View Full Version : DK's Sketchbook #7 - 7 X 9 Pen and WC

11-01-2010, 08:02 PM
Yep, I started another sketchbook today. I've actually had this sketchbook for a while now and am just now getting started on it. It's a Strathemore Watercolor Field Sketch. It's only 15 pages but I will only be using it for location sketching and since the "plein air" season is practically over I'll probably only get a few sketches in it before it goes dormant until next spring.

I just bought a Van Gogh compact pan sketch kit. I thought maybe the pigments in my Sakura Koi set were a bit weak so I decided to try a different brand. The Van Gogh does seem a bit stronger but only barely. But what I really like about it is it's much more compact. It only has 12 colors but that's plenty really, the Sakura had double that and that was really overkill IMO. The downside is the pallet is the lid so you can't use the lid to hold your sketchbook like you can with the Sakura Koi.

Anyway, today I used both the sketchbook and the sketch kit for the first time. I've been meaning to sketch this scene in WC for some time. It's a spot on the parkway that overlooks the Jordan River, (not in the middle east, but the one in Utah. :D )


I still need to sit down and spent some quality/quantity time with a watercolor instruction book, obviously I don't have a clue what I'm doing. :lol:

Anyway, this is my sketch-a-day for November 1st.


11-01-2010, 08:56 PM
Great start :)

11-01-2010, 09:42 PM
Nice start, David! This looks very nice - I've always liked the pen and wash style, or graphite and wash. You might want to look eventually into artist quality watercolors, which will really extend your options. I know the Sakura Koi set is student grade, and as with oil paints, the lower price comes from less pigment concentration and a higher filler content - thus the sense of being 'weak' that you described for the Sakura set. That having been said, artist-grade sets are more expensive - but you do get what you pay for; you can get results from the better quality paints than you can with the inexpensive grades. But the student grade paints produce perfectly acceptable results for a lot of people. Looking forward to more here.

11-01-2010, 10:17 PM
Good start in your November challenge. Fifteen pages is a good size, the end is in sight before you start!:D

Try to make your mixes more intense than you think they need to be because wc gets lighter as it dries. That trips me up all the time!


11-02-2010, 03:11 AM
Excellent job on the water colors, is that pen or pencil, either way it looks great! The Jordan River is in Utah! :)

11-02-2010, 09:41 AM
Thanks guys. Chuck, I used a Micron pen. The reason this river is called the Jordan River is it flows from Utah lake, (very large lake) to The Great Salt Lake, which is basically like a dead sea because it has no outlet, so it has many things in common with the Middle East Jordan River.


11-02-2010, 10:02 AM
Lovely scene, David. I like your pen work a lot!
Do you prefer to do the pen first or to accent the wc with the pen? I've done both ways and am never really sure which is better!

11-02-2010, 11:00 AM
I've always done the pen work first, never tried it the other way.


Joan T
11-02-2010, 03:18 PM
David - This came out great! I find the student grade wc sets never give you enough depth of color. As for whether to do the ink or wc first, try it the other way too. I find my work is looser if I do some, or all of the painting first and just accent with the pen. You will see that each way has it's own look.

11-02-2010, 07:36 PM
Thanks Joan. That's why I bought a Van Gogh set, supposedly they are better than student grade, many pros even use them but I'm not sure their pans are equivalent in quality to their tubes. I can't justify spending $70+ for a WN set. I'll have to try inking after one of these times. I think I'm going to try something different tomorrow. I have a set of Van Gogh tubes I never got around to trying and I recently aquired a sealed portable water color pallet, so I might give sketching with the tubes a try tomorrow.


11-02-2010, 10:17 PM
Hi David, a nice start here! I like seeing you using colours as well as your tonal stuff - always good to stretch yourself.

I've always held with the thought of trying new things out before I invest in the "good" stuff. In the past I have picked materials up thinking I would like it only to have it sit barely used and dry up because I changed my mind or didn't like it. I have a rather large set of good pastels gathering dust as I speak :lol: (at least they won't dry up!)

If you find you like using the watercolour there are plenty of resources to learn about using watercolours - the most important tip I ever got told was to start out light and build up the colours - "mud" is a result I got a lot in the early days ;)

11-03-2010, 12:23 AM
David I love your painting! It reminds me of the very appealing pastoral illustrations in children's books. Keep up the good work.

