Eye Candy for Today: Rembrandt pen drawing along the Amstel River

A bend in the River Amstel near Kostverloren House, Rembrandt van Rijn, pen and brown ink drawing, with wash
A bend in the River Amstel near Kostverloren House, Rembrandt van Rijn, pen and brown ink drawing, with wash (details)

A bend in the River Amstel near Kostverloren House, Rembrandt van Rijn; pen and brown ink with brown and grey washes, heightened with white bodycolour on oatmeal paper; roughly 5 x 10″ (14 x 25 cm). Original is in the collection of the Chatsworth Estate.

It would be easy to glance at a drawing like this — a sketch really — take it in briefly, and pass on by, on the the next, more colorful artwork. But to me, these pen and brown ink landscape drawings by Rembrandt are among my favorite works in the entire history of art.

Many of them, on more devoted looking, reveal themselves to me as transcendent and poetic.

Perhaps it’s because I can project myself into them — even better than with a more “realistic” painted view — and picture myself sitting there on the bank in the shade with my own sketchbook and pens, immersed in the day, the smell of the river, the sounds of water lapping at the boats, the gentle clop of the horses passing by, perhaps a gentle breeze waving through the sun-topped line of trees.

Just as easily, I can picture Rembrandt sitting there — a sheaf of paper in his lap, reed pen and brush in his hands with perhaps two bottles of iron gall ink at his side, one full strength, one diluted for washes — immersed in the scene and his drawing while his troubles (of which he certainly had his share) recede into the distance.

As far as can be determined, these pen, brown ink and wash drawings were created simply for Rembrant’s own benefit, either as practice, or (I think) simply for pleasure. There is no known connection identifying them as preliminary for paintings or even for any of his similarly handled etchings.

Many of these, and other Rembrandt drawings in brown ink and wash, are listed as drawings in bistre ink (made from wood-burning soot), but chemical analysis indicates that a high percentage of them may have been drawn with darker iron gall ink, usually made from oak galls, iron salts and tannic acid. I’m guessing that may be the case here.

Renbrandt’s notation is breezy, economical and seemingly effortless. Just a few gestural lines — but brilliantly sweeping, lightly touched with tone — produce a solid line of trees, a river and its bank, boats and horsemen. Their sun bathed and shade dappled textures are created almost entirely in our mind’s eye.

Because it has happened to me on occasion, I have the distinct feeling that drawings like this might have felt to Rembrandt like they were flowing directly from nature, into his eyes, and out through his pen onto the paper — while he observed. There is little feeling here of artifice or the construction of a drawing as a work of art.

You’re unlikely to see what I mean from the small image and detail crops I can present here. Go to this link and view the drawing as large in your monitor as you can to get the feeling I’m trying to convey.


Eye Candy for Today: Fragonard wash drawing

View of an Italianate park with figures, a villa behind, Jean-Honore Fragonard
View of an Italianate park with figures, a villa behind (details), Jean-Honore Fragonard

View of an Italianate park with figures, a villa behind, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, brown wash over brown ink lines and black chalk, roughly 13 x 11″ (33 x 47cm); link is to Sotheby’s past auction, large image here.

In this beautifully sensitive drawing, 18th century French painter, draftsman ad printmaker Jean-Honoré Fragonard, who specialized in such things, gives us an idealized view of an idealized park on an ideal day.

I love how delicately and vaguely some elements are suggested, like people, architecture, stairs and background foliage, and yet how definite and complete the overall drawing appears.

This is one of those drawings in which the vague word “wash” is used to describe the medium, leaving me in question as to whether it is ink wash or watercolor, both of which can be used to similar effect.


Eye Candy for Today: Francis Seymour Hayden etching

The Lovers Walk, No 1, Francis Seymour Hayden, etching and drypoint
The Lovers Walk, No 1, Francis Seymour Hayden, etching and drypoint

The Lovers’ Walk, No. 1, Francis Seymour Hayden, etching and drypoint, roughly 9 x 13″ (23 x34 cm); in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, look for both download and zoom links under the image.

This deceptively simple etching by the British painter and printmaker (active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries) uses sweeping, seemingly casual lines to create texture — and, in effect, color — in a composition that invites you to step into the image. Notice the small, delicately suggested figures to the right of the first grouping of trees (images above, second from bottom).


Drawings of Andrew Fisher Brunner

Andrew Fisher Brunner pen and ink drawings
Andrew Fisher Brunner pen and ink drawings

Andrew Fisher Brunner was an American artist active in the late 19th century. He is noted for his landcape watercolors and for his drawings, particularly those in pen and ink.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a nice collection of his drawings, visible online in reasonably large images. Many of these are of Venice.

He has a seemingly casual style of ink rendering that belies the solid draftsmanship on which his drawings are based.

The National Gallery of Art in Washington also has a smaller collection of some of his graphite drawings.


Lui Ferreya

Lui Ferreya artwork
Lui Ferreya artwork

Lui Ferreya is a freelance artist based in Denver, Colorado. On his website and in his Behance portfolio you will find drawings and other works in media both tradtional and digital.

Ferreya breaks down forms, whether of landscape, still life or portraiture, into geometric planes, and further subdivides these into smaller planes that he defines with linear patterns of tone and color.

His palette, though often high in chroma, is carefully controlled in terms of value and color relationships, allowing him to work a wide range of colors into small areas that in turn read as larger areas and feel almost naturalistic.

I particularly enjoy the way he approaches faces. With a keen awareness of the planes of the head and face, he marks off discreet areas, but maintains transitions that look soft edged because of the subtlety of the color relationships.

[Via Kottke and Colossal]


Sketches in Line and Wash by Jeanette L. Gurney

Sketches in Line and Wash by Jeanette L. Gurney
Sketches in Line and Wash by Jeanette L. Gurney

If, like me, you’ve watched many of James Gurney’s excellent short videos on YouTube, you have undoubtedly seen Jeanette Gurney, James Gurney’s wife, playing a supporting role, often accompanying him on sketching trips and sketching in the background while he sketches or paints.

Occasionally, we would get a look at her line and watercolor drawings, which I have always enjoyed, but usually only glimpses.
With the release of a recent video on YouTube titled Sketches in Line and Wash by Jeanette Gurney, we finally get a more extended look at Jeanette Gurney’s line and watercolor drawings.

Line and watercolor has been gaining in popularity in recent years as a favored medium among urban sketchers; Jeanette Gurney has been working this way for some time. It is a fascinating combination of mediums, with many of the eye pleasing characteristics of both drawing and painting. These characteristics are evident in the variety of approaches to line and wash featured in this video.

The video itself appears to be a recording of a livestream conducted with a New Jersey high school. In the first third or so both Jeanette and James field questions from the students and Jeanette discusses her materials and basic techniques. There is a list of materials links when you open the “Show More” link on the YouTube page.

About 12 minutes in, we see more of her line and wash sketches, in which her line application varies from pencil to marker to pen and even ballpoint. Her favored subject is architecture, and her sketches are of a fascinating variety of buildings.

She has a light touch with her lines — contrasted with occasionally bold marker lines — and an often free application of watercolor, giving her drawngs the feeling of a loose, casual sketch, though it’s obvious that there is a solid foundation of draftsmanship underneath.

This is one of those delightful videos that makes you want to grab your sketchbook and head out the door.