Inktober Illustration Top Tips Workshop

On Saturday 28th September I ran a workshop on behalf of the Huguenot Museum in Rochester delivering top tips for creatives wishing to partake in the 2019 Inktober challenge.

Ten students enrolled for the three hour workshop featuring top tips for both illustrators and calligraphers.

The first half of the session was spent looking at several different fountain pen inks and learning how to utilise their chromatic qualities and behaviours on various papers and observing their responses to the addition of household bleach.

Using standard inks including: Parker Quink Black, Diamine Amazing Amethyst, Diamine Earl Grey; and, Noodler’s Rome Burning, the students learned how to create instant stunning watercolour backgrounds for their illustrations.

The second half of the session was more calligraphic based, looking at different mark making tools, Chinese brushes and automatic pens, blending Diamine sheening and shimmer inks together with bleach and Schmincke metal dusts. Some fabulous results created.

So. Before Inktober officially starts, below are some top tips for you:

What is Inktober?
It’s a 31 day challenge to create an illustration a day throughout October using pen and ink and to the share that illustration on the Inktober social media platforms. It’s the largest illustration challenge of its kind. Click for details.

What’s all this about fountain pen ink?
The majority of Inktober illustrations are produced with pen and black ink and to keep it pure are left as such because if one adds colour – paint, pencil crayon, wax crayon, oil pastel, chalks, biro, felt pen etc this is considered mixed media and from a purist point of view doesn’t count! 

Fountain pen inks come in many colours and most certainly do count for Inktober. There are currently 4 types of fountain pen ink: Standard, Sheen, Shimmer and Shading. Some fountain pen inks reveal hidden dramatic visual behaviours when subjected to the effects of water and bleach on different paper surfaces. These effects embrace chromatography, serendipity and alchemy.

Concepts and themes
An idea or visual thread that can link a series of 31 artworks together will help attract audience engagement – a storyline, colour theme, character theme, frame style, illustration style, type style etc. This is also important to consider if you want show the full 31 artworks together.

Composition and execution
Think about the size of your artwork. Can you realistically deliver a larger than A5 artwork every day? What format works best for social media? Square? Put illustrations into frames – vary shapes and sizes – have parts of the illustration breaking out of the frames to add visual dynamism. Use asymmetry NOT symmetry – never place things in the middle and NO halos! Remember the thirds rule! The human eye is always drawn to things that are out of balance. Once the content is in the frame and the layout designed, its time to maximise the elements. Contrast the scale – BIG up things in the foreground, reduce TINY things in the background. Creatively crop – part of a head is often more impactful the a complete one. Depth of field – sharp detail in the foregrounds / out of focus for backgrounds. Variety – zoom in for one frame, zoom out for the next. Vary the visual angles – looking up, looking down, from the side, upside down. Vary line width. Use the magic of fountain pen inks and bleach to enhance your illustration – work positive or negative, use serendipity, sheen, shimmer, shading and mixing! Be creative! Take risks!

Paper surfaces:
Seawhite cartridge paper, Bockingford Watercolour Paper, Tomoe River, Rhodia

Interesting Ink Brands:
Diamine, Nick Stewart (4 colour mix set), Noodler’s, Robert Oster, KWZ, Pilot, Sailor, Troublemaker, Krishna 

Biggest ink samples vial range:
Fountain pen inks:
Ink samples:
Pens, brushes and inks:
Dip pens, brushes and watercolour papers:
Automatic pens:
Cartridge paper and sketchbooks:

Good luck to you all.

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