Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pen & Ink Faces

This week I continued to give myself a couple of hours a day of drawing time. I concentrated on pen and ink portraits. At first I was sure that I would find it much more difficult than working with pastels, as shape seems easier to me than line, but after a few false starts I got into the swing and really enjoyed myself, drawing about 6 faces each day. With pastels you can keep adding color and changing the position of things. The medium allows a lot of fussing without any damage to the paper or the image. On the other hand, pen and ink is completely unforgiving. A line drawn is a line that remains. I found that the trick for me was that instead of starting with an oval shape for the head, as I usually do, I began with the nose and worked outward in all directions from there, trying to view the face like a map and putting the elements in the right place in relationship to one another. It is a very right-brain kind of exercise, which certainly is a pleasant place to park your brain for awhile. I find I really lose track of time and everything else when I am able to get into that particular mode. It also tends to color the rest of my day in an extremely positive way. I find myself seeing things more vividly.

Here's a sample from each day. I did not sketch the faces first with pencil which means that they felt more direct and came out bolder. I used several different nibs with regular old fashioned pens dipped into ink. Mechanical or technical pens, although much easier to use, do not give the same character to the lines.

You can find the entire series of faces here.


It was an exceptionally lovely week with glorious sunrises every day. I took this photo of the sun just coming up over the hills at 9AM one morning. When I lived in California, I rarely focused on the length of days. Here it is much more dramatic. During the longest days of summer the sun begins to lighten the sky close to 5AM and it isn't completely dark until almost 11PM. These days it's dark until quite late in the morning. One feels much less enthusiasm for getting up early. Sunrise is rarely glimpsed in the summer months, so I do enjoy these shorter days when I can watch the low beams of sunlight cover the landscape in a peach-colored glow. This is the view from my new workstation upstairs. We already note that the sunrise is moving east from its solstice position midway along the ridge line of the house it is just to the left of here.


  1. You're Brilliant Nancy!!!!

    Love the new blog design and love this post. I should try drawing...might find it fun. Go outside my comfort zone a little.

    Hope you and Rick are well and enjoying the winter.

    Janet xox

  2. Thankyou for the tip on beginning with the nose. I have great trouble(lack of practice) with faces and my blind contour is often better than the :good: attempt!
    Must keep at it.Practice, Dinah, practice!

  3. This seems to completly renew your manner. The faces are very differen, big challenge Nancy and wonderful job

  4. These are great Nancy, and I'm with Dinah - it's a great tip, starting with the nose. Sunrise at 9am? I could be up with the birds - perfect!