[Not a valid template]I wanted to close in on an optimal application of white ink from the new pens my stepsons Scott and Andy turned me onto at Christmas. One great characteristic of this white ink is that it is not 100% opaque. Subsequent layers of line further whiten earlier layers. This semi-opaque (or semi-transparent) quality is pretty wonderful. It now appears that the whites continue to lighten through three to five layers — the black pens I’ve been using are much more saturated — maybe a second layer darkens the first, but not by much — but black ink over white turns a very deep gray and white over black turns a lighter gray and continued drawing produces much greater variation in actual ink value than I was able to achieve with black alone. This is cool and adds a lot of very interesting complexity. It makes the process ever so much more difficult to control while it makes the drawing objects more interesting!
The underlying images of the six Elizabeth drawings are identical but my approach to drawing each is different.
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[Not a valid template]This image (Elizabeth 1) was the first I tried. It’s black ink on white paper. There are 20 drawing ‘layers’. Each layer contains numerous ‘contours’. The perimeter of each contour was drawn and then a smaller contour drawn which was offset inward 1/20th of an inch and parallel to the first. And so on, stepping in 1/20th of an inch until the original perimeters were all filled with similar equidistant lines. All contours of each drawing layer were treated the same way and with the same 20th inch offsets. Wherever the contour perimeter was the edge of the drawing (as it was in the left, top, and right sides of most layers), each line drawn exactly overlaid the previous and the development of cross-hatching was prevented. In areas where the contour changed from layer to layer, deep values developed through cross-hatching as usual. Where layers shared common borders (as at the edge of the drawing), minimal value developed.
The result seems similar in ways to some impressionist and cubist work – this is due, in part, to the odd steps in value from the image borders in the top 2/3 of the image which not only produces some odd cubist-like interfaces between light and shadow inside the drawing, but also seem to crop the head and hairstyle in a manner reminiscent of an earlier time. An appealing atmosphere of strangeness developed.
[Not a valid template]Elizabeth 2 was the next drawing in the series. This one was calculated exactly the same as the first, except the offsets for earlier layers (darker layers) were smaller and were incremented for each subsequent layer. The result was similar to this image but a bit coarser and darker. Before this photo was shot, I’d gone back in with a dozen or so layers of white lines in order to weaken the blacks in the lightest areas. This produced a somewhat gray (rather than black) line in the whitest parts and improved the effect.
[Not a valid template] [Not a valid template]Elizabeth 3 is like Elizabeth 1 in that it has fixed offsets across all layers, but the paper is tinted dark gray, the hatches are straight lines, and the hatch angle is different for each layer. White hatches went down first, then black hatches. The value of the tint was too deep so there’s greater contrast between the white and the tint than between the black and the tint. About 1/3 of the drawing is just white on gray, 1/3 is black on gray, and 1/3 is black and white overlapping on gray. The proportions of white and black are incorrect for the value of the tint. This was a good experiment – I learned a lot, and I do kinda like the cool ‘screen’ patterns.
[Not a valid template] [Not a valid template]Elizabeth 4 is VERY different from the others and I think it’s a cool idea. This approach might work better on a larger scale. Again, the tint of the paper is deeper than I’d intended. I wanted to draw this one in spirals. I calculated a faceted spiral (the spiral approximated by straight line segments) with segments 0.175 inches long and the radius incrementing from the center 0.1 inches per revolution. A cool property of spirals is that if you rotate any spiral around its center, the rotated spiral is parallel to the original – if you rotate it 180 degrees, the new spiral line is centered between the original spiral line. This is difficult for me to describe, but my process in calculating the vectors to be drawn was to copy the spiral, rotate it 126 degrees from the previous (this keeps replicating the spiral at 1/3 of a circle plus 1/3 of 18 degrees since 19 spirals cast 18 degrees apart cover 360 degrees). My black pen draws a line about 0.007 inch thick. I would draw 19 layers in 19 rotations and spiral grows 0.1 inches per rotation, so for blackest areas of the drawing, each line would be a bit more than 0.005 inches from its neighbor – this is a bit less than the 0.007 line width, so I’d have the slight overlap which I like. Each drawing layer contained the contours of all areas darker than the threshold of that layer. I cast the entire spiral onto the contours and clipped the spiral so that the parts of the spiral outside the perimeter of drawing contours were deleted leaving only the pieces of the spiral which were inside the contours. Since ALL drawing layers included the darkest areas, those areas had all 19 spirals drawn. The lightest layer had only 1 contour drawn, so values were developed. I centered all the spirals for black lines on the pupil of Elizabeth’s left eye (dark side) and centered all the white spirals on her other eye. It was an inordinate amount of work for a not very impressive drawing. But interesting stuff!
[Not a valid template]. Elizabeth 5 – I tinted the paper deep black with several applications of sumi (Japanese carbon black). Then, like Elizabeth 1 in reverse, I drew with white ink and fixed offsets of about 0.05 inches for all 19 drawing layers (skipping the 20th layer which would have covered the entire drawing rectangle). It turned out that .05 offsets for 19 layers was too dense (the white pens I used drew a relatively fat 0.02 inch line) and the lighest areas ‘flattened out’ so I couldn’t perceive any difference in the six or 8 lightest layers. The whole drawing looked flat and dead and… White! So I went back in with the same black lines I’d used in Elizabeth 2, stopping after a dozen or so layers. The drawing was still disappointing.
[Not a valid template].Elizabeth 6 was very similar to Elizabeth 5 except the offsets for the white squiggles were incremented from about 0.03 inches for the whitest contours to about 0.1 inches for the darkest. Again, the entire drawing got way too white and the lightest third or more of the drawing was all white and the drawing of those layers was lost. I drew the entire black from Elizabeth 2 and the drawing got too dark and noisy. So I drew the whitest layers several more times and… Well it wasn’t very successful either. But I learned SO much that I felt confident to begin a very large portrait, “Joel” and had much better results.