Category Archives: pen and ink

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day, 2018, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Best wishes and hugs to all my friends.  May you enjoy some time with your sweetie this day.


Watercolor with Pen and Ink – Part 2

Sunset in watercolor with pen and ink. This is a quarter sheet of Arches 140 pound cold press paper, I juiced up the colors a bit. Click on the painting to see more detail.

Last week I discussed some of the intricacies of creating paintings with watercolor and pen and ink.  This week I will go into more detail.


I always use top quality watercolor paper. This is at least 140 pound pure rag paper.  I like Cold Press which has a little tooth.  Some people like the Hot Press which is very smooth.  Rough has a very rough texture and is a little difficult to draw on with a pen.  Of course, heavier paper is fine.  Lighter weight paper tends to buckle and is not so good for water media.

The paper is usually divided into quarter sheets (a full sheet is 20 x 30 inches) and is taped to a board.  You can use a drawing board, heavy plywood, or some other heavy support.  If I use a full sheet of paper, I “stretch” the paper and staple it to the board.  It actually bends the ½ inch finish grade plywood that I use!

This is a demonstration of the steps I take for creating a small watercolor with pen and ink. I use this method for most of the fruits and vegetables which appear on my Etsy shop, my90acres. I divide this quarter sheet of watercolor paper into four rectangles of a little more than 4 x 6 inches with some space left between the squares.


I start out with a rough pencil sketch done with a #2 pencil.  In the case of architectural elements, you may wish to add more detail but generally keep the sketch loose.  You don’t want to get to the point of coloring in the sketch.  Also, beware of erasing too much or of bruising your paper.  This will mark you paper so that when you apply the watercolor, it will soak into the paper, leaving dark marks.

This is the painting of the Falls in plain watercolor before the pen and ink is applied. As you can see, it is a very nice painting and stands on its own merits. Reminds me somewhat of Winslow Homer.

Painting of the falls at Bald Mountain Tennessee. This watercolor has had the pen and ink applied to it. Check out the detail to see how loosely the ink part is done.

Close up view of the painting Falls at Bald Mountain. See how loosely the ink lines are drawn.


I always use Winsor Newton artist grade watercolors. I apply the paint starting from light to dark, making sure to keep the white areas free.  I do not use any masking fluids.  Try to paint in bigger strokes and not get too fussy.  You may need to let the paint dry between layers.

These are the general tools that I use for my watercolor and pen and ink paintings. The large ruler (actually a quilting ruler) is what I use to lay out the painting squares. The small ruler is sometimes used where I need a straight line. Pencils and a plastic eraser, the platinum pen and two dip pens, India ink, carbon ink cartridges for the platinum pen, tape, either regular masking tape or painter’s tape.

Sketching with ink

At this point, you may decide not to apply any pen and ink.  See the samples of the waterfall.

If I decide to apply some details with pen and ink, I do so very loosely.  Do not try to add every detail.  Let the viewer’s eye add the details.

For many years I used a dip quill pen #3 and plain old India ink.  I like the bounce and variance of the lines.  I would also buy the nibs in bulk because I like a sharp point.

Then I moved to some commercial pens.  I like the Lamy Safari.

My current favorite is the Platinum Carbon Ink pen.  It has great flow and the carbon ink is light-fast.  It is also permanent and doesn’t seem to smear if you have to apply some more water media on top.

The real key is to draw with your whole arm, not just your fingers.  Keep it very loose.

Arthur L. Guptill’s book Rendering in Pen and Ink. This is an old book but probably has the most extensive demonstrations for pen and ink.

One of the most beneficial books about Pen and Ink instruction is Arthur Guptill’s Rendering in Pen and Ink.  Although a little dated, the information is very useful for technique.

So, this is my method of using watercolor with pen and ink.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or need more clarifications.

Also, check out some of my previous postings on this subject.  Links listed below. Also, search for pen and ink for more demonstrations.

How to Combine Watercolor and Pen and Ink

Painting Wildflowers

Sage Cottage

Peonies en Plein Air

Watercolor with Pen and Ink – part 1

Rockport, MA. Watercolor, pen and ink, 10.5 x 14, Kit Miracle

There are many styles of watercolor with pen and ink overlay.  Some artists do the pen and ink drawing first and then add the watercolor washes on top.  If you use this method, you must be sure that the ink is totally waterproof and won’t smear once the watercolor hits it.

