Portfolio: Beginning Pen & Ink: Tips and techniques for learning to draw in pen and ink [Paperback ed.] 1633225771, 9781633225770

From the beloved and best-selling Portfolio art series by Walter Foster Publishing comesPortfolio: Beginning Pen & I

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Portfolio: Beginning Pen & Ink: Tips and techniques for learning to draw in pen and ink [Paperback ed.]
 1633225771, 9781633225770

Table of contents :
Introduction......Page 4
Getting Started......Page 6
Tools & Materials......Page 7
Setting Yourself Up for Success......Page 18
Basic Techniques......Page 24
Line Work......Page 25
Exercise: Contour Drawing......Page 34
How to See Like an Artist......Page 37
Exercise: Gesture Drawing......Page 41
Exercise: Linear Perspective......Page 45
Proportion......Page 53
Overlapping & Atmospheric Perspective......Page 55
Value......Page 59
Tone & Mood......Page 65
Exercise: Value Scale......Page 67
Light & Shadow......Page 68
Texture......Page 70
Exercise: Gradient......Page 81
Composition......Page 83
Mastering What you've Learned......Page 112
Drawing From a Photo......Page 113
Adding Color......Page 146
Capturing Movement......Page 161
Lights & Darks......Page 172
What's Next?......Page 183
About the Artist......Page 190

Citation preview


PEN & INK Tips and techniques for learning to draw in pen and ink





Introduction I am surprised by how often people tell me, “I can’t draw at all…not even a stick figure!” They say this as if drawing is a magical gift bestowed by a melodious and sparkling fairy godmother. But drawing is something that anyone can do; it’s simply a matter of taking the time to learn, practice, and grow. By picking up this book, you are taking a step toward improving your drawing abilities and exploring a medium that has withstood the test of time: pen and ink. You don’t have to be a professional artist to enjoy drawing with ink. The medium is attractive for many reasons, including its portability and relatively low cost. There is a crispness about a pen-and-ink drawing that many people (myself included!) find irresistible. The air of finality and commitment to markmaking is unrivaled in almost any other media. Pen and ink may seem daunting to some; the inability to erase a mistake can intimidate even the most experienced artist. But within this unforgiving nature lies the very beauty of the medium. Your final ink drawing does not just show a polished piece of work; it also shows the energy you used to get there, the second-guesses you made along the way, and the unintentional lines that you somehow made work. As you continue to learn and grow in this medium, you may or may not make fewer mistakes, but you will certainly improve at embracing those mistakes and turning them into an advantage. As you journey through this book and your drawing skills progress, you may begin to see how planning ahead helps you avoid needless blunders. Not only will you increase your ability to communicate what you see, but you will also learn to communicate about yourself and your environment. Mastering these skills gives you the building blocks of a language through which you can communicate beyond words and reach people with whom you never would have spoken. Now, let’s get started!



Tools & Materials One of the many benefits of drawing with pen and ink is that it requires few supplies. You can start with the most basic tools—a pen and a drawing surface— and then add to your artistic arsenal as you discover your own interests and preferences. Let’s begin by exploring your drawing tool options. PENS NIB PEN A nib or dip pen consists of two parts: a nib and a handle or holder. Nibs are made of metal and, as their name implies, the ink is replenished by dipping the pen into an inkwell.


FOUNTAIN PEN A fountain pen is similar to a nib pen except that it holds an internal reservoir of ink, thus eliminating the need to dip the pen into an inkwell. Some fountain pens require you to refill the internal reservoir, while others offer prefilled ink cartridges.

TECHNICAL PEN The technical pen is favored by many pen and ink artists, myself included. It consists of an inner ink reservoir and a tubular nib. Some technical pens offer refillable inks and interchangeable nibs, while others are disposable. Originally used for architectural and technical drawings, these pens offer consistent line width and come in various sizes.

BALLPOINT PEN A ballpoint pen dispenses thicker, oil-based ink via a small sphere at its tip. It contains an internal reservoir, which makes it easy to transport and use. It is one of the most popular writing pens out there.


NATURAL MATERIALS Some of the earliest pens were made from materials found in nature. Among those still in use today are the quill pen, made by shaping the molted primary feather of a bird, and the reed or bamboo pen.

ROLLERBALL PEN This pen uses a mechanism similar to the one in a ballpoint pen. However, it contains water-based inks, which create a smoother, even flow and a more consistent line.

FELT-TIP PEN A felt-tip pen has an internal ink reservoir and a nib that’s made from a porous material. It comes in a wide variety of colors and sizes.

Brush A pen is not the only way to transfer ink onto paper. A brush can create an endless variety of strokes and allows for techniques that can’t be achieved using pens.

INK There are two basic types of drawing ink: pigment and dye-based. Pigment ink tends to be more durable—it lasts longer, resists fading, and is water-resistant— while dye-based ink is available in a wide range of vibrant colors. There are several things to consider when deciding which ink to use, including: • Flow: How easily does it flow onto the drawing surface? • Water-resistance: Will it change when exposed to water? • Smear-resistance: Is there a danger of smudging? • Permanence: How long will it last? • Dry time: How long does it take to dry? • Finish: What does it look like after it dries?

SURFACES & SUPPORTS Walk into any art-supply store, and you will find an endless array of drawing surfaces from which to choose. As with ink, your choice depends on your taste and desired effects. For sketching and practicing, any basic printer paper will do, but when working on a final piece, choose a surface with more weight and permanence.


