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This week, my class is working on something rendered with ink and watercolor. They could choose from several different techniques. The above is the one I chose.  I drew the above elephant in graphite, first, and then went back in with india ink and nib, like what is used for calligraphy, and traced over my drawn lines. About every three lines (before the ink dried), I spritzed that area with water (not a squirt but a “spritz”). This causes the ink to creep out into the texture of the paper creating the feathering you see around every line. This does not work on hotpress paper. It requires the use of coldpress and rough papers as their texture is what causes this creeping of ink.  The process is slow and somewhat tedious, but the results are well worth the extra effort.  I usually splatter the surface with some frisket, before I begin, to add some texture and extra effects. I also splattered with some ink to provide more texture. I wait for this to dry completely before painting.

The above is what I came up with.

Other examples of this technique are here and here.


  1. Oh Wow!! I love it, I love it!
    Now I feeling like doing watercolors when I’m suppose to be working with my charcoals. Rules are meant for me to break..
    Excellent work, Leslie!

    • Thank you, so much, Debbie. This is a technique I like as much as I like the masa paper painting. It requires patience and care in the inking phase and a little “letting go” of expectations on exactness, but the results are the reward, I think. Aqain, thank you.

  2. This is brilliant; as always your detail is amazing and I love the colours 🙂

    • Thank you, Littleskew! I tried a new color out with this one called Blue Stone and paired it with Halloween Orange and Naples Yellow.

  3. I love the results. Thanks for sharing the technique. It looks like a fun one to try.

  4. Leslie, I’m speechless over this one. Just don’t know what to say but that this is gorgeous, fascinating and amazing. Are you using pigments that granulate to get more texture (I’m not sure if that’s the word I mean) or more transparent to get lots of flow? You are so inspiring. I wish I could move to where you are teaching classes 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing these expressive techniques. I wouldn’t learn about them otherwise.

    • I did not know what these pigments were going to do but I love that they granulated on this one because it helped with that subtle textured look of an elephant’s skin. I’m kind of a fly by the seat of my pants kind of painter. I think if I stopped to think? I’d get so flustered and the experience might not be as enjoyable. One of the things I like about watercolor is that I don’t always know what I am going to get and I search for those happy accidents that I can use. I always feel like each and every painting tells me where it wants to go. Thank you for the inspiring comment, Nanina. When I first began helping to share my ideas about this medium and how to use it, I became all flustered with the dos and don’ts until I realised that there really aren’t any. There are things we like and things we don’t. We tend to repeat those things we like in our work and toss the rest out. I have to be honest with my students. I wish you and I could paint together, also. This is the next best thing, though, this sharing of ideas. Thank you, so much! 🙂

        • Wayside Artist
        • Posted December 7, 2011 at 7:05 pm
        • Permalink

        What a great reply, Leslie. Knowing that it’s not necessary to think my way through every watercolor painting is liberating and confidence building. Sometimes I get stuck on what I think are “the rules,” and it’s good to learn from other painters and teachers to not worry about that. Paint and see what happens. 😀

      • Exactly, Nanina. I like to call rules “guidelines”. Some of them I’m not so good at. What works for one artist’s hand, may not work for another. I try to be careful when I view another artist’s work; taking from it what I can readily see and being inspired by those things I don’t yet understand about their choice of colors and the way their hand rendered what they created. That is part of what makes art and creating it such a wonderful adventure.

  5. WOW! Color, texture, size all seem to reflect the local of the elephant 🙂

    • It took me the longest time to select these colors. The blue is one called blue stone and I liked what it did with the orange. I agree that the colors and the technique fit this subject. Thank you, sis, for noticing and taking the time to comment. 🙂

  6. Hi, Leslie, while I like the color, I prefer the ink painting, before color added. Just seems to suit the subject – and I LOVE elephants!

