Recreating an old faded drawing

In 1986, I started experimenting with color drawings. It was hard to find ink with the correct viscosity for my Rapidograph pens. After some experimentation, I decided to use air brush ink. This type of ink seemed to work fine and did not clog the pen tips. I did a lot of experimental small drawings. My first serious large 14″ x 17″ drawing was simply titled “Color Drawing #34”. This drawing is still one of my favorite of all drawings.  As was the case with many of my early drawings, it is completely 2-d  abstract geometry with multiple layers of ink superimposed. 

I used four pens with blue, carmine, orange, and yellow ink. The drawing is constructed of linear patterns created with colored panels. The colored panels are made by drawing very fine groupings of parallel lines which resulted in an almost watercolor like effect. When the drawing was complete, I was very pleased with it, but unlike my current practice, I did not get it scanned right away. Soon, to my dismay, I discovered that even though the ink flowed through the tiny .25 mm pen tips, and the color was very brilliant and intense, the image began to fade when exposed to sunlight. Soon, the ink had faded so much that it was no longer a viable original to sell or show. Eventually, I was able to get the drawing scanned. Using color enhancement, I was able to re-create a digital image very similar to the original which is shown above. I decided that I wanted to redraw this image and attempt to make an exact copy of the original using Kohinoor ink, which would not fade when exposed to sunlight, so I began the redrawing process. When I redraw an existing drawing, I try to make an exact duplicate of the original, or make some minor change or embellishment. Redrawing is necessary to add or change a feature of a drawing because I never use digital manipulation for this purpose.

The process of redrawing an existing image starts with carefully measuring dimensions and angles on a full size copy of the target drawing and transferring them to a blank sheet of paper. Below, I am making a measurement of a specific feature on the original drawing with my improvised and improved compass. It consists of a standard compass with a .7mm mechanical pencil tie-wrapped to it so I never have to sharpen leads.

Of course, the new drawing, in the beginning is just a blank sheet of paper with an X Y axis. So when I transfer the outline of the features from the original drawing, I have to measure the feature and calculate its exact placement on the page. This can be very challenging since any misplacement of the feature will cause the feature and adjacent details to be misaligned. I use a compass to make all measurements because this is usually more accurate that using a ruler. I use a ruler to ensure alignment with the X Y axis on the page. This is what the new image looks like in the very early stages of the process:

Now, I have enough of the frame of the drawing to start adding ink. I like to start drawing the features sketched in pencil as soon as possible since the pencil lines will smear and eventually become illegible during the course of the drawing process which may encompass several months.

More pencil frame can be added as needed to align new structures being placed in the frame. I draw any repeated symmetrical elements as a group by drawing the first feature in the first quadrant , then rotating the page either 90 degrees ( for four fold symmetry) or 180 degrees for two fold symmetry to the next quadrant and drawing the same feature in its expected place .

I have red/green color blindness so, generally, I use only a few colors. For this drawing I used scarlet, orange, cobalt blue, yellow and black. All five pens have .25 mm Rapidograph nibs.

This is a photo of the drawing still in the early stages of applying ink:

This is a photograph of the new drawing at about 30% completion. There is a lot of pencil guidelines that will have to be cleaned up eventually:

In this image, I am about 90% done. There are still some color panels to be added and minor embellishments.  Of course, an interesting problem that I did not anticipate is that the exact color of many of the features on the original had faded so much that is was impossible to determine. I had two significant problems. The color on the original had faded so much that I could not tell exactly which color to use for several of the features on the new drawing. Eventually, I had to guess which color to use. In addition, the original drawing had an amazing amount of minute detail that became very difficult and time consuming to replicate. During the redrawing process, I decided to focus on making the drawing look appealing and less on making it an exact duplicate.

I like to add improvisations and experiment with my drawings so, sometimes it’s hard to tell when it is done. I arbitrarily decided to preserve the drawing in this state:

Finally, here is a comparison photo. The old , faded image is on the left. The new image is on the right. This was a successful project that resulted in an art work that I like very much. It’s not an identical copy however. Maybe at some point I will create another version of this interesting design. An additional note: today, February 19, 2019, I took the original to Chromatics in Nashville to have a high quality scan made with their Kruze scanner.  In a few days, I will have various sizes of this drawing for sale on my web site and, of course, at upcoming art shows.


Prints of various sizes of this drawing are available for sale on my website :

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