View Full Version : Faces in the crowd with a ball point pen

WC Lee
06-01-2010, 03:47 AM
Though I own quite a number of sketchbooks in all sizes, both hard cover and soft cover, almost all of them are stored away unused. And for some strange reason which I cannot explain, I keep buying more :D Hopefully, starting this thread will get me to sketch in them and start using them up.

Right now, what I am sketching in is a 4.5 x 6 inch sketchbook that I binded when I got this urge to learn bookbinding about a half year ago using some cheap inch sketch paper that I had laying around that also wasn't being used. This poor sketchbook has no front cover and only a partial back cover :D Anyhow, it contain sketches in both graphite and pen, but for this thread I am only showing the pen sketches. The pen I use is an ordinary cheap ball point pen.

Here are the pen sketches done so far which is probably just as many as the graphite sketches.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Jun-2010/122017-sb_pen1.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Jun-2010/122017-sb_pen2.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Jun-2010/122017-sb_pen3.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Jun-2010/122017-sb_pen4.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Jun-2010/122017-sb_pen5.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Jun-2010/122017-sb_pen6.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Jun-2010/122017-sb_pen7.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Jun-2010/122017-sb_pen8.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Jun-2010/122017-sb_pen9.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Jun-2010/122017-sb_pen10.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Jun-2010/122017-sb_pen11.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Jun-2010/122017-sb_pen12.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Jun-2010/122017-sb_pen13.jpg

06-01-2010, 07:26 AM
Wow these are all stunning. Amazing the freedom you can get from sketching with a pen, any old pen. Love your portraits. I know what you mean about buying more and more sketchbooks. Hopefully you will start to get some more use out of them now.

06-01-2010, 08:06 AM
Great portraits! Glad you are using those pads now :D I also know exactly what you mean about the sketchbooks but storing them is good for moments like journaling! Thanks for sharing.

06-01-2010, 09:59 AM
WC - great to see these!! are they all from life ?

06-01-2010, 12:18 PM
Really nice! I'm also in the 'you can't have too many sketchbooks' club - maybe we should start a support group thread...? :)

06-01-2010, 12:51 PM
WC, these are great! I'm so glad you started this thread. Your portraits are fantastic and these sketches are so lively -- they look less posed than some of your formal portraits and all have such interesting expressions. Beautiful what you can do just grabbing a ball point!

WC Lee
06-01-2010, 02:50 PM
wow .. glad I am not the only one with the excessive sketchbook syndrome :D

thanks jacquip :) sketching with pen is a great learning experience, once a line is put down, there is no going back. I will eventually get around to using those sketchbooks and all those extra art supplies too :lol:

thanks Raymond :) I might have those unused sketchbooks for a long time as I got into a habit of sketching on loose sheets of different types of paper and storing them in a cardboard file storage box.

thanks Kevin :) a couple of them are from life and the rest from candid photos

thanks John :) I think this forum is started as a support group and also to get us to start using them up

thanks Robert :) don't know about fantastic, compared to Kevin's pen sketches, mine look more like scribbles :lol: the ordinary cheap ball point is a wonderful sketching tool, not to mention it is readily available anywhere

06-01-2010, 05:02 PM
Excellent portraits! Thanks for sharing them. Keep using those sketchbooks.

06-01-2010, 07:37 PM
Very impressive sketches! You really know how to capture the essence of a person!

06-02-2010, 10:12 AM
You certainly know how to capture the essence of a person as Betsey says! Congratulations...Look forward to following this thread!

06-02-2010, 05:02 PM
These are wonderful. Amazing what can be done with simple pen and paper. Ah, yes the stored sketchbook syndrome (SSS) :lol: I have a few of those myself.

06-02-2010, 07:56 PM
These are great sketches. You are great at "economy of line". It's amazing what some artist's like yourself can convey with so few lines, definately a skill I hope to develope some day.


WC Lee
06-02-2010, 11:35 PM
thanks Michelle :) I'll try but I rarely ever will finish one sketchbook during the course of a year

thanks Betsey :) don't know about them being impressive but my hat size just went up a notch :D

thanks Brincrish :) I'll try to keep this thread going, but I got a tendency to change what I use as a sketching tool quite often.

thanks Debby :) pen is a wonderful sketching tool, never needs sharpening and can achieve a wide range of tones. Only downside, once a line is put down, it stays there ... for better or for worse

thanks David :) but my line economy comes and goes ... sometimes it seems really easy and flows onto the paper, other times, no matter how hard I try, it just doesn't want to work.


did a couple more after finishing the tasks I needed to get done ...