• Weight: How thick is it? • Texture: Is it smooth or rough, and how will that affect your marks? • Permanence: How long will it last without warping or changing color? COMMON SURFACES BRISTOL BOARD A thick, strong paperboard with a smooth surface and a working surface on either side, it comes in a variety of thicknesses. WATERCOLOR PAPER This also comes in various thicknesses, which are measured by weight, including 90, 140, and 300 lbs. The various textures in watercolor paper can lend interesting effects to your finished piece. Hot-pressed watercolor papers have a smoother finish, while cold-pressed types have a rougher texture. PEN AND INK OR MIXED-MEDIA PAPER Paper that’s made specifically for ink and mixed media is typically smooth and available in a wide variety of weights. VELLUM This semi-transparent paper is very thin and has a relatively mild texture. OTHER SURFACES Try your hand at drawing on a variety of creative surfaces, including colored papers, acetate film, wood, and paint.

ADDITIONAL SUPPLIES PENCIL & SHARPENER All of the projects in this book start with a pencil sketch. Feel free to explore using a fine-art pencil, or follow my lead and use a simple mechanical pencil.

ERASER I recommend having at least three different types of erasers. A gum eraser is useful for erasing large areas, but it will shed as you use it. A rubber eraser (the classic pink kind) is useful for erasing straight lines but will damage your paper if used too vigorously. A kneaded eraser can be molded into any shape you like and is the most useful for erasing small, precise areas. RULER This is a helpful tool whenever you need to draw, cut, or tear in a straight line. SKETCHBOOK Many artists keep a sketchbook handy to jot down visual ideas, to work out compositions, or as a drawing surface while traveling. Consider the weight and texture of the paper inside, and look for a book that will lie flat while you work.

Setting Yourself Up for Success Good drawing begins with the proper setup. Here are some things to keep in mind as you get started. LIGHTING Pay attention to lighting when choosing your drawing space. Natural light is always best, so consider setting up next to a window. A neutral lamp will also do in a pinch. The key is to stay away from dim lighting or light that is too warm or too cool. GOOD POSTURE As you begin to work, be sure to pay attention to how you sit. Hunching over your drawing can cause muscle cramps and/or back pain, so sit up straight with both feet on the floor, and get in the habit of maintaining good posture while you draw. Take breaks to walk away from your drawing and shake out or stretch your hand and arm muscles.

HOW TO HOLD YOUR PEN Your choice of drawing instrument will largely determine the way you hold your pen. With nib and fountain pens, it’s important to avoid turning the pen while you work and to hold it lightly with some distance between your hand and the paper. A technical pen works well with your natural writing grip, but you should keep your wrist and elbow free and loose. The angle at which you hold brush and felt-tip pens relative to the paper will affect their marks. A ballpoint pen’s lines will change depending on how much pressure you apply while you draw.

WARM-UP EXERCISES Your drawing muscles and joints are just like any other muscle or joint in your body: They perform best when they’ve had the chance to stretch out and warm up.

Take some time to shake your wrists, stretch your fingers, and circle your shoulders and wrists. Pick up your pen and, holding it lightly, use your whole arm to make a continuous circular motion on your paper. Try holding your pen in different ways, and practice making various types of lines. The key is to keep it loose and use your whole arm as you move your pen across the paper.



Line Work The first step to using pen and ink is learning how to control and communicate with line. Let’s go over a few types of lines to give you some ideas. STRAIGHT LINES A straight line may seem fairly static; it goes in only one direction. But flip that line onto a diagonal and give it some friends, and you’ve got a party! When using straight lines, keep in mind that horizontal lines communicate rest, peace, relaxation, and stagnation, while vertical lines imply strength, dignity, and power. Diagonal lines imply movement, dynamism, and activity.

CURVED LINES What if we change that taut, straight line into a loose, curvy one? Curved lines bring an organic touch to a drawing. Shallow, gentle curves communicate comfort, ease, and sensuality. Steep, tight curves may suggest confusion, intense movement, and chaos.


THICK VS. THIN LINES Another way to change how your line communicates is by adjusting its weight, or its thickness or thinness. Thickening a line makes it seem heavier and more imposing. Thinning a line communicates delicacy and lightness. By varying the weight of a single line, you can make parts of that line stand out or appear darker in some areas, creating the illusion of three-dimensionality.

ADD VARIETY You can change the quality of your line by varying its length and repetition. Long, continuous lines feel visually smooth, while short, choppy lines look rougher.

HATCHED LINES Repeatedly using straight lines in a drawing is called “hatching.” Crosshatching means repeatedly layering straight lines in different directions. We’ll go into more detail about this when we talk about texture (shown here) and value (shown here).

IMPLIED LINES You can also form a line without drawing it at all. This is called “implied line” and requires using the negative space in a drawing to make it seem like there is a line. Another way to imply a line is by almost-but-not-quite connecting two separate lines. In both cases, your eye makes sense of the negative space by creating a line where there’s nothing.

CONTOUR LINE A contour line delineates the visual edge of an object. It’s very possible that you’re already using contour line to draw! Any time you draw the outline of an object, you use contour line.

Take a close look at this drawing. Do you see any of the types of lines we just discussed?

Exercise: Contour Drawing Let’s practice what you’ve learned so far. As we discussed shown here, contour line uses a line to delineate the edge of an object. For this set of exercises, you’re going to use contour line to draw the edges and defining lines of an object. Choose an object with a relatively simple shape, such as a shoe, a flower, or your hand. First, use a pen to slowly draw the outline of your subject without looking at the sheet of paper.

The goal of this exercise is not to create the perfect drawing, but to really look at your object. Notice all the various lines that define it. Draw every divot, curve, and protrusion. You will probably get lost at some point. Don’t look down at your paper, though! Next, draw the same object, again using contour line, but view your work this time. Look at the object while you draw and check that your drawing is proportionate and on the page.

The point of these exercises is to get you to really look at a three-dimensional object and translate the lines that you see onto paper. Avoid thinking about the object as what it is. Instead, think of each line individually: “This line curves up and to the right” or “This line zigzags back and forth.”



