Have you ever wondered what it's like to draw freely and loosely? Not worrying too much about rendering photographic likeness? That's what Expressive Drawing is all about!
And, one of my favourite medium for expressive drawing is pen and ink. It hasn't always been the case, though.
There was a time when I was mostly frustrated with using these lovely looking pen holder with nibs with ink. I really love the look of them but I had trouble making these tools do what I wished to do. However, the moment I understood the tools better, the more I loved them. And now, I'm hooked!
That's why when people started asking me about how I create my expressive drawing pieces in pen and ink, I started putting together this mini tutorial. However, if you would like to learn more about this expressive drawing practice in person, I have a a new workshop coming right up - Expressive Drawing in Pen and Ink Workshop (on 3rd Jun, Saturday, 12-3pm) at Art Stretchers Adelaide. Yes, it's the same place where I held the very successful Expressive Travel Sketching workshop. There's still time to sign-up and join the workshop, if you're based in Adelaide.
Now, here are some basic tips for those who also wish to get started with expressive drawing in pen and ink -
• Pen Nibs - This is probably one of the toughest things to choose, as each individual would have different preferences when it comes to nibs. Thankfully, they're usually inexpensive, so it's not too bad when you buy several to experiment with. I know I ended up with a collection of nibs before I found a handful that I love best.
There are a number of things to consider when it comes to choosing nibs, including size and shape of the tip, the flexibility of the nib, and how ink flows from it. In my experience, I tend to prefer the softer, more flexible nibs with an extra fine tip. My two favourites are: Brause 66EF and Hiro Durchschreib 33.
Some beginners, however, find it difficult to work with these flexible nibs. They tend to be more challenging to load with ink and control the ink flow. I don't mind the unevenness of ink, in fact, the more varied the lines, the more I like it. So, this unevenness doesn't bother me.
For people who might just want of a bit of an easier time loading the pen with ink and controlling the ink flow, I have started using DK Art pen nibs. You can get a set with holder and nibs from sizes 1 to 5 (with 1 being the thickest tip and 5 the finest or thinnest tip). The line variation from these nibs are not as pronounced compared with the Brause and Hiro nibs I mentioned earlier, but these ones are much easier to use. Some people also recommend Nikko G. I like them too, but not as my 'go to' nibs.
• Pen Nib Holder. There are usually two basic types: The regular, straight nib holder or the oblique nib holder. They often come in various lengths, colours, etc. - either in wood or plastic. The most popular one is Speedball. For drawing and sketching, I love my plain wooden straight pen nib holder in black. It's unbranded and cost only $5 off Ebay. The DK Art holder is pretty much similar.
• Permanent archival ink. There are a number of brands out there and you will find different views and experienced on each one. My current favourite brand is DeAtramentis in Permanent Black. I love it because it dries quickly enough and when it's dry, I am able to use other media on top including watercolour, without the ink smearing or blotching. I have also used Koh-I-Noor inks (different colours) and like it a lot. I have also starting using Art Spectrum* ink, which is an Australian brand. They're pretty much similar to DeAtramentis, but in a plastic bottle instead of glass. They're cheaper and easier to source in Australia.
• Drawing Papers/Sketchbooks. There are so many options here and I won't go through all of them. The most important part is to choose an archival, acid-free paper with at least 100gsm. Having said that, I have used plain copy paper and paper that only have 80gsm. They're not as good, but they still work, especially just for practice. My favourite type of paper for this type of work is artist grade cartridge paper that you can buy as a pad. Two brands I have been using regularly are Art Spectrum Cartridge Paper and Quill Cartridge Paper. If you want to use paper that can easily be framed and sold, I suggest using thicker drawing paper (at least 300 gsm) or watercolour paper. My preference is hot pressed (smooth) paper, when I'm using pen and ink.
You will also need a rag (or paper towels or tissues) and a jar of water for this type of work.
To add layer to expressive drawings in pen and ink, here are optional materials that you might want to include:
*Art Spectrum is the flagship brand sold at Art Stretchers Adelaide. I occasionally teach art workshops Art Stretchers Adelaide.Read More
It's official: I LOVE teaching travel sketching.