    • I like that ghost-like ink drawing, also, Kate. I think I’d call it the “bones” of a painting to come. As a drawing, it seems to stand on its own and hold its weight. I always have a hard time, when my drawings look like finished products, going on to paint. I think the only thing I would have done to the drawing, had I decided to leave it such, would be to give the eye a finished touch and darken that. Thank you for the visit and the comment! 🙂

  7. I love this elephant – both the pen and ink and the watercolored. I am going to try that spritz technique myself. Funny but I never thought of doing that! The watercolor hues are so beautiful. I enjoy working with the nib pens once in a while. They have their own textural effects. I liked the bird too.

    • I picked up this technique from John Lovett’s book, “Getting Started” which is one of my favorites to recommend for my students just starting out. I just took the technique and expanded upon it, Ruth. I would not have thought of doing this, otherwise, either. It took me some time to get the hang of it, so be patient with yourself. See under his jaw and to the front of his trunk where the ink bled? That does happen with this technique, so don’t be too hard on ypourself. I don’t think it detracts from the image or what I was trying to represent. Thank you!

  8. Leslie, I LOVE this. I love working in pen and watercolor, and I’m definitely going to try the spritz technique. Like bigsurkate, I am partial to the black and white version before the color was added, but also love the color. It’s really great to see the potential of both.

    • This would be an awesome technique for you to perfect, Laurie, especially since you like the combinations of ink and watercolor. Like I said to Ruth, above, be patient with yourself. If you master this, it is just one more thing you can use when the right reference material presents itself.

  9. wow… You sure know how to master your skill, it’s beautiful. Love the velvet texture, your patient pay off quite a bit! 🙂

    • Thank you for noticing and mentioning the velvety texture. I noticed it, especially along the ear, Anne. I think it was because I used a more watered down version of the blue stone and the texture of the paper enhanced the effect of the granulation, causing it to look soft like velvet. A true happy accident, but one I won’t forget, I hope! Thank you! 🙂

  10. Brilliant Leslie, one of your best and will remain my favorite!

    • 🙂 I have a feeling the elephant is close to your heart, Padmaja. Thank you for this comment.

  11. Out of this world! I reminds me of the Buffalo that I have hanging on my wall by you. I look at it every day.

    • Hi Jay! The Buffalo was actually my first successful painting using this technique. A couple of them hit the waste can due to ink running everywhere and I learned I had to work more slowly. Thank you!

  12. Absolutely beautiful. Like Wayside Artist, I’m speechless.

  13. I like both the B&W and color versions. I really like the frisket splashes and it looks like you may have scratched out some lines in the eye. I love the blue and the brown together.

    • Thank you, Carol! I like the drawing, also.Sometimes it is so hard to know when to stop. I am glad I went ahead and painted this one, though. I learned a lot about this new color, blue stone, that I purchased. I think I’m going to have to nix a color on my palette that I don’t use so very often and replace it with this blue.

      • Don’t leave me hanging….what’s the color on your palette that you’re going to nix?

      • I’m nixing Periwinkle. I never find occasion to use it so it’s out of here and putting Blue Stone in its place. 🙂

  14. Excellent technique, makes me want to try it! The painting looks amazing! Thanks for sharing.

    • Another technique for your bag of tricks, Sandrine! I think you would have a lot of fun with this and I know you would find more you could do with it. You are so creative. Thank you for the visit and comment!

  15. That’s a technique that has certainly worked amazingly well Leslie, and fits perfectly with the subject you’ve painted…

    • Thank you, Brian. I like playing around with this technique. I have used it for animals. My mind is twisting and turning about trying this technique on something else. Just haven’t taken the plunge, as yet. Think what this might look like used to render some of the masonry on a castle…

  16. I love elephants and this one is just gorgeous. Bravo!!

  17. Leslie, this is fantastic. i love how this turned out and it was good to read your technique but please tell me what frisket is? and do you use a water spray bottle to spray the water in a fine mist? i can’t get over how perfect this technique is for achieving the wonderful skin of the elephant. amazing!

  18. Oh my gosh, Leslie, this is gorgeous! I just love reading your blog and would love to be in your class. The way you keep your art fresh and make a solid effort to keep learning and trying new things is inspiring!

