Sunday, September 03, 2006

Bottles of Colored Ink

When I was a teenager, as a Christmas present I received a set of colored ink bottles. I had been drawing a lot around that time, and I'm pretty sure the ink set was part of a larger "theme" that went along with a drawing table I also received. My mother always loved gift-giving themes. Like, she wouldn't just give one present to someone. She'd have a central present, and a lot of satellite presents that somehow went along with it. If the central present was a hockey stick, she'd get you gloves of course, but also like Gatorade or something to go with the athletic "theme." Or maybe a little chocolate goalie or something. It was never just the obvious tie-ins--she would always go above and beyond.

So I probably got some brushes and some pens and pencils to go along with the table and the ink. But I had never used colored ink before. I had given up on color illustrations sometime back in elementary school, when I moved from crayons to colored pencils. Colored pencils looked nicer, but the tint was always too soft, too pastel for me. And watercolors? Forget about it! I couldn't figure out how to keep those from making the paper all wet (I was using typing paper--what did I expect?). So I had basically stuck to black and white--pen and ink--since then.

I didn't know what to do with these colors of ink. I tried using them to color in a pen and ink drawing, but that was a disaster. It looked like paint-by-numbers, except the ink ran too much. I threw that piece away, I'm sure. But after ignoring my colored ink for a few months( I did use the bottle of black ink from the start--but the other ones stayed in their individual little boxes), I decided to play around and just "paint" something with the colors. I used one of my brothers "Zoo Books" for reference, and I came up with this:

I hated the result at the time. I may have tried one or two other small projects with the colored ink, but I basically just put it on the shelf and forgot about it. A decade later, when I moved into a new house with my wife. I unpacked all my art supplies and found the package of colored ink still nearly intact (the bottle of black ink was long gone). I opened the bottles to find that the ink had completely dried up, so I dumped the whole package in the trash. I hadn't thought about the bottles of colored ink since then, until I came across this old owl.

Today, I look at that illustration and admire what I did. I really like it now. I like how I didn't fill up the drawing board with color--I used the whiteness for effect. I like how I zoomed in on the owl's eyes, but not perfectly--they aren't centered. I like the use of purple to give a stylized look to the image. Why was I so disappointed in the way it turned out when I was younger? I'm sure there's an important life lesson here somewhere.

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