How to See Like an Artist As children, we quickly learn how to categorize the world. It is important for us to know that this thing is OK to eat, while this thing is just for playing. This animal is friendly, and that one is not. We create symbols to aid in categorizing, and it is from this place of symbols that we make our first attempts at drawing. “Mommy” becomes a circle with lines that point outward and two dots for eyes. This, of course, is not what Mommy looks like, but it is the symbol we have made to categorize her and thus what we put on paper.

The brain is programmed to create these emblems, making it difficult to keep the mind from meddling when you try to draw something as you see it. When you draw an eye, you may end up drawing something that looks like a football with two circles in the middle. While you know that an eye is not shaped

like a football, your brain has found it to be a useful shape that your hand reproduces on the page.

The goal, then, is to get into the habit of circumventing this analytical part of the brain and drawing what is actually in front of you. There are many tips and tricks that can help you with this. When I draw from life, I imagine the information going straight from my eyes to my hand with little input from my mind. Some artists recommend drawing an object upside down or from right to left. Drawing without looking at your paper (see here) is another helpful strategy.

Your symbolic mind is powerful. At first, you might have to go back and repeat various exercises to get it to quiet down. However, as you persist, you will find it easier to look at what you are drawing and see it as it appears instead of how your mind thinks it should appear.


Exercise: Gesture Drawing Another way to develop your artist’s eye is to learn how to break down your subject into its most basic shapes. Circles, ovals, and rectangles can represent a person. A circle topped with a cylinder and a crescent becomes a pitcher. For this exercise, grab a pen and a stationary object to draw. Set a timer for 30 seconds, and block in your subject using quick, confident strokes. Ignore the specific edges and lines, and don’t worry about textures or shadows. Right now, you’re just trying to get the proportions and position right.

Then move on to a different object, or draw the same object from a different angle. Most objects will give you a different set of shapes if drawn from above or below. Continue this exercise until you feel comfortable drawing quickly and confidently. Now you can challenge yourself by moving on to moving subjects. Pets, kids, and random strangers at the train station make great subjects for gesture


MORE ON GESTURE DRAWING Gesture drawing serves many purposes: It helps you figure out the positions and proportions of your subject matter, lets you capture unique gestures and movements, and assists you in translating the three-dimensional world onto a two-dimensional surface. By using pen for this exercise, you will build trust in your ability to draw with something that you can’t erase.

Exercise: Linear Perspective In this section, we’ll cover a couple of basic concepts that will help you in your pursuit toward realistic representation. Linear perspective uses angles and points to determine how objects appear as they recede from the viewer. Let’s learn more about this concept through the following exercise, which I recommend doing in pencil, as you can erase as you go. A ruler will also come in handy. ONE-POINT PERSPECTIVE One-point perspective uses a single vanishing point to demonstrate depth in a drawing. It is used when one full side of an object faces you (such as drawing a house while looking at the front door). This is particularly handy for representing buildings, interiors, and geometric shapes. To draw a cube in one-point perspective, the first step is drawing a straight line to represent the horizon. Add a dot for the vanishing point, where lines appear to converge as they move out of sight.

Next, draw a square below the horizon line, to the left of the vanishing point. This is the beginning of a cube. With a ruler, draw lines that connect the square to the vanishing point. This makes it look like the square is rushing toward you.


Draw lines around the cube to find its top and side. Use a ruler to check that the lines are horizontal (parallel to the top of the square) and vertical (parallel to the sides of the square).

Erase the lines between the cube and the horizon line, and you’ve made a cube.

Now repeat the exercise, but this time, draw a cube above and to the right of your vanishing point.

Then draw a cube that sits on the horizon line.

TWO-POINT PERSPECTIVE In two-point perspective, there are two vanishing points. This is useful when the edge of an object faces you (like when drawing a building with its corner facing you), and it comes in handy when working on a cityscape or any geometric shape.

To create a cube using two-point perspective, draw a vertical line below the vanishing point to represent the cube’s front edge. Then draw lines to connect your first line to the left vanishing point. Add a vertical line that connects the two receding lines.

Repeat on the right side. To form the top of the cube, draw a line connecting the two sides.

Draw a line that connects the top of the vertical line on the right to the vanishing point on the left.

Erase any superfluous lines, and you’ve made a cube.

Now you can create cubes above and on the horizon line.

PERSPECTIVE PRACTICE Now practice both one- and two-point perspectives using different shapes. Try triangles, circles, and even block letters. As you practice, think about all the things you draw that can be broken down into basic geometric shapes and how you can use linear perspective to represent these objects more realistically.

Proportion In art, proportion refers to how the size of an object compares to the objects around it. When drawing realistically, check that an object looks proportionate to what surrounds it. Proportion comes in handy for implying that some objects are closer than others. Look at the world around you. Notice that objects that are farther away from you appear smaller, while objects closer to you appear larger. This principle works for just about everything. As an object moves off into the distance, it appears smaller and smaller. YOU CAN USE THIS PRINCIPLE OF PROPORTION TO YOUR ADVANTAGE. BY DRAWING AN OBJECT SMALLER, YOU CAN MAKE IT LOOK FARTHER AWAY. BY DRAWING SOMETHING LARGER, YOU MAKE IT APPEAR CLOSER.

Overlapping One way to create space in a drawing is by placing some objects behind others. While it may seem rather simple, this technique is a powerful tool for increasing depth and creating a sense of weight in your subject matter. Using what you’ve learned about linear perspective (see here), try drawing some three-dimensional shapes that overlap. IN THE DRAWING ON THE LEFT, NOTICE HOW OVERLAPPING THE CUSHIONS AND TEAPOTS BEHIND ALICE CREATES A SENSE OF DEPTH.

