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Pen and Ink — with colour or without?


I like to experiment with different techniques and I have tried adding some colour to some pen and ink drawings that I have drawn previously.

Does it look better in colour or do you prefer the black and white originals?

Wheal Francis

Wheal Francis pen and ink drawing
Marriots Shaft at Wheal Francis mine, painted in watercolour

Wheal Francis Mine Workings, on the Great Flat Lode just outside of Piece. On this one I like it as a drawing, I feel it captures more of the essence of the place, and the atmoshere of the disused mine buildings.


Frigiliana pen and ink drawing
Frigiliana alley painted using watercolour

A courtyard in Frigliana, Spain – and whilst I really enjoyed using pen and ink to draw this, I think it looks better with a little bit of colour. The colour of the plants, and subtle paving, adds a splash of colour against the white spanish buildings. Buildings definitely look better having the original drawing in ink, so that the structure of the buildings are clearly defined.


Venice pen and ink drawing
Venice pen and ink drawing, with added colour

My pen and ink drawing of Venice looks ok, especially for the buildings in the foreground. However the inclusion of colour to my painting of Venice definitely looks better in colour, especially with that dramatic sky.

I asked whether it looked better in black and white or colour on my Facebook page I have had some good feedback. It seems the general feeling is that, whilst the pen and ink drawings are good, that people prefer the ones with colour.

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Seascape Watercolour Workshop

seascape workshop

I attended a great seascape watercolour worksho. I love painting seascapes, but there is always something new you can learn and I definitely did at this workshop.

The idea was to combine photographs to create the image that you want. Paintings are not intended to be a photographs, so we can paint the image we want to!

I love St Ives harbour, but on some photographs you can end up with a lot of seaweed and the sand can look rather “dirty”. This is especially true in the harbour area where there is probably fuel spillage from the boats. The idea was to take the scene I wanted to paint and use the colours from a photograph of the sea at Porthminster beach, where the sea is a beautiful shade of blue and the sand very white.

seascape tests

However what to leave it and what to add? I started by painting a couple of quick thumbprint sketches, so I could work out what would work. The sky worked having it relatively clear and to have a little bit of seaweed near the shoreline.

Low tide at St Ives with texture

I decided to work with just three colours and I choose Windsor Blue (Red), Naples Yellow and Venetian Red as a cool palette. Whilst painting it I wasn’t altogether sure about the colours. As the Workshop was a full-day course I painted another one at the same time!

St Ives Harbour

I used the same colours, in different quantities, I think you can see the difference. I like them both and am delighted with the result.

All of the original paintings are now sold so I have the painting above printed and it is now available to buy as an A5 greeting cards.

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Painting of Godrevy

Chris, who used to live in Cornwall and comes back every year to visit, asked if I could do him a painting of Godrevy, one of his favourite spots. So here is the start

What do you mean it looks like a blank sheet of paper?

Start of Godrevy painting

Well nearly, because I need white bits on my paper for the surf I first have to start off with masking out the areas that need to remain white.  I have also used a white candle, which should transform into those little white bits you get on the waters edge as the tide goes out again. If you look closely you will see my rough pencil sketches and masking fluid.

Can’t wait to add some colour, most especially a new colour, Manganese Blue, which I think will show the beautiful blue sky and clear water.

Here is how the painting of Godrevy is progressing, to reassure anyone looking at the previous photo (especially if on Facebook), that it is not just a sheet of grey paper!

Godrevy in- progress

This is my first wash of colour, using the lovely Manganese Blue, a new colour for me and a very much appreciated Christmas present! The sand uses Naples Yellow Deep, another new colour, it has a hint of Burnt Sienna to take off the yellow. Much as we think our sand is golden yellow, in reality it is not.

Godrevy in progress, adding more blue
This is the second stage, where I have intensified the blue of the sea, but now starting to get some texture in the close up area, where the sea is so transparent you can see the sand below.

I am also using my new paint brush, purchased as a bargain at Arts and Graphics closing down sale for only £50 (it should have been £182), but it is wonderful at moving the paint around the paper and worth every penny!

Godrevy in progress, nearly there

The masking fluid and has been removed, the finishing touches added and my latest painting of Godrevy is now complete.

This is a painting done specfically for Chris and Trudy Stevens. Chris used to live in Cornwall and comes back with his family every year to visit as they love the County so much. They have fond memories of Godrevy beach, particularly one year as they stayed on the campsite just up the road.

Low Tide at Godrevy with Lighthouse

Hopefully every time Chris looks at this painting in his home it will transport him back to sunny Cornwall.

Because this painting has been so popular it is also now available as an A5 printed Greeting Card, so you can enjoy it as well as Chris.

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St Ives Painting take 2!

I have decided to have another go at painting the same photograph of St Ives but using a different style!

My painting of Venice turned out well using a stippling method. By drawing the buildings in ink, the background were given a solid structure. Then when I added the watercolour paint and I didn’t need to worry too much about the detail, as it was already there.

St Ives gets ink

So I decided to paint St Ives using the same pen and ink method, only this time not using stippling but using my lovely old ink pens. Dipping in the pen regularly into the ink gives a different vibrancy as the pen stroke is not consistent. I am still struggling get the depth of field correct, with the boats in the water, but hey I am not going to worry about that too much!

St Ives just started

Next stop add some colour. I am quite happy with the sky, so now just need to work on the foreground sea. I already prefer it to the other one, which is shown below.

St Ives Painting using Pen and Ink

My second version of the St Ives painting is now complete, my aim was to give more definition to the background of the buildings of St Ives. However I am not sure how well it works, which one do you prefer?

This version of St Ives harbour is now available as an A5 Greeting Card.

Original St Ives Painting

St Ives harbour

This is the original, I suppose that is the joy of art, everyone can have their own opinion!

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Adding Texture

texture on painting

Using Gesso to add texture or give depth

I have been playing with a different technique, this involves adding texture to my watercolour painting. First of all I apply Gesso to my initial sketch, which is of the tide coming in at Godrevy, during the summer.

texture in Watercolour

I have used the Gesso in the areas where the tide comes and there are small patches of white foam, and also for as the waves are breaking a little further out.

Laying down some colour

Then I put down my initial watercolour wash, painting over the Gesso.

Texture created using Gesso

This close-up shows the paint on top of the Gesso texture.

Then I add some more paper but also then remove some of the paint in the texture area.

Low tide at Godrevy

Hopefully it has created that feeling of the tide coming in.

Here is another one that I have done.

Tide coming in on a Cornish beach

What do you think? I like it and I think I could do a whole series in this style.