In my case, I draw a pencil sketch first before adding the watercolor washes.  After it is totally dry, I then go back and add the pen and ink details.  I have used this method for twenty-five years but I suggest that you experiment with several methods to find what works best for you.

All of the small paintings shown on my Etsy shop My90Acres are created this way.  I like the looseness that this method allows me.  If I were to draw the object first in pen, I would have a tendency to get too bogged down in the details. Then adding the the watercolor would feel more as if I were “coloring in” the painting.  This seems to make the painting more static without much life, good for medical illustration but not the look I’m after.

I always begin a new wc/pi painting by marking off the outside edge of the painting (adding an extra ¼ to ½ inch) and then taping it down to a drawing board.  I use at least 140 pound watercolor paper.  Sometimes I’ll use painter’s tape but actually, regular old masking tape will work just fine if you’re not going to keep it on the board for months.  A few weeks will be fine but you’ll probably be done with the painting before then.  Taping the painting to the board will help reduce any buckling when the watercolor is applied.

The next step I take is to make a loose sketch on the paper.  Be sure not to press too hard with your pencil or to do too many erasures as it will bruise the paper.  Bruised paper will create dark splotches when the watercolor hits it; not an attractive sight unless that is the look you’re going for.

After the sketch, I apply layers of watercolor, usually working from light to dark. A hairdryer will speed up drying time between layers of paint.  After the paint is totally dry, then I begin to add the ink drawing.  I always start with the more complex parts of the painting, such as, the buildings.  I might even carefully use a ruler for the straight lines, but the painting will look fresher if you just freehand it.  The ink is just used to loosely add details; you don’t need to put in every brick and board, every blade of grass or leaf.  Simplify the shapes and let the viewer’s eye fill in the rest.

Finally, after your painting and the ink is totally dry, you can use a plastic eraser to remove some of your pencil lines if they are still showing.  Really!  I don’t know how this works, but it does.

Take a look at these three paintings of Rockport, Massachusettes. Click on the paintings to examine some of the details.

Part 2 of this post will explore some of the materials and other techniques.

Main Street, Rockport,Massachusetts. Watercolor with pen and ink. 6.5 x 9.5 Kit Miracle

Beach at Rockport. 6.5 x 9.5 Watercolor, pen and ink. Kit Miracle



Christmas Mouse

Christmas Mouse, watercolor, pen and ink,6.5 x 4.5 inches, Kit Miracle

Not A Creature Was Stirring…Not Even A Mouse

Or maybe there was.

Here’s wishing all my friends, family and blog followers have a safe and happy holiday.  Whatever holiday you celebrate, try to find some common ground, set aside differences, enjoy your time together, share a meal and a laugh.

Peace and blessings to all.


Painting wildflowers

Swamp Mallow – wildflower, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

After almost four months into retirement, I’ve been able to devote a lot more time to my creative side.  This means time spent in the studio as well as venturing out for plein air painting.

One thing that I’ve been having fun with this summer is painting wildflowers.  With 90 acres, plus the many streams, country roads, fields and forests in the area, there is plenty of subject matter. In a ten minute walk in almost any direction I can snag a handful of different wildflowers.  And the variety keeps changing throughout the season.

Joe Pye Weed – wildflower, watercolor pen and ink, Kit Miracle

My love for wildflowers was born in college when I took a couple of terms of field botany.  (Please don’t ask me to categorize any plant through Gray’s Botany; I have totally forgotten how.)  But I spent one summer doing an independent study of wildflowers with my amazing professor, Lucky Ward.  We would travel together on dusty back roads, collecting samples for the college museum and to press.  What an experience!

Goldenrod – wildflower, watercolor pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Wildflowers have always remained beloved friends even though they are often overlooked by many, or just considered “weeds.”  Too bad.

Trumpet vine – wildflower, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

So this summer I’ve tackled identifying and painting a lot of local flowers.  These are not botanical drawings but merely simple watercolor with pen and ink sketches.  My aim is to capture the beauty that surrounds us in the small bits of color that we pass so blythely by.

