Quick note, when doing pen and ink drawings, be sure to test your paper. Not all papers are created equal even if they have the same specifications…so I’ve learned.
For my current peacock drawing I’m using Canson Classic Cream, 9×12, 90lb paper that’s heavy weight with a medium tooth surface good for charcoal, pastel, pencil and pen. I thought this would be no different from the Strathmore I typically use for smaller drawings, which is actually 80lb rather than 90lb yet everything else is the same as the piece of Canson I’m using. Unfortunately, I’m wrong. While testing out a shading technique on a scrap piece of Canson paper I discovered that if I hold the tip of my pen against the paper for 10-20 seconds the ink bleeds. I grabbed a piece of 9×12 Strathmore and did the same thing, no bleeding. Luckily I discovered this halfway through doing my base drawing rather than halfway through inking. Fortunately I have a 12×12 lightbox I can use to trace what I’ve completed so far of my drawing on to some Strathmore without having to recreate freehand all over again.
This may not seem like a big deal but trust me, it is. It makes all the difference between having a crisp and clean pointillism drawing and one that looks fuzzy and muddled. Plus the dots come through much sharper when doing prints. So if you’re into doing pen and ink art, whether your doing pointillism, hatching or line drawing, test your paper, you don’t want to end up with feathering or bleeding…unless you’re into that sort of thing. 😋
If you’re curious as to what my process to stippling looks like, I’ve done a few timelapse videos, from a while ago, for a behind the scenes look. This particular video is of a ACEO drawing I did called “Phree”. I also have a basic visual how-to that briefly explains how I use color that can be viewed here.
Here are a few things I’ve learned as a stipple artist:
1. Before you even begin get into a Zen state of mind. This is not a craft for the speedy and the quick. You really do have to prepare your mind to slow down and be in it for the long haul. Think of it as meditation. If you have to start off with doing it for only 10-20 minutes at at time, that’s fine. Take breaks and then come back to it. Whatever you do don’t force it otherwise you’ll end up hating the drawing and spend the rest of your time just wishing you could hurry up and finish.
2. When you do your underlying linework don’t make the lines too dark. You want your lines to be light but visible otherwise they’ll be a pain to erase after you lay down your ink and you may inadvertently erase some of your ink, dulling your drawing.
3. Don’t tense up. Holding your pen tighter won’t help you get done any faster. You want a slightly loose grip with a moderate stippling pace so that your hand won’t tire quickly.
4. Whenever you’re not stippling put your cap back on your pen or put it away, even if you’re just reaching for a drink. I’ve had one too many mishaps from simply reaching for my phone or moving to pet my cat only to look back at my drawing and find unintended pen marks on it.
5. Work in small sections at a time. I’ve found that covering the portion of the drawing that I’m not working on with a piece of paper keeps me from feeling overwhelmed at how much I have to stipple and focused on the portion that I’m working on. Plus the paper keeps the oils from your hand from getting on the drawing.
6. If you get sleepy go to bed or take a nap. Don’t try to push through it. Trust me, stippling while sleepy is a sure way to end up with mistakes.
7. Most importantly….BREATHE…and always keep a charged up mp3 player or iPod loaded with some good music handy.
Here’s a simple visual how-to on color stippling. This works great when your drawing calls for mostly primary colors but when you get into skin tones and the such you need to be a bit more creative when it comes to choosing the colors to create your shadows. When you need for your colors to be deeper, place your dots closer together. When you need for them to be lighter, place them further apart. A rule of thumb is don’t use black otherwise your shadows will look too harsh. Then again, once you get the hang of this, rules can be broken. Other than that have fun and play around with the colors to see what works for you but if you’re looking for a starting point work with primary colors until you get comfortable and then explore from there.