As I write this it’s the new year. January 4, 2022. I’ve got a bit of a January malaise right now as I try to figure out what to do, creatively, in the next year. It’s a question I ask myself all through the year as I decide what I want to work on but somehow in January the question seems bigger and more formidable. Last year it actually lead to me deciding to buy some color inks and trying to figure out a style of drawing with them but most years I usually putter around a bit before deciding to just get working on any old thing to get me going.

Yesterday I finished a big ink drawing (22×30 inches) by the name of “Pasture Ready.” I had a lot of it done before Christmas but then it sat around for ten days until I finally got back to it. That doesn’t usually happen but between the holidays and some back pain I didn’t feel like working on a piece that large.

In looking at some of my previous Big Ink Drawings I checked the dates and saw that I haven’t finished a Big Ink Drawing since the middle of June. I know why I haven’t. I worked on a series of five 24×36 inch paintings all summer and into the fall and they take a lot of time. The paintings take about two weeks to complete as compared to about three days for a big ink drawing. But it did make me a little bit sad to see it had been so long between Big Ink Drawings. I felt like I was like I was neglecting them somehow.

I saw a meme that said between Christmas and New Year’s Eve you should strive to be your least productive self. To take it easy and give yourself a break and some time off. I thought that sounded like a good idea but I like to be creative so I got a few things done. Yet I stayed away from pushing myself to get stuff done. That is my least productive self.

One of the things I worked on during that week was some art cards. Not a lot of them. I was only doing two of them a day for about five days. I got some new markers for Christmas. They are knock-off Sharpie markers that are branded by Amazon. I already have a ton of markers to begin with so they were a bit of an indulgence.

I have about a hundred Copic markers and their corresponding refills, about 30 Sharpies, about 30 Bic markers, a Shin-Han 72 marker set, a couple of Pitt Brush pen sets, and various other markers that I bought over the years in order to sample. There was no real reason for me to want a new set except that I like to try new art supplies and the marker were cheap. Only $10 for a set of 24.

Each day I thought I was going to get more marker drawings done than I did. Each art card size (2.5×3.5 inches) marker drawing takes about 20-30 minutes to make. But each day I only got two of them done. Maybe it was the back pain (which wasn’t terrible but back pain is never good), maybe it was the time of year, or maybe I was embracing that meme but I couldn’t get more than those two art cards done a day.

Whenever I get a new set of markers the first thing I do with them is make color swatches. I have a file I print out on Bristol board for the swatches. It’s a whole bunch of small rectangles with room under each for the name of the marker color. So I fill in the box with a marker and then write the name underneath.

The problem with this is that neither Sharpies or their Amazon knockoffs have names on then. There is no sky blue or flame red. And one of the things a Sharpie won’t be permanent on is itself. If you write on the barrel of a Sharpie with a Sharpie it will rub off. It’s the same with the Amazon ones.

After some trial and error I finally found out that a Sharpie paint marker will work for this task. Write on the barrel of a Sharpie with a paint marker and it will stay. I lined up all of my new Amazon markers and wrote the name of each one on the barrel. I went with Red 1, Red 2, Red 3, and so on. No fancy names just a number. Red 1 is the lightest red and Red 4 is the darkest.

The Amazon markers are fine markers that are nearly identical to Sharpies. They have nowhere near the versatility of an art marker (Copic, Shin-Han, Prismacolor, etc.) does but they can lay down some solid color over the small area of an art cart. Nice bright pleasing color.

One more thing that I was working on in December, and now in early January too, are my aforementioned color ink drawings. I’ve been working on one today and will get back to it after I finish writing this. I put in an order for some art supplies last week and among them were some new color inks. A dark blue, a dark red, and a few oranges. Now I’m trying to work those new colors into the style.

One other thing that happened recently was that the side tray on my drawing table broke. That’s the plastic piece that runs along the side of my drawing table and has lots of little cubbies and pen holders to keep all my supplies close at hand. I had to take all my art supplies out of their various places, unscrew the side tray, fill the wood that had broken with wood filler, screw in the side tray again, and put all the supplies back in place. Usually this would be a very annoying task. But at this time of year it gave me something tangible to do. Something I could accomplish and be satisfied with. And I built it back stronger than before. That’s a good feeling.

Big Ink Drawings, art cards, and color ink drawings. I’m getting creative things done. But my brain still looks at the new year and asks, “What does it all mean? What will the future bring and how will it affect me?” These are big questions that have no real answers but a lot of us seem to ask them anyway. Give me a few more days and I’ll be sure to figure it out!