Evening Primrose – wildflower, watercolor pen and ink, Kit Miracle

So, what to do with all these little paintings?  I decided to start an Etsy shop called, of course, My90Acres to sell them.  No sales so far but I’m hopeful.

Queen Ann’s Lace, wildflower, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Meanwhile, I’ll still be hiking through the weeds, chiggers and all, to see what is blooming this week.

Red clover or purple clover, watercolor pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Jewel Weed – wildflower, watercolor pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Toadflax – wildflower, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle


Will your artwork last?

One thing that has concerned me since I first became a professional painter (over 35 years now) is the quality of the materials that I use and how to make sure my art lasts.  This is important to me not because of my ego but to ensure that my customers can expect a painting to last for years, even decades or centuries with proper handling.  I educated myself early on about the greatest causes for deteriorating artwork, especially works on paper.

Some of the greatest causes for paintings to fade or change are:

  • Sunlight! Yes, while the sun is great for so many things, it is not good for paints or papers.  Even over a long period of time, it will fade the colors and break down the fibers of the paper or canvas.  Sun will even fade wood over time.
  • Damp enviroments invite mold and organic changes to the supports.
  • Insect damage. Those little silverfish love to eat paper.
  • Using cheap materials. This is my personal pet peeve.  Why put all the time and effort into creating a work of art and use cheap materials?  Doesn’t make any sense to me.

What can you do as an artist or art owner?

  • Always choose the best materials you can afford. For instance, if you’re an artist, use artist-grade paints rather than studio or student-grade paints.  The artist-grade paints contain more pigment and better quality.
  • If you’re creating works on paper, use 100% rag, linen, or cotton fiber. These will hold up decades longer than  pulp papers.  Wood pulp contains chemicals which deteriorate almost immediately.  Remember that pile of yellowed newspapers in the garage?
  • Ensure that the matting and framing is archival or museum-grade. I always use museum rag mats and archival backing.  If the work is under glass, you can help prevent sun damage by using UV filtering glass.

So, if you are an artist, take pride in your work and make it with the best materials you can afford.  If you are an art collector, ask the artist or gallery about the materials or framing.  If it isn’t framed, have your framing shop frame it archivally.

My personal experiment.

Many years ago I decided to test my materials by putting samples in a south-facing window of my studio.  Both of the samples shown are on 100% cotton rag paper.

This was the test. Two pieces of Arches 100% cotton rag with ink and paint samples in a south facing window

I was testing four things.

  • How well the paper withstood the direct sunlight.
  • How the watercolor paints held up.
  • If there was fading to the computer printed color paints.
  • If any of the commercially available inks and ink pens held up to the sun.

The time frame for this experiment has been about fifteen years.  I folded the art pieces over and they have just been sitting in the window for that long.

This is the outside of the mini watercolor painting. I was surprised that the red didn’t fade over 15 years. It is usually pretty fugitive.

Each piece was folded over with part of the experiment covered by the fold. In this case, it was an old mini painting. As you can see, the actual watercolor paint held up pretty well.

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.

As you can see, there is some small damage to the paper along the edges.  I attribute this mostly due to water damage from condensation of the window, not to direct sun.

The watercolor paints (Winsor and Newton) held up surprisingly well.  I was somewhat surprised that the reds held because that is a color that has a great tendency to fade.

And the pen inks.  What can I say?  Some, like the Zeb Roller Ink totally faded.  But others, like the old standby India ink and newer Vision Elite haven’t changed at all.  That is good news.  I’m now testing a carbon ink from Japan and have high expectations for that.

In this test piece, I printed color ink from my computer onto rag paper. Pretty faded, eh?

The fading is even more noticeable when the covered part is revealed. Note to self: don’t use standard office printers for original artwork.

The computer printed paper totally faded. So much for archival inks. My experience has been that the black computer ink will last but not the colors, however, inks may have changed over the years.  And I’m sure that commercial-grade printers and ink will fare better.  But best to ask if you are purchasing a print.

