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Water-Soluble sketching with Private Reserve Inks

November 12, 2013

The other day I was substitute teaching for Max Douglas’ Dynamic Drawing class. They’ve been focusing on sketching the figure in motion, which is always a favorite sport of mine. But as I’m currently teaching a watercolor course (Taking sign up’s here!) I thought I’d stay on theme and have them sketching the model with water-soluble ink line and clear water washes.

The washable properties of fountain pen ink are a useful  half-step between drawing and painting. A nice transition for a person who is more of a linear sketcher, but wants a taste of painting.


It happens I’d just received a shipment of fountain pen ink samples from Private Reserve Ink. I was inquiring if they had any charts of which colors washed best, and they very generously offered me a chance to test a range of colors. Good timing for the students as I was able to give out some small testers to try in class. My quick experiments the night before showed they have excellent ‘release’ even after the ink is dry to the touch, making them ideal for line and wash.


Private Reserve offers an interesting selection of colors. I’m particularly partial to Vampire Red and their somewhat electric Daphne Blue. I’m quite sure these colors are not light fast over the long term, but if you are sketching for pleasure, or for reproduction/illustration rather than the gallery wall, that’s not a problem. Even so, any color fading that might occur will only serve to create an ‘old-masters’ drawing :)


Over our one night workshop I had people sketch fast poses with some disposable ballpoints that happen to be water-soluble – just to get them thinking about sketching shadow masses as ‘internal contours’ which they will melt with water.


Following this warmup we moved to the pen and spotting darks with the fountain ink – which we turned into paintings simply by melting with clear water. I can’t get enough of this magic trick.


Then adding in a third value with black Pentel Pocket Brushes. I’d have recommended the Kuretake #13 (first tests here) which has washable ink cartridges, but I couldn’t expect people to be ordering those pens on short notice.


I encourage anyone who wants to transition from figure drawing into painting from life to try out this exercise.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 13, 2013 5:38 am

    Great results with the fountain pen ink washes. Sketching people in motion is always a challenge. These wonderful drawings are an inspiration.

  2. Annie Hsu permalink
    November 14, 2013 11:54 am

    Hi Marc! Do you have any other recommendations for water soluble pens? Your post really inspires me to try them out.

  3. October 23, 2014 1:38 am

    Marco, great work. Let me know if your interested in doing a feature?

  4. August 25, 2015 11:06 pm

    How do I import Firefox bookmarks and other settings from one user account to another?

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