Saturday, June 25, 2011

Drawing With Pen & Ink - Part 3


The Unique Qualities of Pen Drawings

Pen and ink has some distinctive features. The first is the pen itself. Unlike a pencil or crayon, the pen gives off no color or tone by itself. You have to add ink. The pen point is pretty fine, so, unless you have a brush to deliver it, ink is laid down only a little at a time. Covering large areas with ink produced from a single fine delivery point becomes impractical. For this reason, pen & ink pieces are generally smaller than other artwork mediums like watercolor.

Wildly varying values that exactly mimic nature tend to be difficult to create in pen & ink. For this reason a lot of mental editing is required by the artist. Much information may need to be left out or simply implied in order to create a pleasing piece that makes sense to the viewer’s eyes.

Tonal values are frequently under-used or even disregarded in pen drawings. The lack of values are replaced by the use of outline. No other art technique uses the outline the way pen drawings do. The use of the outline, along with the particular method of tone building using lines and dots to build up “color” are two of the distinctive characteristics of pen drawings.

Lovely Lines

The suggestive nature of good line work leaves much to our imaginations. The crispness and directness of pen drawings make them full of light and life. The very expressiveness of the lines themselves can become the focal point of the piece.

It is the graceful suggestion of form and shape through line work that makes pen drawings so effective. They are at once restful and graceful to the eye. As the beginning pen and ink artist learns quickly, it takes practice to see and understand what to leave out and what values to reverse in order to suggest a shape in a pen drawing. These are necessary steps in creating an effective image. Like any skill, it takes practice. But like most skills, it is well worth practicing. :-)

"Canterbury Tails Pencil Knight," copyright Sara Light-Waller 2011


  1. Beautifully drawn! Love the technicality and as well as the fine details