Why DO I like pen and ink ? The power of positive and negative space.

A comment on my last blog concerning the unforgiving nature of ink drawing got me to thinking. Why does it appeal to me so much and form the basis for so much of my art? It is a rather permanent medium from the outset.  Those lines are difficult to alter and I was never much one for trying to scrape the ink off or cover it with a white paint. More importantly, I could never figure out how to do that without being obvious. When there is an errant line, how can it be dealt without ruining the basic drawing.

Black and white pelican

I have come to think that in dealing with a “mistake”, I was forced into developing a better understanding of positive and negative space. What could have more positive/negative space than black and white? When a balance between the two is achieved, the artwork cannot help but be strongly evocative.  Consider the power of the line drawings of the old masters and the black and white photograph.  How do we know that a piece of art is worth pursuing except that our initial drawing has a balance all its own, created by the lines we use?  I started with pen and ink mostly because it was a small and easily moveable medium at a time in my life when that was an important consideration.  I have grown to love it for its clarity and the definition that is gives to all the media that I use to overlay it.  I love the softness that the pastels and watercolor contribute to my artwork, but I love the pen lines a little more and find it hard to be satisfied with what I do without them.  I know this is just for me and that is why there are so many different media out there for us to use.  We all have to find our own  path to satisfaction and success.  It can be a great journey.

 And besides, I am a Virgo and the sense of order and perfection of the black line is quite satisfying.

Stone barn w/ colored pencil

Stone barn w/ pencil overlay II

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lesliepaints
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 17:48:21

    I share a love for line somewhat akin to what you speak of here, Ruth. It is where I began my desire to record what I see. I am Capricorn and have no idea how that relates to what I am doing with my drawing and painting. I, too, like order but find less and less that that is what I seek. My search for balance has taken over the old order of things. Your ink drawings are absolutely gorgeous and the balance you achieve is beautiful. I like all the above drawings but smile most upon that pelican. Such a handsome one I think!


  2. ruthsartwork
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 20:26:43

    The pelican is actually one of my favorites. I did him a very long time ago and I think I got the black and white balance pretty well on it. I was using the dipping pen at that time so the strokes are a lot less controlled than with the technical pen I use in architecture.


  3. Sarah
    Apr 21, 2011 @ 08:33:15

    I enjoy your artwork immensely, Ruth. Always reminds me of the pencil sketching I did as a teenager – mostly birds and deer and other wildlife; almost never structures and never people.


  4. ruthsartwork
    Apr 21, 2011 @ 15:25:42

    Thanks Sarah. I, too, did a lot of wildlife sketching in my teens. I have a couple of very old watercolors that I did of lions in Africa and a fox hunt with horses and hounds that my mother had saved for many years. She gave them back to me a while ago after a cleaning session at her house. It was kind of nice to get them back.
    I have never done people either. I could never do anything that was even vaguely lifelike. And as I said in a previous post, I got into architectural drawing because building became my husband’s business. I have grown to love architecture and architectural drawing.


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