Atmospheric Perspective When you look at a mountain range, you may notice that the mountains that are closer to you appear darker and more detailed than the mountains in the distance. This concept of atmospheric perspective makes things that are far away from you look lighter in value with fewer visible details, while things that are close to you appear darker in value and feature crisp details and high contrast. It’s called “atmospheric perspective” because the atmosphere—dust, air, water droplets— gets in the way and blocks distant objects. WHEN YOU ARE CREATING LARGE SPACES IN YOUR DRAWINGS, PAY ATTENTION TO THE DETAIL, VALUE, AND CONTRAST YOU PUT INTO DISTANT OBJECTS.

Value When we use the word “value” in art, we are simply talking about how light or dark something is. This is a fundamental principal for any visual artist, but it is particularly significant for a pen-and-ink artist, who often works only in black and white. Value provides the foundation for how the eye “reads” artwork. Variations in value tell us what is in shadow and what is in light, giving form to objects as well as depth to scenes. WITHOUT A RANGE OF VALUES, ARTWORK CAN APPEAR FLAT, LIFELESS, AND UNINTERESTING.

VALUE & EMPHASIS Value is also a powerful tool for leading the viewer’s eye through a drawing. The eye is naturally drawn to the lightest part of a drawing. By slowly progressing from dark to light, you can lead your viewer gradually through a piece. Conversely, by placing very dark and very light values right next to each other, you immediately draw in the viewer’s eye. THE SPECIFIC POINT THAT YOU WANT YOUR VIEWER TO SEE FIRST OR TO LOOK AT REPEATEDLY IS CALLED THE “FOCAL POINT.”

VALUE & DEPTH The way that light hits an object defines its shape. Knowing how to reproduce those variations in value helps you create the illusion of three dimensions on a two-dimensional surface. To learn this concept, let’s look at a classic example: the sphere. Drawn with a contour outline, a sphere is just a circle. Adding value makes it appear three-dimensional.

A: LIGHT SOURCE Before you start adding depth with value, or shading, you must first know which direction the light is coming from. This determines which areas of your object are lighter and which areas are in shadow. B: HIGHLIGHT The area of the object that is closest to the light source has the lightest value. C: MIDTONES The values in between the lightest and darkest areas of the object. On a smooth sphere, the values will progress steadily without a break. D: CORE SHADOW The darkest area of the sphere, where the least amount of light reaches the surface. E: REFLECTION Some light bounces off of the table underneath the ball and reflects back onto its far side. F: CAST SHADOW Light cannot travel through a sphere, so the sphere casts a shadow onto the surface beneath it. This shadow’s shape is an ellipse because the surface of the table recedes away from the viewer.

TONE & MOOD In your own experiences viewing art, you may have noticed that the lightness or darkness of a piece can influence how that artwork makes you feel. A drawing that is mostly light with very few dark values is called “high-key.” A piece that is mostly dark with very few light values is called “low-key.” HIGH-KEY DRAWINGS MAKE THEIR VIEWERS FEEL HAPPY OR CAREFREE. LOW-KEY DRAWINGS INSPIRE FEELINGS OF TENSION OR SOLEMNITY.

Exercise: Value Scale Now that you know how to use value, let’s discuss how to create it. When using a different medium, such as paint, you can achieve value by adding either white or black to a color. However, pen doesn’t give you that option. Instead, white values come from the white of the paper. Darker values are created by covering up more or less of the paper with black ink. You can achieve varying degrees of darkness by making more marks, making larger marks, and/or placing your marks closer together. Let’s practice this concept by making a value scale, which I’ll refer to throughout the rest of the book. Using a ruler and a pencil, make nine boxes of equal size. Label the boxes with numbers 0 through 8. The lightest value, the white of the paper, will be 0, so this box can be left empty. The darkest value will be box 8. Now fill in boxes 1 through 7 using hatching and crosshatching. Each box should be slightly darker than the one to its left and slightly lighter than the one to its right. The goal is to create an even progression from light to dark. IT’S BETTER TO START BY MAKING YOUR BOXES TOO LIGHT RATHER THAN TOO DARK. YOU CAN ALWAYS GO BACK AND MAKE A BOX DARKER, BUT YOU CANNOT LIGHTEN SOMETHING WHEN WORKING WITH PEN.

Light & Shadow One of value’s most obvious jobs is to communicate light and shadow. Pen and ink is a visual medium, and it’s useful to understand that everything you see— light, shadow, color, and texture—is based on light’s reflection and absorption into the world around you. Anything you draw, then, can be represented according to what parts of it are light, what parts of it are dark, and what parts of it are somewhere in between. The value scale you just created (see here) will come in handy as you prepare to draw a scene or an object. Hold the value scale next to your subject, and look for the darkest values (numbers 7-8 on your value scale). How much pen work will you need to capture those values? Where are the lightest values (numbers 0-1)? How can you plan from the beginning to make sure those areas maintain their lightness? Where are the midtones (numbers 2-6), and how will you manage your strokes to maintain the integrity of each value?

Texture You may have noticed that adjusting the way you move your hand when you’re drawing will change the way your artwork looks. By moving your hand in a circular, short, or long motion, you can alter the texture of your marks. Here are some of the most common ways to create texture in your work. OVERLAPPING LINES Short lines that overlap each other create a rough texture that is useful for fur, grass, and short hair.

RANDOM LINES Short lines that move in all directions without rhyme or reason, creating a rough texture.

SCRIBBLING Circular lines that overlap and move in random patterns. Scribbling creates a messy texture that is useful when drawing foliage.

STIPPLING Use dots instead of lines. This creates a granular, sandy texture.

HATCHING Short, parallel lines going in one direction. This creates a relatively smooth texture.

CROSSHATCHING Short lines going in two or more directions. Crosshatching also creates a smooth texture.

