Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolor with Shari Blaukop

Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolor class

I bought this class taught by Shari Blaukopf several months ago, along with her other class “Sketching the City in Pen, Ink & Watercolor”. Watching the classes was inspiring, but also a little intimidating. I kept feeling like I wouldn’t be able to make my sketches look as good as I wanted. And it felt like I would know how to do the techniques just by watching, not necessarily doing them myself. (Wrong!)

But motivated to take my skills up a notch, I finally jumped in and sketched along with her all the way through. And I’m so glad I did! Shari has lots of great tips throughout the class, and actually following along makes things stick better. Instead of completing the lessons as she assigns, I chose to mimic what she’s sketching and painting in class.

In the months since I bought the class, I became more and more drawn to Shari’s style. I particularly like the dappled brush strokes that make her work recognizable, and how her work looks accurately representational yet relaxed and loose. Watching her work and talk her way through her process was very helpful — it took some of the mystery out of it and made it more approachable and methodical than seeming like pure magic. She’s a great instructor!

My sketches

I’m on the hunt for a sketchbook and paper that will work best for me, so these lessons were done on a variety of papers to test things out. The morning sky, neutral sky, and fluffy clouds are on Fabriano Artistico 140lb cold press natural white and the stormy sky is on Fabriano Artistico hot press white (folded from large sheets into journals using these instructions). The Flatirons sketch is in a Stillman & Birn Beta Series sketchbook.

Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolor with Shari Blaukopf - morning sky

Morning sky, with additional textures for trees

Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolor with Shari Blaukopf - neutral sky

Neutral sky with ink and dry brush textures

Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolor with Shari Blaukopf - fluffy clouds

Fluffy clouds with watercolor textures from other lessons

Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolor with Shari Blaukopf - stormy sky

Stormy sky with detailed tree

Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolor with Shari Blaukopf - Flatirons sketch

Thumbnail sketches, value study, and watercolor sketch of the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado

Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolor with Shari Blaukop

I can see that in my main Flatirons project, I went too dark with the first big shapes layer, making the mid tone layers hard to distinguish and the darkest layers too dark and muddied. I’m still working on my techniques for layering color, leaving white areas, and nailing values.

This class is fantastic just to watch Shari work, but even better when you do the exercises yourself. I highly recommend it for developing ink and watercolor sketching skills!

LINKS

TOOLS & SUPPLIES

  • Lamy Safari fountain pen with EF nib
  • Black De Atramentis Document Ink
  • watercolors (mostly Daniel Smith)
  • watercolor brushes (Escoda Versatil travel brushes sizes 4, 6, 8; Master’s Touch round size 24; Princeton Neptune size 10)
  • 5.5×8.5 Stillman & Birn Beta Series sketchbook
  • Fabriano Artistico 140lb cold press watercolor paper in natural white
  • Fabriano Artistico hot press watercolor paper in white
sketchbook - pen and watercolor sketches from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan

Watercolor sketches from Baking Chez Moi

One of the (many) projects I’m working on is to make watercolor sketches from the beautiful, mouth-watering photos in the book Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere by Dorie Greenspan.

Since I love baking, and sometimes struggle with deciding on what to sketch, I thought this would be a great subject. There are a few skills I’d like to improve by doing this project:

  • more accuracy with contour line drawings, without getting bogged down in making it look photo-realistic
  • drawing more quickly
  • getting comfortable adding watercolor wash
  • hand lettering

sketchbook - pen and watercolor sketches from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan

After just a few sketches, I’m finding that this is also a good opportunity to practice painting highlights and glass.

I’ve noticed that with this sketchbook (a Stillman & Birn Alpha Series book), when I apply watercolor washes to one side of the paper, the other side becomes very difficult to draw on. On one hand, I don’t want to leave pages blank, but on the other hand I don’t want to fight with my pens on the paper. I also find myself wanting to primarily draw on the right page rather than the left. I may try just doing a drawing on the right side of the spread, using the left side for little details or quick sketching.

sketchbook - ink and watercolor wash sketch of a vase of flowers

Loose and sketchy watercolor flowers

After watching a recent Draw Tip Tuesday video on pen control, I was inspired to draw a vase of flowers by loosely holding the pen at the end away from the tip.

sketchbook - ink and watercolor wash sketch of a vase of flowers

I started the sketch by roughly doing a single-line contour drawing, lifting the pen only a few times to reset. I knew I was going to go over with a wash of watercolor, so I focused more on suggesting the foliage instead of carefully drawing every item. And instead of obsessing over making the roses look like literal roses, I made swirly ends to suggest the petals.

I’m happily surprised how this loose approach worked! I think the swirly roses read better as roses than when I tried to draw each petal step by step in another sketch.

For the watercolor wash, I also kept it loose and rough. My main goal was to get a good range of greens, from bright yellow-greens to deep brown-greens. I added some splatter to amplify the sketchy quality.

Tools

  • Uniball Vision Fine black ink pen
  • watercolors
  • watercolor brush
  • Pentel Aquash Water Brush
  • stencil brush (for splatter)
Ink and watercolor wash of a binder clip

Simple sketch of a binder clip

While working on my hatching skills, sometimes I draw simple objects that hardly warrant any excitement. But there’s something about this binder clip sketch that I just love. I think it’s the judicious use of watercolor on the shadow areas. I focused the hatching and wash on darker areas, and I think that restraint helps make the sketch more interesting.

This simple object is also good practice for my contour drawing. Instead of doing a pencil sketch first, I went straight for the PITT Artist Pen on this one. I know that when I start with pencil, my drawings can look too measured and not very alive or spontaneous because I get so focused on accuracy.  I’m liking the character that an imperfectly-drawn ink sketch has.

Ink and watercolor wash of a binder clip

ink and watercolor wash - box of colorful macarons

Painting highlights with watercolors

I’m working on finding a good balance of painted areas and unpainted areas with my ink and watercolor sketches. It’s becoming more clear that in order to achieve a sketch that has a fresh and spontaneous quality to it, it takes more white areas than what strictly looks like a highlight.

With this box of macarons drawn from a photo, I kept the bright areas of the macarons unpainted. The liner in the box that they’re packaged in got a very light wash of color in the bright areas.

Another skill I’m working on improving is the shape of color the brush lays down next to the white areas. I feel like I’m getting closer, but the strokes seem a little self-conscious to me.

Another thing I did with this sketch was to paint the darker areas of the macarons with a deeper shade of the color, not a neutral grey as with a drop shadow. I love the way that technique makes the macarons so interesting to look at and dimensional.

ink and watercolor wash - box of colorful macarons

little ink and watercolor sketches of potted succulents

Sketches of potted succulents

During my daily drawing practice I discovered how fun it is draw little sketches of potted succulents, especially with a dip pen. I like using this subject as a way to explore hatching with the dip pen. It has a really satisfying scratching quality on the paper.

desert plant drawings from sketchbook

Adding quick watercolor washes to these little sketches helps them look more fun and colorful.

little ink and watercolor sketches of potted succulents

Tools

  • dip pen with 512 Speedball nib
  • India ink
  • watercolors