When I first began teaching myself to draw — back in 2015 — I had absolutely no confidence in my ability to learn. I was surprised when persistent practice began to pay off and I found that I actually could learn to draw — at least to a degree. I’ve accepted that, for me, drawing will always be a bit of a challenge, and that’s all right. I’m often pleased — and often quite surprised — at the results I achieve.
Even so, as often as not, I still shake my head a lot, knowing that whatever drawing technique I’m practicing, I’m probably never going to be very good at it. That’s especially true with ink, I think. I do love ink drawings — other people’s ink drawings. There’s something so precise, so meticulous, so exact about black lines on white paper! I continue doing exercises, and I continue to progress, yet all the while I know that I’ll never be too good at pen-and-ink drawing. That’s all right. I’m pleased at what I have been able to achieve.
The last week has been spent doing lots of line exercises in preparation for Inktober. I’ve struggled with pen control, groaned over parallel lines, and drooled at Claudia Nice’s incredible illustrations in Drawing and Painting Trees in the Landscape. I don’t do contour lines very well; I really don’t do parallel lines at all. I’ve all but given up on long, wavy lines.
But today’s exercise brought a smile to my face. “This I can do,” I said brightly. It’s fun to come across a technique that is easy — even for an awkward, uncoordinated, not-talented-at-all-at-drawing artist like me.
That technique? Scribbling!
Yes, scribbling. Just like we did when we were very young children. Just as we did the first time we grabbed a pencil or a crayon. Wild, crazy, unrestrained marks going any which way! Scribbling is fun. Scribbling is easy. And, yes, scribbling is a useful technique in pen-and-ink drawing.
Here’s a look at my practice piece for today:
All that foliage is simply scribbled in. Today, I used a 0.5 ballpoint pen. It just happened to be there on my desk when I sat down for my ink drawing practice, so I grabbed it and started scribbling.
Here’s how Claudia Nice describes scribble lines:
Scribble lines are loosely drawn marks that loop and twist about in a random, whimsical manner. They may be tight or loose, short or continuous, according to the needs of the artist. When used as a texturing technique, scribble lines provide a matted, tangled, or fluffy appearance, which is perfect for depicting foliage clumps, undergrowth, rugged tree bark, and moss. The looseness and re-stateability of scribble strokes makes them the technique of choice for creating a quick study sketch of almost any subject.
Even her description is playful!
One of the best things about scribbling — and about Claudia Nice’s description of it — is its usefulness for creating a quick study sketch. That’s what is most important for me when it comes to landscape drawing, whether I’m using a pencil or a pen. My reason for wanting to improve my landscape drawing abilities is so that I can quickly — and efficiently — put down the essential elements of a scene that I want to use in landscape painting. Scribbling is ideal for this!
Just last weekend, as an example, I stopped by our City Park after picking up my weekly grocery order. It was a lovely morning, the weather was perfect, and I wanted to spend a little time on the hiking trails I love. With sketchbook in hand, I wandered into the woods and stopped within the first few feet as I gazed at a display of wild daisies swaying in the breezes. Yes, I was able to sketch it out, getting the main details, adding in lots of scribbles. It worked. I have the page in my sketchbook and one day soon I hope to paint the scene in oils.
Still, even though scribbling is easy, I do have a problem with it — inconsistency. Especially if I’m working on an image where I have to stop and re-start later, I sometimes find my scribbles looking very inconsistent. Sometimes my scribbles are loose and airy. Other times they’re “cabined, cribbed, confined… bound in by saucy doubts and fears.” Sorry. I love Shakespeare, Macbeth is my favorite of his plays, and sometimes quotes spring to mind.
Now, I’m going to go play with my ink pens a bit more, do a little more scribbling, and enjoy the pleasure of doing something I can actually do!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts about various line drawing techniques for ink. I know practicing these techniques has helped me — a lot — and maybe I’ll be able to put a few to good use next month!
Are YOU planning to take part in Inktober?