CONTOUR HATCHING Hatched or crosshatched lines that follow the contour of an object. This creates a smoother texture and brings depth to a drawing.

CONTINUOUS LINES Long lines that may or may not follow the contour of an object. Continuous lines create a fluid texture.

MARK-MAKING FOR TEXTURE Now it’s time for you to try out some textures for yourself. Use the ones from the previous pages, and see if you can make up some of your own as well. I’ve come up with a few ideas to help you get started.

Notice all of the different textures in this piece. Consult this section, and consider which techniques you can see here.

Exercise: Gradient In art, the word “gradient” refers to the gradual transition from one value to another. For a beginning pen-and-ink artist, this gentle slope between light and dark can be difficult to achieve. With some practice, however, you can soon apply this skill to your drawings. Begin with a long, thin rectangle. Use a pencil to lightly block in five equal sections.

Working from one side, fill in the first section with vertical hatch lines. When you reach the dividing line for the next section, place the lines farther and farther apart until they fade out altogether.

Working from the same side, fill in the first and second sections with horizontal hatch lines. Keep the lines close together until you reach the dividing line between the first and second sections, and then again space your hatch lines slightly farther apart. As you progress into the third section, place the lines farther apart until they fade out.

Repeat this process with diagonal hatching. Fill the first three sections with lines that are close together. In the fourth section, space the lines farther and farther apart until they fade out completely.


Composition Simply put, composition is the way in which objects and elements are arranged on a surface to create a piece of art that pleases the eye. There are many things to consider when composing a drawing. Think about how the basic shapes of your drawing relate to each other, how they relate to the edge of the drawing, and all the negative space in between. Over the next few pages, we will explore each of these ideas in detail. CONSIDER WHETHER YOUR COMPOSITION IS BALANCED AND IF YOU HAVE A STRONG FOCAL POINT THAT DRAWS THE VIEWER’S ATTENTION.

BASIC SHAPES When you simplify a drawing down to its most basic elements, you will notice that it’s composed of just a few shapes. As you start working on a drawing, it can be helpful to think in terms of these basic shapes. In fact, many artists begin their drawings this way: sketching out some large shapes to help them visualize how the objects and subjects are going to relate to each other. If these large shapes don’t work together for a pleasing composition, it’s likely that the finished drawing won’t meet your expectations, either.

You may also consider planning an entire composition around one basic shape. If you look at drawings and paintings from art history, you will notice that many of

them center around a simple shape—often a triangle, an “S,” or a circle.

NEGATIVE SPACE Negative space is all the space in your drawing that isn’t occupied by the subject or its supporting objects. It can consist of empty white space, but it can also be a sky with clouds, a wallpapered wall, or leafy trees. Any part of your drawing that isn’t inhabited by something the audience is intended to focus on is considered negative space.

The red area is the negative space.

As you begin a drawing, consider the space around your subject. How can you use the “empty” parts to balance your composition and bring attention to the focal point?

FRAMING Another important factor to consider when creating your composition is how your subject and negative space relate to your frame. In this context, frame means the edge of your paper, or where your artwork ends. If your subject bleeds off into the edge of your frame, it creates a certain amount of visual weight, which can make your composition feel off-balance unless you match it with something bleeding out of the frame on the other side as well. AN OBJECT THAT JUST TOUCHES OR BLEEDS OFF THE FRAME WILL CREATE VISUAL WEIGHT, WHICH CAN MAKE A DRAWING FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE.

This artwork feels balanced, with equal visual weight on both sides.

Well, this is awkward. That feeling of imbalance comes from the right side of the image running off the frame, while the left side doesn’t come near it.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH A useful strategy for planning your composition involves creating a thumbnail sketch. A tiny sketch (about the size of your thumbnail) can be a quick, simple method for brainstorming.

Start by drawing a frame, and then fill it with the basic shapes of your composition. Try putting these shapes in different locations until you find the one that is most pleasing to the eye.

BALANCE In art, the word “balance” refers to how visual weight is distributed across a drawing to create a pleasing sense of equilibrium. You can create visual weight using size, color, value, complexity, negative space, and other elements. As you sketch out a composition, pay attention to how your drawing is balanced from left to right and top to bottom.

BALANCED. Even though the composition is not exactly the same on both sides, the size of the circle on the left is offset by the dark value of the circle on the right, so the composition feels balanced.

NOT BALANCED. Different shapes, complex patterns, variations in value and size, and shapes falling out of the frame add visual weight on the left, whereas on the right side there’s only a simple circle. This composition feels uncomfortably heavy toward the left.

Symmetry is an easy way to create balance. When a composition looks the same on both sides, with similar elements creating an equal amount of weight, it’s symmetrical.

This composition is asymmetrically balanced from side to side. If you drew a vertical line through the center of the drawing, you would see that the flying bird balances the element of the dancing woman. The bird is smaller, but it has a darker value than the rest of the piece.

Asymmetry is a more complex way to create balance. When a composition feels balanced but is not the same from side to side, it is called “asymmetrical.”

This composition is symmetrically balanced from top to bottom. If you drew a horizontal line through the middle of the drawing, you would see that the top and bottom contain the same elements, even though they are not exactly mirrored.

FOCAL POINT The focal point of a piece demands the most attention. By mastering the focal point, you can control what your viewers see first and keep them interested in your drawing. Without this area of emphasis (or with too many significant points), a viewer can get confused and lose interest. CONTRAST One way to make your focal point stand out is to create contrast, or an area of variation. You can do this using value, color, shape, or size, or just by putting an object somewhere unexpected.

The flowers stand out because they have lighter and darker values than the negative space around them.

You notice the penguin in the center because it’s a different color than its companions.

The baby elephant stands out due to its smaller size.