    • Thank you, Beth. Your comment makes me feel so good! That is what I am trying to do. Share these techniques so we all can enjoy using them.
      In a perfect world, I would love to be able to gather and just paint with all my blog friends….. What an awesome gathering of talent that would be. We could garnish all sorts of information from one another, couldn’t we? 🙂

  19. Amazing work, Leslie! Time and again I am staring at my computer in awe at what I see on your blog. I also admire your courage to allow your media do what it would. Seemingly by magic (although I know better) it makes wonders for you! Your way of working – allowing things to happen – is an inspiration for me, for I haven’t learned the courage to relinquish control yet.

    • Don’t you think, for one minute that I don’t sit in “jaw-dropping awe” of what I see when I visit your blog. Your devotion to realism and the hard work you put forth to create and to “see” all that you do. You have described definitions of different forms of realism. I think you bring something extra to your work… paint a story or a feeling and put it across with such reality that you make me believe the story there. So, like you, I come to your work and am inspired by the fact that your realism transcends the lens of a camera. In that, we are most alike, I think. We have different ways of achieving the end result is all. Thank you for this comment. Sometimes I think I explore in art without so much control because the rest of my life demands a certain amount of control. Thank you for the wonderful comment, Alex.

      • I have an idea – let’s start a mutual admiration society 😆 😆 😆

      • I thought that is what we were already doing! Ha! 🙂

      • Yes, but we can make it official… 😀

  20. Hi! So I have to say, when I got the notice of this post I jumped over quickly because I didn’t have time to comment, and I only saw the top picture (the bones of the painting). I think it’s really great and I love the feathering and the subtle gray changes and elephants are awesome, and I meant to come back and comment. (I think December is a busy month for a lot of people!)

    So then, you posted your new one with student work and I thought, honestly I am more interested in Leslie’s work and I think I missed one so I will go back and see, and holy cow, then I finally saw the colored elephant. Astounding, really! Wow, I can’t get over the colors you achieved and how magnificent he looks. You know what it looks like, aside from a really fantastic elephant? Like one of those deep space shots of galaxies and nebulas and things making brilliant swaths of color with tiny dots of thousands of stars. Love it!

    I will make one tiny other comment, and that is that when I click on the image and look at it larger, I can see what you did with the eye and it’s a very interesting effect, but in the smaller version it looks a bit like white paint got accidentally scratched over it. Maybe if it was slightly smoothed out it wouldn’t have that jarring effect. (But like I said, it isn’t the same effect when viewed larger, and also it only matters what you think in the end!)

    To sum up, I totally love it. Probably one of my favorites, and if you had a little Etsy shop I would probably buy a print to hang in my art room/office!

    • Wow.Thank you for this uplifting comment, Cindy! I can see skipping on past and just looking at the top picture when rushing. Makes the surprise even better. I like your idea about the eye. Thank you!!!

  21. I love elephants! And the technique you used was perfect for their rough, nubby skin–excellent!

    • I am in total agreement on using this technique for the skin of an elephant. How would I ever render those feathered lines without a spritz or two? 🙂 Elephants are fun to paint! Thank you, Gayle!

  22. I think this turned out really well. I like the final stage, but I think I like the graphite and ink stage better. This is one of my favorites.

    • A lot of viewers are liking that drawing and ink phase, Yousei. I think I still need to learn when to leave something alone and not go on… This one pushed me toward the palette, though. Perhaps it was the challenge of trying out that new color I used. Thank you!

  23. Oh, Leslie, I am so far behind. Know what? I LOVE the first photo…the elephant at that “suggestive” stage of the process. I really am taken by it!

    • With everyone commenting on the first phase, Amy, I think I’m going to have to set aside my drawings like this a little while longer before plunging into the paint. The drawing has a ghost-like, bare bones sort of feel to it. Maybe more character? Thank you for this input!

  24. As always, your animals are a joy. Lovely texture with this technique, I just wish I could be one of your students.

    • I hope we are each others’ student. I think of you, Keith, when I work in ink. Yours are always such a joy.

