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The above two paintings were created by my Granddaughter and me this past week. I first learned about this technique by reading Carol King’s post about a new technique she had tried after viewing a video by Karlyn Holman.

This was a fascinating procedure and we will try some more of these. They work well for drawings and wash or finished watercolor paintings. I may even teach this in my beginning drawing classes as those students are always eager to learn something new, as well as the watercolor artists. It is a great technique for studying value and ads some interesting effects to the paper.

We began with an ink drawing, using the “Elegant Writer” calligraphy pen by Speedball. I purchased the finest point I could find. It said it had a 2.0 F tip. We both drew the compositions in light graphite, first, and then traced the lines with the pen.




In the next step, we took a large round watercolor brush (wet) and worked it up next to the inked lines where we wanted to add shadow or a darker value. The ink begins to run and the artist begins to see green and pink tints show up, along with the gray. Once the ink has been wet and dries, it can not be activated again. Understandably, we did not need to touch all the lines because some areas must remain white. Karlyn suggested we spray a fine mist over the entire drawing to set the lines we had not activated. Otherwise, we might activate them when we add color via the watercolor pigments we planned to finish our paintings with. I got a bit carried away with my mister and will need to correct that the next painting I attempt using this technique. Mine ran more than I wanted; BUT!! it did set the line and I had no more running after this. Below is what we came up with after activating the lines, shading our drawings, and setting the remaining lines to preserve the whites:




The rosey or pink color can be enhanced or brought out more by blotting the wet runs of ink with a tissue. The scribbled leaves were wet by flinging water with our brush on the inked scribbles. This prevents the leaves from becoming watery blobs and preserves the textured marks we made with the pen. Karlyn demonstrates all of this in her video.

We allowed that stage of our paintings to dry and then painted our scenes with watercolor.



My nine year old Granddaughter has been painting since she was a toddler. That helps when we work together on projects like this, but she was so intrigued with this technique and wants some of these pens for home. She remained interested in the process throughout. Just saying! If you have young artists at home, this is fun!

Another blogger who is working with this pen right now is Ruth’s Artwork. Click here to see her most recent painting with this technique.


  1. Hi Leslie, these came out fantastic. I liked reading about your process. I think both you and your granddaughter really got the hang of using the Elegant Writer. Your Rhino is beautiful as is Sydney’s landscape. Aren’t these fun to use?

    So glad you gave it a try.

    • I love this technique, Carol. My seven and eight year old Granddaughters will be her next week and I just think they will have fun with it, too! Thank you for sharing the technique on your blog and leaving the video link for me to view. I am always looking for new things to share with my students. I will do more of these so I become comfortable with what it does. Karlyn added salt, but we couldn’t get salt to do anything. I think we were not quick enough and the ink had already begun to set. We did get the blotting with a tissue effect and the flinging water at the leaves. I’m also wondering about dripping and running water through a drawing so the ink runs. Just fascinating, so thank you, so much!

  2. They remind me of stained glass – very interesting technique!

    • That’s a really cool observation, Nicola. I see that, too, now that you have brought it to my attention. There is a lot of linear to these and maybe I can toy around with leaving some of the lines out in spots to relieve some of that effect. Now you have me thinking! Thank you!

  3. How interesting! All your granddaughters are lucky to have you teaching them!

    • We have so much fun when we work on art projects together, Caroline. I was amazed by the art education each of them are receiving in their schools’ art programs. They are well versed in color, value and can even talk about Monet and Van Gogh with me. The last time the girls were here, they asked about these artists and I just happened to have books with their paintings in them and they actually knew some of their famous paintings and asked to see them in the book. Remarkable. It is easy to inspire interest when art is being explored well in their curriculum, also. Thank you for this comment and for following me! 🙂 !

        • Carol cordell
        • Posted July 19, 2015 at 1:15 pm
        • Permalink

        That’s wonderful that they are learning so much at school, also!

  4. Lovely technique – just wondering if I can get these pens in the UK! I am running a pen and wash weekend in the autumn, so will have a go at getting some. Thanks!

  5. What an interesting technique – thanks for sharing. You and your granddaughter made very nice compositions with this technique. I like how you also link to Ruth, who’s tried it out.

    • Take a look at the video by Karlyn Holman. She has this technique mastered and actually demonstrates the different things that can be done with this technique. I am just beginning to experiment with it. I am sure this technique can be used in and throughout paintings where we incorporate other techniques such as collage, wax, and frisket. No boundaries! Thank you, Sand Salt Moon! 🙂

  6. I like these, Leslie. I’m going to have to study your foliage technique. I had trouble with that in my pictures.

    • Hi Ruth,

      I like what you have done with this technique, also! Take a look at that video by Karlyn because she actually demos the flinging of water against the leaf squiggles. Mine got away from me a bit, but my Granddaughter had great success with her foliage, I think. It is fun to explore this technique with you! Thank you! 🙂

  7. The black and white drawings are wonderful too. In fact I like them every step of the way. Fun to have a partner too!

    • I agree with you. These could stand alone as ink and washes and Karlyn mentions that in her video, memadtwo. I want to introduce this technique to my drawings students, as well. Thank you! 🙂 I so enjoy painting with a partner. I learn from seeing what other people do, too!

