Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Markers for Underdrawing?

Oscar asked: I've been playing with the technique of an early cartoon layer to start an oil painting, and, since drawing's my druthers, I've been trying out Sharpies and similar pens as a replacement for ink/thin black paint. Do you have any tips for this? Are markers likely to cause trouble in terms of paint reaction, color fastness, etc? 

Oscar, Yes, beware of markers for underdrawing. You are safest with pencil, charcoal, or India ink. Once a long time ago, I used a black Sharpie marker for a preliminary drawing under an oil painting but I discontinued that idea because the dye had a nasty habit of bleeding through to upper layers. Covering the drawing with clear-coat layers doesn’t necessarily cure the problem of dye migration.
 

Markers are also prone to fading and color shifting. This is often a problem with drawings done entirely in markers. If you use different brands in the same drawing, they often shift in different ways. I did this marker drawing of a horse drawn milk wagon in 1981 but luckily it hasn’t faded too much because it was kept in the dark. Cool, dark storage slows down these processes, which happen at a molecular level.  

Markers vary a lot in their dye and vehicle formulations — some are pretty stable— so the best thing to do is try out all kinds materials and procedures on scraps and put them in a hot, south window to test how they fare over time.

11 comments:

Johnnyburn said...

Thanks for posting this. I have done one real painting in my life and made exactly the mistake described with a Sharpie under-drawing. It is good to hear about it somewhere else.

John said...

Do you have any experience with Faber Castell's PITT pens? I've been using the gray scale and Earth toned ones for underdrawing. They say "India Ink" on the label, so I assumed they were okay and haven't had anything adverse happen yet. But, now I'm wondering...

James Gurney said...

John, I like those PITT pens, too, and the Microns even more. I have used them for inking and they've been pretty lightfast. How they might behave in under layers, I can't say, though. I would do a bunch of test swatches and expose them to bright sunlight for six months. While you wait for the results, stick materials that you're sure of.

Nick Jainschigg said...

I agree about the bleeding-through and lightfastness issues with markers, but just wanted to add that some artists have used markers quite successfully as under-drawing for oils. I remember being quite shocked by Braldt Bralds's Step-Bey-Step Graphics article where he mentioned reinforcing his pencil drawing with marker prior to beginning the oil work. It seems to have been a regular thing with him, and the results were quite spectacular. Of course, it means the originals probably changed over time, but "let the next generation paint its own pictures" works for some people.

Katana Leigh said...

I would like to know about using silver or gold markers on top of acrylic paint. I've been doing this in a few paintings but only in the last two months or so - not enough time to know the lasting effect.

John Fleck said...

I have read in more than one place that the graphite from standard pencils (not colored pencils) can "rise" through oil paint. Any truth to this?

James Gurney said...

Katana, I believe paint markers have a different sort of pigment from dye markers, but I'm a little out of my depth on the chemistry here, so I'd better step back and hope that someone who knows more about this stuff will chime in...

Sheryl Westleigh said...

PITT pens are pretty fantastic under watercolors and acrylics since they are waterproof (india inks in general are good this way) and I've found them to be pretty lightfast. I have no idea how they would do under oils though, oil can break down bonds in a way that's a lot different than water.

Elena Jardiniz said...

Sharpies can bleed through heavy house paint, as a friend found out when his theater major friends spend a couple of years ignoring stage marks they'd painted over something like 15 times.

He and some roomies got mad at their landlord and made use of this property by drawing obscene cartoons all over the walls of the apartment they vacated when they left the state. They painted it over nicely and even got their cleaning deposit back....

Scott said...

I did some tests back in art school and found that while sharpie would bleed through layers of acrylic matte medium and oil paints it could be effectively sealed with a layer of shellac.

~Scott Talevich

Alex Castillo said...

James can a detailed grisaille be used as an underdrawing in an oil painting or will it affect the paint and film?