Category Archives: pen and ink

Pen and ink, a test

I’m teaching a class next month for flower painting with watercolor and pen and ink.  I’ve been using this technique for about 35 years now so I might have learned a thing or two about the subject.

A few of the pens that I used in the most recent test. Top to bottom, India ink and a #4 quill dip pen, my favorite Platinum Carbon Ink pen, a Uniball Vision Elite, Lamy Safari, Shaeffer calligraphy, and a brush pen with ink.

In preparation for the class, I dragged out all of the accumulated pens that I’ve used over the years.  I first started with the old fashioned dip pens and India ink.  This is still a tried and true favorite.  I use a #4 quill and used to buy them by the dozen as I tend to wear them down. (Or a #102 crow quill.) I like the feel of the quill pen and the slight variance of the lines as I draw.  However, there’s often the problem of an errant drop of ink on the paper, which, being India ink, cannot be removed and is difficult to cover up.  Also, when I was doing house portraits and using a ruler for some straight lines, the ink would sometimes wick under the ruler, again, spoiling the painting.

Several years ago, I began exploring other pens.  I’ve tried many of the mechanical drawing pens but they were too difficult to clean.  Some commercial pens were nice but the ink faded over time.  I’ve actually done some tests in the south-facing window of my studio and some of the inks faded totally away!

My current favorite is the Platinum Carbon ink pen.  These are wonderful pens with cartridges, never seem to clog, and are very affordable.

Several others that I tested in this sample are the Lamy Safari, Faber Castell, a brush pen, and whatever else I had.

Samples of various pens and inks. The blurred samples are where I dragged a brush loaded with clear water to test the fastness of the ink. As you can see, they’re not all the same.

After drawing the test sections, I let them dry completely, and then passed a brush with clear water over the lines. As you can see, some of the inks are not waterproof at all.  This could be a problem for artists who do the ink drawing first before they add the watercolor.  In my case, it wouldn’t matter too much as I always start with a quick pencil sketch, paint the watercolor, then add the details loosely with the pen and ink.

This test paper has been in my window for 16 years. On the inside of this piece, I tested several commercially available pens as well as the standard India ink. Some faded totally away while some others held up surprisingly well.

Anyway, if you’re interested in the class, there are still some openings but it’s filling quickly  Here is the link for the signup. Flower Painting Class.

search my blog for more posts about using pen and ink.

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Flowers from the garden

Here you see Beebalm, onion, and a beautiful Magnolia. Watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

After the painting blitz of landscapes the past few weeks, I jumped back to painting flowers again.  I’m teaching a flower painting class in October, watercolor / pen and ink, so I wanted to have some more work for the class.

All of the flowers I depict pretty much come from my own property.  Even though they’re seasonal, it seems as if we always have something in bloom, either cultivated plants or wildflowers.  One has to be pretty quick sometimes because the blooming season passes quickly and some plants I’ve missed.

Zinnias and red day lilies, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

I needed to catch up on photographing paintings today.  In the old days of film cameras, I used to have to order special film from New York, special lights and filters, then set everything up in my studio with total black-out curtains.  The lights were hot and it was a real pain.

These days, with digital cameras, I just hang the paintings on the side of my studio, either on overcast days, in the shade, or on the north side.  As long as it’s in focus and square to the camera plane, photo editing programs will take care of the rest.

For the flower paintings, I divide a full sheet of watercolor paper (22 x 30) into quarters.  Each quarter is then divided into smaller sections, either four, three or two.  I tape these down to a board and work on them that way from the actual flowers.

Orange cosmos and a mixed bunch of purple and lavender cosmos. Watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle. The orange cosmos is topping seven feet now! Can’t believe it.

The style is a very loose, not botanical studies, but lively, colorful depictions of the flowers. My whole aim is to capture the spirit of the flower, its uniqueness and what makes it special and different.

I’ll have some of these up on my Etsy shops soon so if you’re interested, check them out.

Etsy:  my90acres for the small paintings and KitMiracleArt for the larger ones.

