A Pen and a Water Brush: Pumpkin Tutorial

Artist, Tim Sharman, also known as the proprietor of the Doof Museum, is filling in at school for a few weeks. I found him drawing and painting in the main printshop. Except he was using an inexpensive pen for drawing and a small, pointed brush with plain water for painting. He used the pen for the outlines, and the water, which drew out some of the ink from the penned lines, for the shading. Being obsessed by new processes this week (and always), I had to try. He told me that the pen he was using, a Pilot Precise Rolling Ball, was the only one that worked. Of all the millions of pens I have around the house and studio, that was not one of them. But a Uniball Vision Elite (fine) seemed to do the trick pretty well! And I like my Niji Water Brush, (medium).

Here's a pumpkin, starting with the stem. We're only drawing outer contours and prominent lines. If you can see outlines, you can draw this. If you are drawing from a real pumpkin, try closing one eye to see the contours (this eliminates your depth perception and flattens the image). This is the Uniball Vision Elite (who names these pens?).

The contour drawing is finished. Now, use or imagine a light source.
Begin painting with water.
You can use a regular pointed brush dipped in water or
a small Niji Water Brush, shown.
Start shading the stem, since this will be darkest and you can
pick up some extra ink on the brush to use elsewhere.

Using the brush, you can add more nuanced shading.
If you feel like you want more ink, take the pen and color a small patch (I'm trying to resist a pumpkin patch joke here) on scrap paper, touch the brush in it a few times to pick up the ink, and continue with your picture.
To finish: shade under the pumpkin, so it doesn't look like it is floating.

Because I am too curious and always like an excuse to buy art supplies, I picked up one extra fine black and one fine blue Pilot pen to try. The Pilot is juicier and the ink seems to bleed a little more. But using the extra fine means you have to draw a little smaller to get a good wash effect.

It isn't so obvious in the photos, but 
the black Pilot pen color is cooler, more blue-black;
the Uniball is warmer, more brown-black.
Then there is fine blue, which bleeds quite a bit.
It might work better if the drawing was larger.

Sorry, pumpkin, not your color!
Also found extra fine green, red, and purple; 
they, like me, stay pretty close to home.

Thanks to Tim for introducing me to this technique!


I love this technique. I used it earlier this year, to less effect, with a Papermate pen. It bled very profusely and with less control but I was still enthused by the technique. So thanks for sharing again.