Category Archives: Tutorials

Time to Think Ink!

As readers of this blog will know, I quite often use ink in conjunction with watercolour in my paintings. However, ink is a very useful medium in its own right, particularly for quick sketches.

Sketch of St Clement Burnham Overy
St Clement church Burnham Overy Town. Stabilo 68 pen on Bockingford paper, 10ins x 8ins
The work shown here is a sketch of St Clement church, Burnham Overy Town, which near the popular North Norfolk village of Burnham Market, just a mile or so from the coast. I made this sketch using a Stabilo 68 water-soluble pen. This enabled me to work over the sketch with a damp brush, softening the ink and brushing it out into areas of tone. It’s another way of showing tonal value, without using shading or hatching, and I find it has a rather attractive appearance. Although the ink appears black when you draw a line, diluting it with water reveals many subtle colours within it.

The Stabilo pen is very inexpensive and is available from some stationers. The 68 has a bullet tip which makes a fairly bold line that I personally like. There is a version with a finer tip the Stabilo 88, which is also well worth trying. If you can’t find these pens in your local stationers then you can buy them on-line from the SAA, the Society for All Artists.

I will be demonstrating this technique, along with many other uses of ink, at my Think Ink workshop, this weekend at West Norfolk Arts Centre, Castle Rising.

Now for some trees

In my last post I mentioned that, if I’m stuck for inspiration, there are two subjects that I can always rely on – mooring posts and trees.

In that post I showed, well some posts! So, here are some trees that I’ve done recently.

Three Trees
Three Trees – Ink and Watercolour 10ins x 10ins

Using a photograph as the initial reference, I lightly sketched the basic shape of the tree trunks onto a piece of 300lb Arches rough paper about ten inches square. This just makes sure that I get the trees in the right place on the paper for the best composition. I don’t make any attempt to draw in branches or detail at this stage, that happens when I get going with the ink. Using a number 4 round sable hair brush I draw directly onto the paper with Indian ink from a bottle. By dragging the loaded brush across the paper it’s possible to get some nice effects of texture, while the number 4 is fine enough to ink in the branches and a few twigs. I take care not to put in too many!

When the ink is dry, I paint the colours on using normal watercolour paint. The ink is water resistant so that it does not dissolve when painted over. Effectively there are only two complimentary colours used, blue and orange. The blues are Prussian Blue and Manganese Blue Hue, while the orange is mixed from Burnt Sienna and Lemon Yellow.

Try using this technique yourself, it makes a very striking image.

The colours of the rainbow

I’m back teaching my weekly group, after my eye surgery. My vision is slowly improving, so things seem to be going the right way.

This week, part of the session with my Watercolour Improvers group will be devoted to the use of colour, to give atmosphere and interest to a painting.

Colour wheel
A twelve-point colour wheel showing the three primary colours and three intermediate secondary colours

I’ve prepared a twelve-point colour wheel, which you can see here, to show the relationship between colours. As you may know, there are three primary colours, yellow, red and blue, from which all others are derived. On the wheel you can see the three primaries, and three secondary colours between each of them. So for example yellow has secondary colours of orange-yellow, orange, and red-orange. These colours are referred to as analogous, because they all contain yellow so they have a close relationship to each other. A painting constructed with a palette of analogous colours will have a strong feeling of harmony within it. An example of such a palette would be one using raw sienna and burnt sienna. The colours do not have to used at their full brilliance for them to be analogous, but they need to have a common primary colour, in this case yellow.

Another way of creating harmony in a painting is to use complementary colours. These are colours which are directly opposite each other on the colour wheel, for example blue and orange, or yellow and purple. Despite being very different, they seem to work well together and their intensity is enhanced when they are side by side. As before, the colours don’t have to be fully saturated for the effect to work, they can contain neutral elements within them but still be effective. I’ll be using a palette of complimentary colours in a painting that my Improvers group will be tackling and I’ll post it here once we’ve completed it.