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

Monday, June 20, 2011

Drawing With Pen & Ink - Part 2: Line vs. Tone Artwork

In this article I want to share some of the concepts from a classic pen and ink book by Arthur Guptill called, “Drawing with Pen & Ink.” (This book is out of print but I believe it has been reprinted as “Rendering in Pen and Ink: The Classic Book On Pen and Ink Techniques for Artists, Illustrators, Architects, and Designers,” written by Arthur L. Guptill  and edited by Susan E. Meyer.

Line and Tone Artwork
According to Guptill, pen drawing as a separate and complete art form is comparatively recent, only appearing in the last quarter of the 19th Century. The pen was, of course, used in art much earlier, you have only to look at the illuminations of the Middle Ages or the studies of various old masters to see that. What Guptill is describing are pen drawings as pieces of fine art in their own right, not as adjuncts to calligraphy or as parts of preliminary studies for later finished paintings.

Photomechanical reproduction techniques played a large role in the popularity of pen drawing as a separate and distinct art form. Before the advent of computers, scanners, and digital separation techniques, artwork for reproduction was divided into two basic categories: “line” and “tone” artwork. Color artwork that needed to be separated into several colors for printing was “tone.” Graphite pencil, as well as other techniques using graded shades of gray or color, were also considered “tone.”

"Rose Horse," mixed media, an example of a "tone" drawing. (copyright Sara Light-Waller, 2011)

Pen drawings made up of black lines or dots were considered “line” artwork for the purposes of reproduction. Line artwork was easier to reproduce. There was little needed in the way of proofing by artists and printers. It was either too light, too dark, or just right.

Although a complex pen drawing may look like it has many shades of grey within it, it is still, strictly speaking, only black and white. The skillful use of shading with lines or dots is what makes black and white “line” artwork appear to look like graded “tone.”

"Armored Horse," pen, an example of "line" artwork. (Copyright Sara Light-Waller, 2011)

Nowadays, with digital reproduction techniques, all of these old forms are no longer important. What remains important is to understand why pen & ink became so popular in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Simply put, it was cheaper and easier reproduce. It also usually reproduced well. What about that isn’t good?

Next up in Part 3The Unique Qualities of Pen Drawings

Friday, June 17, 2011

Horse Art: “Two Roans”

"Two Roans" Polychromos pencils on Rivers paper

I finally finished “Two Roans” today. What a long delay, eh? The last post about it was here. I put this piece out of sight for a while as I wanted to look at it with fresh eyes. I was trying something experimental with the black and white portion and wanted to see if I really liked it. I think I do. I thought about adding an entirely black and white background behind the horses. But as I hadn't planned for it ahead of time I was too nervous to try it with this piece. Next time I’ll plan for it we'll see how it looks.

What do you think of the color bleeding off the horses?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Free Clip Art! And other new additions to Flying Pony Studios.

For the past few months I’ve been working diligently to expand Flying Pony Studios into some exciting new directions. Here are some of the products and services I can now offer you.

•    Free CLIP ART. Sign up for my newsletter and receive four (4) pieces of high-quality clip art for free!

•    The Flying Pony Studios Newsletter – includes instructional art and design articles for every level of artist or do-it-yourself maven, monthly drawings for limited release clip art images offered only to newsletter subscribers, and so much more!

•    The Flying Pony Studios Blog (you are here) - features a variety of articles targeted at artists. Topics include: professional-level instructional art articles, art supply product reviews, the use of color in art, and all the newest information about Flying Pony Studios’ fine art releases and other new products as they become available.

•    The Flying Pony Studios Shop – is filled with all sorts of yummy things. Greeting cards, fine art prints, and coming soon, paper dolls and coloring books! Something for everyone. 

•    Pet Portraits and MangaPets  - Our pets are important members of our families. We wish we could keep them with us forever but sadly, we can’t. The creation of a personalized pet portrait is a timeless way of keeping your beloved animal companion with you always. Whether the style you choose is formal or funky, a Flying Pony Studios pet portrait is a very personal and special way of remembering your very best friend.

•    Freelance Illustration Services – looking for illustrations but can’t find the right ones to suit your project or job? I’m your gal! With over twenty years of experience as a freelance illustrator, I’m sure I can assist you with the creation of that perfect image for your project.

