Pen and Ink with Watercolor Washes

One of my favorite art classes in high school involved learning how to do pen and ink drawings. There was something so satisfying about the way it required precision and care to get the rendering just right, yet at the same time, allowed for a kind of loose mark making with hatching, crosshatching, and pointillism.

Mad Hatter's Tea Party Illustration by Sir John Tenniel, 1866.

Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Illustration by Sir John Tenniel, 1866.

That type of drawing always reminded me of some of my favorite illustrated books as a kid, as though I was looking through a portal into another world − probably influenced by the fact that Alice in Wonderland was one of my favorites. It wasn’t just that the characters were talking cats, rabbits in waistcoats and holding watches, it was the landscapes and backgrounds that made the world so fascinating, with dark woods full of twisted trees, towering mushrooms, and all the details that made the world so fascinating to read about, hinted at in black and white lines.

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I loved the pen and ink, so I was blown away when my teacher showed us how to add watercolor (or colored ink) washes. Such a simple technique, but it transformed them, making what was a pen and ink drawing into a watercolor painting with a completely different mood. And it fits, really, that something that can be so easily transformed by a layer of color should act as a portal to another world, in which things are really quite strange and upside down. The art is not so much a looking glass as a kind of distorted reflection you’d get from a window pane.

Mediums Made for Movement

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A landscape painting taken from life feels the same to me, when it’s done by someone like Margaret Evans. Whether the painting is of people walking in a village or a Venice Canal, there’s a sense of capturing people on the move from one place to another, off on an adventure evoked by the loose, fast feeling of these landscapes. The art is not so much a realistic rendering as an impression, establishing mood and movement, color and depth. These are not photo-realistic images, and they’re not meant to be. The details are carefully chosen, yet rendered in a way that feels vibrant, placed quickly before they disappeared. In her watercolor paintings, she captures the impression of a second in time, the stillness between one step and another.

The true beauty is that Margaret makes it possible for anyone interested in the medium to capture their own fleeting moments of adventure, even if the whimsical landscape is your own backyard or neighborhood. Who knows what lurks under that blade of grass or around the corner?

In The Pen & Wash Course with Margaret Evans, Part 1, get several art lessons in one by combining pen and ink drawing with watercolor washes. You’ll begin by learning how to use pen & ink in your sketches and watercolor paintings, so that you get a feel for the characteristics and applications of pen and ink. Then, follow Margaret through three full-length landscape demonstrations, combining ink with watercolor painting techniques to create a wonderful variety of scenes that include people, water and buildings.

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You’ll love seeing how Margaret makes it easy to learn how to draw and paint landscapes, capturing depth and tonal shades in water-soluble pen, fixing it with a wash, and then adding color and details. Of course, once the watercolor is dry, you can go back in ink to add finishing touches for a great watercolor landscape painting that will transport you and your viewers to another time and place.

Preview The Pen & Wash Course with Margaret Evans, Part 1 now to learn how to get depth and shading from a pen and add finishing touches to your landscape art. Then, head over to ArtistsNetwork.tv for the materials list and the full video.

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