Paul Hogarth on pen & ink

February 6, 2013

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I am finding this book full or surprises. Ostensibly an artist summarising his approach to this medium (he’s written a similar book on pencil),  Paul Hogarth explains in detail thes processes behind his characteristically lively and quirky work.  Every illustration is explained in terms of original size and materials.

I bought this on the back of the connection between a friend of Hogarth’s, Ronald Searle, and the link down the generations between Searle and contemporary New York urban sketcher, Veronica Lawlor. I also found Hogarth’s illustrations of John Betjeman’s book on English churches also illuminating: the mix of vignettes and object drawing with larger watercolour-on-pencil sketches of buildings and rural landscapes. While the book on churches sheds light on Hogarth’s approach to watercolour, Creative Ink Drawing covers a range of interesting, unexpected topics, including:

* dealing with the logistics of on location sketching, especially working “furtively”, out of the range of the subjects;

* the use of multiple pens in any one drawing – it’s almost never about just one pen;

* his explanations about markers;

* moving from pencil to ink, the drive being more commercial in origin than aesthetic or artistic;

* choosing the right medium for the time available when sketching outdoors;

* his use of two sketchbooks – one small for taking colour and composition notes and a larger one for ‘developed’ drawings;

* the importance of the sketchbook in his pen & ink  output.

One expects a strongly English bent in an English illustrator: steel nibs and a Spencerian calligraphic background. What is illuminating his how American architecture changed his style and approach and process: American buildings demanded pen. Using markers to cover large areas are instrumental in his capturing architecture as he, the tourist-artist, quickly moves through a foreign land.

The book remains contemporary despite the references to brand names of pens and other materials long gone.

There are chapters covering all sorts of pens (including bamboo, fountain pens, ballpoints, markers) and some specific chapters give sound, practical advice on particular subjects: drawing people, landscape, architecture, the city and a final chapter on industrial buildings and industrial landscapes.

Urban sketching can often seem to be the province of graphic artists and commercial illustrators, but though sketched in sketchbooks for the most part, his sense of the “finished artwork” is very strong where he often aims for a composite composition (fragments and separate components combined to create an impression or feeling rather than being naturalistically true or realistic in a reportage sense).

Hogarth, Paul. Creative Ink Drawing. New York: Watson-Guptill, 1968. 160 pages. Mainly black-and-white work (some full page to show his use of Chinese brushwork), with a handful of colour illustrations (mainly to show his use of markers).

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