Monday, January 2, 2017

Musings on Water Soluble Ink: Part II

I got so long winded on last week's blog I decided I'd better cut the blog into two parts.  If you are interested in the subject, be sure and read Part I first.  These two posts are my thoughts on sketching / drawing with water soluble ink.

Have you heard of the book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain"? The author, Betty Edwards realized one half of our brain is very verbal and analytical, and the other half is more visual and perceptual.  When I was working on this blog I was very aware how true this is.  When I went to write about the sketches, I realized I was so focused on what I was doing when I did them, that I didn't remember exactly how I did it.  Did I bring the grey tones in from scribbles off to the side, or did I just take my darks from dark areas of the drawing?  How often did I let my ink dry and bring fresh ink in, or did I work quickly enough to use my original ink while it was damp.  Often I couldn't remember.

When I went to do this great blue heron demonstration for the blog, I found it distracting to think about the process while I was working.  I just wanted to do it ... and not to think about it.  I only mention it because I found it rather fascinating to be so aware of the difference between the two halves of my brain.  I think, when a technique is new, it requires that analytical thought; but, with experience, sort of a Zen sets in.  Long years of practice makes me aware something subconscious is at work when things are going right.

What I think I'm trying to say, is if you like the results of this technique, and it is new to you, don't give up.  At first plan and think, and gradually you'll get a feel for it .... and you just might find you love working with the grey tones as much as I do.  If you usually work in color, I think the challenge of working in just grey tones will bring new life to your work in color. 

Now for the demonstrations:
I recently photographed this heron so I opened the image on my laptop.  First I sketched  lightly in pencil.  My initial sketch usually looks a little lighter than this.  It didn't scan well, so I beefed up the contrast so you can see the pencil lines. 
Next I inked the important lines using my fountain pen and a mix of 1/2 Pelikan Fount India ink and 1/2 Platinum Carbon ink.  I waited about 5 minutes for the ink to dry and erased my pencil lines.  I often don't bother waiting.  I sketch lightly and don't mind a few light pencil lines showing. 
I got this far by adding a little ink, and brushing it with my waterbrush.  I'd ink a little, and brush a little, then ink a little .....  No scribbles yet.
Eventually I reached a point where I wanted more grey tones, but I didn't want to add any more black ink to the heron.  That's when I started making scribbles on the side of my paper and bringing the grey tones over.  A little ink goes a long way when making grey tones. 
Here are two more ways you can experiment with water soluble ink but not take the plunge of buying a fountain pen and bottles of ink.  .. and, of course, you can use any ink line plus watercolor. 

The pen in this photograph is a Pilot Razor Point.  I ordered mine from Staples.  The water brush is my favorite, a Niji mini medium.  The round container is a 'Convenient Ink Cake with Case' from ($7.99).  It is lovely, fine, ground ink that does not require a Sumi grinding stone. The little case makes it handy for field work.  There is even a little reservoir designed to hold a dab of water while you are working.

BUT, and this is a very big BUT.  But I don't know if these inks are lightfast.  Will they fade?  I suspect they'll hold up just fine in a sketchbook, but every artist should be aware that some inks fade horribly.  They can fade to nothingness!    I suspect the ink cake is fine. After only a week on a window sill, the Pilot Razor Point is starting to fade.  See my two posts in March 2011 if you want more information on pens, inks, and my window sill test.

My little chickadee was sketched with the Pilot Razor Point.  This ink dries quickly and remains very water soluble.  I sketched the whole bird, let it dry a few minutes and then added the water. I always enjoy seeing my drawing come to life when I add the water. 
To do the bird I didn't need any scribbles, but to get that wisp of soft background, I did my scribbles off to the side. 

Pilor Razor Point pen ink looks black when full strength, but purplish when watered down. 
Demonstration #3:

I drew the thin lines on the coot with a fountain pen and Platinum Carbon ink.  All the greys are painted with the ink cake.  So far this is the only piece I've done with the ink cake, but I think I'm going to enjoy using it.  It seems to be ground finer, to give a more even grey, than my watercolor black.  The reds are a touch of watercolor.  

Feel free to ask questions!


  1. Happy new year to you, Elva. Thank you for sharing the process of your illustration and the interesting post! Best wishes, Sadami

    1. Thank you, Sadami. I see you are doing wonderful art!!

  2. Good info as usual. Love the cickadee sketch. I took the drawing on the left side of the brain class years ago. So I know what you were talking about. It is a good book. I learned a lot in the class and the book.

    1. It is an odd feeling,isn't it, when we are aware we are using that 'other' side of the brain.

  3. Dear Elva I found both of your posts on water soluble ink so helpful. Thank you for sharing your great experience. I have done some pen and ink work but haven't worked too much with the water soluble type. Love your sweet little chickadee. He/she is a beauty. Have a blessed day.

    1. I'm happy to hear I may have helped you on your journey.