My goal is to be of service to you as an artist. Whether that means helping you learn a particular art technique, creating a personalized illustration for you, or painting a large and lovely portrait of your beloved animal companion, I am here for you.

Please visit to download your free clip art today!

All my best,


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Noodler’s Flex Pen Review

Today's sketch done with my new Noodler's Flex pen with Fox Red ink
Well, here’s the short and sweet…I’m a fan. A big fan. I’ve been looking for my two new Noodler’s pens (Piston Fill fountain pen and Flex pen) for some time and didn’t even know it. Well, I did know it, but I didn’t know I’d find them in a Noodler’s pen. (I didn’t even know that Noodler’s made pens a few months back!)

I was able to get two clear demonstrator Flex pens from Goulet Pens this week and both seem to have their own characters. One, that I currently have filled with Noodler’s “Swan in Australian Roses” ink, has a stiffer nib and is much less wet than the other. I like the drier feel of the first pen and so took the other pen apart to reset the nib and feed. That helped quite a bit but the second pen still remains a bit more wet in its feed than the first. Funny thing is, I like actually like that pen better. It’s just a bit messier to use. That pen is currently filled with Noodler’s “Fox Red” and I’ve had red ink stains on my hands since I got it. Now I do take pride in that, but people have asked me about it. And the tissue I’ve been using to wipe off the nib does tend to look like I’ve just gotten a pretty bad bloody nose.

Noodler's Flex pen tests
The nib is medium/fine and seems to be the perfect width for my drawing style. You can get a reasonably good amount of flex out of it, although you have to press pretty hard. Of course too much pressure and you get undesirable “railroad track” marks. I’m still figuring out the exact pressure ratio.

The pen feels good in my hand and although it doesn’t have the heft of a more expensive pen, that really doesn’t worry me as I’m familiar with dip pens with cheap pen holders. The filling mechanism seems to work just fine and the pen is pretty attractive to my eyes. But the most important part is that it writes and draws well. I’m finding that the pleasurable experience of drawing with ink is definitely enhanced by a good pen. I really enjoyed my sketching experience today and realized that I hadn’t been having that sort of experience lately with some of my other pens.

Noodler's Flex pen tests page 2
So the summation is that I’m hooked! I’m looking forward to many pleasurable drawing experiences with my new pens. I’m going to do some experimenting with ink colors now as well. As you can see, I’ve been enjoying the red ink. I’m less enchanted with the “Swan in Australian Roses.” It’s nice but I feel ready to move on to another color. Next up for that pen is a nice brown. I am very fond of drawing in sepia ink

Many thanks to Rachel and Brian of Goulet Pens. They were so very nice and their videos have already been quite helpful. I’ll definitely be buying from them again!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Noodler’s Flex pen! Arrived safe and sound.

I’m going to pause briefly before part 2 of my pen & ink article to boast that my Noodler’s Flex pen and ink samples arrived today from Goulet Pens! Yeah! There was a true “pen stampede” to buy them last Monday. I give huge kudos to the folks at Goulet Pens who handled the rush with so much grace.

I haven’t yet tried out the pen but will be tonight or tomorrow. I’m very excited to see what it can do! Loving my Noodler’s piston-fill pen the way I do, I can only imagine that the Flex pen will also become one of my favorites. I was able to get a clear demonstrator model which I thought was a great idea because you can see what color of ink you’ve put in it. This seems very convenient if you plan to change back and forth between two identical pens with a different colors of ink in each.

Goulet offers ink samples in sets or individually and they have many colors and brands of inks to choose from. What a great way to experiment with new ink colors without buying a whole bottle. I ordered a Noodler’s sample set of nine inks and two others, Noodler’s “Golden Brown” and Noodler’s “Fox Red.” The sample set comes with several inks I’m particularly excited about trying, “Black Swan in Australian Roses” and “Apache Sunset,” both of which look like lovely colors.

