Daler Rowney sepia and antelope brown acrylic inks painted with brush and water

Gentle you are, subtle too

Formed by earth and water 

A helping of atmosphere

Sepia the ink stuff of squid

Granulating in pools

Particles pairing with H2O

To whisper the story/tale of creation

Of blooms too impossibly perfect to be believed

As how can one wrap the senses adequately

Round the wonders of spring

The first wasps, sheer moments from pupa 

Bunnies lounging eye deep in grass

Munching munching munching

How impossible it seems to the winter wearied soul

Who had almost abandoned the thought of a sun

Committed to undressing and warming bare skin and

The petal tender garments encasing the bloom.


And so, while the ink was out, I thought I’d see how it looked in a portrait, as always, from the Sktchy Museum app.


pencil and sepia ink applied with brush on w/c paper

The water shapes did the work of sculpting this wonderful face, starting lightly with a touch of ink and charging in a darker concentration where needed. After the pencil drawing was done, the portrait came together in minutes with the ink. Sepia, after all, the luscious tone of antique portraits in early photography. I call this painting-with-water-shapes though much of water media painting can be viewed in this way.

Have you tried this? Would you like to? What’s your experience?



Portraits (a tiny break from Blossoms!)

This portrait is a continuation of the Flower Series watercolor ink I’ve been playing with. The Sktchy Museum App model for the portrait was Remedy Rook. The artistic license was mine, or I can blame it on these crazy flower inks that are so great to play with. Three colors and a dip pen does the trick when you give them free reign.

The SktchyMuseumApp muse/model was Gianna Jimenez and I wanted to capture his morose expression. The flower series colors I selected for this may have gone a bit far. . .I almost aborted the effort, but reminded myself that my aim is to EXPRESS not to just copy.

Fast forward to this week. The muse’s name is Gravity Lives. I picked up my new kakimori pen, dipped in black ink for the line, and while it was still a bit wet, went in with a brush and diluted brown ink for some modeling. What is it about these moody males? So fun to sketch.

Check out the app. You’ll see so many great portrait artists’ work and endless quirky poses to sketch from.

#OneWeek100People: Costco and Browsers

 It was a week of sketching people. Not that I don’t already sketch people a lot. But it was fun to put in some dedicated time and fill up some larger pages with figures and trying different materials. 

Here we were back at our large Starbucks where people tend to come and sit a while, talk to friends or study/work/surf the internet.

I started out drawing with continuous line, which is not so much a way to be accurate, but it feels so good to move the pen on the paper. It’s also good for drawing “characters” that don’t necessarily have to resemble the subjects.

kakimori dip pen and ink in 9X12″ Canson mixed media sketch book

Another day, sitting at a table in the Costco food court with a good view of people wolfing down hotdogs/pizza as well as lining up with their carts. I thought it might be a stressful environment, but it’s amazing how the act of concentration required for drawing from life actually stills the mind and smoothes the sensory input! This time I tried a combination of watercolor graphite wetted and applied with a brush and a Derwent Inktense watercolor pencil.


I think I prefer the ones where I didn’t use the pencil, but just direct watercolor graphite. The “first time model” was a guy sitting directly in front of me watching while I brazenly sketched him. He noticed and smiled so I raised my brush to him questioningly and he nodded consent. When he’d finished his hotdog, he politely kept position until I finished and thanked him, showing the sketch. He was pleased and said “my first time as a model!”

On Saturday I was at the Farmer’s Market with Bob and no sketchbook. But this merry woman was standing in the frigid air in front of the garden there, playing merrily on her accordian. All I had time for was to snap a quick picture and sketch it at home. I still haven’t gotten over how people here in Olympia perform outside in the winter, let alone without layers of down and long johns! At least she had a knit hat!

Our Saturday downtown led us to our favorite bookstore Browsers Bookshop, where there was music and the sound of children laughing upstairs. Once again I wished I had my sketchbook with me to capture this delightful scene of parents and small children enjoying the entertainment together. I perched on the top of the stairs behind them and took a picture, then sketched from the picture quickly at home, imagining I had only minutes to capture the scene with my kakimori pen and watercolor. I think I’ll check Browser’s schedule for their next story time and come back with my sketchbook to enjoy it live!

