Sometimes you just want it to be as simple as B&W.
That was what I had in mind when I stopped along a rural highway on the way home and began sketching. It was a raw day … cold, wet, and grey as I pulled behind the local convenience store onto the side road. It wasn’t a grand or striking landscape, certainly not a pretty one. I was intrigued though by the scruffy roadside melange of signs, utility poles, foliage and winter weeds. I was confronting a normal image; I wanted to embrace the complexity yet distill it somehow and finding something interesting. Perhaps beauty.
Grey and scruffy; yeah ink seemed to be the perfect choice.
First starting with a pencil layout (above), I was soon using both a Waterman fountain pen and a Pentel brush-pen; working the major shape contours along with some areas of value/texture.
Soon, to take advantage that I have this fountain pen loaded with a water-based and soluble ink, I had a water brush in hand and was manipulating, modifying the marks into small grey washes. The Pentel brush pen’s ink is pretty water resistant when it dries but, while is was still freshly applied, it too was soluble. Taking advantage of that … I dragged softer greys almost anywhere I wanted in the composition.
I liked the sketch as it is above but I didn’t get the sense of overcast light. It felt as if I had turned on some bright light and cleared away the gloom, robbing the place of its subdued, even, wet light. My grey day wasn’t here yet.
So I continued on, adding a more blacks marks, dry brush, and washes. I even decided to include a bit of dry and wet color (using Caran d’Ache watercolor leads and wet Daniel Smith watercolors) to the image. It was beginning to feel a lot more like like the dark day and sodden day that it was. As I applied the bits of color, I was trying to integrate them into the greys and darks.
I wasn’t being quite as simple as B&W and while I was ok with that … the color was becoming a little too strident, too prominent. As with the earlier, “lighter” version, I actually enjoyed the piece quite a bit at this point but I really felt I had deviated too much from the grey of the day. So, with the aid of water, a touch or two of gouache, and of course … more ink, I reasserted the dark grey-ness by softening, muting, replacing, and overpainting some areas of color.
No, I don’t think this piece is pretty. It wasn’t a pretty day. The damp air was bitting cold, the ground was a slippery, oozing, wet mess … and the sky was deep dark grey; it was gloriously miserable. I think the sketch pretty much got there.