Drawing is my main focus whenever I produce a piece of artwork, whatever media I am using. It is a strong underlying drawing which I find so important, and forms the backbone of my pieces. I love using colour, often working with acrylic inks and acrylic paints, but I often find that working tonally can be a really powerful and beneficial thing to do as an artist as it forces you to concentrate on form and composition in a completely different way than when you use colour. It is quite unforgiving, however, and there is nowhere to hide when you draw purely tonally!
For Porthleven Harbour I chose to use just acrylic ink in Paynes Grey on stretched Fabriano Artistico 300gsm HP paper, and all the different shades you see in the finished drawing were all formed by diluting the ink with water in varying amounts.
To begin with, when you’re drawing tonally, I’ve found it really important to choose a subject that has strong directional lighting. The day I was wandering around Porthleven on the south West Cornwall coast, was a bright, sunny spring day. You want plenty of light and shadows to really make the drawing leap off the page.
I took a series of photographs which I used to create the drawing back at my studio. I’m not a fantastic photographer, and tend to use them as an aide memoir, often sticking them together to form a panorama, and taking lots of different angles of the subject.
Initially I drew sketched the outline of my piece in pencil, being careful to get the proportions and perspective right. Line drawings do highlight any mistakes, so it is necessary to be as accurate as possible. I often have to draw, step away and redraw parts of my drawing many times until I’m happy with it.
I really loved drawing all the fishermen’s equipment which had just been unloaded off a boat and stacked at the side. I thought this gave a different view of Porthleven than I’m used to seeing being drawn or painted by other artists, and really showed the atmosphere of this lovely little working harbour.
Once I was satisfied with the pencil drawing I started to redraw the outline in ink. Usually, when I’m producing an acrylic ink drawing, I use a dipping pen, but as this had such fine detail, I decided to use fine line pens, as I find that they give me much more control over the thickness and quality of line.
For this drawing I used Copic Multiliners in black, in thicknesses, 0.05, 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.5. They give a lovely smooth line in a great variety of thicknesses and the nibs and ink are replaceable, which is particularly useful for the very thin nibs, as they are easily damaged.
Finally I started to ink in all the different tones by building up layers of washes of Daler Rowney Paynes Gray FW Acrylic Ink. The ink is permanent, and unlike watercolour, once it is on the paper, that’s it, so it is very important to build up the shades slowly and carefully.
It is at this point that the drawing really starts coming to life and that it seems to start to jump off the paper! I particularly enjoyed building up the light and shade and textures in the fishermen’s equipment, and especially the pile of rope. This was where having strong lighting really helped the picture, as the contrast between light and shade made it very three dimensional.
In the following photo, you can also see where I’ve drawn test lines of my fine line pens, so that I could decide which thickness pen to use where!
After I had painted in the houses in the background, I noticed they were too dark. I added some white ink over the top to lighten them slightly. This isn’t ideal, and I notice it, but I don’t think it detracts too much from the finished drawing, so I went with it!
Once I was happy that I’d finished the ink washes, I finished and signed the drawing. It is so difficult as an artist to know when to stop, but when using acrylic ink which is so permanent and tricky to change once it’s on the paper, less is most definitely more!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about how I created, ‘Portleven Harbour’. If you’d like to see more of my work, my website is www.alicehole.co.uk
You can also see more of Alice's work in the PaintersOnline gallery by clicking here.
This demonstration originally featured on the September 2015 bonus features e-newsletter. Make sure you are opted in to receive more features like this from PaintersOnline gallery artists.