Calla Lilies and Other Garden Musings

Happy Independence day, everyone!  Celebrating here in the United States. Family, friends, plenty of good things to eat.  And maybe a beautiful tour through the garden.

Calla Lily, Picasso variety, watercolor, pen and ink, 14.5 x 10.5, Kit Miracle

The calla lily is in bloom.  This is the standard Picasso variety. It seems to require no care at all except to weed around it once in awhile. Unfortunately, Japanese beetles, slugs and snails love to munch on these lovely blossoms.

I love these tall, elegant blooms. They’re somewhat waxy in texture and will last a few days.

Calla lilies seemed to be a common motif in the art deco period, maybe for their simple lines and shapes.  I also like their speckled leaves.

Calla Lily plant in the garden

Fair as a lily, and not only the pride of life, but the desire of his eyes.

Charlotte Bronte

Trusty Guard Dog, Mikey

On another front, the first planting of sweet corn is nearly ready; only a couple of days left.  This time last year, the raccoons came one night and decimated the crop.  Thus, our trusty guard dog is being posted out by the garden. Based on his enthusiastic barking last night, I think his presence was effective.  A couple of more days before we can harvest.  Mikey says he’s tired and needs some sleep.

Postcards from Texas

South Padre Island, panorama from the balcony, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

We recently drove to Texas to pick up our granddaughter and take her to the beach.  It was wonderful being able to introduce an eight year old to the ocean for the first time.  We went down to South Padre Island which my husband and I first visited forty years ago.  Needless to say, it has changed quite a bit.  When we initially visited, it had one Holiday Inn, a couple of mom and pop hotels, a few ramshackle houses and a few restaurants.  Of course, most people go there for the ocean and the beautiful beaches.

South Padre Island, postcard #1, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Everything has changed except the beaches.  Still beautiful.  Gorgeous sunrises and sunsets.  But the Gulf side is now lined with high rises and there are now many, many eateries and other things to do. We took an Eco and Dolphin watch tour, visited the Sea Turtle Sanctuary, and went to the light house.

South Padre Island, postcard #2, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

I usually take some painting materials on my trips but this time I restricted myself to just watercolors.  One thing I love to do is paint postcards and mail them to friends.  I’m not sure where I came up with this idea but I think it was when I read about a guy who financed his trip to Europe by preselling postcards.

South Padre Island, postcard #3, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Amazingly, they come through the mail just fine.  Yes, mailing original art.  With a stamp.  I make the cards from heavy watercolor stock of at least 140 lb.

South Padre Island, Dolphin Watch, postcard #4, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

South Padre Island, Seagull, postcard #5, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Wildflower perfumes in spring

Spring in southern Indiana is a cacophony of overload for the senses.  As an artist, I’m naturally attracted to the visual of the changing season.  From the pale greens of new shoots and leaves to the endless variety of flowers.  Something new is blooming every week.  And sounds add to the wallpaper of the experience as I presented the cheerful house wren in a recent post.

One thing that I haven’t touched on are the beautiful scents that waft through the air.  Yes, there are plenty of floral perfumes from cultivated plants, but today I want to show you three wildflowers with really strong scents.

Multi-flora roses, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

The first is the multi flora rose.  First introduced from Asia as a soil erosion remedy, it quickly got out of hand and is truly a noxious weed.  So difficult to get rid of.  However, for a few short weeks in spring, the scent of this flower is almost overpowering in the woods and ravines. It’s only redeeming quality in my opinion.

Honeysuckle vine in bloom, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Blooming right on the heels of the multi flora rose is the wild honeysuckle vine.  I’m not sure if this species was introduced but is is definitely invasive.  Around here we have the variety with white blossoms which fade to a creamy yellow as they die.  Great food for hummingbirds, they unfortunately tend to strangle many trees and bushes.  If you’ve ever seen a walking stick with a spiral design, it was naturally created by the honeysuckle vine.  Its perfume is so strong as to be almost nauseating.