The most noticeable sheep is the one wearing a scarf and hat and smoking a pipe. Your eyes are drawn to it because it’s unexpected.

POSITIONING Certain areas within a frame draw the eyes more naturally than others. Placing your focal point in one of these areas strengthens it. Imagine dividing your drawing into three sections horizontally and three sections vertically. These lines and the points where they cross are naturally strong places to create emphasis. This concept is called “the Rule of Thirds.”

The octopus’ head sits right where the lines cross, which makes it a strong focal point.

LEADING LINES You can create lines in a drawing that lead the viewer to the focal point. These are called “leading lines.” They can be actual lines or implied lines (lines that are not drawn on the page but still lead the eye).

The lines of the leaves and flowers point toward the moth and the man’s face. The man’s gaze creates an implied line so that your eye follows what he’s looking at.

LIGHT Your eye is naturally drawn to the lightest area of a drawing, especially if the rest of that drawing is mostly dark. By making your focal point the lightest value, you can guarantee that it is what your viewer will see first.

Source Material Anything that you use to inspire or inform your drawings is called “source material.” I keep a file on my desktop for this purpose. When I come across something interesting, I’ll snap a photo and throw it in this file. Many artists keep hard copies of their source material and pull photos from magazines or print photos from their phones. Some also create their own source material by hiring models or using family members to pose in photos that they can work from later. There are many ways to use source material. The first and most obvious way is to copy the scene or photo exactly. Here are a few tips that will help you draw things as they appear. PROPORTION The lines and objects in a photo relate to each other by location and size. By comparing the size of one object to that of another in the photograph, you more accurately represent the object. For example, if I’m drawing from a picture of a person, I may notice that the height of the body is roughly equal to eight heads stacked on top of each other. This helps me draw the body more proportionately.

ANGLES Look for strong visual lines in your photograph, and then compare how those lines relate to each other. For instance, you might notice that one line intersects another at a roughly 90-degree angle. This observation will help you lay out your drawing more accurately.

NEGATIVE SPACE By observing the shape and proportion of your negative space, drawing it as if it were an actual shape, you can gather information about the positive space, or the space occupied by objects or characters. THE GRID SYSTEM Another way to draw a photo exactly as you see it involves using the grid system. I don’t often use this method for various reasons, including its tediousness and the fact that it bypasses the more creative side of the brain. However, it can come in handy if you’re having trouble getting your drawing to look just right.

Start by using a ruler to draw a grid on top of your photo. I’m going to break up my photo into a grid of six boxes across and seven boxes down, but you can use however many you’d like. Label the boxes by letters and numbers. Now, draw a grid on your drawing paper. The grid does not have to be the same size as the drawing, but it does need to include the same number of boxes. Label the boxes by numbers and letters. Then pick a box and draw what you see in that box. Repeat this step for each box, and you will have created an exact drawing of your photograph.

COPYING A PHOTO OR DRAWING THAT BELONGS TO SOMEONE ELSE CAN MAKE GREAT PRACTICE, BUT IT MAY BE UNETHICAL IF YOU PLAN TO SELL YOUR WORK OR ENTER A COMPETITION. Another way to work with source material is to use many different images. Rather than selecting a single photo of a bear, I may browse the internet or visit

the zoo and look at many bears from different angles until I get a feel for the animal’s shapes and lines. You can use the pages of your sketchbook to practice drawing a subject until you are confident enough to add it to your artwork. Using and studying multiple sources will help you build up a folder of source material in your memory, which brings me to my final provider of source material: the mind. Continuing with the example of the bear, after visiting zoos and browsing photos online, you may find that you understand the anatomy and surface texture of a bear so well that you can draw one without the use of any source material other than your memory.


Drawing From a Photo This drawing project offers you the chance to flex your newly honed skills in value and light-to-dark transitions, as well as working with a reference photo. By adding layers, you can focus on the abstract light and dark shapes instead of the concrete shapes of objects. The final piece will contain no contour lines; value will delineate where one object begins and another one ends. MATERIALS Three reference photos of the sky, each representing different tones; smooth sheet of drawing paper; pencil; fine-point drawing pen; kneaded eraser; ruler; value scale for reference


Reference photo

Lightly sketch three frames or panels. Inside them, pencil in the basic shapes of the clouds and landscape. These lines will be erased, so apply very little pressure while sketching. Also outline the abstract shapes you see. Now look for the darkest values in your reference photo, using your value scale shown here.

Use a pen and a single, smooth hatching stroke to fill in the dark areas. You’ll build up the darkest values through four different layers of hatching, so don’t make these shadows too dark yet; they’ll darken as you add more hatching. For slightly lighter dark values, space your lines farther apart. Erase the guidelines for the darkest values. YOU WANT TO CREATE TEXTURE THROUGH VALUE RATHER THAN LINE, SO KEEP YOUR STROKES SIMPLE AND CLEAN.

Look for abstract shapes in your source material that represent the five or six ranges on your crosshatching value scale. Lightly draw an outline on your paper to represent these mid-dark values.


With your pen, repeat the process of filling in the pencil outlines with a smooth hatching stroke. Make your lines perpendicular to the first layer of hatching, and include all of the areas that were filled in by the first layer. In these darkest areas, you’ll now notice crosshatching. Erase your pencil guidelines. LOOK AT YOUR DRAWING FROM A DISTANCE TO MAKE SURE THAT EVERYTHING IS COMING TOGETHER. IF IT’S NOT, TURN YOUR DRAWING UPSIDE DOWN OR TAKE A BREAK BEFORE YOU ASK YOURSELF WHAT NEEDS TO BE IMPROVED.

Find the medium values (3 to 4 on your value scale) in your reference photo, and lightly pencil them in.


