Category Archives: watercolour

Gurney challenge


A cartoon made for James Gurney’s six word story challenge, using a dip pen and Indian ink, dilute Lexington Gray ink in a waterbrush and watercolour.

It began with lots of pencil doodles of individual items and general layout. The monkey started out as some kind of fish creature, the buckets and mops moved around, and I had to make many adjustments to the Heath Robinson machinery.

It was all really an excuse to get the dip pen out again. The variation in line weight and the blackness of the ink is very satisfying. The index nib ran over the sized heavyweight cartridge paper quite well, and the waterproof Indian ink allows watercolour and ink washes to go on later. The greys were built up with multiple layers of dilute Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink (hat-tip to Ed.)

There’s no undo button with this kind of drawing, something that I became very aware of the further it progressed.



Lexington Gray ink in a Pilot 78G ‘F’ fountain pen, with a light watercolour wash, copied from a photo. After a while I started seeing double, trying to keeping track of which root was which.

This was drawn in a Daler Rowney Ebony A6 sketchbook which has 150gsm acid free cartridge paper. The fine ‘F’ nib on the fountain pen did start to break up the paper a little in the overworked darker areas, but this wasn’t really a problem. In fact the paper can take a light watercolour wash without bleeding through or buckling too much.

The freedom of limitations


This was painted from the opening scenes of Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Stalker, paused onscreen and painted with a flat half-inch brush with raw umber watercolour. I made an initial sketch in pencil to get the main proportions. It was a good job I did, because after drawing the basic outlines of the top corner of the room I drew the figures way too big, out of proportion to the rest of the scene. Maybe this is a Betty Edwards left brain problem: I think the figures have more importance so draw them larger than the background. I had to make a conscious effort to draw small heads! But once I did, something clicked and they looked correct relative to the frame of the door.

Using one brush and one colour was surprisingly liberating, leaving me free to concentrate on shapes of light and dark.



Painted from a photo in watercolour, the colours in this haystack scene look a bit cool for a late afternoon in autumn, but that’s the trouble with working from a photo where all sorts of in-camera corrections have already been done.

Or maybe the light was that cool and neutral. Perhaps the reality we’re trying to paint needs a tweak to be believable, or perhaps we need to wait for the scene to change before we decide to paint.


tree shade


Experimenting with areas of light, using some heavy (300gsm) Bockingford watercolour paper. It needed to be that heavy because I worked it to death, with some areas turning to mud. After all that abuse, the paint still lifted from the paper (shadow side of the trunk).

The main object was to experiment with the relative brightness of different areas: to make something look light, make the areas around it darker. Leaves on the foreground tree were blotched with a bristle brush.

sizing saints


Practising proportions with a pencil sketch of a stone figure, from a photo of Murcia Cathedral roof snapped some years back.

Getting the mid-point (advised in Dodson’s Keys to Drawing) is very useful. From the top of the head to bottom of the plinth it turns out to be just to the right of the knee, which was surprising. Must do more of that as proportions are a major weak point. Still managed to make the cherub’s shield look like a melted ice cream tortoise.

I read somewhere that these rooftop statues were often made deliberately too tall, so that when viewed from below they would appear correctly proportioned.



Watercolour, from a photo.

This was the first time I used a normal watercolour brush instead of a water brush. By letting the paint dry before applying another glaze, shades and colours can be built up. It takes a while as you have to let each application dry completely before applying the next. A hairdryer could speed things up, but that ruins the mood.



Hergé’s clean line technique is deceptively simple. He managed to get so much expression in the hands, face and posture with just a few well chosen lines.

The colours in this copy are uneven, showing my poor watercolour wash technique, not helped by using a water brush which continually adds water to the mix. I think the original team at the Hergé studios used gouache, which makes it easier to apply flat blocks of colour.



I think this figure is known as an ojime, a gift from a friend. Drawn using a Pilot 78G ‘F’ fountain pen with Lexington Gray ink and a watercolour wash. The ‘F’ nib is one of the finest, and when turned upside down gets finer still; useful for drawing the scratches in the resin cast.

EDM 10 – hands


EDM#10 a tough one. These are copied from Mucha posters (I thought if I drew someone else’s hands then I’d have two hands to draw with!). Instead of being stylised and cartoony it’s surprising how much anatomical detail is in his figures (the flowing, effortless lines are lost in these copies).