      • Leslie, what a wonderful thing to say. Yes! I guess teachers do learn from students as well as the other way around. Lovely.

      • Thank you, Jamie

  25. Am trying to visualize this process. Painstaking it is! Enough I guess that I have the gift of viewing it here. Elephants much loved. Thanks for posting. Love the colors you chose for this, Leslie.

    • This process is more about drawing and getting that where you need it to be. Then you have to decide if you are going to risk it by painting…. Always decisions. Thank you! Elephants are awesome.

  26. I love the spontaneous feeling here. A lot of character. Wonderful. I haven’t created this way for years and this painting is inspiring me to do this again. It is fun.

    • This is fun, isn’t it? Time consuming, but really neat to see the image appear behind all the hairlike feathers of ink, I think. Thank you for this comment. It is a warm feeling to know that something I do might inspire someone else.

  27. elephants embody such radical dignity and yet instill childlike wonder… this one rocks the colors and energy… beautiful.

    • Thank you, JRuth! “rocks the colors and energy” I thank you for that, the words. 🙂

  28. I liked your beginning picture and really enjoyed the final outcome. Excellent and noteworthy!

  29. I have a weakness for elephants that goes back to when I was in a crib, but this one is STUNNING !! Bravo!, Beautiful, powerful !

    • I remember your affection for elephants. I think your elephant might have been one of the first images I viewed on your blog a few years back. Thank you!

  30. Leslie,
    The elephant is wonderful – I love the effects you got using ink and spritzes of water – beautiful, rich, and warm

    • Thank you, Jackie. I would be willing to bet that you could find use for this technique with the ink in your work and even expand upon it! 🙂

  31. WOW!!! i reaaaallyy love it. and special the pelicans on the other page. clolor blending is too good!!! by the way, i am following your blog, but why updates do not come? any idea? i missed a few articles.

    • I don’t know why the updates don’t come, Anindya. It says, my way, that they send them. Have you received them prior to these last few. I save all of youblogger artists on my computer program rather than on my wordpress page designed for that so I don’t understand the subscription workings of wordpress because I do not use that feature. My sister receives notification, though, so I know it works some of the time.
      Thank you for this comment and the one about the pelicans. I love using ink this way.
      Also, I think you are doing some very interesting things with watercolor, your way. Hope others take an opportunity to see the different things you try with this media.

        • Anindya
        • Posted January 7, 2012 at 1:41 pm
        • Permalink

        got update! i guess i did something silly, that’s why i did not receive any information earlier.

      • Thanks for letting me know, Anindya. 🙂

  32. What a creative technique— and it really lends to the texture of your subject. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

7 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. By Great White Pelicans « Leslie White on 16 Dec 2011 at 1:02 am

    […] above painting was accomplished similar to the elephant I posted, recently. I drew the pelicans in graphite and then went back over the drawing by drawing […]

  2. […] have done this type of ink and watercolor before.  You can view one I did with a nib here. I also have worked with an eye dropper here and here. This technique is defintiely not for the […]

  3. […] a gesso juice surface, learned to prepare and paint on masa paper, created a gouache resist, used ink with watercolor in several different ways, and created a watercolor and Citra-solv […]

  4. By Bald Eagle: Ink with Watercolor | Leslie White on 15 May 2015 at 1:34 pm

    […] remainder of the piece with watercolor. It is the same process that I spoke of when I created this elephant. This gives you the idea of how the black and white looks prior to painting. Don’t be too […]

  5. By Ink and Watercolor: Curly Dog | Leslie White on 22 May 2015 at 12:38 pm

    […] frisket and inked lines with a #4 round brush this time, prior to spritzing it with water as in the elephant. After all that dried I washed in the colors. I then removed the friskit and went back in with […]

  6. […] drawing with a nib and spritzing […]

  7. By Student Art: Spring 2017 | Leslie White on 12 May 2017 at 2:39 am

    […] They worked with ink and watercolor and chose all sorts of different techniques with ink. One example using ink might be this technique. They used citrasolv collage and watercolor. They used white gouache to glaze a painting. They did […]

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