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3rd Pen and Ink Drawing Lesson

The objective for this lesson was to use ink washes in various tones to shorten the drawing time, even out the values, and pulling the elements together into a cohesive artwork. Pen and ink stokes were to be used mainly for details and texture. Students were to use 8 x 10″ black and white photos for their subject.

All first made a good drawing of the subject on sketchbook paper either free-handed or using a grid. Four small cups were set out with a little water in one, a little more in the second, more water in the 3rd, and the most in the 4th. We put a drop of India ink in each cup, thereby making 4 different values, plus the white of the paper and undiluted ink for the darkest tone.

We worked light to dark with a round watercolor brush, and made sure to let each value dry before adding another. Layering of values could also be used. When all the values were laid in, students used their pens to complete the painting. These really turned out great!


The homework assignment was to draw a still life composition with bottles, vases, etc. but instead of developing the positive shapes, students were to break up the negative shapes with patterns in pen and ink, thereby making the still life objects the negative instead of the positive.  Here’s my example of this assignment:


2nd Pen and Ink Drawing Lesson

The second class on pen and ink drawing got serious about making strokes to indicate value, shape, and texture with several sizes of pen and ink nibs.  Some students used Rapidograph refillable pens while others used disposable Hybrid Technical pens in .3 and .6 sizes.  I first gave them papers with four bottle images that I had drawn.  They were to practice using hatching, cross-hatching, stipple, squiggle, or contour line to value the outlined bottles.  Here’s the image I used for this exercise:

After completion of this exercise, each student selected either an object brought from home or one of those supplied to draw in an 8 x 10″ size.  We reviewed the steps to drawing from life:

  1.  Draw the large shapes first
  2.  Map out the secondary shapes (including shadows, highlights, reflections)
  3.  Look for connecting shapes
  4.  Use the negative shapes

Really good drawings were made of these objects using a variety of strokes:

Here is my example:

They were to finish their drawings at home and bring an 8 x 10″ photo to work from next week.  We will be using ink washes as well as pen strokes to complete these drawings from a photo.


farmlandWell, I’m going to teach an art class again — thought I was finished with that, but guess it’s in my “blood.”  Beginning September 15 (Thursday) from 1:30 – 3:30, I will be teaching a class on how to compose a work of art at the Maumelle Senior Wellness Center in Maumelle.  This is a seven week class, and will include examples, critiques, information, exercises, and perhaps occasional homework.  Students will use their own materials, as well as materials provided by the instructor.  I’ve had many years of experience teaching this subject, both in high school art classes, children’s classes, and adult classes.  A lot of the lessons will be based on the blogs I’ve shared on this site.  Cost is $45, and there is a maximum of eight students so call MSWC as soon as possible, if you want to register  (501- 851-4344).   I’m looking forward to seeing you and sharing my understanding of composition and design principles.


Well, I just realized that I had not posted anything about working with perspective — both aerial and linear.  This is an omission my teaching career couldn’t withstand! So I’m going to write a few posts about this subject before giving up!

If you are a realistic painter, or just want to show some depth in your paintings, you need to know something about perspective. 


AERIAL PERSPECTIVE OR ATMOSPHERIC PERSPECTIVE:  If you have drawn or painted a still life subject, you probably wanted to show these objects in space.  It was shallow space, of course, but was still important.  In a landscape, aerial perspective is most important, since you usually have a foreground, a middle ground, and a background.  How do you effectively represent these different planes?


  3. VALUE
  6. SIZE.

If you look at two objects in space that are similar, but one is farther away than the other, what happens?  The one farther away looks smaller, lighter in value, lower in intensity, not as clearly defined, and may be overlapped by the one in front.  Take a look at this example:

Cloudy Skies

How do you know which tree is the closest even though the other trees may be the same size?  It is larger, close to the bottom of the picture plane, in more detail, darker, and overlaps the trees and mountains in the distance.  What happens to the trees and mountains in the distance?  They are lighter in value, less intense, show no detail, are much smaller.  The mountains in particular are low in intensity, appearing more lavender and gray. 


farmlandHere’s is another example:  In this painting, we know that the hay bale on the bottom left is much closer to the viewer than the others because of its position.  Is there a definite foreground, middle ground, and background here?  The foreground hill is more golden (more intense) than the three other hills as they move backward in space.  It’s important to look closely at the natural landscape to see how this works.

My next posts will be about linear perspective — this is what happens when people start putting buildings, houses, barns, etc. in the landscape!







Using a grid is the easy way to reproduce a photograph, and IT’S NOT TRACING!  Renaissance artists such as Durer and da Vinci used a standup grid to get correct proportions of a live subject.  In my last portrait drawing class, I showed my students how to use a 1″ grid on an 8×10″ photograph to draw their own self-portraits.  Here is the result from one of my students, Linda Keesee.  She placed the grid on the photograph and made another 1″ grid on her drawing paper, then drew from the photo square by square to complete the final product.  If you want to enlarge a photograph, either use a 1″ grid on the photo and a 2″ grid on your drawing paper, or a 1/2″ grid on the photo and a 1″ grid on the paper.  Either way, your drawing will be twice the size of the photograph.

