Pen & Ink Wash Illustration

Teaching Artist Alex Rowe shows how to brainstorm, research, sketch, and complete an illustration based on a historical event from the colonial era in America. Alex talks about how to come up with an idea for an illustration.

He takes a trip to the library to research a story about sheep in colonial America. Another trip to Drumlin Farm in Massachusetts to draw sheep on site.

Then Alex demonstrates how to visualize the illustration by creating a series of thumbnail sketches.

Pen & Ink Wash Illustration

Alex discusses the technical aspects of how to clean and draw with a Rapidograph pen, as well as techniques for creating a wide range of grey tones using brush techniques with ink wash.

In the process of creating the final illustration Alex shows step by step how to use the Rapidograph pen and ink wash together.

Video Walkthrough

  • Choosing a story from history for inspiration for an illustration
  • Researching the historical story with a library visit.
  • Visiting a farm to draw pencil sketches of sheep from life.
  • Creating thumbnail sketches to plan out the composition.
  • Advantages of the Rapidograph Pen.
  • Refilling & cleaning Rapidograph Pens.
  • Mixing gradients with India ink
  • Testing out ink gradients before starting the final illustration
  • Using artist’s tape & a plastic triangle to measure the artwork’s edges.
  • Demonstration of ink bleeds
  • Lightly erasing the pencil sketch before starting the ink work
  • Considering lighting in the artwork

Prof Lieu’s Tips

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I find that the idea or thumbnail I choose to follow through on is sometimes a matter of timing. I have ideas that I think are terrific, but that I never come back to.

Sketchbook, Alex Rowe

I’ve also had ideas that needed to “marinate” for a while, sometimes for years! Then you find the moment in time for that idea to blossom into a full fledged artwork.

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