Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Top Tips for Inking Like a Jammy Bastard AND an Amy Winehouse Portrait

I experiment with all kinds of different media but black ink on white paper was my first obsession and my favouritest favourite. The work of others that has resonated with me most has been made by hand with a pen. It's hard, though. I don't know what I'm doing. I wait for sureness to come, and it never does. This actually isn't even going to be my "Top 7 Tips for Inking Like A Jammy Bastard" because the only tip I have is that if you want to draw, you better get a bloody pen and get on with it.

Ink Winehouse Portrait by Amy Leonard
Frank-era Amy Winehouse

For me, successful ink illustrations create tension between areas of solid black, white spaces and very highly detailed or textured areas. The harmony and appeal of a simple black and white drawing for me comes when there is balance between techniques. Tightness and breathing space. Loose, wild lucky lines, and precise repetition.
Ink by Amy Leonard Creative
Elvis Presley
Hand drawing ink portraits is a particularly tricky business. The permanence of black ink straight from the pen used to intimidate me when I was young and just getting curious about drawing and art. I'd watched documentaries on Ralph Steadman and seen him flailing ink around in a frenzy. He smashes his pen or brush onto the paper, and it's not just the splatters that are stylistically "Steadman" in the drawing, but it's the element of risk and surprise. (Not to mention the grotesque, psychedelic renderings of life and death? I guess that's all a bit Ralph.) Anyway. He says that the happy accidents of working the way he does is what makes it. A pencil sketch would seem like an act of timidity. Although, not only do I sometimes use a pencil but occasionally when I am struggling to get a likeness I'll use tracing paper. I think it beats procrastinating for 600 million years and not drawing anything. Or maybe crying. I remind myself that Steadman is his own entity, and I am still learning about my style. No pathways should be off limits to exploration and curiosity. Even if that pathway feels like a brisk stroll to the end of the garden and back and not a screaming blaze across the desert in a Chevrolet Impala convertible engulfed by bats. (If you know what I'm on about, we're going out and it's my round.)

Sunset Boulevard Art by Amy Leonard
Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard (1955)

The purity of a well-placed line is addictive. That is what I've said. It's true in my world, though. There are so many of my drawings that fail in my eyes because they do not provide that feeling of beauty. Not beauty as in aesthetics or prettiness (you might have noticed, I'm not necessarily about that life), but beauty as in a kind of satisfying deliciousness that the eye experiences. It's a bit like throwing a bowling ball and watching it glide down its lane, and you know it will strike the middle pin and all 10 will fall. You scratch a line, and you pump the air, because you know.

Silent Movie Art by Amy Leonard
Anna May Wong as Shosho in Piccadilly (1929)

Here's the timelapse that shows how I make the line drawing over my sketch, add shadow and definition with stippling, and how I fill in the block black areas with a brush. The above images are enhanced through scanning and manipulation on GIMP Open Source software so they look their best online. I just up the contrast to get the blacks totally black and the whites popping white. Magic.

NOT THE END OF THE HUSTLE: All the above are available as prints and other pretties over at my Society6. HERE. // End Hustle..

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