Here's what the management of Art Stretchers said of the event:
"We are so pleased that this workshop was such a great success. Thanks to Shai for making it so interesting. It was great to see participants coming away from it with new skills and a smile on their faces. Well done."
As you can probably imagine, I'm still grinning from ear to ear. The weather was lovely (albeit, a little on the warm side!), the setting was great, and the participants were perfect. I couldn't have asked for a much better group of people to share my love of sketching with. Such enthusiastic, lovely, and talented people!
The workshop began with a quick welcome and introduction. While many were meeting for the first time, it was great to see some people who knew each other, with some participants belonging to the Pastel Arts Society of South Australia + inviting a friend to come along. There was a range of art experiences in the group - from novice to more experienced. But, everyone was keen and ready to learn.
We worked on some materials, with The 5S of Travel Sketching as our main guide. We discussed ideas, sample sketches, and more. I also did some sketching demos for the sketching exercises.
After covering some of the travel sketching materials and exercises, it was time for an outing! The group headed across the road from Art Stretchers - and into one of Adelaide's beautiful parklands in the city.
Everyone found their own special spot in the shade and were encouraged to sketch en plein air based on some of the earlier discussions, exercises, and sample sketches.
After the quick sketching session (yes, just 15 minutes!), everyone shared their efforts. It was great to see the different styles and approaches that each participant took. It's very much how sketchbooks should be - UNIQUE!
Once the first en plein air sketching session was completed, we headed off to the nearest watering hole we could find. I was hoping to find a lovely cafe nearby, but unfortunately, most were shut. So, we ended up at a local pub, where the big, empty tables outside were perfect for our sketching group.
During this stop, folks did their sketches and I talked to each one about their work. We discussed how you can troubleshoot sketches that seemed like 'disasters'. How to continue sketching, even when you're feeling unsure. And more.
Of course, the coffees and the cold drinks helped (love the Lemon, Lime and Bitters!).
We wrapped up the 'Sip and Sketch' Session to head back to Art Stretchers and debrief. There were a lot of great feedback and ideas that came about. One of my favourites was when one of the participants just said out loud: "This opened up a whole new world for me!"
That was exactly the kind of result I was hoping for!
To view more photos from the workshop, go to the Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop - Adelaide Album on my Facebook Page.
Here's some feedback about the workshop:
The content of this workshop was excellent! It was explained very well - clearly, concisely, and with passion. Loved Shai's examples, enthusiasm, and encouragement. Thanks Shai, you're a gem!
Everything was explained very well from the supplies to how to find moments to sketch. I enjoyed the setup of the workshop. We even had enough time to head outside and sketch. Shai was very keen to share her experience and ability with everyone.
The workshop was quick, precise, to the point. Lots of hands on and very informative content and materials. I learnt a lot in a very short time. This has opened up a whole new world for me!
The best thing I learnt was about speed in sketching - letting go of accuracy and not getting hung up on perspective. The workshop was a good mix of chat and practice. Shai was engaging and enthusiastic.
We are so pleased that this workshop was such a great success. Thanks to Shai for making it so interesting. It was great to see participants coming away from it with new skills and a smile on their faces. Well done.
The workshop had great content and learning sheets provided. I liked the candid examples of our tutor, Shai. She was very pleasant and informative. I recommend this workshop to others in the future. It's very inclusive and relaxed!
The workshop was lovely. It's just what I wanted. The content was excellent and the facilitator was awesome. Will recommend to others!
I liked learning how to be 'freer' and seeing Shai's enthusiasm! She was an excellent presenter. The workshop was fun and covered all aspects. I learnt so much and it was enjoyable. Recommended!
The workshop had good coverage for a short course. Shai was a great presenter! Learnt about the basics of keeping sketchbooks and how to use the tools.
Seeing the participants' sketchbooks, their smiles, and their feedback definitely encouraged me to keep doing more of these. So, for those who missed out, I'm hoping that there will be more sketching and other workshops in the future. If you'd like to be notified of future events and workshops in Adelaide, please sign up to the notification list.
