I just bought myself a big bottle of India ink. By big I mean 500 milliliters. That’s bigger than the 125ml bottle I bought last June. It’s my current favorite ink to use Sennelier. It’s nice and thick and black. The only drawback I notice when using it is that it can sometimes sit on top of the paper I’m using rather than sink down into the fibers. That can make the ink streak a little. I think that’s due to the thickness of the ink but it might also have to do with the paper. I mostly uses a Strathmore 300 Bristol but I’ve been using that paper for a long time and this is the first ill I’ve noticed it. It might also be that this ink is so dark and rich that I notice streaking in it a bit more than a less dense ink.
Speaking of less dense ink I still have my big bottle of Blick Black Cat ink. That one is 473ml (16 ounces). I’ve probably used a couple ounces out of it but I haven’t dug into that one too much. The ink isn’t dense enough for my taste. I’ve only used it a little bit when I’ve wanted a slightly lighter line. It pairs well with marker. It caused me to accidentally mix the two inks up though.
I put my ink into small glass jars. I’ve had those little jars for years. They originally had fabric paint in them. I must have bought the fabric paint in the late 1980s or early 1990s. I remember at some point the paint switched to using plastic jars and I didn’t bother to keep any of those. I bet the switch was in the early 1990s. I don’t even think they make that paint anymore. I liked the little (probably one ounce) jars enough to keep some of them all these years. I pour some of the ink from the big bottle into the small one and put the small one into my side tray attached to my drawing table. The jar is in a little recessed space well away from the sweep of my arm so I can’t accidentally knock it over as I work. I keep it in one spot so if I want to use a different ink I swap in the new jar for the usual one. Of course sometimes I forget to swap it back out again. I was working on a drawing the other day and started wondering why my ink was looking a little watered down. Of course it was because I had the less dense Black Cat ink. I made due.
I dig the Rapidograph Ultradraw ink I started using again just a couple of years ago. I only have it in tiny 22ml (3/4 of an ounce) bottles but I don’t uses a ton of it. I used to use it back in the 1990s for my technical pens. It’s a special ink that has a surface tension breaker in it so that it flows through the small opening of a technical pen without clogging as often as regular ink. After a while in the 90s I stopped using it in my technical pens and stuck with my regular ink. It was much cheaper, I always had it around, and I cleaned my tech pens regularly anyway so they weren’t clogging much. Eventually my tech pens wore out and became yet another thing they don’t make like they used to so I stopped using them all together.
I switched over to the thin black art markers they have so many of these days but the problem with them is they’re expensive and unreliable. You never know when one is going to run out of ink or how much ink is in it at all so you need lots of them around at all times. But I’m a tinkerer and years ago figured out how to refill disposable pens with India ink. Pull the plugs off the back of them, pull out the sponge inside the barrel, and wet the sponge with India ink from an eyedropper. I’d been doing that for years with my Sign Pen markers and started doing it with the thin black art markers too. The problem was that the thin markers clogged too easily with the regular ink. They’d work for a while but then stop. It was a bit frustrating but then I remembered the old Ultradraw ink and bought myself a bottle. Turns out it works really well in those little black art markers. Extends their life by a factor of ten. I can get with that.
They don’t make my old favorite India ink anymore. They haven’t for years. It was T-100 drafting film ink. It came in a little one ounce bottle like all the Higgins ink did and I went through a lot of those little bottles. I’m not even positive what drafting film ink is but I think it was used for doing mechanical drawings on clear acetate. That’s just a guess though. Since it used to be easily found in art stores I’m sure most of it was used for regular drawing on paper. It was a dense ink that dried with a dark matte black finish. I miss that matte finish. I think another of the reasons the Sennelier ink looks a bit streaky to me is that is has a glossy finish. That tends to bring out the streakiness when the ink is used over a large area.
That T-100 was my main ink for a lot of years. I always played around with other inks but I mainly used the T-100. I can’t remember when I stopped being able to find it but it was probably around the year 2005. Then I probably had no main ink until I found the Sennilier just a few years ago. Probably for about five years I just went from ink to ink looking for something I liked but nothing stood out. It was all just okay. These are the thoughts brought up by spending thirty dollars on a big bottle of ink.
I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got ten new comics.
