Thursday, 22 October 2015

To Colour or not to Colour? - That is the Question

These days whenever I sketch in pen and ink I always have to ask the following question when I have completed the drawing. Do I really want to add watercolour or does the sketch stand up on its own without the need to colour?

When adding colour you must be aware as to which ink is in the pen you are using, soluble or permanent? Having once completed a very intricate sketch in Venice I launched in with my large loaded watercolour brush to apply an overall wash only to realise that the sketch was done using a soluble ink. I now ensure I know what ink is in whatever pen I am using.

The sketch below of my home town of Macclesfield (Fig 1) was purposely done with using a soluble ink on 200lb watercolour paper with the intention of allowing the ink to bleed and mix with the colour. The watercolour paper allowed the water to be absorbed into the paper at a much slower rate than many versions of cartridge paper found in sketchbooks. The watercolour has to be applied in a very controlled manner to allow any ink bleeding to be contained.

However, you never know quite how things are going to turn out once the watercolour is applied, with happy accidents occurring when you least expect them to. With this sketch I wasn't too worried about portraying the actual colours of the scene in front of me, but tried to choose colours to enhance the sketch (Fig 2).

Fig. 1 Original pen & ink sketch of Macclesfield

Fig. 2 Final sketch with watercolour added

The next example is from a sketch of St Mark's Basilica in Venice using permanent Calli ink.
I stood and drew the sketch (Fig 3) and was very tempted to leave just as a pen & wash sketch.
However, in the end I just had to add colour.
In a way the colour simplifies the sketch and brings it to life particularly with the use of complementary colours (fig 4)

Initially I didn't add colour to the crowd in the square but decided the sketch would further benefit from some other colour. I chose blue to enhance the blue already present with the addition of purple and yellow to several people in the crowd. I think the additional complementary colours add to the final image (Fig 5)

Fig 3 Original pen & ink sketch of St Mark's Basilica, Venice

Fig 4 Intermediate sketch with complementary colours added

Fig 5 Final sketch of St Mark's Basilica

A final example of adding watercolour to a pen & ink sketch of the Ruzzini Palace Hotel in Venice is shown below (Fig 6)
Again I was hesitant about adding colour but decided upon the addition of some vibrant colours to bring the sketch to life and reflect the atmosphere in the square ( Fig 7). The shadows indicate the narrow street leading into the square.

Fig 6 Original pen & ink sketch of the Ruzzini Palace Hotel, Venice

Fig 7 Final sketch of the Ruzzini Palace Hotel

I hope these examples encourage you to add watercolour to your sketch. There are examples where I feel watercolour may detract from a sketch but that will be discussed in a further blog.

For more of my sketches visit my Facebook Page

Monday, 29 December 2014


My story so far .......
16th March 2014 Sketching at Piccadilly Station, Manchester
On my first outing with Urban Sketchers I met up at Manchester Piccadilly station. After a brief chat we all dispersed for a couple of hours in different directions around the station and the immediate surrounding area to choose our subjects for sketching. I decided to sit on Platform 1 and sketch a view looking out from the station. What an impressive view - with the huge steel arch forming the entrance to the station and the gantries supporting the overhead electrification for the lines. The intercity Virgin train arrived in the station whilst sketching so I decided it would make a good addition to the sketch.

One of the most enjoyable things about plein air sketching, I always find, is the interaction you have with the general public, who are often surprised to see people sketching in public spaces.
On this occasion I ended up chatting to a couple of station porters and an on duty policeman, together with several people who sidled up to me to look over my shoulder inquisitive as to what I was drawing.
For the sketching I decided to use my Rotring engineering drawing pen that bought whilst at university over forty years ago.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Midland Hotel, Manchester

This is my first post on my new blog dedicated to Urban Sketching.
I joined the Manchester Urban Sketchers in March 2014 primarily because of my love of plein air painting and sketching. This A3 pen and ink sketch is of the Midland Hotel in Manchester in the North of England done on a grey but dry afternoon in April 2014. This was my second outing with the Manchester Urban Sketchers. I hope to share by posting all my sketches on this blog so please pop back soon.