Testing the Waters

I’m working on a project that required a new technique. If you followed my last several posts, you’ll know what technique I’m talking about. I did a mixed media illustration in which I completed the pen and ink portion, then soaked and stretched the illustrated paper.

Test sheet, pen and ink, watercolor, watercolour

Test sheet.

I didn’t do this without testing my inks first. I took nearly every ink pen that I had available for drawing and wrote with it on a piece of watercolor paper. This included some color inks too. The refillable inks used were Platinum Carbon Black in the Yuketake Brush Pen, and the Pentel brand ink in the Pentel Brush pen. I put down the brand and type/size as my test lines. Then I soaked and stretched the paper. I dabbed off the excess water and let the paper dry. All inks came through the stretching without running. You can see the process in https://theforesterartist.com/2015/01/25/steam-donkey-wip-update/

I selected three watercolor brushes to use for painting over the lines. First I applied Viridian with a 1/2″ flat brush, fairly gently. No problem with running here. Next I applied Cadmium Red with a #12 round. I swirled in the paint without incident. Finally, I applied Cadmium Yellow with a stipple brush. I scrubbed it in with the stiff bristles. I fully expected the ink lines to degrade. It didn’t happen. All the pens I tested proved acceptable.

You may wonder, why not just draw it out after the paper is stretched. It’s just my preference. I like drawing detailed pen and ink on a firm surface. I also like a drawing board I can handle wherever I choose. The stretched watercolor paper is fairly firm, but I like a firmer surface for drawing. I also like having all my pencil guide lines erased before soaking. Erasing can put more pressure on the paper and I don’t like doing it on a stretched surface. Also, soaked pencil lines are very difficult to erase after they’ve been soaked and dried. Once the ink drawing is done I erase the pencil. This is why I decided to try soaking and stretching after the pen and ink was complete.

25 thoughts on “Testing the Waters

  1. Really interesting reversal of usual stretching techniques. I have found, like you that pencil lines are very hard to remove once they have been wetted. Have you tried using Bristol board, or illustration board, which can give you a very firm, smooth surface?

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    • I haven’t tried the flat boards, only because I’ve always used stretcher boards. What you describe would be more simple, but I wanted to try this and found it worked pretty well. I like the stretcher boards because the dry quickly. On the converse side, I do plan to try the illustration board next time I want to do some washes that require a slower drying time. It’s always good to have more tools.

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  2. Tim, I’m very familiar with the eraser damaging the paper fiber surface, particularly on the 400 Bristol’s and Hot Press smooth watercolor papers .
    This is an extra time consuming couple steps I go through, but it has greatly minimized the amount of erasing on my final working paper after I have applied my ink lines.
    I do all my layout on a first sheet of paper. Once satisfied with my line drawing, I lay of sheet of tracing paper over my completed work sheet and trace my lines. I then make any final adjustments to the drawing on the tracing paper. I turn the tracing paper over and trace all my lines again on the reverse side (like making a carbon paper). If needed, I tape the tracing paper down to my good paper and go over all my lines lightly enough to transfer the graphite. Remove the tracing paper, again making any final adjustments, I ink my lines. I have a very minimal amount of reworking pencil lines and erasing to do on my final good paper, and since the transfer lines are a light coating of graphite laying on the paper surface I don’t need to apply much pressure to erase and thus minimize any damage to the paper fibers.
    There might be easier ways but it’s one I’ve come to work with and has just become, over the years, second nature.

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    • The Microns are nice. I’ve used them a lot. Lately, I’ve gravitated to Staedtler 0.05. I use the 0.05 pens more than all the others. But, I usually use it with my brush pen, medium tip Lamy All-star and an extra-fine tip Lamy All-star. The Lamys are new, but I think they’ll work out quite well.

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