Thursday, 22 October 2015

To Colour or not to Colour? - That is the Question

These days whenever I sketch in pen and ink I always have to ask the following question when I have completed the drawing. Do I really want to add watercolour or does the sketch stand up on its own without the need to colour?

When adding colour you must be aware as to which ink is in the pen you are using, soluble or permanent? Having once completed a very intricate sketch in Venice I launched in with my large loaded watercolour brush to apply an overall wash only to realise that the sketch was done using a soluble ink. I now ensure I know what ink is in whatever pen I am using.

The sketch below of my home town of Macclesfield (Fig 1) was purposely done with using a soluble ink on 200lb watercolour paper with the intention of allowing the ink to bleed and mix with the colour. The watercolour paper allowed the water to be absorbed into the paper at a much slower rate than many versions of cartridge paper found in sketchbooks. The watercolour has to be applied in a very controlled manner to allow any ink bleeding to be contained.

However, you never know quite how things are going to turn out once the watercolour is applied, with happy accidents occurring when you least expect them to. With this sketch I wasn't too worried about portraying the actual colours of the scene in front of me, but tried to choose colours to enhance the sketch (Fig 2).

Fig. 1 Original pen & ink sketch of Macclesfield

Fig. 2 Final sketch with watercolour added

The next example is from a sketch of St Mark's Basilica in Venice using permanent Calli ink.
I stood and drew the sketch (Fig 3) and was very tempted to leave just as a pen & wash sketch.
However, in the end I just had to add colour.
In a way the colour simplifies the sketch and brings it to life particularly with the use of complementary colours (fig 4)

Initially I didn't add colour to the crowd in the square but decided the sketch would further benefit from some other colour. I chose blue to enhance the blue already present with the addition of purple and yellow to several people in the crowd. I think the additional complementary colours add to the final image (Fig 5)

Fig 3 Original pen & ink sketch of St Mark's Basilica, Venice

Fig 4 Intermediate sketch with complementary colours added

Fig 5 Final sketch of St Mark's Basilica

A final example of adding watercolour to a pen & ink sketch of the Ruzzini Palace Hotel in Venice is shown below (Fig 6)
Again I was hesitant about adding colour but decided upon the addition of some vibrant colours to bring the sketch to life and reflect the atmosphere in the square ( Fig 7). The shadows indicate the narrow street leading into the square.

Fig 6 Original pen & ink sketch of the Ruzzini Palace Hotel, Venice

Fig 7 Final sketch of the Ruzzini Palace Hotel

I hope these examples encourage you to add watercolour to your sketch. There are examples where I feel watercolour may detract from a sketch but that will be discussed in a further blog.

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