Sometimes we have limited options in the choice of art supplies at hand. It might be only a bottle of ink and one thin nib for a highly-detailed drawing with a variety of lines. Is a limitation like this a challenge, or a creative opportunity to develop artistic mastery? I’m going to show you how captivating it can be to draw with only one tool, and the boundless opportunities it reveals.
In today’s tutorial I’ll be drawing a natural composition containing various textures. For the central element I’ve chosen a snail because it's a very interesting object for exploring textures. Other elements are organic too; it’s a mossy surface and a twig with several leaves. I suggest that you consider this drawing an exercise in exploring texture, not just an ink sketch of a snail in a forest.
What You Will Need
- Pencil (HB or B type)
- Paper (I use coated glossy paper for the ink drawings)
- Thin-pointed nib on a nibholder
- Bottle of liquid black ink
- Paper napkin (for cleaning your nib)
- A small container for water (for wiping the nib)
1. Drawing a Pencil Sketch
This tutorial contains two parts, pencil and ink. Each of them can be completed separately, creating drawings in two different techniques. You can also follow through the pencil part and start working directly on the ink drawing if you’re confident in your skills.
The pencil part is very important for building a well-balanced composition, understanding the objects’ construction, and being able to analyse the textures.
For the first step, I just draw two simple rectangular shapes. In the first one will be placed the round shell form, and the second is for snail’s body.
I draw the contour of the snail. The shell has a spiral pattern with delicate relief, and the body is formed from soft, rounded lines. The head of the snail has two long, thin tentacles with eyes at the top.
To make the composition more interesting, I place a twig with leaves behind the snail. To balance the big, heavy shell, I need to fill in and strengthen the space of the drawing that is before the snail. I put three leaves close to each other there.
I also mark a small hill for the snail to move down. It will create movement and dynamism.
I draw the mossy texture. There's no need to draw every small detail, because the difference in the density of the hatching will create an illusion of high detailing. I use three types of hatching here: single wavy strokes, groups of several very short hatches, and a spacious hatching to emphasize shady areas.
A combination of various hatches allows you to achieve a uniform look. To make it more interesting and diverse, I add a small stone shape.
I proceed to the snail's shell. With round strokes I mark the volume of the shell, and add one more layer of hatching at the sides of the shell curls.
I also make the contour of the shell thicker and darker, because the shell is a substantial object in this drawing, and it should attract attention.
The body of the snail is textured and divided into segments. The segments on the body can be divided into three categories. The upper segments are elongated and thin. The second group is small, and contains small round elements. The third type of pattern is created by relatively big elements, close to a rectangle in shape.
The upper part of the snail catches the light, so it should be lighter than the bottom part of the body.
I make the small hollows between the segments on the body darker, so the pattern is more visible.
I add hatching to the leaves and twig, accenting the shady areas.
2. Drawing an Ink Artwork
I trace the main contours to the clean sheet of copy paper.
I prepare for inking my artwork, and I need to test my nib. It will allow me to control and feel it better in the next steps.
I draw lines with varying pressure and from different angles. If I press really hard, the stroke is thick. If I barely touch the paper, the line is thin. I also practice dotwork. Dots are sensitive to pressure too. It's very important to feel and remember this connection of your actions and the result on the paper.
I start with dots in the mossy hill area. This area will be dark because of the shadow beneath the snail's body. The closer the dots are to each other, the darker this spot looks. It's also possible to vary the size of the dots by pressing harder or lighter on the nib.
I mark small hollows between the segments on the snail's body, using dots.
I draw rounded lines to reveal the pattern on the shell. The lines are organic, so they shouldn't be perfectly even and equal.
I add one more layer of thin strokes between the existing ones, so the shell is more three-dimensional now.
I outline the twig and leaves. By pressing harder on the nib, I make the contour relatively thick.
With delicate dotwork I expand the texture of the moss downwards. The bottom border of the surface is rounded and blurry, and it helps in creating a soft and balanced look for the drawing in general.
I add a layer of dots to the lower part of the snail's body. The shady areas become darker, and the segments get a delicate texture.
I continue working on the snail's body. Dots are perfect for this kind of texture, because they allow you to create any pattern without harshness.
I create the texture of small round segments and mark the pattern of the upper elongated segments.
The very top part of the body remains almost untouched, and now I add a layer of accurate dots there.
I make the side part of the shell spiral darker, using thin, rounded lines. The central part of the spiral needs to remain light, because it helps to create volume in the drawing.
The shell isn't so solid yet, and that's why I add one more layer of thin hatches and dots. These elements fill the white gaps on the paper.
The snail still hasn't got its "horns". The tentacles on the snail's head have a subtle texture, and I use dots to depict it. I press harder with the nib when I draw the contours, so the line becomes thicker.
I draw simple parallel hatches on the leaves and the twig. The hatches are emphasizing dark areas and allude to the soft movement of the leaves.
The strokes on the twig don't have the same length, because the texture of wood implies some irregularity.
I add dots to the leaves and more hatches to the twig. Cross-hatching is a great way to create the texture of a solid object.
I return to the moss under the snail. Groups of short hatches help me to create tangible texture and depth of shadows.
I evaluate my drawing. The snail needs more small details, so I add more dots to its lower part and to the dark areas of the shell.
I add more small details to the moss with thin strokes and dots.
I create delicate local cross-hatching on the shell. The shell looks more natural now.
The twig with leaves looks too distracting. With delicate, thin hatching I make them a little bit darker, so they recede to the sidelines.
Your Artwork Is Complete
Congratulations, the drawing is complete! Working with different textures, especially when you have limited options in the art medium, can be tricky. I hope that the process of creating this drawing step by step made it clear that you can successfully draw objects of any texture. I wish you all the best in mastering the ink technique!
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