Friday, August 27, 2010

Pen & Ink Exercises – The Wrap-Up

So after many blog posts about the pen & ink marks that I tried out, was it worth it? The short answer is YES! Absolutely.

For those interested, here’s the longer answer.

Most of my formal training in pen & ink was done in graduate school while studying Scientific Illustration. I have always loved the medium of ink, whether for lettering or illustration. In my Illustration training we used stippling and crosshatch almost much exclusively. Out of habit, (and lack of further knowledge) I continued to focus on these two marks for many years. Over time I grew frustrated with their particular limitations as they weren’t right for all subjects. New marks were clearly needed and I’m glad to have added some new ones to my tool kit this year. Bless Claudia Nice and her lovely books, “Creating Textures in Pen & Ink with Watercolor” and "Sketching Your Favorite Subjects in Pen & Ink” for their assistance.

Here’s the summation of the marks I used:

Crosshatching & Stippling – Old friends. I couldn’t get on without either. Stippling is perhaps the “king” of illustration techniques in my book. It can be used for a wide variety of subject matter and, if you’re patient with it, can render some amazingly realistic effects.

Stippling is "king" of ink marks used in Scientific Illustration.

Crosshatching is simply necessary. If you are going to use any mark besides stippling you will most likely find yourself darkening your values at some point with crosshatching.

Contour Lines – Very useful to define curved shapes. Without this mark it would be very difficult (but not impossible with stippling) to get something round-edged to look three-dimensional.

Wavy Lines – A very useful mark for rendering wood grains and rippling patterns. As I mentioned in my entry about wavy lines, I still find this mark a bit confusing. More work will be needed here.

Parallel Lines – Very useful for flat or shiny objects. Has some interesting implications for animals shown at a distance, might also give an old-timey feel to some subject matter.

Criss-Cross Lines – Clearly a big winner for me! I now can render animal fur/hair with ink! Halleluiah! What a relief!

Scribble – A really, fun, loose mark to render (the complete opposite from stippling which is very tightly controlled) and most useful for quick sketches (hello urban sketching!) and the simple rendering of foliage.  Easy and effective? What could be better? On balance, I think that Scribble Lines ended up being my new favorite, although Criss-Cross Lines came in a close second.

For anyone out there interested in learning pen & ink, I highly recommend doing these systematic exercises. It takes some time but is well worth the effort.


  1. Wow, fantastic! Very interesting post (I'm a fellow ink-lover!). I'm gonna read all the linked previous ones now. You really are an excellent artist! <3

  2. Thanks E*phi. I took a peak at your blog and absolutely LOVE your work. You are fabulous! Thanks for looking at mine and I'm looking forward to giving your posts a good read too. :-)

  3. Fantastic ink work! A lot of precision and high level of technicality as well =)

  4. What an excellent job you've done, and your comments on the various marks are helpful. I love using ink, too! I enjoyed the magnifying glass in your drawing - nice touch! nancy

  5. Thanks for the sweet comments Nancy! This piece is one of my favorites. :-)

  6. Lovely post, really interesting following all your links. The skull drawing is simply fab! Thank you so much for taking the time to produce this post :0)