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Jun-2010/122017-sb_pen14.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Jun-2010/122017-sb_pen15.jpg

06-02-2010, 11:45 PM
Wonderful work!

[QUOTE=WC Lee] I will eventually get around to using those sketchbooks and all those extra art supplies too :lol:

That's what I keep telling myself when I'm tempted to go INTO an art supply store :)

06-03-2010, 10:29 AM
More beautiful work. Lovely young ladies.

06-03-2010, 10:37 AM
WC, these are tons better than I could do. You always give yours such a lively feeling. They're loose and light, expressive, you manage to make a cheap ball point produce such wonderful light values. That's impressive. Your technique is incredible with it. I can see you're using pressure to get some of those light tones in ways I couldn't do with Pigma Microns. Or do you reach for a nearly worn out pen when you want to do light areas?

These last three are gorgeous. The little girl looks so real and unique. I study your sketches to improve mine, another thing I noticed is the beautiful way you define masses of hair or clothing without going into textures, keeping attention on the focal point of facial details and expression.

They really are fantastic, incredible, wonderful, so don't think you haven't taken this that far in your own direction. I love Kevin's pen sketches too, but you're both way over my head. It's been over a decade since I did people often or well and had that fascination with faces, so it's taking a while for me to even begin warming up.

I've noticed my latest ones are starting to shape up again but I needed practice after all these years -- and I don't think even at my best that I came close to you or Kevin.

Vivien Maloney
06-03-2010, 03:04 PM
Beautiful portrait sketches! Much better than I could do. Love them.

06-03-2010, 05:43 PM
What a talent!

WC Lee
06-03-2010, 08:20 PM
thanks EP :) I have no problems not going into an art supply store, but I can't stay away from their website though :lol:

thanks Debby :)

thanks Robert :) all the tones are done with the same pen, just varying the pressure, BIC or papermate pens is usually what I use but any ball point should work pretty much the same. Marker type pen such as the Pigma Micron are harder to produce light tones but by using hatching, it can create almost the same effect.

hehe the masses in the hair and clothing isn't done intentionally, well sort of, they are left that way because I am only interested in the facial area. I usually put just enough information to show what it is and sometimes not even that. Occasionaly, more details are added like in the hair of the little girl

I am somewhat satisfied with my progress considering I don't sketch or paint that often and besided reading art instruction books, being self taught. What I do envy is Kevin's discipline and ability to focused on one sketch/drawing/painting for a long period of time whereas I tend lose interest very quickly.

Practice is all it takes :) and soon your style and technique will emerge

thanks Viv :)

thanks Tim :)

06-03-2010, 11:59 PM
Hey, WC! Glad you found The Art Journal forum. Your pen sketches are fantastic. They look very similar to your pastel portrait sketches, which I always love looking at. I look forward to seeing more.


WC Lee
06-04-2010, 11:59 PM
thanks Doug :) yep .. the focus is on the face while everything else is still in the sketchy stage, I can it my "that's good enough , I'm bored with it already" style :D

WC Lee
06-06-2010, 05:03 AM
two quick sketches on one page from image references.


06-06-2010, 08:08 AM
excellent! full of character

06-06-2010, 11:42 AM
WC!!! Outstanding! I try to sketch faces on my subway commute, but I need to be pretty fast. Do you mind me asking how long, on average and roughly estimated, do each of your portrait sketches take?

Again, well done! Keep posting more of these! Inspirational. :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:


06-06-2010, 01:25 PM
Great profiles.

WC Lee
06-10-2010, 08:45 PM
thanks Viv :)

thanks Jan :) its not easy sketching faces in a public setting, they don't stay still long enough :lol: how long does it take me? It can take anywhere from a minute or two to 20 minutes depending how well or how bad it starts off, but probably around 5-10 minutes on average.

thanks Debby :)


decided to give this little coverless sketchbook a make-over :) it now has a front and back cover plus a spine. And also trimmed the pages down a bit.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/10-Jun-2010/122017-P1000326.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/10-Jun-2010/122017-P1000327.jpg
didn't do such a good job on it but it looks much better now.

oh and here is another page of sketches


06-10-2010, 09:42 PM
Nice! I like your covering the sketchbook, that's a great cover and I like how you can spread it completely open too. Beautiful sketches, both pages of them are so full of life and energy. You capture the essentials in a face and expression, that's something incredible about them. I can see why you stop at the point you have the likeness and get bored rather than continuing to detail hair and so on. They look great that way.