Check them all out here:
I feel like writing at the moment but can’t think of anything I want to write about. That happens. Sometimes I look for an idea but I can’t find one. So I looked around for a moment and decided to write about one of the first things I saw. Two of my Tiny Monster Art Cards. That’s the one good thing about writing about my own art, I have a lot of it laying about the place. So if I can’t start out with an idea as I write maybe I can end up with one. Or maybe it’s just an exercise in writing. That’s okay anyway. I can always use some exercise.
In looking at the two Tiny Monster Art Cards that have dates and numbers on the backs of them. The purple skinned fella is number 26 and has the date of June 20, 2015 on it. The red skinned fella is number 38 and has the date of June 29, 2015 on it. These dates might be a little misleading because I did these cards in two stages. First I drew them in black and white and that’s the way they were supposed to stay. They’re art cards so they’re 2.3×3.5 inches, the size of baseball cards, and I originally drew a whole bunch of them. Probably around forty of them. Sometimes I get into a particular thing for a short while. I probably liked the pen I was drawing them in and had a good time drawing little monster cards. Then they sat for a while.
I just checked my calendar where I write down such things and it wasn’t until November that I added color to these cards. I was probably having a hard time figuring out what I wanted to work on, saw the black and white cards, and decided they needed a bit of color. That happens to me from time to time. Often deciding what to do is the hardest thing for an artist. If it’s work that you’re getting payed for it’s easy to figure out what to do. It’s whatever you’re getting paid to do. But when you’re on you’re own making art figuring out what is the best use of your time and effort isn’t easy. That’s why I like little things like these cards. They can keep me going when I can’t figure out a direction. They may not quite be bread crumbs pointing me in a direction but they’re bread crumbs I can eat until a big meal comes along.
First of all these Tiny Monsters are cute monsters. They’re not very scary or terrifying. They may be weird but they’re not giving anyone nightmares. They might not be so cute that they make people say, “Awwwww…” but no one is looking away in horror. They’ve got fairly cute proportions. That means they have big heads for their body size. What keeps them from being really cute is that their eyes are not so big. One of the cute rules is the bigger the eyes the cuter the drawing. In these the eyes are just big enough to be easily seen.
These were ink drawing which means I didn’t do any pencilling first. I drew in ink and so couldn’t erase anything. So I kept it simple. The masters are standing there not in complex poses. They’re just being. I also drew the legs very short. This helps with the composition as it makes the monsters rectangular so they can fill up the space of the card better plus it makes them appear a little bigger. That’s because it’s their upper bodies that look more muscular and that’s what we count for “Big”. If I was to draw them as if they were nine feet tall on these little cards they’d probably end up looking tall and slender. It’s better to go for big and broad.
The color is made with my Copic markers. Though I like markers of all types the Copic brand ones have ended up being my favorite because they are refillable. It’ll cost you a bit up front. A marker and refill are about six dollars a piece but for your twelve dollars you get the equivalent of about ten markers. That’s a lot plus you get the security of knowing that your marker isn’t going to run out on you in the middle of a drawing leaving you high and dry. You can refill it and keep going. It took me a few years to build up a stock of markers and refills but as of now I’m all set. It’s funny though because I always see new brands and types of markers that I want to try, some even refillable, but in the end I decide I’m pretty well set so there is no reason to spend extra money.
Of course the best thing about markers is that they’re instant color and the color is dry and stable the moment you put it down. As much as I like paint it’s not instant. Watercolor is the fastest of the paints and even that take a few minutes to dry as I use it. But not marker. Lay it down and it’s done. That makes it fun to work with.
As I look at these two cards I notice I took opposite approaches with the colors. On one I made the skin tone a bright color and the shirt a neutral and on the other I made the shirt a bright orange and kept the skin close to a neutral. With both I went for brown shoes to ground the drawing a bit. It’s mostly simple color with only a hint of shading but I generally find the color to be effective. It gives a little life to the drawings. I like the choice I made of a light yellow halo around the figures. It’s subtle but lifts them off the background just a bit. The yellow and white fight a little to see which is going to be the whitest white of the piece and that gives it some life.
There you go. A couple of little drawings that gave my writing a little life for a bit.
I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got six new comics.