Common boxwood in flower, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Following on the heels of the honeysuckle vine is the common boxwood.  This shrubby bush is semi-evergreen in this area.  It is an under story plant and likes the shade of larger trees.  There are many varieties of this plant but around here it has smallish white flowers in little groups which look a lot like a small honeysuckle blossom.  Again, the perfume is pleasant and not as overpowering as the first two plants.

For people with allergies, the Ohio River Valley is probably not the most pleasant place to live, but the wildflowers certainly put on a show, both in blooms and scents.

Flowers, flowers and more flowers

Pile of paintings. This a a stack of recent flower paintings, usually four to a sheet. Watercolor, pen and ink. Kit Miracle

May has been the hottest month on record in these parts. I’ve been trying to capture local flowers in watercolor with pen and ink but the heat has pushed everything into high gear.  The flowers are blooming faster than I can paint them.

Hurricane Alberto dumped some rain on us but it wasn’t too bad.  Unfortunately, accompanying winds broke off a large limb of a maple tree in the back yard.  More clean up and some firewood.

Persimmon flowers. These waxy, bell-shaped flowers on the persimmon tree will yield wonderful fruit in late summer. Watercolor, pen and ink, 10.5 x 14. Kit Miracle

And the vegetable garden, about 60 x 40 for the main garden, plus the additional spring garden which includes the cold frames, asparagus area, onions and garlic, peas and the squash patch.  I planted this entirely. Yippee.  And it needs hoeing as soon as I can get in there after the mud.

This doesn’t count the nearly forty flower pots, plus flower beds, plus general spring tidying.

And, of course, trimming bushes coming up this week.

Sheesh.

Four flowers. A typical quarter sheet of watercolor paper has been divided into four sections. Here you can see lamb’s ear, weigela, Venus looking glass, and lavender.

I really want to paint something besides flowers.  I keep telling myself, OK, they’re all done.  Then a walk through the yard reveals some more.  Stop, already!  Ok, humpf, I’m over it.

Anyway, here is a whole pile of recent paintings.  It’s been fun if hectic.  I’ve spent some time roaming through my plant books and guides to identify each one but if you see some errors, please let me know.

Thanks for stopping by.

Homage to a dead bird

Dead bird, wood thrush, watercolor, pen and ink, 10 x 14, Kit Miracle

There’s something about birds.

When I’m sitting on the patio in the evening, watching the night fall, listening to the sounds of life wind down, or in some cases, just change from day to night, I love to try to identify the birdsong.  Watch the various birds – robins, blue jays, wrens, the lovely mourning doves.  I love how the birds have adopted our territory as their territory.  We have so many kinds of birds.  Cardinals, goldfinches, bluebirds, owls,  even the dratted starlings in the gutters.

So the other night we found this lovely brown thrush on the ground.  Apparently he’d broken his neck on a window on the greenhouse.  So sad.  Although the cycles of life and death are a given here in the country, each little animal has a pull for me.

I decided to capture this bird in a memorial drawing, watercolor with pen and ink.  Taking the time to capture his tiny but strong feet.  Thinking of them clinging to a twig in the winter.  And admiring the bib of spotted feathers.  His long black beak.

Although his heart beats no more, he shall live on in this small painting.

That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over, lest you should think he never could recapture the first fine careless rapture!

Robert Browning

Racing spring

About a month ago, here in southern Indiana, we had a white out blizzard.  The snow was coming down sideways, windy, and it stuck to everything.  Very beautiful but frankly, everyone I know around here was pretty darn tired of winter.

White Iris, dark blue background, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Then the past six weeks, we’ve had spring shoving in on us with summer not far behind.  Record high temperatures.  This pushes and squeezes all the flowers in the garden.  I have been hurriedly trying to capture my favorite flowers before they’re gone!

Purple and yellow iris, watercolor, pen and ink, 10 x 6.5, Kit Miracle

I have several varieties of irises which are always so beautiful to me, from the tall, stately white iris, to the delicate light purple iris.  Some were here when we bought the property.  Some I traded with friends.  They all smell delicious.

