If you know about Rembrandt, you probably know about bistre ink. This ink was the go-to ink of the masters so when my bottle of it arrived in the mail all the way from Germany the other day–the same day I looked again at the John Singer Sargent oil paintings on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.–of course I had to test it out almost immediately. (The figure in my sketch, which I did first in pencil at the museum, is looking at the viewer–which is NOT what she is doing in the John Singer Sargent painting–there, she is looking away, as if ill or disconsolate.)
The ink is delightful, as I discovered when combining a wash with using a pen and nib to try to recreate–inevitably way imperfectly but what is life without a challenge!–the feeling the Sargent created in his oil painting of “Repose”–reportedly done at a time when he viewed portraiture as a “pimp’s profession”–so this was his rebellion against formal portraiture.
Anyway, imagine traveling without all the acoutrement of a watercolor kit–just a bottle of this ink. The possibilities are really amazing!