Ballpoint Pen & Watercolor: Imagined Environment

This video shows how to draw an environment from imagination using ballpoint pen and watercolor techniques. Diverse experiences, gathering reference images and objects serve as the inspiration for creating this imaginary environment

Shown is a plein air drawing session on site using soft pastels, a trip to the grocery store to buy unusual looking produce, and finding tiny plants to be references for trees and landscapes.

Demo led by Guest Teaching Artist Julie Benbassat and Teaching Artist Cat Huang.

Video Walkthrough

  • Reference objects for landscapes can be house plants, small succulents, rocks, geodes, branches, mushrooms.
  • Photos of national parks can be good reference photos.
  • Sketching from the reference objects from life as a warm up.
  • Starting thumbnails with the biggest shapes to plan the composition.
  • Diagonals are effective in compositions to show movement.
  • Be aware of the entire composition while sketching thumbnails.
  • You can transform any reference photo into a landscape.
  • Sketching thumbnails to figure out the composition.
  • Watercolor cakes vs. tubes.
  • “Duet” between ballpoint pen and watercolor.

Prof Lieu’s Tips

People often underestimate how much you can learn at the thumbnail sketch stage. I think it’s more common for people to think that the “hard work” all happens with the final artwork, but I don’t think that’s true!

The really fundamental decisions that you make about the artwork happens at the thumbnail sketch stage, so while the thumbnails may not be as glamorous than the final artwork, that is critical work you are doing that affects everything moving forward.


Artists Mentioned

  • José Clemente Orozco
  • Odilon Redon
  • Mark Tansey
  • Aubrey Beardsley
  • Gustave Doré 
  • Peter Paul Rubens
  • Arshile Gorky
  • Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin

Artworks Mentioned

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