Stroking in a different direction (such as diagonal if you’ve been hatching horizontally and vertically), fill in these shapes with smooth, even hatching. Include all the areas you’ve hatched and crosshatched so far. Your darkest values should now have three sets of hatching lines.

Use pencil to outline the areas that will be left completely white.

With lines that are perpendicular to the previous layer and a smooth, even hatching stroke, fill in the entire drawing, minus the areas that should stay white. This is when your gradient work will really shine. Finally, erase any pencil lines, and look for areas that may need some extra lines or finishing touches.

Adding Color Now, let’s add color to your work. You’ll have the opportunity to experiment with two new media in this project: watercolor and colored pencil. There is not nearly enough space in this book to talk about each one in detail, so this project uses simple techniques. If you’re interested in combining more of your pen-andink work with watercolor or colored pencils, there is an endless array of websites, online guides, and books to guide you, including Portfolio: Beginning Watercolor and Portfolio: Beginning Colored Pencil (Walter Foster Publishing). MATERIALS Mechanical pencil, kneaded eraser, tube watercolor paints, water, paper towel, 2-inch watercolor paintbrush, blue painter’s tape, blotting sheets and weight, hot-pressed watercolor paper, felttipped pens in various sizes, pencil sharpener, colored pencils

Start by lightly sketching some basic shapes and outlines, and then erase and refine until you have a light outline of an octopus.

When working with watercolor, pencil will not erase after you’ve layered paint on top of it, so use a light touch.

To keep your paper from wrinkling or buckling when you add watercolor, place painter’s tape along the edges.

Choose two colors to work with. These colors will blend into each other, so make sure you choose colors that mix well. We’ll do two graded washes. With a wet brush loaded with your first color, fill the very top of your piece with paint. Add clean water to the paint, slowly working your way down as the paint gets lighter and lighter. Let this layer dry, and then repeat the process from bottom to top with the second color. IF YOUR PAPER WRINKLES OR BUCKLES, LET IT DRY UNTIL IT’S JUST SLIGHTLY DAMP. COVER YOUR PAPER WITH A BLOTTING SHEET OR CLEAR PLASTIC ON BOARD, AND THEN PILE WEIGHT ON TOP. WITHIN A DAY OR TWO, YOUR PAPER WILL DRY FLAT. Sketch in more details on the octopus, such as its eyes, surface features like spots, and tentacle twists and suckers. Work carefully; too much eraser work can damage your watercolor finish.


Now it’s time to dive into the ink work. I like to start with an outline of the subject to give myself some boundaries, but you can skip that step if you wish. Start by hatching in a base value for the octopus. It has light spots and an even lighter underbelly, so leave those areas blank for now.

Pay attention to the top and bottom of each tentacle, making sure to hatch all the way to the edges. In areas where a dark upper part of the octopus meets a light part underneath, add gradients (see here) to gently blend the values. Because this octopus has smooth skin, use even strokes and avoid overlapping.

With a second layer of pen, crosshatch over the entire octopus, except for its underbelly and the bottom of its tentacles. Hatch right over the spots. Now that you’ve laid in the basic values, use your next round of marks to create emphasis and depth.

This next step is a bit more complicated. I’ve included a labeled guide here so that you know where to place your marks. A: Draw details using short, curved lines and hatching. Erase pencil marks as you go. B: Bring attention to the eyes by creating high-contrast areas. Using less pen work to create a lighter value around the eyes sets off their dark value, which in turn contrasts with the reflections. C: Crosshatch to create darker values in areas that are farther away from the imagined light. Make the edges of the tentacles darker to create the illusion of round, cylindrical shapes. D: Thicken the outlines around the octopus. Use thicker lines at the bottom and slightly thinner ones at the top to create weight. E: Use value to create distance by paying attention to where part of the octopus would cast a shadow on another part. F: Use curved lines for shading, following the contours of the shape of each tentacle to enhance the illusion of depth.

Before finishing up your piece, look at it as a whole. Is there any part that awkwardly stands out and needs to be toned down? Did you forget to shade one of the tentacles? Does the focal point (the eyes) stand out? Try turning your octopus upside down to get a new perspective. Does it need any more lines? USE A SHARP COLORED PENCIL TO LAY MORE PIGMENT ON THE PAPER AND A DULL ONE TO LEAVE LESS PIGMENT BEHIND.

Finally, use colored pencils to enhance the area around the eyes. Start with white, and gently give the octopus brighter reflections and highlights. White can also be used to lighten the value of the underbelly, although I used a very light peach color. You can stop here or continue to pick out hues that work with your color scheme to make gentle color changes over the entire body of the octopus. I chose bright salmon, yellow, purple, and blue-green. Concentrate these colors around the eyes, fading them out slightly as they move away from the focal point.

Capturing Movement This next piece uses basic shapes to convey movement in the form of a dancing bear. MATERIALS Various reference photos, mechanical pencil, kneaded eraser, technical pens of various sizes, travel watercolor set (any kind of watercolors will do, but look for a small, pointed brush), water, paper towel

Start by lightly penciling in some circles and a sinuous S-shape.

Refine the circles and basic shapes. I used reference photos from the internet to familiarize myself with the appearance of a bear’s head as well as a bouquet of roses, and then I tried to capture those shapes in my drawing.

Now it’s time for pen! As usual, I drew on top of the pencil marks, knowing that I could erase them later. If you plan to do the same, you might want to check that your ink will remain stable while you erase.

In some of the projects in this book, you might have noticed that I started with outlining basic shapes and filling in values, and then I added textures. In this drawing, I want to show you another possible approach: working from top to bottom to add outlines, values, and textures all at once.

Add the bear’s soft, hairy texture using long lines going in a single direction. Pay attention to the bear’s anatomy to determine which parts to darken and which to lighten.

To offset the light values of the bear, keep the values of the flowers and leaves relatively dark.