Thanks again to everyone who supported this event:
You all made this day incredible!
Although I've been travel sketching on and off for most of my life, I didn't really take it too seriously until I made the decision to do so. I remember the exact circumstance: I was turning 40 and my husband encouraged me to go on a life-changing art trip to Italy. It was one of those major bucket list things: To go on a trip specifically for my art practice.
I decided that since I was going on an art trip with a group of fellow artists - sans husband and kids - I was going to live out my fantasy of spending most of my days during the trip in the pursuit of art.
Before going on that trip, I prepared for it by researching what would be the best art materials to take with me for travel sketching. I also tried to read as many blogs and books about sketching that I could find. That's when I discovered all about the growing movement of Urban Sketching. I was hooked.
Unfortunately, at the time, I couldn't find any travel sketching or urban sketching classes in my city or online. There weren't as many books available either. So, I just tried to learn as I went along.
So, I packed my travel sketching kit and went on an art adventure. I tried recording my trip from the moment I got on the plane. And, I tried to sketch at least one thing every day - from the streets of Rome and the ruins of Pompeii to the coast of Amalfi and the Tuscan Hills. It was bliss!
My fellow art tour mates were very supportive of my travel sketching practice. They looked at my sketches from the day and asked a lot of questions about sketching materials and techniques. It was then that I began playing with the idea of teaching sketching classes.
I didn't act on that idea immediately. However, I did get invited to teach art classes in a local art studio (the same people who organised the Italy trip). Since then, my art life has evolved and grown a lot. But, that travel sketching class idea was still put on hold.
Then, a couple of months ago, I received a very exciting invitation to hold a workshop at one of Adelaide's wonderful art supplies shop. The manager of the shop is one of my lovely Italy art tour mates. And yes, the best part: I get to teach Expressive Travel Sketching, live in Adelaide.
So, yes, come 4th of March 2017, Saturday, 1 to 4pm, I'll be holding the first ever Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop at Art Stretchers Adelaide. To learn more about the workshop and/or to book your spot, go to this page: Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop (Adelaide).
We're only able to allocate 8 places for this workshop and a few of those places have already been pre-paid and reserved. So, if you want to join us, do book your place soon.
In a nutshell: It's all about travel sketching using your own way of expressing what you see in the world.
It's not about getting perfect perspectives and straight lines. It's not about drawing and sketching in photographic ways - you have your camera for that.
Expressive travel sketching is all about recording your experiences using lines, shapes, textures, and colours that speak to you. It's about putting down memories on the pages of your sketchbooks. To make your experiences last longer, better than any photograph could.
In the workshop, I'll be sharing some materials, tips, and techniques to help participants learn how to record their travels in their sketchbooks with confidence and joy.
There is no magic formula: You just need to start where you are!
Over the last couple of years, I've been privately sharing information to friends and peers whenever they ask questions about my travel sketching practice. What are the best materials to use and take with you? How do you begin a sketch? How do you sketch quickly?
When pressed for time, all you really need for your travel sketching are two things: Your sketchbook and a pen. They're the only materials I use consistently.
When I'm able to take my 'extended' travel sketching kit with me, here's a list of additional basic things I use:
I usually bring this kit in a separate bag or backpack, together with a DSLR camera and other travel gear. I keep my essentials (i.e., small sketchbook, pen, pencil) in my handbag, so I can easily take them out when there's a quick opportunity to sketch.
I'll be sharing more tips and techniques at the Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop. And hopefully, also in future blog posts if any of you are interested. Just let me know through comments or emails!Read More
It's the start of another year. A great time to re-align our goals - and dream away.
Yes, in reality, it's just another day. Nothing truly special or magical on New Year's Day. It's only special and magical if we assign that meaning to it. And, yes, I choose to do just that. In fact, I love what Sarah Ban Breathnach says about the first day of the new year:
"New Year's Day. A fresh start. A new chapter in life waiting to be written. New questions to be asked, embraced, and loved. Answers to be discovered and then lived in this transformative year of delight and self-discovery. Today, carve out a quiet interlude for yourself in which to dream, pen in hand. Only dreams give birth to change."
