Monochromatic Pen and Ink Sketch

I have a picture I took a few years ago from a charcoal art class I attended. It’s a still life that incorporated two bottles, a mug, and some fabric. My art instructor placed several objects (pottery, bottles, styrofoam shapes, etc) on several tables. She told me I could sit at any table. I was drawn to this simple composition that incorporated the use of odd numbers (two bottles and a mug) and the draped and folded fabric. It was the most challenging table compared to the other still life tables she had set up for the class. While the other students chose the easier objects to sketch, I wanted to create something that would challenge my brain.

It was easy for my eyes to say I can draw/sketch this simple mug. When I grabbed my piece of charcoal and started to draw the shapes, my brain said “this looks wonky” because my ovals looked more like circles, the top and bottom of the mug did not align, and the handle on my mug looked like one of Mickey’s ears. That’s what happened with my initial warm up sketch.

At the end of that charcoal class, I took a few pictures of this beautiful still life. I knew this would be “the one” picture I would use over and over for my practice study using graphite, pastels, oils, watercolor and now pen and ink.

I like using a single color to sketch/draw and create a monochromatic piece of art. This helps me understand the qualities of the medium I am using. With fountain pen inks, I get to see so many surprising colors appear on my watercolor paper that I might not see in my regular writing journals.

Here is my latest pen and ink wash sketch using a single ink color from Robert Oster.

Used my TWSBI 580 to create this monochromatic study.

The base ink color for Schwarz Rose looks like a dark green with rose gold shimmering particles. I sketched an outline using my Preppy with Carbon ink (water resistant). I drew the lines around the objects with the Schwarz Rose ink color and used my water brush to soften the lines a bit. After I let the paper dry, I went back in with bolder and darker lines to create the shadows. I took my water brush and “painted” over the dark areas and pulled the colors out over the paper.

I had to be careful not to overwork the areas with the dark ink. It’s harder to remove a dark color once I applied the ink to the paper. Plus when too much water is added, the color looks less saturated.

Once my sketch was dried, I was amazed to see other colors appear such as green-black, a few shades of teal, and rose pink.


Since the month of January was the month for shimmering inks, I ended up using a few of my shimmering inks in my sketches. Once water is applied to the shimmering inks, the shimmer particles will start to spread and collect in different areas of where the water has pooled. A few times the diluted shimmers might look faded on the paper. In the final layer of color, I go back with my shimmering inks and draw a few lines to bring back the highlights or shimmering effects on the object.

Pens: Platinum Preppy with 02 Extra Fine nib (Carbon ink). TWSBI Diamond 580ALR Prussian Blue with Medium nib

Ink: Robert Oster Shake ‘n Shimmy Schwarz Rose

Journal: Stillman & Birn Beta (cold press 270 g/m)

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