The takeaway is to use or buy quality art materials and frame them in a way that will prevent damage, particularly from sunlight.

Please note:  I am not a scientist so this was just a personal experiment.  Use your own judgement in the end.  Check out this article from scientists who are actually fixing old artwork.


Winter vacation in the Florida Keys

My husband and I were able to take our first winter vacation in a very long time.  We chose the Florida Keys which we hadn’t visited for over 30 years.  Oh, it was so nice to bask in the warmth of the sun.

Plein air painting of Among the Mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

Plein air painting of Among the Mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

Among the mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

Among the mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

One of the nicest parts about the Keys is that there are so many places that visitors can pull over to fish…or in my case…paint.  The Pentalic Aqua Journal (5 x 8) is perfect for painting broad landscapes. In the first painting, I was sitting in the shade while trying to capture the feel of being tucked away in the mangroves.  The photos don’t do justice to the amazing aqua waters but it’s a nice memory.

Plien Air Painting from the park in the middle of Marathon, Florida Keys

Plien Air Painting from the park in the middle of Marathon, Florida Keys

Photo from the location I painted from the Marathon park.

Photo from the location I painted from the Marathon park.

The second painting was from a small park in the heart of Marathon.  I liked the way the house across the inlet was framed by the pine tree.  I took liberties to emphasize the house, actually more than I could really see it.  Oh, well, that’s what artists do.  Enjoy


Sage Cottage

Sage Cottage, Adairsville GA  Watercolor / pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Sage Cottage, Adairsville GA Watercolor / pen and ink, Kit Miracle

We were in Georgia last month for a wedding at the Barnsley Estate. We stayed at a wonderful bed and breakfast a few miles away called the Sage Cottage.  Owners, Jim and Sharon Southerland, were such gracious hosts and made us feel welcome in every way.  The house is actually quite large with really beautiful grounds. Another wedding party had taken over most of the remainder of the rooms.  There was plenty of space to roam so I decided to use my time to make this watercolor / pen and ink sketch of the main house.  It was difficult to choose a view as the grounds were laid out so well, with hidden nooks, statuary, and gardens.

This was painted in a Pentalic Aqua Journal which has really thick pages, almost like cardboard.  I use a couple of clips to hold the pages open but otherwise, there is no buckling from watermedia.  I only wished later that I had used a larger sheet of paper, maybe an 11 x 14.  This is 5 x 16 (5 x 8 landscape notebook).


Plein air painting, old buildings

Hoosier Desk Building, Final. Watercolor / pen and ink, 11 x 14, Kit Miracle

Hoosier Desk Building, Final. Watercolor / pen and ink, 11 x 14, Kit Miracle

Today I decided to paint this old factory building.  It has undergone so many renovations and additions over the years.  Very interesting from many aspects.  I selected this broad scene (and it really could have been a panorama if I had brought larger paper with me).  I may end up doing some close-ups of the interesting architecture over the coming months.

Today’s challenge was to work with some speed in order to beat the changing position of the sun and the shadows.  This is why so many artists like to paint on cloudy days.  I don’t so I just have to paint quickly or remember where I want to keep the sun and shadows even as they move.

Plein air painting, Hoosier Desk Building. Beginning

Plein air painting, Hoosier Desk Building. Beginning


Painting the Ordinary

Old Oak on College Avenue, watercolor, pen and ink, 11 x 14

Old Oak on College Avenue, watercolor, pen and ink, 11 x 14

I have a lovely long drive to work every day, about 20 miles through fields, woods, and small villages.  This is a great time for taking stock of my thoughts, listening to recorded books, and looking for future painting subjects. One place that I pass every day is this field with the giant old oak tree.  The past week the field in front of it has been showcasing an abundance of Black-eyed Susans.  I couldn’t resist heading to town on Saturday to paint this scene.  It was so serene.  Cooler weather, mocking bird singing, a doe and her fawn stopped to peer at me across the field.  The occasional jogger and walker.

The point here is that sometimes when you’re searching for a subject to paint, you don’t have to go very far.  Look around you.  Beauty is everywhere.

Preparing to paint the old oak tree and field of Black-eyed Susans

Preparing to paint the old oak tree and field of Black-eyed Susans