So that wraps up this week. I haven’t counted the people I sketched. Probably not 100, but certainly a decent number. I’m happy with some of the results and understand that the others are there to teach me how to improve.  And the main thing I learned, or at least remembered, this week is how happy it makes me, how quickly it relieves my life worries, to sit and focus on line and shape and the movement of my hand and imagination. It’s really quite stupendous, regardless of the result!

Lacey Cultural Celebration

Last Saturday I attended the Lacy Cultural Celebration, a free event at St. Martin’s University featuring music and dance presentations by local and regional performing arts groups and more!  This year there were five members of our local urban sketch group, but I’m sure word will spread and that will double by next year. The performances by local people of all ages, with colorful ethnic costumes and musical accompaniment were engaging and occasionally spectacular. 

I put my nose in the little sketchbook I’d brought and hardly moved from my seat for 2 and a half hours while a new group took the stage every half hour.

Olympia Highlander
Haley Prendergast School of Irish Dancing
PNW Ryuel Ryohou Kan Dojo
India South Sound Association

The last one was drawn later from a picture I took. There were several others that are not worth sharing and never received color! 

But now that the  #Oneweek100people annual challenge has started! they can all be counted as part of this week, which is all about practising and repetition as a great way to increase people-drawing skills.  I know some of you are already well into papering your walls with people sketches for this challenge! If not and you’re interested in giving it a try, go to my friend Marc Taro Holmes’ blog to get super inspired. And I’ll be posting more this week. My buddies and I are even planning on hanging out at our local Costco food court to get some interesting subjects. You know, the ones shoveling pizza and hot dogs into their mouths and then racing to line up with their bulging carts, to have their receipts checked as they leave with all that loot! Crazy what one will be willing to do in the service of art!


What’s the Angle?

Ostrich Flower Series Inks and brewed tea applied with dip pens and brush in Field Watercolor Journal

The lady in question here is Rachael Le Blanc, a Sktchy Museum app follower who posted her image to be sketched and shared. What was she thinking about when the picture was taken? That’s what I was going for in the sketch. A struggle of some sort. So when the red ink bled outside the lips it seemed just the right touch to indicate. . .well, you know as a woman, those days when the make up just doesn’t stay put. . .there’s often something else going on. 

And I love the off-centeredness of the pose, like shrinking back from whatever the feeling was. When I’d almost finished the sketch I had the thought. How would she look from another angle? So I grabbed my camera to see what would happen if I tilted it from the chin up.


How did that change the expression? Scarier, huh?


But I couldn’t stop there, and tilted the phone camera the other way. . .she seemed more distressed than angry.

What a discovery! for me at least. That you can use your camera to distort a pose into more of a characature and change the feeling, at least as a way to play around with learning to draw facial expressions. 

A friend had brought a bouquet of flowers which volunteered themselves for some practice with the Kakimori pen. After drawing some of the flowers I splattered some ink from the pen and spritzed it with water as an experiment. It made a mess.  When you’ve already made a mess, that’s the best time to try out something else, since you’ve got nothing to lose! So I started flooding the paper with my new Flower Series inks. Here we go!

I mean after all, flower inks and flower drawing. A reasonable pairing!

McMenamins Spar Cafe

It was last winter when Jane Wingfield and I sat on the sidewalk across the street from Spar Cafe in toe-numbing cold, sketching the buildings. (See the post here.) This year we made a more comfortable choice and had lunch inside, enjoying a freshly made soup and sandwich. The Cafe’s decor pays homage to a rich history going back to the 1930’s. I would love to do some real time travel in this spot and be a fly on the wall to watch the longshoremen who eagerly bookended their day with drinking and gambling pursuits. Now a days it’s still a great place to imbibe, to eat, and play pool, but has a respectable family feel and is very low key on weekday lunchtimes.

pen and watercolor in hand.book journal

We were both impressed by how much detail one could get lost in sketching there, and meanwhile we had a lot of eating and talking to do. Jane got out her cool Kakimori pen and I watched her demo it. Mine would arrive in the mail later that day and I wanted to be ready. I confess I couldn’t get my eyes to focus on the detail of the back part of the restaurant, being two days away from much needed cataract surgery. But the chandelier and the chairs. . .and this pen with the unusual brass nib that looks like a bullet presented interesting subjects.

To see Jane’s sketch and read more of interest about Spar Cafe, see her Instagram post here!

practice with my new Kakimori pen and ink!

