Meet Simon. He’s one of a handful of trees I drew this week.

Initially, I only wanted to draw something in ink and then add a tea wash. In other drawings, the tea wash made the ink brighter, like it was glowing. I wanted to see if I could do it again.

After applying ink, I wasn’t very happy with Simon. The trunk was too thin. The branches seemed too safe, in that they stayed away from each other; there was no interaction. And then, the black of the trunk just stopped at the circle, so that the circle seemed to be doing something I didn’t intend for it to do.**

I immediately drew another tree on another, larger surface. Even while drawing Simon, I was getting ambitious… and a little side-tracked.


The first tree, George, is on the bottom-left. Frank, who I drew on a separate sheet of paper before transferring him to the same surface as George, is on the upper-right. And Don is in the middle. There is a balance I need to find between the trees, which I haven’t yet, so this is as far as I’ve gotten.

Trees Simon 092918

I’m thinking of putting leaves over parts of George, because he has a little too much detail, and I like the bigger moves of Frank and Don; there are fewer lines and you get more cohesiveness. It’s a case of “less is more.”

(The first drawing of Frank is to the right and, below, there are now four trees, but it looks a little crowded.) Trees b

I’ve also transferred George onto a smaller surface and have gone back to my original idea of making a simple ink drawing with a tea wash.

I added some line work to the trunk, to break it up a little, which developed into another motif and its interaction with the branches. So there are the following interactions: the line work (branches vs. trunk, branch vs branch, line of trunk vs. line of trunk), the color distribution of the branches vs the color distribution of the trunk and, overall, the path of the black spaces vs that of the white.

Trees George 093018 d

This is George with about seven washes of tea. I somehow made the wash for the other drawings much darker, a golden brown, but I also made them splotchy. I had to stop adding more washes to George because the bottom edge seemed to be getting darker than the rest of the surface, meaning it was starting to seep into the inside fibers and is on the brink of getting splotchy.

Trees George 093018 d (2)

Here’s George next to a clean surface. It’s about a shade darker.

I got a clean, even wash (finally) by swiping my brush once across the very top edge and working my way down. With each swipe, I cleared the excess tea while applying more. Lines appear when you let the edge of a new wash dry in the middle of the surface, or when you use something to blot out the wash. This sounds obvious… but it took me a while.

** I have since decided that Simon is simply Simon… and I shouldn’t be so judgy. I have also realized that I’ve subconsciously made circles a default motif; if I can’t think of anything to interact with a given motif, like trees, I’ll add circles to represent, in this case, sun light or the circles you might see from staring at the sun directly. It feels very natural, but I’m weary of getting lazy.

Moreover, I don’t think I would be so conscious of this and any decisions regarding circle motifs if it weren’t for this blog… so that’s interesting.


Ink (fine gel pen, black)

Water color paper (Strathmore 400)

Tea (as a wash)


Sirens III

This week, I did another version of Sirens. I had wanted to color this in for a while but wasn’t sure how. I began with a carbon copy, which I didn’t take a picture of, but I think it was fairly close to Sirens II (below).

022810 Sirens II b

Sirens II (2010)

It turned out really well and I was waffling on painting it because since taking the above photo, Sirens II has somehow gotten splattered (2 to 3 pin drops) with water color… aaargh! It would’ve been nice to have a cleaner version, but then again, I was curious to see how this would turn out.

Sirens III 092618 (1)

I began by darkening the thicker graphite lines with Chinese ink (applied with a brush), and then darkened the thinner lines with a fountain pen.

It turned out okay, but the difference between the thicker and thinner lines worked better in graphite, as one was in 9B and the other in HB, so the contrast was more obvious. I also didn’t like how many smudges there were (not very careful while reusing a towel for blotting excess ink), especially at the top where there are few lines and you’re supposed to be getting a sense of emptiness to contrast with what’s below.

Sirens III 092618 (2)

The first sections I filled in were those which I knew I wanted to be the darkest. Starting with a diluted shade gave me some room for making mistakes, and indeed, I changed my mind a number of times on which sections would be darker than other sections. I needed to consider the overall balance of color, the path a given color takes the eye across the surface, and how each color path interacts with another. The more interactions, the more lively it is.

I was happy with the above version, but because I smudged it earlier, I decided to paint in the top section, which made me make two of the sections of the top-left figure the darkest shade; which is a good example of the overall process for coloring this in.

Sirens III 092618 (3)
Sirens III (2018), 18″ x 24,” Ink on paper 

I know it’s weird that I comment on myself, like I’m observing myself in the third person, but hindsight is often better than foresight. Speaking of which, I can appreciate, in hindsight, my foresight to not let the smudges influence me in prematurely coloring in the top section.

In order to mask the smudges well enough, I had to give it a fairly dark wash, and going as dark as I did would’ve made me begin with an undiluted shade so that I would have had no room to make the mistakes I’d made.


Water color paper (Strathmore 400)



Circles II

Circles 090318.jpg
Circles II 090418, 12″ x 18,” Water color and Chinese ink on paper 

More practice with water colors. In my previous post, I had said I had in mind a more opaque application. I was thinking of Chinese ink but wanted to see if the water colors could do the same thing. They couldn’t. So this time, I actually used Chinese ink as a contrast to the water colors, while keeping the water colors light and airy.

I drew most of the lines in one sitting, but worked on filling in the shapes over several days, making sure I didn’t rush the decisions for which colors I would use and where. It’s a good exercise when you’re using the same set of forms, like a language. It becomes an exercise in how these forms can interact with each other and how to fill up the space given.

I wanted to rely on lines as little as possible, because this was an exercise on what water colors (and hence shapes filled in) can do and not lines. I was thinking of Miro’s Woman Encircled By the Flight of a Bird (1941) and other works, and began by doing some automatic drawing. The flow of the lines was its key feature, so the challenge (and the main idea) would be to express the play of lines from the interaction of shapes.

In the end, I couldn’t let go of all the lines. If I used more shapes to show the presence of a line, I could add too many shapes and make the drawing feel congested. But if I simply erased the straggling lines, it would cut the flow of some of the shapes too soon.


Water color paper (Strathmore 400)

Water colors (Roel, Acuarelas Italianas)


Chinese ink



Experimenting with water colors. Below is an exercise in choosing colors and how to fill up space.

Circles 082918

I’m also getting acquainted with the materials. I used dry water colors, but I think I prefer the liquid kind in tubes. Once I learned to get the right consistency, I realized that no matter what the ratio is of water to paint, I wouldn’t be able to make it look good if it was applied on too thickly.

In my head, I wanted the color to be vibrant and opaque, like ink, but it looked caked on and over-worked.

Circles b 082518
Circles 082718, 12″ x 18,” Water color on paper 

The blue circles were given one or two applications and even look pretty, while the red circles on the right were given five or six applications. Eventually, I washed off the excess red but it still looks comparatively dull and plain.


Water color paper (Strathmore 400)

Water color (Roel, Acuarelas Italianas)

Coffee as a base wash