That's why I usually try to prepare myself for this time of the year. For as long as I can remember, I've been journaling my reflections of the year that has passed - and writing about my hopes and goals for the year to come.
And yes, I have chosen my 10th Word of the Year!
According to Dictionary.com, thrive means:
It's a bold word in my book because whenever I choose a word, I often look at its opposite meaning. To me, this is important to think about because I believe that when we choose a word, we invite both its affirmative and negative energies to teach us something in our life that year.
That's why I never take the choosing of One Word for granted. It's powerful stuff. And, that's why I'm almost always a little bit scared whenever I choose a word.
In some ways, I see that as a good thing. To me, if I'm a little scared of the word, it means that it's meant to teach me something.
If you've used the One Word Workbook, you'd be familiar with some of these ideas and concepts. Including my annual habit of choosing a project to accompany my chosen Word of the Year.
I have shared more projects in my mini ebook, One Word Projects (available with the workbook).
Well, for one, it's a word that has stayed with me over the last few years. It seems to be waiting its turn to take centre stage in my life. So, when I started writing in the workbook, and journaling, the word kept re-appearing.
And, I realised that yes, I don't want to just survive in 2017. I want to thrive - in life and in my business. And to me, thriving means not just growth or success. It's about growing and succeeding, amidst challenges and tough times.
You see, the last 6 months or so for me have been very tough and challenging - both personally and professionally. In fact, in some areas, the challenges seemed to have been going on for much longer.
Some of the challenges can't be easily changed or removed. So, I am choosing to thrive, in spite of that fact.
That's why over the coming days, weeks, and months, I hope to learn what it means to really thrive. Perhaps, find out how I thrive. Some people thrive in adversity. Or chaos. Or external validation. I want to define my own key to thriving. And, I also look forward to understanding what it means to empower others to thrive.
This is the exciting part of choosing One Word. The part where I make it 'mine' by doing these projects, asking these questions, and maintaining an ongoing interest on how to embed the word in my life.
And yes - if you follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook, watch out for my first giveaway of the year. You'll get the chance to win your own copy of the One Word Workbook (with One Word Projects Mini Ebook) and/or a Custom Digital Art of your Word of the Year.Read More
I'm also a fan of year-end round-ups. I've done it a few times on this blog. Usually, as my last blog post or my first couple of blog posts in the new year.
Sometimes, though, year-end highlights can be a bit overwhelming to write. So, I thought this year, I'd do a different kind of round-up.
This is how I ended up with The Year in One Word printable/interactive PDF worksheet. It's now available for free in our newly revamped* Content Library. So, anyone who wants to look back on their year and record some words to remember their year can do so in a simple manner.
The image below shows the worksheet as a blank printable, which you can print using your own printer and fill out using pens, pencils, and markers. It also features my own filled-in worksheet, which I did using my computer.
I'm really pleased with how The Year in One Word printable/interactive PDF worksheet turned out. It's possible I may have spent way too much time designing it. But, I think I'd enjoy using this every year, so I figure that it's worth it. It would be even more worth the time if other people would find it useful too. That's why it's now in the Content Library.
The general idea is that this resource enables us to come up with one word summaries for the year. It has a spot to write down our Word of the Year. Then, each month of the year has a place where we can write a one word summary for that month. If we'd like to add one word (or a few) notes in each month to remember some things, there's a spot for those notes too.
I enjoyed making - and filling-in - this journaling worksheet. It was lovely to look back on the year (even with some of its tough and painful bits)... without feeling overwhelmed with all the writing and journaling.
So, I hope that you would find this useful in recording your year too!
If you're a subscriber, you'll be getting an email with the latest password for the library. If you're not subscribed yet, just sign up and make sure you watch out for your Welcome Email. That's where you'll find the password.
Happy reflecting! And, may your new year be even more amazing!
* The content library has been through several revamps this year, as new resources become available and taking list members' feedback into consideration. My hope is to design and develop a content library that's super useful, beautiful, and simple to access for list subscribers.Read More