Posts in Category: Ink

Belva Lockwood

Illustration of Belva Lockwood

Belva Lockwood • 2016 • 10″ x 12.5″

Here’s another piece in the same style as my Edith O’Gorman and the Language of Flowers illustration from last year. Like that one, she came from browsing the Library of Congress archives for interesting people. Again, in the spirit slightly odd vintage photo captions, she was described as “famous lawyer and bicycle rider.”

Belva Lockwood caught my eye because of her serious demeanor and more masculine clothing. She was one the first female lawyers to practice in the US, and the first to appear before the Supreme Court, overcoming “many social and personal restrictions relating to her gender.” She also was the first woman to appear as an official candidate (on printed ballots) as President of the United States, in 1884 and again in 1888 for the National Equal Rights Party. Had this photo been taken a little later, I’m guessing that would have been a more noteworthy description than “bicycle rider”.

For this interpretation using the language of flowers, I’ve adorned her background from bottom to top with the following:

  • Cactus, to represent endurance
  • Palm leaves, to represent victory and success
  • A crown of roses, to represent a reward of merit for her hard work

Waiting & Watching

Waiting & Watching

Waiting & Watching • 11″ x 9″

This chunky wooden frame reminded me of the aesthetic of Bruegel’s earthy illustrations or Goya’s creatures. I felt a gargoyle would suit it, so I found this fellow for a start. I wanted to give it more of a body so after I drew the head I opted to draw its paws, clawed, to echo the fangs.

Once I started filling in more of the body, I thought it really needed something else to balance the picture. A bird! I found a reference photo with just the right expression: mostly clueless, but slightly wary. It was also a nice light touch against the darkness of the gargoyle.

I’ll leave it up to you as to which one is waiting and which one is watching.

Edith O’Gorman and the Language of Flowers

Illustration of Edith O'Gorman

Edith O’Gorman • 10.5″ x 12.5″

I’ve been browsing the Library of Congress archives for interesting things to draw. This 19th century photo by Matthew Brady stood out to me because it was a woman (not too many in the set) with an interesting expression and an even more interesting description: “Edith O’Gorman. Escaped nun from Canada?”

She has a bit of infamy around her story. After serving in a nunnery in Canada, she published a book in 1913 called “The Trials and Persecutions of Miss Edith O’Gorman” detailing stories of terrible treatment. It looks like she spent the rest of her life traveling as a lecturer (adding to an anti-Catholic sentiment stirred up by the press at the time) and avoiding death threats. She appears to have changed her name a couple of times and embellished her Irish heritage a bit along the way. In my cursory research there’s quite the mix of true accounts vs sensationalism, but she clearly riled up people and made herself a prominent figure.

Rather than celebrate or demonize her, I opted to use a period-appropriate technique of representing what I imagine motivated her. The language of flowers was popular in the late 19th century/Victorian era as a discreet way to express feelings. I took a loose interpretation of this with the following:

  • Easter lilies, to represent the influence of her time at the convent
  • Chestnuts, with the meaning “do me justice”
  • Aloe vera, to represent grieving

I’ll definitely do more portraits in this style as I find interesting people in that era.


Escalation • 25.25" x 14.75" • 2015

Escalation • 25.25″ x 14.75″ • 2015

I came across an art show “call for entry” about an upcoming show looking for a range of commentary about guns. There are a lot of potential themes here: power, protection, sport, identity. The one that stuck with me was the use of a gun to amplify expression – specifically to sharpen and escalate an emotion.

The first part is in charcoal: a pointed finger, a direct expression that can still contain a great deal of context and shades of gray. By a subtle change of gesture – invoking a pointed gun – it both heightens the tension and throws a conflict into a stark contrast where fewer options exist. The use of ink also casts it in the light of something that has frozen in its state, a rendering that might be in a newspaper or book.

I came up with the gestures first and took a few reference photos. To get the best contrast, I moved around until I got the light source to the front and top of the pointed finger. I had the idea that the “gun” gesture hand should be more stark in appearance than the other. To figure out how this would look, I made a Photoshop mockup. While doing this I decided to try out different mat colors, and it occurred to me that I could make a custom mat shape too. I started with the standard mat rectangle and added angled edges to show the progression of the escalation.

Creating the charcoal hand was pretty straightforward. Charcoal is (relatively) forgiving: you can build up the shadows, and then pull back in the highlights and lighten areas with an eraser afterward. Ink: not so much. My first attempt was a bit messy, and I realized my reference photo for the gun gesture was a little bigger than the other. I decided to use the first reference photo for all of the hand except the thumb. This helped unify the two tremendously. I also changed my approach to the ink and used a brush pen so I could get more line variety. It took a lot of concentration to work this way, but more care in the linework paid off. Of course…when I cut the mat I realized I’d drawn the ink hand too close to the edge of the paper. To fix this, I cut out the hand and mounted it on a new piece of paper. Ta da!

Reference hand (plus cat)

Reference (plus cat)

Photoshop mockup

Photoshop mockup

Detail of charcoal hand

Detail of charcoal hand

Detail of ink hand

Detail of ink hand

Sketches: Steampunk Katherine

Point • 10 min pose

Point • 10 min pose

This month’s Two Buck Tuesday at Kaleid Gallery in SJ featured an opportunity for figure drawing amongst the regular mix of demonstrations, musicians, and artsy happenings. Since I missed the last two, I was glad to get a chance to go to this one. This evening had a first-time model, Katherine, whom the organizer had spotted at a steampunk convention and invited to model.