Check them all out here:
Home printers can be tricky things. Especially when trying to make high quality art prints with them. I’ve been making prints on home printers for a couple of decades now. All the way back to when you could see the dots of an inkjet printer with the naked eye. Problems still crop up out of nowhere just like they did way back in the 1990s.
I’ve had a Canon printer for about the last five years. A Pro 9000 Mark II. Before that I used Epson printers for about 15 years. I finally abandoned Epson (the Stylus Photo R1800 being my last one) because I had too many problems over the years with clogged print heads. My R1800 worked perfectly 98% of the time but that 2% that it wasn’t working perfectly could eat up a lot of time and money. It eventually became frustrating enough for me to try a new brand when the time came to get a new printer.
The Canon wasn’t without its frustrations. Mostly because it turned out that there was a flaw in the model I bought and it would just stop working never to run again. A month after I bought the printer it died. Turns out this was a known flaw so Canon sent me a new one very quickly. The new one lasted a week. Canon sent me a third one and that one has been running fine these last five years. I’d have to say it runs perfectly as close to 100% of the time as possible because I don’t remember losing a lot of time or money to it. Except for yesterday.
Most printer manufacturers tell you to only use genuine whatever-their-brand-is products. Usually this means ink and paper. I’ve found that to be true with the ink. As much as it pains me to have to buy super-expensive printer ink the knock-off stuff doesn’t work as well when trying to make high quality prints. I’ve learned that the hard way. Paper is another story. There are a lot of third party companies that make good inkjet paper. Most of them will work with any inkjet printer you’ve got. I even still use a lot of Epson paper with my Canon printer. Epson’s matte finish papers are among my favorites for price and quality. I use them all the time.
I also like to print on semi-gloss or luster photo paper. I’ve used various brands of luster paper from Epson to Canon to whatever I could find. Over the last few years I’ve been printing out some of my street photos on five by seven inch luster paper and I keep one of the photos on my drawing table on a little easel and then change it out even few days. As a result I’ve tried a few different brands of five by seven inch paper but have lately settled on one by a company called Inkpress Media. They make some nice paper and it’s reasonably priced. I’ve been cranking out some small photos on it for months now.
At Christmas time I often make photos as presents for my family. I take old family photos, jazz them up a bit, and put them in frames. Usually these photos are on eight and a half by eleven inch paper. I was almost out of paper that size so I ordered some. I decided to go with the Inkpress Media paper that had served me well at five by seven and bought some eight and a half by eleven sheets of it. I made my photos, printed them out, and put them in frames. But as I was doing this I began to notice an odd problem. The bottom corners of the photos looked a little dirty. A tiny amount of ink was on them. Maybe a quarter inch long and a thirty second of an inch wide bit of black ink. Not a lot. I had seen it from my printer before but it really didn’t matter on these prints. I was busy too so I pretty much ignored it.
Cut to a few weeks later, I’m trying to make some fine art prints, and here come the little smudges. An art print has to be perfect so that won’t fly. That meant trouble-shooting. As I printed a photo I could hear the printer doing a weird thing at the end of the printing process. It’s like it was grabbing the paper and shaking it. I think that’s what was making those marks. Otherwise the print was fine. I opened the printer utility software and used that clean the heads, rollers, and whatever else they had. It made no difference. I looked online and couldn’t find many answers. I changed all my printer presets and toggled between different settings. None of it made the slightest bit of difference. There was that weird printer skip noise at the end and there were those smudges. 99% of the print was fine but that last 1% was not.
I must have changed things ten times and printed out ten prints all to no avail. I was getting frustrated before I decided to change one last variable. The paper. I had already printed low res on plain paper and that seemed fine but I figured that was because there was far less ink used. I got out some Canon photo paper, used the same preset as I had before, and it printed out perfectly. No weird hesitation sounds and no ink smudges. I was baffled. Still am. The Inkpress Media paper worked fine at the five by seven inch size so how come it failed in such a weird way at the larger size? I have no idea.
Also I was printing the photos with white around them. About a quarter inch of white all around. So it’s not like the smudged ink was near the ink of the actual photo. The printer should have just left it white and kicked out the photo. But it didn’t. The printer hesitated near the end and dropped some in smudges on at the last moment. It’s like it was sabotaging the photos because they were on another brand of paper. Strange.