Friday, January 2, 2009


As a way to sharpen my hand/eye coordination and to practice new ways of "seeing," I try to attend at least two figure sketch groups per week. My techniques range anywhere from pen, pencil and charcoal to watercolors and oils.

Lately I've been using a special water soluble calligraphy pen that I discovered by accident. This "calligraphy pen" by Itoya may have been developed for calligraphy, but turns out to be an excellent fine art drawing tool as well. It makes thick bold dark lines when used flatly or thin delicate lines when turned on edge. It does not lose its shape and its ink lasts a long time. But what makes this pen really special is the way its water soluble acid free ink creates rich shadow tones quickly, simply by stroking the lines with a wet brush and making them "run."
I do not work for Itoya but sure turned out to be an unpaid mouthpiece for them. I now buy these pens by the box and when I pass on my semi used-up pens to other artists, they end up loving them too.

The examples I've chosen to show here are done on either white Canson paper or toned pastel paper using varying degrees of pastel accents. This pen also works well on watercolor paper combined with transparent watercolor washes.

Here is a sample of one of my Canson sketchbooks with two quickly sketched portraits showing the box, pen, water container and brush.


This detail shows two gestured figures with a thinner line.

Each of these three pages represent 2 1/2 hours of various poses ranging in time from 2 to 20 minutes per sketch. The surfaces are different tones of Strathmore Artagain Pastel paper ; the color accents are made with pastel.




Here is the pen in use again, but this time as 2 minute gestures on watercolor paper with washes of warm and cool transparent color.

These are 1 minute gesture poses - using warm/cool washes only, to show how different the figures look without using the water soluble pen.

These last two figures are both done in 20 minutes - using the same technique as the 2 minute gestures - only there is more time to finish, hopefully without losing freshness.

Detail of washes

Detail of washes