Friday, 15 December 2017

Several years ago, I purchased a wonderful book of the drawings of Vincent Van Gogh. It’s a real doorstop and was published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I was particularly attracted to the reed pen drawings. Reeds, like quills, go back a long way as drawing instruments. Why did Vincent use them? The fluidity and expressive marks can’t be matched by steel nibs. Vincent was also broke most of the time and likely made his own pens.

Yesterday, I presented a one-day workshop at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I had harvested reeds from phragmites at a local wetland. The students just needed to bring their ink and paper.

I had cut enough pens for everyone ahead of time. Naturally, the students wanted the experience of cutting their own so I demonstrated and assisted with the process. Everyone made a successful pen and got through the entire day with very little maintenance.

We all tested our pens on a common sheet. We used variations of a sepia ink. Some were dark brown and some were more reddish. Vincent used different types of ink. Often, he used black ink which has since faded to brown but he also used sepia.

I handed out reproductions of some of Vincent’s drawings and we started out by copying them. I wasn’t concerned with perfect copies, by any means, but the process of trying to re-create Vincent’s lines and marks was very instructive. All of us also gained a real appreciation for his genius.

We turned our newfound skills to our own imagery in the afternoon. Everyone had brought in photographs of rural subjects. I offered a few thoughts about interpretation of photos, ‘a la Vincent’.

Following that, we drew for the rest of the day. The mood in the studio was very positive and the students remarked many times on how much fun it was to draw with a reed pen of their own making. As usual, many were pooped when we gathered for our critique but happy and satisfied.

 

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Read more https://barrycoombs.wordpress.com/2017/11/24/van-gogh-and-the-reed-pen-at-dvsa/