What is Gel Pen Art?

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The j’Originals’ 2012 Collection Goes Experimental


What happens when you take flowing gel pens that are metallic and begin to draw on black art paper? Why, fine art, of course.That is, if you have a little Old Masters art training like the owner Joanna McKethan and an inkling of how to superimpose hatch strokes on top of one another to make their three-dimensional nature pop out.

Even so, it isn’t easy. The color in some of the pens looks dark, but used on paper, it shines brightly. So the first issue is a light-dark one, and, as in all new genre–the artist knows of no one else who has done this–experimentation is key.

That will be described in more detail, but first, a description of the whole collection. Each year the artist is projecting a launch of two new collections. A ‘collection’ as conceived of by the artist, has one mat, one glass (u-v-ray screening), one frame chosen to give it that certain “look.” The Fall 2012 Collection is a series of nine (sorry, when the nine are gone, they’re gone) ink drawings rich in pinks, yellows, blues, and whites, but metallic versions of these, and especially in copper, a color which really says ‘fall’ even though it is beautiful year-round.

The ‘look’ is brought together by a metallic copper mat of 3 inches, framed in a black frame with a strong protruding profile and fine work on the frame in, you guessed it, copper. Each picture is a dainty slice of life from yesteryear, old horn-rimmed glasses, butterfly on birch bark, antique ink wells, etc. Thus, its antique emphasis makes the paintings come into their own with the mat and frame chosen. The glass used in these original pieces of artwork is ‘clear,’ meaning all u-v-rays are blocked out to keep the painting as close to its conception as possible. That said, when a customer buys a piece, he/she can change it entirely. If someone wants the whole collection, however, they are ready to hang and show exactly like they are.

But taking the discussion back to the technical side of the process. How do you make shadows on a black background? That requires some reverse engineering. One of the artist’s solutions is to use the pens in the general shape of the shadows, and yes, classical training in art does make it easier to know how to proportion the shape of the shadow to keep it within another plane, one bent out from the object itself. The artist leaves plenty of the black paper beneath showing. One thing to know at the outset is that shadows always have a ‘warp.’

The wonderful thing about these drawings is the sheen and the color of the sheen as they are tipped one way or another or as light hits them from one side. Literally, these drawings will change all through the day with the changes in light, while maintaining the integrity of the whole piece, what you started out with. Since black gel pens are merely soaked up by the black paper, to gain maximum ‘trompe l’oeil’ effect, a little charcoal is used to make the black blacker in the darkest, or the ‘accent’ spots, as for example, in the black parts of the butterfly, underneath the edges, and in the back, behind the blue marble.

In the drawing with the tincture (ink) bottles, the little bit of black charcoal is inside the bottles and on the back side of the stopper–oh, and underneath the leaf at front. It is interesting how much metallic sense is in the aging magnolia leaf, a theme the artist has written on many times.

In the drawing of the grand opening ribbon, the edging with one particular color in the gel pens causes the folds of the ribbon to undulate and flow, as well as defining form and making it ‘pop out.’ The hatching is curved to denote form as well.

Along with the problem of conceiving how to produce the letter on black comes another challenge: making it pastel without making it white, or bright. So in this case, the artist has given it a grain reminiscent of vellum and hand-done papers, with the handwriting super-imposed over the grain and running in a different direction. These solutions may look very obvious once detailed, but they were definitely not obvious to the artist at the outset, and there is no book written on the technique and how it is to be done.

In the picture of the antique white doorknob casting its light reflection onto a table, the rounded cross-hatchings were cross-scored many times over until just the right amount of roundedness emerged. The pink and blue flower was made to resemble cross-stitching with the lighter areas actually looking raised.

In the Egyptian-like brass vase, the figures were brought out and then muted, brought out and muted, the process repeated several times over to achieve the proper muting that would occur with antique vases, and the metallic would lose some of its brightness.

The final piece, the antique bell and leaf is a story all its own in getting shades of grey or black with pens that are meant only for local color and not for modeling.

All in all, Fall Collection 2012 was a break-out process for the artist, and she hopes her collectors will enjoy the ones they adopt for many years to come.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments, do not hesitate to write to the artist at: joartis@aol.com or www.joriginals.net

See our gel pen collection

Copyright 2012 joanna a. mckethan

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