When an art student at Pratt Institute, I used to buy a wonderful India Ink by Higgins called "Eternal Black", using it with old fashioned pens with removable nibs one dipped into the ink, messy yet yielding bold lines and a certain drama. The Eternal ink was exactly that: very profoundly black, yet it could provide a variety of washes - from softest cloud grey to the deep rounded shadows of the nighttime sky. But now I've come to love the Pigma pen, permanent ink, easily transportable, and ranging from size #005 (a very slender line) to the largest, the #8. With the ink source always black, I have also stayed with watercolor in small tubes, in early years always buying Winsor & Newton paint, now finding another favorite: Schminke. (I was pleased to read on Schminke's website that Oskar Kokoschka was a customer of theirs a century ago.) As to the colors I buy, it has always been Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Yellow, Ultramarine Blue and Prussian Blue…from these four coming every possible permutation, this despite the large number of rare and special pigments, whose names often have an innate poetry about them: Naples Yellow, the "Lakes" (mauve-like colors said to be "fugitive", or susceptible to light), Burnt Sienna, and one bringing to mind the favorite red in many a Toulouse Lautrec painting: Vermilion.
So with just my favorite four tubes, and a couple of Pigmas, I can travel forth on trains or a jaunt from my car to the harbor here in Branford, needing only a nice watercolor pad and some old and favorite brushes (Chinese brushes that are very simple yet with a kind of brush-intelligence about them) and I am completely happy, no need for easels or turpentine or canvasses, just the small world of a page that can hold a wide sea on it, or the stretching sky or a bunch of leaning tree branches.
Over the years, I've done many ink drawings, storing them in archival boxes so they are clean and pristine until the time when it feels as though a particular one could bloom forth with color. Then I take out watercolor tubes and my favorite Chinese brushes, feeling a slight unease at the outset, like a cook about to do a familiar recipe but with some trepidation, and find myself enjoying what happens when water and paint encounter one another. Like a rhododendron bud holding its color within until time and warm weather release it, there seems color implicit in an image even while still black lines on paper. First, a sparkling mix of water and paint, then a fluxing as color swims in the water and starts to dry, taking on a shape not designated by me exactly but influenced by chance as the water dries. The result, then, is a surprise: something has “hatched.” The artist, who thinks to be in control of the process, has collaborated with another creature entirely: nature!
More to come, of ink drawings and color thereon...