To my delight when I arrived home, my Kakimori had arrived, and I took it for a spin! Lots more practice is needed, but so far it carries lots of ink and has amazing line variability. And now, cataract surgery successfully completed, I can’t wait to get back to it with a bit more vision power.

I can’t stop brewing tea!

In the past I’ve used black tea to “age” paper, sometimes in a low heat oven for a few minutes. It effectively antiques paper in minutes by drying the stain in. If you use brewed tea for painting though, it needs to be fresh or it turns cloudy, and who wants that? So I’ve been brewing fresh tea each day for these portrait sketches. The names you’ve been seeing on the portraits are the names of the Sktchy Museum App participants who post their pictures for others to sketch. Here’s Katy.

Ostrich Flower Series inks and tea, image source from Sktchy Museum app

Inks are just made for splatter craft on paper. There was no color in this picture source, just a moody profile shape which leant itself perfectly to whatever. Turquoise, why not, and some tea and some brown. The black tea turns flesh color luminous enough on its own or mixed with any of these flower series inks with no known western names.


Once again just flowers and tea! applied with dip pens and brush in layers that melt. The magenta was surprisingly intense, but gave just the lift I wouldn’t otherwise have dared. Such a beautiful Greco Roman God-looking man, Cabot Wilson!

Have a Little Tea with Your Ink

Ostrich (ZZKOKO) Flower Series Inks in watercolor sketchbook, images courtesy of Sktchy Museum app and Bjorn.

Every portrait with these non-waterproof inks is an experiment. Look what happened with the blue ink! When I touched the wet surface with the tea it separated into pink and blue in a kind of explosion which gave expression to the pose’s facial dynamics. Hard to do that on purpose!

This one was also non-stop experimenting. When I used the wrong blue ink, which turned out to be permanent, (the dark blue lines) I almost aborted. But I’ve learned that it is those mess-ups that provide the best opportunity to proceed fearlessly to new discoveries. Why not have those bold lines through the beautiful face?! They accentuate the drama, and after all, the red is already way beyond bounds, why not?!

The Mall

Shopping at the Mall is way down my list of fun things to do. But when it’s too cold to sit outside and sketch, the food court in the Mall rates pretty high, up there with indoor nurseries. 

pencil, pen and watercolor in 8X8″ hand.book watercolor journal

It was mid-week quiet at the Capital Mall in Olympia and not many people eating lunch there. You take what you can see from your seat to be your subject, and this guy who had finished his lunch, was cat napping. I think maybe he was taking a break from working in one of the shops. And behind him was the H+M store’s teen model billboards which created a bold visual, but quiet, conversation with the old man who needed his afternoon nap. (I can relate.)  He would wake up every a couple minutes, blink his eyes a couple times, post the friendly grin on his face and then settle back to sleep, unaware of the flagrant artmaking going on at his expense.

When he left there was just a few minutes to sketch some more of the billboard models. I’ve always wanted to sketch fashion models! And these guys were great, bigger than life sized, in color, and absolutely still. Can’t beat it.

Some new portrait ideas

I’m always on the look out for something to try in my portrait sketching. A course on Domestika has been capturing my attention lately. Experimental Portraiture with Ink, Tea, and Alcohol by Carne Griffiths. 

Materials required for the course are inks that are not waterproof. I bought these Ostrich brand inks, the Flower Series. There are no color names on the boxes, except maybe in Chinese/Japanese. I made a sample chart so I could identify them.

The inks are highly transparent and the colors mix beautifully with each other as well as the brewed tea. My results do not very closely resemble the teacher’s, but I am having so much fun with them, using my fountain pens to dip into the color and draw, working in layers to paint wet shapes onto the drawing, drop some tea and more ink and occasionally alcohol. It’s definitely my kind of fun to watch what happens! 


images source, courtesy of the Sktchy Museum app

Start with a pencil drawing, add some ink line. Dissolve it a bit with water, add tea, add alcohol to push ink around. Be satisfied with what you have done, knowing it is experimental. Keep working with layers of the above.


Number two attempt here. Can you see how I’m getting bolder? Just keep trying things out, I kept telling myself.

Number 3. Should I have stopped here?  I took a picture just in case. . .but then didn’t


I’m thinking I should have stopped somewhere in between this one and the previous one. What do you think? Or maybe it’s still not done?