Welcome to our Done with Ink section. Pen and ink is a classic duo for producing some of the world’s timeless masterpieces. It also tends to be one of the most difficult to tackle as well. The amount of time that goes into completing a project, coupled with the fact that one serious mistake, or even just a sneeze that shakes your hand unexpectedly is the end of your whole effort; makes it a great challenge that always delivers a unique product. Of 10 pen and ink designs begun, perhaps 3 will reach completion.
I’d like to tell you that making one of these drawings is just a matter of commingling a plan with a bit of effort and time. That's not the entire formula. There are a few intangibles that must be present as well. A bit of love, a bit of luck and a bit of life must be inserted into each design or it will never go from a scrap of blank paper to a piece of “work.” Knowing your tools and materials is a huge piece as well. The wrong ink, or the wrong weight paper and you could find yourself getting very frustrated.
Before it can be done with ink many of these designs start out as a pencil sketch, a quick doodle on a napkin or a couple words suggested by a friend or another artist. The next steps are to do a few scribbles with a pencil, get a canvas that fits with the idea of the finished product, sit down with a few snacks and get to it. The process may take a few hours, days or weeks depending on the depth of the inspiration. Time is strangely NEVER one of the considerations when it comes to developing a new project.
As time creeps by, the commitment to an elaborate project sometimes hangs on the artists desire as well as their belief that the project will be “what they hoped” when they finish, or at least capture the interest of their target audience. There are instances where an artist (self included) will suddenly and completely abandon a project, hundreds of hours in. If it does feel like the end result will be something that people will enjoy, reflect on, or purchase; scrap it. With the computer age you can always scan in the image and eliminate problem areas, but when most of these designs were created, that was not so.
A few of the drawings here may appear a little blurry. Shrinking them down from 24 inches wide in some cases, can have a diminishing effect on them. Also, some clipping is necessary in order to preserve space. Time and the elements have certainly taken their toll on the original images. Many of these pictures are in their newly restored condition. A beige-ish yellow tint now covers most of the originals. Good printing practices however, will restore the pure white background to a near original appearance. Utilizing programs like Corel or PhotoShop can help to shine them up a bit as well.
It’s hard to tell by looking at it from this range, but if you examine these drawings closer, a good portion of them are done with a technique called stippling or pointillism. Tiny dots that are arranged to create a picture. The amount of time it takes to complete one of the stippled pen and ink designs is the main reason there are not more of them. There are about a half dozen still sitting unfinished in the studio, waiting to be revived. Some have sat idle for a decade, but with a moments notice they could be back in the spotlight. Creative inspiration is a mysterious force indeed.
Consider the 5,000 or so DPI minimum it takes to draw well with a .005 width pen. Do the shading, shadowing etc. and then try to count the dots all up. It’s what it would be like if you could draw with a human hair. Several of the designs would number easily in the millions. So let’s say basically, if he was paid just one cent for each hundred dots, the design would still be worth tens of thousands of dollars… He might just let it go for that too. The most amount of time JD spent on any one design in this collection was just over 360 hours. It was started in 1997 and not deemed “finished” until late in 1999. At 24 x 36 inches there was good reason for the slow pace. It was to be the last of its size to date, and perhaps ever.