristles even more, or allow the bristles to regroup and return to a finer line.