Dip­ping a toe back into draw­ing with an illus­tra­tion of a light emit­ting diode. I’ve been hav­ing some thoughts that I might use pen-and-ink illus­tra­tions in a basic elec­tron­ics course­book, so I gave it a try with a rel­a­tive­ly easy sub­ject. If this is going to be a series there’s a lot of work ahead of me, but it can start here and see where it goes.

A draw­ing like this real­ly isn’t very chal­leng­ing. There aren’t a lot of sur­faces or tex­tures that need to be repro­duced. There are the small details of the anode and cath­ode, which in a piece almost four­teen inch­es tall aren’t small details at all. Beyond that there’s just a lot of cross­hatch­ing to cre­ate the neg­a­tive space. The hatch­ing was tedious but not chal­leng­ing; it’s just a mat­ter of adding lay­ers until it looks like tone.

In the past I loved my 6×0 (0.13mm) rapi­do­graphs. Maybe it’s just because the paper is old but all they seemed to do was tear the paper. This was a draw­ing at rea­son­ably large scale, so I worked most­ly with the 0 (0.35mm) and 000 (0.25mm). I did fill the 1 (0.7mm) and put down a line at the base of the cas­ing. That felt like a mis­take so I did­n’t do any­more outlining.

I often like to out­line fig­ures to make them stand out against the ground; that’s one of the tech­niques that make me think of a draw­ing as a draw­ing. In this case I liked going for the soft­er treat­ment where the lines are sug­gest­ed rather than overt. Nei­ther approach is right or wrong, but they do cre­ate a dif­fer­ent effect.

Putting down tone (or the illu­sion of tone) with hatch­ing often feels a bit like paint­ing. I lay down areas a bit at a time and lay­er them over one anoth­er. After a few lay­ers when I ‘m look­ing close it can be hard to keep track of where I’ve worked and where I haven’t. I need to pull away and look from some dis­tance (even arms length is ade­quate) in order to see the dif­fer­ence in tone.

I had some trou­ble with the ink flow­ing in the pens. They were cleaned before they were put away but the ink is old. All of my ink is more than ten years old. I’m work­ing with the Rotring Rapi­do­graphs, which use a car­tridge for the ink. From what lit­tle I know, the ink can go bad faster in a car­tridge than in a bot­tle. I don’t know if that’s true or just leg­end, and I don’t real­ly know what it means for ink to go bad.

That said, one of the car­tridges went dry in the course of this draw­ing. That’s a lot faster than I’ve seen ink get con­sumed in the past, so I’m open to the idea that the car­tridges were just too old. I’m think­ing about test­ing dif­fer­ent kind of tech­ni­cal pen inks. I have a few dif­fer­ent kinds in my Ama­zon shop­ping cart with that pur­pose in mind. I think I have to give it a lit­tle more thought before I actu­al­ly order them. I’m not sure how I would go about test­ing them, and what fea­tures I’d want to com­pare. I ought to have a plan before spend­ing the mon­ey on four dif­fer­ent kinds of black ink.

I have at least four dif­fer­ent kinds of black foun­tain pen ink already — I might have as many as ten black inks. Rapi­do­graphs (or Iso­graphs in the case of the Rotrings) take india ink, which should nev­er be put into a foun­tain pen unless it’s one specif­i­cal­ly designed for india inks.

Com­par­ing inks is a top­ic for anoth­er day. For today, I fin­ished this draw­ing, which had been sit­ting unfin­ished for more than a month. If I’d let it go much longer I might nev­er have fin­ished it. I did­n’t take a close account of the time, but my guess is that this was about six hours’ work, spread across two evenings and one Sat­ur­day morning.

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