Erase the pencil lines as you go so that you are less likely to miss some of them later.

When the bear is complete, thicken and darken the exterior lines to distinguish your subject from the background, or negative space.

If the bear doesn’t stand out as much as you’d like, add a neutral value to the background. I used a simple diagonal hatch to add a darker background, so the white of the bear looks more striking.

Use a small brush and watercolor paints to add color to the flowers.

Lights & Darks For this project, practice combining lights and darks in new and unexpected ways. MATERIALS Hot-pressed watercolor paper, reference photos, mechanical pencil, kneaded eraser, felt-tip drafting pen

Start with a pencil drawing. Don’t worry about penciling in fine details yet; you’ll add those as you move from section to section.

Start with the chandelier. Outline the space that will be filled in with the background value as well as the spaces that will be lighter or darker to represent the light fixture. Next, move to the curtains. Imagine light coming from the chandelier, and fill in the darkest values accordingly using a vertical hatch stroke.

Use crosshatching to lay down values for the curtains, paying attention to the light and dark areas. Use outline and contour shading to give shape to the folds in the fabric.

Add horizontal hatch marks to the back wall. Leave the area around the chandelier empty for now. This area should appear lighter, so you’ll add one less layer of hatching. Continue crosshatching the background wall, including the area behind the chandelier, with a diagonal stroke.

Continue with the background, crosshatching diagonally in the opposite direction. Pay special attention to the area around the chandelier and the figures, taking care to keep your hatching even all the way up to the edge.

Use cluster hatching to add value to the floor. Add a cast shadow underneath the figures using vertical strokes.

So far, you’ve mostly used midtone values to fill in the background and surrounding environment. The figures in the foreground are the focal point of the piece, so you should use the lightest and darkest values to contrast against each other and draw the eyes to the foreground. You can also use thicker lines around the figures to set them apart from the background.

Pencil in the details on the two masked girls.

Add detail to the figures in the foreground, remembering to use contrast (darks against lights) to create the focal point. Continue using line thickness to separate the figures from the background.

Use layered hatching for the tiger’s fur stole. Then add hatching to create cast shadows behind the figures and distinguish them from the background. Before finishing your piece, look at it upside down, searching for any areas that appear inconsistent or stand out. I added extra hatching to the baseboard in the background when I noticed it catching my eye because of its light value.



Honest Feedback Find people whose work you admire, and ask them for honest feedback. Seek out local artists’ communities or critique groups, and share what you’ve made with people who will tell you what they really think—both positive and negative. Most importantly, listen to the feedback you receive. It won’t help you if you don’t hear it with an open mind.

Encouragement Learn to tell the difference between encouragement and critique. It is your mother’s/partner’s/best friend’s duty to like all of your drawings, and this will be incredibly useful on the days you get discouraged. Sometimes we just need someone to tell us that what we’re doing is valuable. Revel in the encouragement of the people who love you.

Mentors & Masters There is no better way to learn drawing than from someone who has mastered it. You may be lucky enough to have someone in your community who teaches workshops or classes on drawing with pen and ink. If not, the internet is a great source for instruction from all kinds of experts. Spend time studying the work of masters past and present. You’ll learn a lot just by taking the time to notice the ways they use line, texture, and other techniques in their work.

Art Shows & Competitions Local competitions and art shows are fun to enter and can be very motivating. They will also help give you a sense of how your work is received. Remember that many factors go into deciding who is chosen for a show or who wins a prize, so don’t get discouraged. Rejection is just part of the game and there are lessons in every failure.

Practice As with anything, the key to mastering pen and ink drawing is practice, practice, practice. Drawing may come more easily to some than others, but nothing is free for anyone. If you are serious about honing your drawing skills, as a hobby or otherwise, set aside a certain amount of time—daily if possible—to regularly put pen to paper. Go out of your way to practice the things that are difficult for you, and push yourself to try new techniques.

Experiment, Play, and Have Fun! Don’t forget why you started this in the first place. Drawing is wonderful and expressive, and every once in a while, we are lucky enough to make something honest and beautiful. Don’t lose the sense of excitement that you felt when you started this journey. Enjoy yourself. Play. Find new ideas where you least expect them, and define your own version of success.

About the Artist Desarae Lee is a fine artist and an illustrator from Salt Lake City, Utah. Her art has appeared in galleries and art shows across the United States, and she has won numerous awards for her work. She is a published author and was a co-author of Artistry: Pen & Ink (Walter Foster Publishing). Desarae serves as a founding board member of Salt Lake City’s Downtown Artist Collective, where she occasionally can be found teaching drawing or printmaking. Desarae’s technique revolves around using line to create value and texture. Working primarily with pen and ink, Desarae balances exact, meticulous line work with natural, flowing compositions. Over time, her work has developed to include watercolor, tea staining, and printmaking. This shift results in more organic drawings that still maintain her original intricacy. Influenced by personal trauma and struggles with depression and anxiety disorders, Desarae creates work that revolves around themes of finding humor in pain, beauty in the grotesque, and light in the darkness. As comfortable referencing geek culture as she is baring the depths of her soul, Desarae’s work ranges in theme but is always, as she says, “an attempt to connect the hidden places in myself to the hidden places in the viewer, to somehow create a bridge of communication over the immense expanse of our differing perceptions, beliefs, and experiences.” When she is not drawing or printing, Desarae can be found roaming the Rocky Mountains of Utah with her ever-patient partner, Jared, and stubborn Schnauzer, Boris.

© 2019 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc. Artwork and text © 2019 Desarae Lee First published in 2019 by Walter Foster Publishing, an imprint of The Quarto Group. 26391 Crown Valley Parkway, Suite 220, Mission Viejo, CA 92691, USA. T (949) 380-7510 F (949) 380-7575 www.QuartoKnows.com

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