Capturing shadows – Inking a site plan for publication.

By Maddy McAllister (MMA)

WWII Maritime Heritage Trail - Battle of Saipan, Landing Craft Underwater Guide

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to expand the few, and very basic, drawings skills I had by volunteering to ink a site plan from the WWII Maritime Heritage Trail – Battle of Saipan Project undertaken by Jennifer McKinnon and a few Flinders University students.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the lucky students to make the trip, so I had no idea what the actual site looked like and had never seen the site plans that had been drawn.  Nevertheless, I jumped at the chance to improve my basic illustration skills and my practically non-existent inking skills.

So I turned up bright and early one Thursday morning to get the original site plans, pens, Mylar (waterproof paper, transparent paper) and images of the site to work from. I must admit I was slightly relieved when I first saw the original site plan. Unlike most wreck sites, the Daihatsu site was remarkably intact. The hull was still mostly upright and numerous diagnostic features were clearly visible. Not only was this good for the archaeology of the site, but also would make it easier for me to draw the recognisable features.

Daihatsu site plan - draft

I set up my temporary drafting base at home on my desk. The norm for inking insists that the light in the drawing must come from the north-west or top left hand corner, my trusty desk lamp came in handy for this. Although, this had no effect on the drawing itself, it helped me to visualise the light and shadows on the image. I laid the original site plan down and then placed a sheet of Mylar paper ontop, holding both of them in place with sticky tape.

I tried to find some tips on inking styles and techniques for tracing the outlines and then filling in the image with shadows to make it look more real. As I did not know many terms that could help with searching on Google, I stuck to what I had learned from James Hunter during the Flinders Master class on artefact illustration. This involved tracing over the edges and bold lines and then using the technique, ‘stippling’ (dotting) to create dark and show shadows. The first time I attempted to ink the Daihatsu drawing I made numerous mistakes. I decided to use this first drawing as a draft and to practice inking techniques. What I learnt from this is that it is best to start from the left hand side (unless you are left handed) so that whilst you draw the ink can dry and you won’t smudge it by moving your hand along. Despite this I continuously had to be aware of where I had drawn and where the ink was still wet. Numerous smudges later and I now know that Mylar paper keeps ink wet for a long, long time.

Eventually I was happy that I knew what techniques were best for doing the good copy of the Daihatsu image.

I stuck a new piece of Mylar onto the desk and began going over the boarders of the Daihatsu. I spent many hours hunched over my desk tracing and ruling lines, then stippling and stippling to create the depth and shadows of the site.

I soon found that the images weren’t enough. Despite the 151 photos of the site, some views of features and details weren’t there. After asking Jen about this, she gave me a short video on a dive on the Daihatsu site. This gave me enough detail to imagine the site and complete the stippling to create the most truthful shadows.

Daihatsu port side showing the driver's protective shield on floor

Inking a site plan also reveals any errors in the drafts. I came across one error on the starboard side of the wreck. This error only became clearly visible after constantly checking on the site images and pictures to make sure I was recreating the site accurately. Perhaps if I had been on the site I wouldn’t have used images to refer to and I may have missed the error? Despite this, the error was rectified in the final copy.

Although at times tedious and difficult, inking a site plan can become addictive. I soon became addicted to adding more and more shadow and just fixing up a little spot here and there until I had been inking for most of the day.

Once I was satisfied with how far I had come in the inking, I took it in to show Jen McKinnon and get any tips. Jen told me that the more stippling, the more shadow there is then the better it looks. So I went back and nearly doubled the amounts of shadow around the edges, with excellent results. On top of this the lines that I had traced looked more realistic with stippling done over the top of them as well.

Despite my best efforts, I still made mistakes. Smudges were evident even though I had erased the worst of them. From here it is the benefits of technology and digitally uploading the scans that stop your mistakes from sending you back to the drawing board (excuse the pun). Adobe Photoshop makes it simple to fix any little mistakes that are made.

My final inked drawing - note: red circles show smudges

My final inked drawing - red circles shows smudges

As I had not used this program before, I took my scanned copies in on a thumb drive and got some help from Jen. She quickly showed me how you can ‘dot’ over the smudges and mistakes which make them look like the surrounding areas. The contrast and brightness of the image were changed until we were happy with how the image looked.

Clean Final image

Final clean image

From here the image can be published and I am lucky enough to have mine published in the forthcoming dive guides for the heritage trail in Saipan. I’m hooked on inking site plans now, and I am looking forward to getting more practice. So if anybody has drawings that they need inked for publication……

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One response to “Capturing shadows – Inking a site plan for publication.

  1. Good work Maddy, I like inking too tedious but addictive.