Drawing with Black & White Ink – Snow Bird


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Drawing with Black and White Ink

This is a good example of a Pen and Ink Lesson, we’ll take a look at drawing a bird in the snow using a combination of black ink, markers and white ink on gray sketch paper. You’ll learn how to use black and white ink to create strong contrast and a full range of value.

We’ll work from observation, using a photo reference. Here’s a look at the photo reference used for this drawing…

We’ll use technical black drawing pens by Staedtler, white gels pens, a white Posca marker, and a few gray scale alcohol-based markers. Strathmore Toned Gray Sketch Paper is used. We’ll also use an H graphite pencil for sketching the subject.

Sketching the Bird with Graphite

The picture plane measures 8 inches wide and 7 inches tall. I’m using this picture plane to make comparisons with the edges of the picture plane and where the edges of the body of the bird are located. First, I plan out where the top of the head’s going to be located and then, the bottom of the body.

I am starting drawing my basic shapesMaking comparisons between the edges on the picture plane. I can use the information from each shape to compare to ensure accuracy of the shapes that will follow.

Sketching the bird with graphite pencils

Add a Light Underpainting

With our sketch in place, we’re ready to start with our marker applications. We’ll use the marker applications as an underpainting. I start with a 20% gray. It’s barely visible on the surface of the paper, because these two grays are pretty similar. I like to start slowly and gradually darken values.

After our light applications of the 20% warm gray we can switch to 50% warm gray. It’s quite a bit darker and more visible on the surface. We want to be careful, in these early stages, that we don’t get too dark too quickly. We do have the advantage of using the white media that we’ll be applying later in the process, but we still need to work a little cautiously here in the beginning.

Marker applications on the body of the bird

Marks placed over the branch must curve to the shape of the branch. This not only adds value, but also gives us some information about the texture and, most importantly, the shape of this particular section.

Shading and Texture using Pen and Ink on the bird

For now, we’ll go ahead and switch over to our Applications using pen and ink. I used the Staedtler 0.1 Pigment Liner for this entire drawing. Marks flow in the direction that’s consistent with how the small little feathers grow on the head. So it’s very important to think about your directional stroking, especially when you’re using a medium like pen and ink.

Even though pen and ink are considered a more precise technical medium, it is possible to be a bit loose when applying the ink and still come up with a very tight drawing. So don’t be afraid to let your hand be a little bit loose when you’re making these marks. If you overtighten or clinch up a little bit, you’re going to find that your marks are too controlled and your drawing will look lifeless.

Initial pen and ink applications on the body of the bird

In the areas where we see lighter values, we’re going to leave those spaces open for now. We’re going to address those a bit later with the white media, but for now, we’re concentrating on the values that exist on the lower part of the value scale or the darker values.

On the talons, we’ll allow these marks to curve over the curved surface. These are called cross contour linesThey also help to develop the value, while communicating the form and texture. And speaking of the branch, we’ll continue down on the branch, with the pen and ink applications. Here again, I’m adding more variety in my mark, leaving some spaces open, but more importantly, I’m making sure that my directional stroking is flowing over the form of the branch.

Pen and ink applications on the branch and talons of the bird

Add White Ink to the Bird’s Body

Next, we’ll go ahead and move on to our white media. I start by adding the highlights in the eye, and around the beak. There’s also a bit of snow on the beak here as well. At first, this isn’t going to make very much sense in our drawing, but once we get all the other bits of snow in place and all of the light values, it’ll make more sense. You can see the contrast when you first start using the white pen.

We’ll go ahead and start working with the white gel pen into the white or light areas in the body of the bird, and we’ll allow some of the pen and ink applications to show through. Of course, the breast of the bird is where we’re going to see the strongest highlight, since our light source is originating from the left side. So we’re going to have a heavier application on the breast of the bird with the white media.

You’ll notice the white gel pen is not quite as consistent with the mark making as the black ink pens, so you’ll need to keep this in mind, of course. It is sometimes encouraged to have a slightly broken line. This gives the image a more realistic look.

White ink applications on the body of the bird

More Marker

We can easily evaluate the values with a bit of black and white ink. I can see that some grays need to be darker. I then switch to the 70% gray, which is darker. Most of the darker values that I have added at this point are located on the undersides of the lighter values at the top of your head.

We’ll continue with this marker a little bit further down, making some of these areas just slightly darker. Then it’s back with the gel pen, adding a few more highlights.

Making shadows darker with marker on the body of the bird

Then we will switch to the Posca markers and fill in the shapes with snow. Then, we’ll switch back to the pen and ink. We’ll go ahead and fill in some of the areas that got a little bit too light with our applications with the white media.

Adding feathers with pen and ink

Completing the Bird Drawing

We’ll add a bit of shadow to most of the tufts of snow with 50% warm gray. Then we’ll add a bit of 20% warm gray over the top, to create a little bit of a transition.

Now, we’ll add a few last marks here with pen and ink, adding a few bits of information about some of the smaller feathers while darkening some of the values. We’ll do the same with the white gel pen. Once all of the ink has dried completely, we’ll use a kneaded eraser to remove any remaining graphite lines that are still visible.

Completing the drawing of a bird with white and black ink

Drawing a Bird with White and Black Ink – Conclusion

Our drawing is now complete. Here’s a look at the completed drawing…

Pen and Ink drawing of a bird with black and white ink

The combination of white and black ink looks great when the surface has been toned. This method is not recommended when working on white paper. I hope you enjoyed this lesson and that if you followed along with me you were happy with the results.

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