Recently I saw a documentary on the artist Maggi Hambling. In one scene she was demonstrating what she does in the studio at the beginning of the day. On a sketchbook page she drew freely in ink, using a dropper.

She was able to create a great variety of marks easily. I have done a lot of work with ink and use an italic nib to create broad and fine lines but this has limitations. Hambling’s approach seemed to offer wider options.

Naturally I gave it a go. Above are some calligraphic doodlings. But having a few watercolours around I was soon adding colour.

On this one above I also sprayed the wet ink with water to create other marks. I used acrylic paint on the one below.

Hambling explained that she might work up these quick drawings into paintings. Unfortunately she didn’t give any examples.

In this one above the brush took over and I finished up with what looks to me like birds in a bush.

I then decided to prepaint the paper and leave to dry before adding the ink. This gave another dimension to the possibilities as you can see above.

Though I must admit I was running out of ideas when I worked on another preprepared sheet.

I have used ink in many life drawing sessions, using a dip pen with an italic nib. It is quite a heady process as once the mark is made it is there for good. I took an old life drawing and copied it to see how the dropper compared to the pen when drawing in a more constrained manner – though I used a brush to add some form to the figure. I must certainly give this a go when life drawing resumes around here.

Other drawings and abstract work are available for sale on my website: grahammcquadefineart.com


  1. i like this idea..what paper are you using? maybe i missed that part.. Some of my friends use Yupo with alcohol inks and the effects are crazy cool..i have used yupo with watercolor and not too great, but really wanna try inks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lovie. I am using traditional papers. I think Yupo is a synthetic paper which is water resistant. Like Maggi Hambling I started out in my sketchbook. Unlike Hambling my paper in the sketchbook was very absorbent and the ink bled onto the opposite side of the page and onto the next page. So I went over to cartridge paper – Winsor and Newton textured paper 150gsm. For the coloured pieces I used my watercolour paper of choice: Arches 140lb not.
      I will try Yupo as a water resistant paper will have very different properties. I am not surprised watercolours are difficult on Yupo paper.

      Liked by 1 person

    • This approach is a well trodden, and bountiful, path. One example is the influence of Jungian psychology on Pollock and other abstract expressionists. These are the early steps used by many artists even today.


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