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Vessel (Ink)

Updated: Mar 13, 2023

Vessel was originally conceived as part of Inktober – an annual Instagram event in which pen and ink artists attempt to create and share a finished drawing every day for the month of October, each one based on a one-word prompt. But it quickly evolved into something more detailed and personal for me than a daily sketch, so I spent some extra time with it and will take it all the way through the color process in the next couple weeks. Update: see and read about the process behind the color version here.

The Inspiration

The prompt for this one was, naturally, "vessel," which brought to mind a variety of images. I ended up rolling two different ideas / definitions of the term together, including an object that holds liquids as well as a path through which fluids can flow (ie blood vessel).

So in this case, this fellow is a goblet into which blood (or perhaps wine...) is being poured but some little demons cause the fluid to drain right out of him. The stonework around him suggests an unstable or crumbling archway to symbolize collapsing relationships and the end of an era in my life.

Shortly before making this, I had been feeling particularly drained of energy and vitality, largely because of an unhealthy relationship I'd entered into, and this image reflects my feeling of "bleeding out" no matter how much nourishment I tried to put back into my life in other ways.

It's amazing how easy it is to get trapped in our routines and hold onto people, jobs, etc. well after it's become clear those things aren't healthy for us or allowing us to grow. As difficult as it often is, once it's become clear there's something weighing us down, it's best to just get the hell out of there. We can always do better for ourselves, and the improvement in our mental and physical health when we're able to move can really be staggering.

This piece was created at the start of a new journey for me. I was marveling at how good I felt, like an enormous weight was lifted from me, and by contrast recognizing just how awful I had felt before. I wanted to capture that sense of being drained and bled out before I lost the full sense of it, and that was the inspiration for Vessel.

The Process

As usual, this image was first created with a pencil on Bristol paper (this one is 12" x 9") and I attempted to hammer out as many of the details as possible in that stage before moving on to ink. I wanted to incorporate some light hatching and cross-hatching in this image to give it a touch of classic illustration but still keep a relatively clean and open look to it, especially knowing that I wanted to add color later.

I started the inking process with a Speedball 102 crow quill pen, handling all of the linework with the pen before filling in the solid blacks with a brush. I used Winsor & Newton black Indian ink for all of the inking. (It has such a beautiful, velvety sheen on it when it dries.)

You can see the full inking process in the timelapse video below:

There's a little optical illusion that can happen with cross-hatching that I really love. It requires some patience and precision, so I don't always get it even when I mean to, but there is a spot in corner of this guy's left eye (on our right) next to his nose where I was able to hit it. When cross-hatching lines meet at just the right angle with the right spacing it creates an effect that feels like there's a third set of lines cutting through them, which is so cool to me.

In this case, there are vertical hatching lines coming down from the solid black shadow and a second set of hatching lines that angle downward at about a 40-degree angle, but it looks like there's a third set of lines sweeping through there in the other direction at a 45-degree angle. For comparison, you can very clearly see I did NOT get it on his right eye, haha. I'll keep working at it.


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