Ink Drawing: Brush Techniques

I started off slow in the studio today, and I realized about 30 minutes into working that I was starting to feel like I was rehashing old marks and shapes that I had already thoroughly explored. I knew that I had to make some kind of significant change either in terms of the subject matter or in terms of my technique. I elected to change up both to try and get some newer, more spontaneous approaches.

I have one really enormous Chinese brush that my mother sent me from Taiwan that I hadn’t used yet, so I figured today was a good opportunity to give that new brush a try. I discovered quickly that this large brush was quite a bit coarser in terms of the brush hair. This brush lacked the smoothness and flow that the other brushes I have. At first this irritated me, as the brush hairs kept separating when I wanted them to cling together, causing much rougher brush strokes to occur. However, the more I worked with this brush, I started to see that it was a terrific tool for doing dry brushing techniques, as well as building up a texture and surface that was harsher and more prickly.

I think it was through these coarser marks that the large brush was making that led me to approach the subject matter slightly differently. The last time I was in the studio I had started working with some images of figures that were actively moving in the water, causing the water around them to foam and splash in all different directions. I knew I hadn’t fully explored the potential of this, and decided today to use the stark marks from the large brush to make the splashes of water more violent and aggressive compared to the last time.

After a few studies, I was getting really excited about the results from the changes I made. Technically, I liked that the dry brushing from the large brush allowed me to build up the texture more gradually, rather than trying to nail the stroke the first time around. I still think I have to revisit this topic again, as I think I’m just starting to see where it can go. Conceptually, I’m also thinking that this more active interaction of the figures and the water has a lot of potential. Immediately I could see the reference to Botticelli’s famous Renaissance painting “Birth of Venus”, where he depicts Venus emerging from the water. I haven’t even begun to contemplate where I want this to go conceptually in this project, but I’m pleased that it seems to be opening up new paths for me. I’ll need to take some time to let the ideas simmer.

Botticelli's Birth of Venus

“Birth of Venus” Sandro Botticelli, 1485


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