Looking at a pen and wash artwork doesn’t tell which medium was applied first, the line or the wash. There are those who are puzzled in how to begin. Artists, who work in mixed media, through experience, establish a system of their own. This article is not so much to inform you but to comfort you in the manner you wish to approach pen and wash. Let’s look at some examples.
First, let’s look at artists who begin with pen and ink.
You have two artists; let’s call them Bob and Max. Bob and Max each create a pen and ink drawing. They position all the shapes and forms of their compositions strategically, making sure everything that needs to be said, or shown, is present.
Now this is where there are two schools of thought. To Bob, this is a complete artwork. He would be content if he doesn’t wash it over with watercolor. Once his pen and ink drawing meets his complete satisfaction, Bob applies his watercolor washes with no less attention to detail; of course, his name will be signed at the bottom.
Max views his pen and ink as incomplete and lifeless, and needs to apply his watercolor washes to his black and white composition. He will not stop until his creation is blessed with beautiful washes of colors. Only then will Max call it complete.
As an added difference between these two artists, Bob waits patiently for the ink to dry before applying his washes to the composition with the precision of a surgeon. Max starts immediately applying his washes with little or no worry if the ink has dried. He likes how the diluted ink lines give an added affect. He is a free spirited artist who loves the sense of adventure, combining ink and wash upon each other and let creation take its course.
Now, let’s look at artists who begin with watercolor.
You have another two artists; let’s call them Gilbert and Julio. Gilbert and Julio each create a watercolor painting. They position all the shapes and forms of their composition strategically, making sure everything that need to be said, or shown, is present.
Now this is where there are two schools of thought. To Gilbert, this is a complete artwork. He would be content if he never applies pen and ink lines. Once his watercolor painting meets his complete satisfaction, Gilbert applies his pen and ink marks in a loose manner with no less attention to detail. He allows the remaining composition to the viewer’s imagination. Of course, his name will be signed at the bottom.
Julio views his watercolor as incomplete and lifeless, and needs to apply his pen and ink to every detail of every subject in the painting. He will not stop until his creation is fully illustrated from the abstracts of color shapes and forms. Only then will Julio call it complete.
So how should you begin your pen and wash? You may have noticed some of the paragraphs are slightly similar in structure and words. It is to prove the point, in my view, that it’s all the same. What matters is what satisfies your creative spirit. Enjoy.