11-03-2010, 10:25 AM
Oh yes... not a clue! I can tell... LOL I love this, the whole style and lovely loose penwork and the lovely colour of the flowers just to name a few thigns. :D

11-03-2010, 08:44 PM
At the risk of further demonstrating my ignorance of proper water color painting here's my latest feeble attempt;


I used tube paint this time, (still Van Gogh) and that helped get richer pigmentation, (heck, this "painting" is practically flourescent!) but it didn't help me create a technically better sketch. :lol:


11-04-2010, 01:24 AM
You're doing 100 times better than I have so far. I won't even show my attempts at water color. You're doing great.

11-04-2010, 02:13 AM
All part of the learning David! I've been using watercolour for years and still do some ordinary stuff - I find too with watercolour if painting seriously it goes through some ugly stages before it comes good ;)

11-04-2010, 06:43 AM
David, I think you'll find you aren't the only one struggling with this stuff. I try wc now and then, but find it hard sketching outside with it. Keep up your good efforts, maybe you will inspire me to try again.

If you are having trouble with colour, like me, maybe a limited palette would help - taking one complication (colour) out of the equation for a while. I have had some small successes (I think so anyway) using only burnt sienna and ultramarine blue.

I read in an old book how Turner sketched for years with only a couple / few colours, and gradually added more. I think he turned out alright as a watercolourist.

Anyway, enough of this guff, I hope to see some more of your book before the cold sets in. :D


11-04-2010, 09:34 AM
I've actually been questioning why I do watercolor at all, and the only reason I can think of is convenience. While I do admire a well done wc painting I can't say the wc style really inspires me much. Obviously it will take lots and lots of experimentation and practice to get even somewhat competent at wc and I have to question why I would spend the time if the results really aren't what I want. All that said, I'm think I may be going a somewhat different direction with this sketchbook, it probably won't resurface until the weekend if at all.

Chris, I did use a limited palette, not as limited as Turner's early experiments but still pretty limited. I put out 10 colors on my palette and I think I only used 7 or 8 of them. Ideally I'd like to become competent with a palette of only 5 colors, a red, a blue, a yellow, burnt sienna and white, (well, with wc you don't even need the white).


11-04-2010, 11:50 AM
Hi David,

I've done a lot of plein air over the last couple of years (although in this forum everyone thinks of me as primarily the bird guy). I've done plein air with watercolor, watercolor pencil, graphite, oil and pastels and a reasonable amount of each one. Other than watercolor pencil with a Niji (or similar) water brush, watercolor (for me, anyway) is the absolute most convenient. Even though it would seem like graphite would be the most convenient, if you are using soft pencils and doing multiple sketches, it smudges unless you take fixative with you. So...I keep coming back to watercolor (plus I do like it). As to the results I get, the best plein air pieces I've done have been with soft pastels, and so I keep doing them periodically - but I just don't like traveling with the messiness (and the weight, for a set with any decent range of colors) of those, even for local stuff. I want to get competent at plein air oils, as I think that's my overall favorite medium for studio pieces - but I haven't done enough yet with that to master the technique involved (probably never will...:lol: !).

So, it obviously depends on what you're after, but as you say, watercolor really is great for the convenience. And as with Jackie's amazing portrait work, it doesn't take much color to really add another dimension.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do longer term. :)

11-04-2010, 11:56 AM

I've attempted plein air with soft pastels myself, that must be the least convenient medium for plein air. I disagree about pencil. I just use an HB mechanical pencil and can pretty much get anything I want out of it, smudging hasn't really been a problem for me with sketching. It's when I get into drawings that take several hours or longer that smudge control becomes an issue.

The hard part I guess is deciding what my goal is, short term and long term and make sure I focus on the activities that will get me there.


11-04-2010, 12:07 PM
I agree with you if you stick with something like an HB pencil - they aren't any problem because they're pretty hard. I always do my preliminary watercolor sketches with an HB for just that reason - I don't need to erase them before or after adding watercolor because they don't smudge or run. However, if you start getting much into the B range to get stronger darks, smudging quickly becomes a problem. I like using the Sanford Ebony pencils - they give wonderful darks, but smudge at the slightest touch.

11-04-2010, 12:45 PM
I've found I can get good enough darks for sketching with pressure and layering without having to resort to soft leads. Also I use a .5. The sharp point fills the grain of the paper better than larger leads. Now, if you are trying to produce finished works in the field I'd still suggest using just the HB and then strengthen the darks in the studio with the softer leads, either that or pack around a can or workable fixative with you.


Joan T
11-05-2010, 01:32 PM
David - Just like any other medium wc requires a lot of practice. Color mixing takes some experimenting. I love the convenience of a small travel kit of wcs and my waterbrush. It also helps that those sets limit your colors too.