  8. The togetherness in creativity, that is astounding! Beautiful works with an interesting technique as always!

    • Thank you, Padmaja. Oh yes…. It is so much fun sharing with others. …the girls are at ages that they still appreciate trying new things with Grandma! 🙂

  9. HOly wow! The colors in that rhino painting in particular, just wow! So vibrant and alive. Everything about it is fantastic, that you did it with your granddaughter, the colors that came out when activating the lines and all those different sections of the painting like those brilliant purple trees, the grasses and amazing rhino! The river rocks are very interesting and those more subtle trees are really beautiful too. 😀

    • I thought you might like this technique, Cindy, and be able to incorporate it, somehow, in some of what you do? I don’t know, but you certainly have the expertise to explore the possibilities. Thank you for this comment! 🙂

  10. Love these – that granddaughter of yours certainly has inherited your talent!

    • Oh, thank you for that, designsweet! She can show me a thing or two. She seriously drew her rocks and tree forms from the reference material and then, when she wet the lines and saw what the ink did, the reference went out the window and she created this dreamy misty scene that I thought was totally gorgeous. I learn everytime I watch her create! 🙂

  11. Love it, I think I need that one for my house 🙂

    • Ha! A rhinoceros in your house? That’s a wonderful compliment. Thank you! 🙂

  12. You and Syd are amazing! Love the effect!

  13. I love the mid way stage too. Will have a look at Ruth’s now

    • I do too, outside authority. This would be a neat idea for a sketch book journal type collection of drawings. Thank you! 🙂

  14. These turned out so well! I saw her video, bought the pen, and tried it once but will definitely try it again after this inspiration!

    • I think this is a great tool to have available. It really works well if you want to change up a watercolor a little or just experiment. It is also a great drawing tool and lead up to watercolor. Do give it another go! Thank you! 🙂

  15. How interesting to see what you did with the marker – prior to reading the post I’d assumed that both images were done by you – as they say, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. It’s particularly pleasing to me that you painted a (endangered) Rhinoceros, one of my favourite animals – the pen worked well, accentuating the powerful body. Brilliant work from Sydney too.

    • I didn’t even mention that I looked this rhino up. I did not know that there are five different types of rhinos. This one is the white rhino and the way you tell is the flat lip. The black rhino has a pointed lip. It also has two horns and not all typoes have two horns. Anyway, I thought it was interesting. I also had to change the background because the reference material I had was a rhino in a zoo…. Bummer. Had to change the background, so research on that, too. Thank you, June for my Granddaughter, also. She loves to draw and paint and collage. Everything!

  16. Leslie great technique and super painting by your granddaughter what amazing future she have ahead. Must be great fun as I also enjoy with my grandchildren some time. I am sure we will try it also, thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Oh, I hope you do try this, Doron! It was fun to watch my Granddaughter’s face when she took a wet brush to the lines in her drawing. She even said, “Oh, Grandma, we have to do this again. It is really fun!” Thank you! 🙂

  17. What a great technique! Thank you Leslie.

    • I know, from visiting your blog, that you enjoy drawing media, also. I think you’d enjoy working with this, Susan. Thank you!

  18. Awesome work. Amazing paintings. I did not learn this technique in high school. Tradtional water colors. Keep up the beautiful wprk.

  19. I bought a couple of elegant writers after reading your blog and watching the recommended video. Fantastic – I do a lot of black and white drawings and this just gives an extra dimension – Thank you!

    • Hi Anne,
      Thank you so much for letting me know your blog exists. You do beautiful work.
      I really like the effects of this pen and it is really fun to go back in and add color. I am introducing the technique to both my drawing and watercolor classes this fall. If nothing else, it is a great lead up skill to watercolor as well as a great way to do value studies.

  20. Continuing my revisiting of your past posts, Leslie, I realise it’s you I have to thank for initiating me into the delights of the Elegant Writer! I’ve enthused some of my friends without being able to tell them how I got to know about it. Belated thanks!

    • That Elegant Writer has become a wonderful tool for many this year, I think. One of my fellow artists, here, is using it to do his value studies with. I think that is a great idea. I am introducing it as a drawing tool at the end of my beginning drawing classes. It makes a wonderful transition into watercolor. Thank you, Anne!

  21. I love your work. You took Karlyn’s lessons and took it somewhere new. I teach watercolor classes. One thing I have not yet been able to learn is what type paper works best. The Elegant Writer seems to get stopped up on Arches 140# CP. Is hot press better? Is it the sizing in Arches and another brand is better?

    • I use cold press and rough (Arches). It would work on hot press, too. I usually draw in my composition, lightly, in pencil and then go over it with elegant writer that helps me to deal with the textured surface. It will only run a certain distance on any paper. If I want more shading, I go over it a second time in many of my paintings that I use it for. Here is an example of one that I had to allow to dry and then add more to: I hope that helps. Do you have a wordpress sight, Victoria? Your avatar leads me to facebook and I don’t have access to that. Thank you for your comment and visit!

10 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] I have been spending the week with my three grandgirls again and it has been chock full of summertime fun. We used the rain day to settle in and draw and paint. The above is what they came up with. They each selected a reference they liked from wet canvas reference library and set to work drawing them and then tracing over their lines with the “Elegant Writer” I have been experimenting with. […]

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    […] have also been working on this river scene. This is Elegant Writer and watercolor. The pileated woodpecker was […]

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  7. […] in the landscape and how the artist can control that. The whole class crated paintings using the Elegant Writer for this […]

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