Light purple iris, watercolor, pen and ink, 10 x 6.5, Kit Miracle

The problem with painting in the heat, even in the speedy medium of watercolor and pen and ink, is that the flowers change so rapidly.  I’ll do a painting in the afternoon, then go back to the studio after dinner to discover the elegant iris I painted earlier has crumpled in upon itself.  This is speed painting at its most challenging.

White Iris, light blue background, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

These will be on my Etsy shop in a day or two, if you’re interested.

More spring flowers

Spring bouquet of azaleas and bridal veil bush, watercolor, pen and ink, 10 x 14, Kit Miracle

The flowers keep coming and I just can’t seem to paint them quickly enough.  The past week I’ve been working exclusively in watercolor with pen and ink. This allows me to loosely capture the beauty of the flowers but add detail with the pen and ink.

Red Azaleas, watercolor, pen and ink, 4.5 x 6.5, matted to 8 x 10, Kit Miracle

I always sketch the flower arrangement first, then add the watercolor.  When that is completely dried, I add the details with a Platinum pen and carbon ink cartridge.  Sometimes I still use the dip quill with India ink. I can even use a plastic eraser to remove some of the pencil lines without disturbing the painting.

Lavender Azaleas with Ruffled Edges, watercolor, pen and ink, 6.5 x 4.5, matted to 10 x 8, Kit Miracle

These paintings are usually done on quarter sheet watercolor paper, 140 pound, Arches or another quality paper.  They are 10 x 14 inches with a ½ inch border or I divide the paper into four sections.  The smaller paintings are matted in museum grade soft white mats of 8 x 10 inches with a foam core backing.

Blue Phlox, watercolor, pen and ink, 4.5 x 6.5, matted to 8 x 10, Kit Miracle

Flowers this week include a branch of dogwood, an arrangement of some lovely salmon-color azaleas with fronds of bridal veil.  Smaller paintings include Greek Valerian, Blue Phlox, more varieties of azaleas and whatever else I find blooming.  The season is often so short that I can’t capture everything I want to paint but I give it a good try.

Branch of Dogwood, watercolor, pen and ink, 10 x 14, Kit Miracle

Branch of dogwood flowers for painting

Spring flowers. This is a selection of flowers that I painted recently. I’ve picked up the little vases over the years at resale shops, and even our farm dump. Everything is useful.

View the details of these paintings on either of my Etsy shops.  KitMiracleArt or My90Acres.

Spring Flower Explosion

Columbine, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

After a roller coaster ride of weather conditions the past two months – we had 80 degrees on one day and blizzard-like conditions the next – it seems as if spring is finally here…with a vengeance.  Suddenly, all the spring flowers are blooming.  A quick walk around the grounds reveals spring beauties, violets, irises, bluebells, azaleas, columbine, sweet William,  the end of the daffodils and narcissus, lilacs and more that I’m sure I’ve overlooked. Oh, of course, the fruit trees are all in bloom, too.

And I’m trying to paint them all!

Violets, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Here are three samples of yesterday’s work, all done in watercolor with pen and ink overlay.  For efficiency, I use a quarter sheet of watercolor paper (about 11 x 15 inches), divide it into four boxes of 4 ½ by 6 ½ with margins between and surrounding.  I tape the whole thing onto a board and then hand sketch each subject.  This is the same technique that I use for the fruit and vegetable paintings.  I have been using this method for about 30 years and it works for me.

Columbine, demo, working on four paintings at once.

Then I paint each sketch with watercolor.  The tape around the edge is enough to keep the heavy paper from buckling.  When the paint is completely dry, I then add an overlay of India or carbon ink.  I like my Platinum pen with the cartridges, but my first love is a quill #104 with India ink.  As you can see in the photos, each painting is slightly different although the subjects are the same.

Blue Bells, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Today’s sample of flowers for painting. Violets, blue bells, columbine.

The little paintings are matted in museum-grade off-white mat with a foam core backing.  Yes, they’re for sale on my Etsy shop, my90acres.  Mother’s Day is coming.  Get a 20% discount on everything in the shop until May 13th.