Of course,  if you’re confident of your ability, you could skip the grid and draw free hand, but that could get you in trouble!  Also, some of you who have done this before might like to try the alternate method – making an x on the corners and dividing  each section equally.  If you do this, you’ll need to trace your photo and use the grid on the tracing.


photo                                            Linda



Noses are very much unique to the individual.  They can be straight, crooked, with a big bump in it, have widely flared nostrils, slim, or large.  My mother had what she called a “roman nose — it roamed all over her face!”  Pay a lot of attention to the different shapes, angles, and planes of the nose. The bridge of the nose is a bone, while the edges are cartilage. There is a round ball at the end of the nose, and the flares of nostrils are wedge shapes.  The overall shape of the nose is narrow at the top, and wide at the base.

After the structural lines have been made, shading the nose is the best way to define the form.  If you’re drawing the nose from a front view, the only way to show the form is by the subtle variations of lights and darks.  Don’t draw lines on the side of the nose. The darkest shadows lie next to the bridge.  Drawing noses from a profile view is easier, because then you can ouline the nose.   Nostril openings face down and should not be overstated.  Because the tip of the nose is spherical, it usually has a highlight.  Look carefully at the light source and the reflected light.  The nose will also cast a shadow beneath it.

Here are some examples:



This example is from the Watercolor Artist magazine of June 1212.






One of the most expressive features of the face is the mouth — it can express a person’s age, gender, ethnicity, and emotion.  Everyone’s mouth is different, so look for the uniqueness in your model’s mouth and lips.  Generally speaking, however, the top lip is slimmer and more in shadow than the lower lip, because it recedes slightly backward.  Full lips look youthful, while thin lips look older.  The top lip has a little indentation in the middle and slants downward toward the edge of the mouth.  The lower lip seems to have two ovoid shapes on either side.  See example below:


Be careful if you include the teeth.  You don’t want them to look like pickets in a fence.  You can define an adult’s teeth by showing the gums at the top and a division at the bottom.  The teeth are shaded more as they recede into the mouth.  Children’s teeth are usually seen as individual, since their’s are not fully developed.

Be aware of the subtle shading of the lips.  There is usually a slight highlight on the lower lip.  Watch especially what happens in a three-quarter and profile view.   Remember also, that there is some shading under the mouth.  Since the lips protrude slightly from the face, there are several tonal variations in the skin and surrounding areas.  So be observant, and practice in your sketchbook.


Once you have the correct proportions of the face, and have considered the planes of the face as it turns away from the light, it’s time to put in the features of the face:  the eyes, eyebrows, nose, ears, mouth.  This is the time for careful observation, because even though everyone’s features are close to the same, it is the little differences that cause you to draw a true likeness.  Here are some pointers.

THE EYE:  The eyeball fits into the eye socket and the eyelids wrap over the eyeballs.  The pupil is quite large in dim light, and smaller in bright light.  The iris is darker under the eyelid because of the overlapping shape.  Be sure that the eyeballs are placed in the same position in the eye socket, so the model doesn’t look cross-eyed, and make sure that the highlights in the iris and the pupils are in the same place.  Light colored eyes usually have a darker rim (limbus) around the iris.  Eyebrows vary from individual to individual and help to contribute to a correct likeness. As the face turns or tilts, the eyeballs can be foreshortened.  Don’t forget the tear duct.  Pay attention to the lower eyelid, the wrinkles and shadows around the eye.  Shadows are darker close to the nose — these shadows often give structure to the nose.

A lot of expression can be put into the placement of the eyeball — for instance, if surprise or fright is to be shown, the whites of the eyes can be seen around the eyeball.  If the model is sleepy, uninterested, or even angry, the eyelids squeeze together – maybe even in a squint.  Careful observation is necessary.

Don’t make the mistake of putting in lines for eyelashes — simply darken about the eye to suggest them.  The eyelashes are thickest toward the outer corner.  The lower lid has a mild highlight along it’s edge.




Getting the correct proportions of the face you’re drawing is one thing, but what about shading the face so that it looks three dimensional?  You need to think about the structure of the face as consisting of several planes that either catch the light or seen in shadows.  Imagine that you are sculpting a head out of a big block of stone or clay. You have to remove chunks at first to shape the head, and then you have to chip away in slices — no curves as yet.  You are modeling the form, which is what you need to do in drawing a portrait as well.

In your drawing, you will look at the planes to shade the portrait as it recedes into space.  You can use hatching and cross-hatching to define the areas.  Always remember one simple rule — what comes forward catches the light; what goes back is in shadow.  So the nose is always in light, as is the forehead, the chin, and the cheeks to some degree.  Darker values will be seen under the eyebrows, the nose, and the lower lip.  Here is a diagram to illustrate.



Split complementary

The split-complementary color scheme is just what it says:  the complement of one color is split on either side so that it is a 3-color scheme.  What happens is that one color temperature becomes dominant and the other is subordinate.  Another way of looking at is is to select three analogous colors and then look for the complement of the middle color.  In this way, a harmonious relationship is provided as well as an accent color that enlivens the composition.  This color scheme is found in nature most often with the hues blue, green, and orange.

To choose your colors, ask yourself what mood you want to convey.  Cool colors convey a feeling of peace and calm while warm colors could be used to show activity, vibrancy, brightness.   One or two colors could be neutralized while the accent color is used in its intensity.

In my first example, I used a split-complementary scheme of yellow, orange-red, and blue violet.  The analogous colors where used predominantly, and the blue-violet was subdued and used only sparingly.  It’s a hot summer day!


In my second example, I used a split-complementary scheme of red-violet, blue-violet, and yellow.  The warms are dominant, and the yellow is partly subdued.  A night scene is suggested.  This is a good exercise for you to try – let me know how it turns out!