Pen and Ink Drawing Demonstration – Sydney Harbor Bridge and The Rocks

The Rocks is an old part of Sydney near the harbor with great views. I chose this subject for a pen and ink drawing as it featured the Sydney Harbor Bridge rising up out of the buildings in “The Rocks” area below. I have painted this scene a few times, both as a pen and ink artwork and as a watercolor. The Bridge is so impressive dwarfing the buildings below.

Using pen, black ink, and brush allowed me to concentrate solely on the tonal aspects of this scene without having to worry about color. To this extent pen and ink is a great medium for anyone who is having any difficulty differentiating tones. Also being a permanent medium it tends to improve your drawing skills as it forces you to look and observe and measure before you put pen to paper.

Another benefit is it teaches you to leave it alone and not fiddle because there is very little you can do with pen and ink work once you have placed a mark on your paper – this is particularly useful for watercolor artists.

Figure 1: The Rocks, Sydney, pen and ink drawing by Joe Cartwright

Reference photo for pen and ink drawing

The photo I am using for reference was taken from Observatory Hill at Millers Point, just south of The Rocks. It is the location of The Sydney Observatory.

I took this photo quite early one morning when the light was throwing some interesting shadows.

Figure 2: The Rocks, Sydney, from Observatory Hill

Pen and ink materials used

Below is an image of the materials I used for this work.

My basic kit consists of:

Permanent black ink. After it dries it cannot be removed by rewetting.

An old heavy glass candle stick holder to hold my ink. It has a small well which can be covered with masking tape to keep the ink fresh during breaks. Being heavy it is also very hard to knock over!

Various containers to dilute the ink for the creation of different starting tones.

Arches Cold press, 300gsm, watercolor paper for the artwork. I also use a piece of the same paper to test for pigment strength.

A range of old watercolor painting brushes. Do not use your good watercolor brushes as they will be damaged in time by the permanent ink.

A dip pen nib and holder.

Tissues, old towel and fine mist spray bottle.

A cheap plastic pipette for transferring small amounts of water to the various containers. Not really needed as you can do the same with a brush but the pipette is a nice thing to have as you don’t have to clean your brush to pen add more water to your mix.

Figure 3: My pen and ink drawing and painting materials

Detailed drawing of the Harbor Bridge and the buildings

As this scene is quite complex and it is very hard to draw the curves of the Sydney Harbor Bridge freehand and get them to look right I do a preliminary pencil drawing first. I do the drawing on tracing paper so I can transfer it to my watercolor paper very easily once the drawing is right. If you have trouble with the drawing you can use the grid method to help you get the shapes right.

Figure 4: Pencil drawing of Sydney Harbor Bridge and The Rock region

With the pencil drawing done we can now begin the pen and ink work.

Continue to: Pen and ink drawing of Sydney Harbor Bridge