Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

July 29, 2014

Textures with Pen and Ink

Filed under: Drawing,How to do,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Rob Adams @ 1:58 pm

I said I would do this a while ago. So here it is, my take on pen and ink. Pen was really the first medium I seriously worked at. Oh there had been scribbles in pencil and daubs in the vile paint they make school children use but it was the first medium I seriously set about learning. At first I used Rotring pens. I had them from doing mechanical drawing for A levels. It seemed natural to carry on and sketch with them. There is not a lot to recommend them you have to hold them square to the surface, they give an unvarying line and block at the drop of a hat. However since I had never drawn with any other sort of pen I thought they were great. I still have a full set in a special box. My next discovery was dip pens made by Gillott compare to Rotrings they were wonderfully variable in line thickness and quality, this came at a cost of difficulty of use and the nasty habit of dropping a big blob of ink on your almost finished masterpiece! Lately after a foray into using fibre pens, (the same problems as with Rotrings) I have settled on using fountain pens with flexible nibs. They don’t quite offer the variety of line that the dip pens do but are far more convenient to carry about and sketch with.

When we think of pen and ink we think of line. If there is tone it is a watercolour wash or a simple hatch each contained within an outline. You can however use pen and ink in a purely tonal manner, which opens up great possibilities for expression and mood. Here I am just going to consider hatching. Most people seem to do stippling, hatching and cross hatching and that is all. There are however a huge variety of methods of toning areas with a pen. I have done a few examples below to try to give an idea of the variety possible. I will leave it up to you as to how you use the textures to describe surfaces. I will just say that when drawing a tree or a wall you cannot copy every little shape, you need to find equivalents. Before you jump in to draw a line of distant trees do a quick test to find out what mixture of line weights, density and variety will give the overall impression. The same with stone or brick walls. If you do every brick or every stone it will look dead and lifeless. In real life we actually don’t see every brick, the eye only needs a few hints and clues to fill in the detail for you. Lastly I have added  a few examples from other artists who use pen in a tonal manner.


pen and ink, hatching, tutorial

There we are, I hope that gives an outline of the possibilities. Experiment to find your own variations. I will deal in a later instalment with how I apply these textures and how to exploit the white paper and the use of solid blacks. Now some examples by far better artists than I to show just what can be done. If you click on the pictures you will get a high res version.

Herbert Railton, Pen and ink

This is by Herbert Railton truly a master of leaving lines out! Look at how he has left the top of the railings white and only defined the top edge with breaking the background texture rather than by defining with a line. He also is very good at using texture in an inventive and varied way to add colour and interest.


Joseph Clement Coll, pen and ink, drawing tutorial

This is Joseph Clement Coll. He often defines with line but notice how he breaks it here and there on the left hand figures legs. Then on the same figure’s cuffs he leaves the edge line out making the cuff feel white. See how he uses the delicate line on the woman’s dress to contrast with the more robust line of the other figures. Above all look at what he has left out!


Walter Jardine, pen and ink, drawing tutorial

This one is by Walter Jardine and is a master class in the use of weight, direction and texture to describe different tones and textures. He uses nearly every trick in the book in this one!


Franklin Boothe, pen and ink, tutorial

Here is Franklin Boothe in action. Here he uses a limited repertoire of hatching patterns to achieve a completely tonal effect. Very precise hatching some done with a rule. Even the ruled lines have variation however as he is using a dip lining nib. He also uses scratching out here and there. To do that you must use high quality bristol board.


Daniel Vierge, pen and ink, drawing, tutorial

Lastly a small drawing by Daniel Vierge.

Finally some useful Links.


Drawing With Pen and Ink. by Arthur Guptill

Pen Drawing by Charles Maginnis

Pens and Ink


January 30, 2014

Picking Your Tones.

