Life Drawing Workshop: Using Ink, Water and Charcoal

In this Workshop, I experimented with a variety of drawing techniques using black indian ink and charcoal. I feel these techniques  have helped me to draw the life model more successfully than if i was just using a pencil or charcoal on its own. The ink almost guided me and took all my anxieties about proportion and making things perfect away. In this workshop I worked with two conditions: Wet on Wet and Wet on Dry. Wetting the paper first encouraged the ink to bleed and run more where as just painting it onto dry paper gave it a little bit more control and I was able to produce more crisp lines.


I started the portrait below by wetting the paper and painting on the rough shape of the life models face and features with ink. I had no control over how the ink was going to spread or how much it would bleed, which in a way was positive as it stopped me worrying about making a completely proportionally accurate drawing and more about making something visually exciting. I added water to the ink in different quantities in separate containers so I could use the different strengths to create a sense of light and shadow and tone. The Patterns that the ink made were completely involuntary and out of my control. After I was happy with the appearance of the ink on paper I let it dry and used it as a guide to draw in the face and details in charcoal. I was surprised by how well this drawing turned out considering I didn’t think about scale or proportion at all. I usually find drawing the human face extremely challenging  but the ink made my drawing style more free. I let the ink guide me and then drew into it rather than drawing the details in first and then applying the ink.


Before undertaking this workshop I looked at the ink artworks of south african artist Marlene Dumas. Her work encouraged me not to worry about what the ink is doing on the page because it’s the natural “mistakes” that can make the best outcomes.



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Marlene Dumas portraits are very free and almost abstract in some ways. Rather than representing an actual person, Marlene’s portraits represent an emotion or a state of mind. Themes central to her work include race, sexuality, guilt, innocence, violence and tenderness. Her work encourages me to be more free in my drawing and to think about drawing in a wider spectrum rather than just putting pen or pencil to paper, she has opened my eyes to the fact that you can draw with many materials. I really like her work, it has so much passion within it and the fact that she displayed all of her portraits together as one big piece inspires me to do the same. One piece doesn’t have to be a large painting or drawing it could be a series of them. This is something to think about when displaying my artworks in relation to decay.

Ink and Charcoal together are materials I am definitely going to use in the future. I will also revisit wet on wet and wet on dry using indian ink as it is an easy way of making interesting and creative drawings and achieves a great result.


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