So here I am at once doing a massive business rebuild (mentioned in a previous post) while getting itchy fingers to play with my new pen. I suppose it’s a great incentive to work a bit more tonight and then let myself scribble to my heart's content! :-)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Drawing With Pen & Ink - Part 1

"Jack" - pen & ink rendering done in a tight style.
Pen and Ink is one of my favorite mediums of expression. The feeling of quietly adding marks to a paper is very relaxing for me and always has been. Of course, this doesn’t apply when you’re in a hurry, but if you can get “into the zone,” you’ve got it made.

Many people have asked me over the years how I can work in a medium that really is quite unforgiving. Although there are ways to make corrections, by and large, pen and ink is a not an-easily-correctable medium. So how do I keep my stress levels down while working with it? Practice with a pen, first and foremost. Planning with a pencil before applying ink. Finally, a determined mindset that doesn’t allow space to think about my lines being wrong. If they are, well then, I correct them. If a piece goes too disastrously wrong, I start again. In that way it’s similar to watercolor. Planning can make a big difference in any medium that isn’t easy to correct.

For pen and ink work practicing “your hand” is very important. In other words training your hand and arm motions to be consistent. Having been trained as a draughtsman in the old school (pre-AutoCAD) I learned how to make pretty straight lines without a ruler and to make all sorts of other consistent and repeatable marks as well. This is so true today that my scrawly signature looks the same EVERY time. This is because I can copy the same hand and arm motions each time. Piece of cake really! I continue to practice making marks whenever I think of it. Buying my new Noodler's pen was a wonderful opportunity to catch up on my practicing last night.
Pen & ink practice exercises
Pen and ink illustration today (not cartooning which has always been stylized) is, by and large, pretty tight. That is to say, the popular rendering styles of the current day tend to be highly accurate and photographic. This wasn’t always the case. Classic pen and ink styles have also included looser and more stylized drawings, as were common in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

As an example here are two pen and ink drawings by well-known artists. The first one is by Henry Pitz from the mid-20th Century and the second is by Claudia Nice from the late 20th. Similar subjects but handled quite differently. Which do you like best?
By Henry Pitz
By Claudia Nice
In Part 2 of this article I’ll talk about a classic pen & ink book and some of the history of the field.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Falling In Love All Over Again

My new Noodler's piston fill fountain pen
Did I mention that I got it in turquoise? I love turquoise!
Okay, okay I'm a pen snob. I admit it. I have many drawing pens and am constantly searching for “just the right one.” Recently I got so disgusted while working on salable clip art that I went back to using nib pens for my studio work. Thus far they're the only pens that have given me the line quality that I've been looking for. Of course, while they're wonderful for studio use, a nib pen is not a good choice for outdoor sketching. Not practical and extremely messy if your ink bottle finds a way to leak. So what to do?

I have a Parker fountain pen that I just love for writing and drawing too, although it has a bit of a heavy line. Recently I have been reading about the Noodler’s Flex pen and was interested in trying it out. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one reading the good reviews (including Nina Johansson’s, thank you Nina for the great review!) and the pen has been sold out all over the Internet. And though I have inquired in no less than four states at pen shops, no one has it stock.

A fan of Noodler’s ink, but with no previous knowledge of their pens, I went to the University bookstore in Seattle (a great store by the way, in case you ever are close by) and tried out another Noodler’s pen, the piston-fill fountain pen. It was love at first line! The nib is medium-fine and creates a wonderful line. The pen is lightweight and Matt says that it looks very good in my hand. (He’s even more of a pen snob than I am!). It’s true that it’s a single line width, but it’s such a nice pen that with a Pitt brush pen along for adding thicker lines, I’m all set. The barrel twists to fill with ink and it seems to hold much more ink than many pens with ink converters. The windows in the barrel let you know when your ink supply is getting low. After a weekend of drawing with it, I’m totally hooked. Kudos to Noodler’s for making a great pen!

Here's another sketch I made with my new pen and watercolor pencils. It's a canid skull from the "Wolves" exhibit at the Burke Museum at the University of Washington.

Canid Skull, pen & ink with watercolor pencil
PS. I did manage to order a Noodler’s Flex pen this morning from Goulet pens. What nice people! They also sell ink samples so I’ve got a few colored ink samples coming along to try out in the new Flex pen. After I’ve had a chance to try it out, I’ll let you all know how it stacks up against to my new favorite turquoise Noodler’s piston-fill pen. My hope is that together, they'll be an unbeatable pair.