Filed under: How to do,London,Painting,Uncategorized,Watercolour — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 11:56 am

I have been out painting with others a lot recently, and it is very interesting watching people paint the same day as you are. One of the things I see people having difficulties with is tonal value. So I thought I would pick apart one of my pictures to show how I assessed the subject and how I ended up with the tones I did in the final picture. First here is the scene as the camera saw it.


coldbath st, deptford

This is the splendidly named Coldbath Street in Deptford. The camera sees the whole thing in more contrast than the eye does, but the tone

areas are if anything clearer in the photo than to the eye. To this end I often look at the camera display for any hints as to the tonal arrangement

of the scene. I don’t remember if I did in this case but I often do. After squinting I decided the image breaks down into three tones and white board.



This is taken from a scan of my final painting so the lay in tones were pretty similar. I did not block in with flat colour as here but used a variety to give interest.

However the basic tonal values were much as above. I only drew out the areas as I knew that any drawing would be covered by the blocking out. I use a mix of glaze

medium and turps so this first layer dries pretty quickly. Once this is dry I did a bit more drawing to define the pavement etc. Once you have these basic areas in

then the rest is fun and pretty straightforward. I did put a fair bit of time though getting these three tones mixed. I did this on my palette so I could see the tones next

to each other. So first I mixed a white with a hint of Naples yellow in it. Then I mixed the sky colour and put it next to my white. This took a few goes as the blue had

to be darker than I expected. I find it best to decide tone from light to dark, so the blue has to be dark enough for the clouds to be bright. As the clouds are one extreme

they are a fixed tonal point from which you can work.  I added a hint of yellow to the blue also. With these two tones in place I mixed the dark of the buildings. I knew the

distant ones would be bluer and lighter but that is easily done on top of the base tone. The tone of the buildings has to be dark enough to give a believable contrast with

the sky yet light enough to take a dark. Once you have these tones side by side on the palette you can make fine adjustments. Finally I mixed my road which was hardest as

it had the most variation. The road tone needed to be darker than the sky but distinctly lighter than the buildings. It would also eventually have to take a highlight that

was bright but not quite as bright as the cloud highlights. By making a ring with my fingers and isolating areas I could tell that the road was generally darker than the sky

even though to the eye it looked almost brighter. If you make a hole in a bit of card you can also check tones. Move the hole rapidly between the two areas and it will

immediately show which is lighter or darker by the “jump” in value. You can then do the same between the colours on your palette to see if the strength of the “jump”

is similar.


Deptford, Coldbath Street, London, plein air, oil painting

Here is the final painting. As you can see it does not take much variation within a tonal area to hint at structure and light. The blues of the distant

buildings were simply achieved by painting into the still wet darks with the sky tone.  This particular subject has simple strong contrasts a grey day

will have a narrower tonal range and so the distinctions between each area are more subtle. With such subjects a careful assessment of tone is even

more important. Once you have gained some practice it becomes easier to pick apart the subject. Squinting is a very useful tool as it simplifies and

shows which areas can be combined and which need to remain distinct. 10in by 14in oils.


Dulwich Village, london, rain, plein air, oil painting

Here we have one of those grey days. This is Dulwich Village in Sth London. The process was exactly the same as the more dramatic Coldbath

painting. I first established the relationship between the brightest area (the white building) and the sky. I next mixed a warm and cool grey for

the trees and buildings. The road was again the most difficult. The eye wished to see it almost as bright as the sky, but on checking I found that very

far from the case! I had no more than 30min to block this in. I probably spent as much time mixing as I did painting. 10in by 16in oils.


Dulwich Village, London, plein air, oil painting

Another one from Dulwich. Painting in the rain is hard enough but it was windy too so this again was done in 30 min or so. Here the key tone

relationships are the warmth of the background trees and brickwork against the slightly lighter and cooler pavement. Also the relationship of

both of these to the vertical bar of light made by the shop fronts. 8in by 10in oils


Blackheath, watercolour

Not had a great deal of chance to get out due to paid work… I was a relief to dash this down on my way back from the market in Blackheath.

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