06-10-2010, 11:24 PM
Nice cover. And more great sketches. So cool.

06-11-2010, 06:05 PM
thanks Jan :) its not easy sketching faces in a public setting, they don't stay still long enough : how long does it take me? It can take anywhere from a minute or two to 20 minutes depending how well or how bad it starts off, but probably around 5-10 minutes on average.
You're right! It's the first few strokes that either take your sketch to a good place or take you, ummmm, away. I sometimes find that if I have 20 min (like in a restaurant) I tend to over-do and mess up a good start, if I even managed to have a good start.

But, dang, it's so much fun. Your sketches inspire me to be SURE to do one or two quickie portrait heads every day. Practice makes perfect. :heart: :heart: :heart:


06-11-2010, 10:15 PM
These are so wonderful. They seem effortless and yet have so much personality to them. Love the minimalist approach. They say all they need to say and more. Fantastic sketchbook cover.

WC Lee
06-12-2010, 12:47 AM
thanks Robert, Debby, jacquip :) I found 2 bolts of unused wall paper that apparently doesn't have any use anymore since no where in the house has that pattern. So figure it would make a good covering for my sketchbooks. The one thing that I didn't realize when giving this sketchbook a make-over is that it isn't stiff enough and the part where the cover connects to the spine does not give sufficient support but still usable, lesson learned :)

When I do these sketches, I'm more concerned about getting the expression rather than the likeness. Most of the time I don't go into much details or rendering but will on occasion since it was what caught my interest but it requires more time as it is very easy to go too dark with no way of reversing it.

Jan, usually my first couple of strokes are way off :lol: and I'm sure it is noticeable as to where those first couple of strokes are on most of the sketches. Once I scribble in the facial features is when I know if the sketch is good or if it failed.


one sketch tonight .. took more time on this one doing a bit of rendering. Going to try and remember to date them which I seem to always forget and I wrote down the wrong date on this one :lol:


EDIT: forgot to mention this is from an image ref from the photo gallery of Geoff Smith at Pbase.com (http://www.pbase.com/oracle0017/candid_portraits_and_street_photography)

06-12-2010, 01:23 AM
Like this one WC!!! ( among many!)

06-12-2010, 01:46 AM
It's amazing to me that you can do these so fast. Great work!


06-12-2010, 03:26 AM
good work

06-12-2010, 11:28 AM
Nice job on the expression and the hair on this guy.

It's a shame the binding didn't come out exactly right. It will next time.

06-12-2010, 10:27 PM
The bearded man came out so well. I like how you shaded him. It's perfect, I can see that you put more time into it and slowed down. Gorgeous.

Cool that you've got all that wall paper to use for sketchbook covers. Maybe next time a layer of mat board for stiffener would help?

06-17-2010, 12:25 PM
You have such skill. It certainly inspires me as well!!!

Vivien Maloney
06-17-2010, 02:25 PM
Wonderful sketch of bearded man!

06-24-2010, 09:25 PM
Now THAT'S a proper sketchbook W.C. I love the idea that you started from your beautiful sketches and worked backward to completing the cover and the binding. :lol: :lol: :lol: Your sketches are simply amazing to me. I can't imagine how anyone can do so many wonderful portrait sketches, particularly in 5 - 10 minutes each.

I have done a few portraits that I am happy with, but I have to slave over each one of them. Still don't have time to put in the hours needed to get good at portraits, but I hope to do that sometime soon. You journal is an inspiration.


07-03-2010, 03:37 PM
Wow, I can't really add too the comments that have already been mentioned. These are some wonderful sketches. How long does it take you to do these? I imagine that if they are on-the-street referenced, then you have to get the likeness down quickly.

07-04-2010, 07:18 PM
It's hard for me to even imagine how people can get ballpoint sketches to look this good! I really enjoyed browsing through your sketchbook. Thanks for posting them!