I wasn’t in a charcoal mood, so for this evening I used a few new Neuland markers and a basic drawing pad (Strathmore Drawing Medium, 14″x17″). The markers are great! I mostly used the fineOne Outliner (refillable!) and the feel of the nib and quality of the ink made me draw more deliberately with it. I’m very happy with the results and will probably use this from here on out. The highlights on the staff sketch are from the fineOne Brush tip with ink #803, a nice green/brown color that happened to match her fabric. I haven’t sketched much other than foliage with that one, but now that I see it’s a pretty good pairing with the black, I’ll use it with it again.

Bust • 10 min pose

Bust • 10 min pose

Grin • 5 min pose

Grin • 5 min pose

Brown • 20 min pose

Brown • 20 min pose

Staff • 20 min pose

Staff • 20 min pose

Back • 5 min pose

Back • 5 min pose

Stretch • 2 min pose

Stretch • 2 min pose


Inktober week 4: George

Inktober is done, and here’s the last batch of sketches: this time it’s George, age 76. Some of these expressions are very suitable for Halloween! [also see previous Inktober sketches ]

It’s been a fun exercise, though I like having these as pick-up projects rather than forcing a daily schedule. I’ll keep doing this and posting batches as they are ready. It’ll be a good project to have on hand if I’m more in the mood to draw people rather than my current object-sketching project, Undefined Variables.

Yeah, I'm not that thrilled with the straight-ahead shots either


Amused, in that slightly self-conscious way


I imagine him reacting to hearing someone else telling a story here


The word that comes to mind here is "egad!"


A bit unsure, but thinking it over




I'd be wincing too if someone drew my head this funny. Sorry about that


Inktober week 3: Maddie

This week in Inktober is Maddie, age 31. My pen may be running out, so hopefully it will last another two weeks. I realized that I sometimes start making these expressions too while I’m drawing them…which is probably a little odd in public.

Here’s the rest of my Inktober sketches in case you missed previous weeks.

A little too much drawn around the nose here, I think.


One of the best side-view poses for her.


Started paying attention to the unruly parts of the hair on this one; guess it goes with the mood?


Aw yeah.


Been having trouble getting the eye contact right on some of these, but I'm pretty happy with this one.

Not buying it

Another one meriting a bit of unruly hair. Something's about to do down!


Inktober week 2: Michael

For this week of Inktober I’ve been sketching Michael, 23 years old. Last week I decided to go directly to ink, and continued that this week. Like last week, the first one felt a bit awkward and got better with successive expressions. The mustache was a bit too heavy on the first, and I realized I needed to use a lighter mark to make it look right. It was also challenging to draw someone much younger (few creases!) so every mark counted. I finally noticed the small bit of a wave in his hair on the final drawing too.

Lots of stippling with his hairstyle! I enjoy stippling, but it takes a lot of patience. There are so many ways to unintentionally create strange patterns or marks, especially if you rush it. I usually end up blurring my vision a little bit and getting into an almost trancelike state to stipple consistently.

I've been starting with the neutral expressions to get a sense of their overall look.


Good hair on this one, and definitely a better mustache.




The eyes on this one look a little more accurate than on the smiling one.


Woo hoo!


This looks like it's saying "really? This is the one you chose?"


Inktober week 1: Roshan

I’m participating in Inktober, an annual event since 2009 that’s an excuse to practice inking. I decided to practice facial expressions as a counterpoint to my Statement series of paintings.

Here are the rules I’m following: pick one person from the excellent Facial Expressions reference book, and each week, focus only on that person and draw a different expression every day. The book is a wonderful reference of people of a mix of ethnicity, body type, and gender, from 20’s to 80’s.

This week I chose Roshan, a 47-year old woman. I started off by penciling first and then inking. I’d barely started on the eye when I quickly realized that the Uniball Vision I was using put out too much ink for the notebook I’m using (a blank thin-paged paper-cover Moleskine). I switched to a Micron 02 (0.3mm) since the paper is so delicate. It’s much easier to draw creases and wrinkles when drawing with thinner lines overall. It feels slightly like cheating to me because I’ve been drawing with thicker (more unforgiving) lines. I figure if I do this for a while I can get more confident about working back to the thicker lines. I felt like it lost a bit of the expressiveness by drawing it in two stages (pencils & ink) so for the rest I used ink only. Week 1 is done!

A good starter post.


I can imagine the sound she's making here.

Oh boy

This is my favorite one, with the head tilt, wide-eyed, with a tiny bit of a grimace.


A little more subdued, thinking or resting.


Or possibly defiant.

Deep in thought

Getting back to editorial cartooning

The final color version

Nothing like deadlines to get motivated! The Union of Concerned Scientists puts out a calendar every year with editorial cartoons about scientific integrity. I learned about the contest a couple of years ago, and somehow, each year, I let the deadline slip away from me. This year, the day before the deadline I realized it was about to happen again–and it occurred to me that the only way to break this was to treat this with the same urgency as the cartoons I drew for the Mustang Daily.

When I was doing this every day, the absolute fastest I could create a cartoon from start to finish (picking a topic, figuring out what to say, sorting out the layout, pencilling and inking) was an hour. I decided that I’d give myself twenty minutes to think of something to do. If I came up with something decent, I’d see it through. In college I used to run through the AP wire for story ideas; for this, I browsed through the UCS website to get a sense of the topics.

After twenty minutes, I had two ideas very roughly sketched out. Enough to go on! I drew these two cartoons in just under two hours. The siren lobbyists made it to the finals, which means they’ll be in the calendar. Will they end up on the cover? Perhaps, if I get enough votes!

The extent of the planning

A little social media commentary

The finalist!