When Henry Ford famously said, “You can have any colour you like as long as it’s black” referring to the Model T Ford, he probably did not know much about black. Last week’s illustration work for the newspaper series made me consider what a complex colour black can be—depending on what one is illustrating.
By some strange coincidence, both the illustrations for my mother’s recollections of a childhood pilgrimage had to be rendered in black. One was a statue of a demon whilst the other was a much more ‘cute’ subject in the form of a Malabar Pied Hornbill.
Drawing the statue of the demon was not exactly easy as I had to rely on several sources and combine them. I have seen many statues of demons at both Buddhist temples and Hindu shrines. However, the demon which is described in the story is a mechanical type of statue.
According to my mother’s narrative, the statue was actually a till. It was designed in such a way that the ‘demon’ held one palm open upwards, whilst the mouth was also open. When a coin was placed on the palm and a lever fixed behind the statue was pulled down, the ‘demon’ would pop the coin into its mouth. Needless to say, my mother and her siblings were delighted by the novel sight, referring to the statue as the ‘money-swallowing demon’.
My mother told me that the statue had a rough appearance and finish, unlike the statues commonly seen today. So I decided to use a cold pressed water colour paper with mainly charcoal to produce the darker shades. I began by using a medium-grade Derwent water soluble graphite pencil to colour the areas of the drawing which had to be light. Thereafter I used a slightly damp waterbrush to obtain a washed effect as I felt the statue should reflect a somewhat weather-beaten look. For the darker areas I used charcoal.
Having got the demon to resemble what my mother described I added a shadow effect in Photoshop Elements. This added a 3 D look to the illustration as you can see in the image below:
The rough surface of the cold pressed watercolour paper is not very conducive for drawing smooth lines. I foresaw this problem before
I began the illustration. However I was not particularly worried about crooked lines as I used an erasable black pen. Planning what media and tools to use before illustrating can save a lot of frustration and time—especially when deadlines are looming.
The second illustration which was of a Malabar Pied Hornbill got me thinking on the different instances of black in nature. Having watched several YouTube videos of these eccentric-looking birds I wanted to reproduce the rich fluffiness of their black feathers.
After considering several media, including black drawing ink I finally decided to use my black Derwent Inktense block. I am glad I did as it helped me to achieve the vibrancy I wanted without the mess which can happen when using ink. The rest of the illustration was a mix of water soluble brown charcoal as well as Inktense and watercolours.
You can see the above illustration in progress in my sketchbooks. I should also mention that I used Artifolk’s cartridge paper for this mixed media illustration.
When I began these illustrations I was somewhat worried as to how the different values of black would be reproduced on newsprint. I need not have worried, though. The illustrations were reproduced very well, proving there is more to black than what caught Mr.Ford’s eye...