Pen and Ink Illustration #1

Posted: September 16, 2015 in art, books, e-books
Tags: , , ,

Ink is a terrific medium. The effect lies in the great contrasts. I love seeing the way the image pops out of the paper, the more I work on an image.

I love the traditional style of pen and ink illustrations for inside children’s chapter books. In a perfect world, I’d have filled the book with illustrations. But there wasn’t time.

So, with a nod to the last couple of photo essays I’ve shared on this blog, I thought I would do the same thing again. This time, I share the ‘story’ of creating my pen & ink plate of my protagonist, Aden Weaver, for inside ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta.’


First off, let me make it clear, that the central image of our hero is not my own creation. I am very fortunate to have the artist doing the cover who I always secretly hoped would do the cover – my nephew – the enormously-talented, Simon Kingi.

Once he agreed to do the cover art, I had breathed a sigh of relief, knowing my precious book and characters were in good hands. Right from the first image Simon came up with for the cover, he took my breath away. I won’t share that image yet, as a cover reveal will be in order very soon.


A Photo Essay of illustrating my main character in pen & ink…

I started off by tracing the image drawn by Simon. Pencil on photocopy paper. The face is not as beautiful as the artwork of Simon’s, but it’s the best I could do.

Second attempt on Aden, for b&w illustration0002

Then I gave the picture a border, and I added in a whole lot of punga fronds and ferns. One of the themes in the story is that of Aden being afflicted by nightmares. A recurring dream which haunts him is that there are eyes everywhere in the bushes, people watching him. I added half a dozen sets of eyes to the background.

third attempt Aden illustration0002

At this point, I put the sketch of the image onto a nice thick paper, suited to working with watercolour. You need a nice heavy paper when you’re going to be applying a lot of ink, as a thinner paper won’t handle any working and won’t be able to absorb the excess.


This is the stage I really love – getting to colour in! Colouring books for adults are on the rise in popularity, so they say. Rachel Funk Heller, author of The Writer’s Coloring Book®, says, “As adults, we tend to spend all our time in the Beta range of brain activity, where the analytical mind runs the show. However, getting to spend time back in that Theta/Alpha state, where we are creatively free, is good for us, in terms of relieving stress, and good for us creatively as it slows down the brain and enables us to relax.”

Hence, my belief that painting and illustrating as a change from writing fiction, has been proven to be as good for you as meditation, apparently. According to Rachel, “Meditation does the same thing for us. “A new Harvard study shows that not only does meditation help you feel relaxed, it literally helps to re-build your brain.”

Whatever the reason, once all the work of setting up the image you want to illustrate has been done, then you get to ‘colour it in’ and is undeniably fun.

I gradually build up areas of shadow. When working with pen & ink, you have to think in terms of light and dark, and how to use the shadow to reveal the object. You can’t drag your pen over the paper. If you do, even the strongest paper in the world would find it hard to resist. You need to work delicately and patiently build up the depths of the shadows.

With pen & ink, you can use lines in varying length and spacing, or cross-hatching, or pointillism (though I tend to use the latter sparingly, as putting in all the dots has me seeing spots after a while!) I used to love doing pointillism as a kid in art class, but its too hard on the eyes now.


When it comes to filling in large areas of shadow, you can opt to dab in some black watercolour paint. It’s much easier and no one will know the difference. You really want to go for maximum contrast with your shadows, too, so this will help with that. Then I will go over the paint with a layer of black pen also, to amplify the black further.

The main image is nearly complete. It just needs a little refinement of additional shading via lines. I’ll also wash most of the black paint off the brush and then use just what’s left on the brush to apply a light wash of grey to some areas of shadow. This will add a little variation which is pleasing to the eye.


In the final stage, what we’re seeking is to create that nice, crisp “key line” to the edge of the image. On-line, I would simply “crop” the picture. But, when doing the artwork by hand, I used a good, old-fashioned pair of scissors! I cut the main image out and glued it onto a fresh page.


I threw in a few more pairs of eyes to up the ante a little. I added my signature and copyright symbol with date. Then, I used a pencil to draw delicate detail into the wings which fell outside of the ray of sunlight. And there you have it, the finished ink illustration for inside my soon-to-be-released debut novel, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta’, (due out Sept. 19!) I hope you like it!

illustration, 30002

Keep Creating!

Talk to you soon,

Yvette K. Carol


*”Since our creativity is a gift, we artists are obliged to gift our works back to the gods. Art returned to the source—that’s art done right.” – PJ Reece

  1. What a lot of work it must have been to create the intricate detailing with the under-drawing as well as the inking! Awesome job, Yvette!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      Thanks, Tee! Matter of fact, I did two pen & ink (may put the second up tomorrow). However, I nearly pulled them both out of the book yesterday at the eleventh hour! I just felt that compared to the clear, keen lines of the digital art, that my hand-drawn ink pictures were too shabby. And – horror of horrors – in order to place one of the illustrations opposite a new chapter, the designers had to leave the other side of the illustration blank! So you’re reading along and boom, get a blank page. I didn’t know what to do. The designer came up with the idea of putting my fleur de lis motif on the blank page. So we did do that. And he assured me the ink pics were a nice touch. End result: we left them in. Yet, I woke up this morning at 5 a.m. worrying about that strange blank page with motif before chapter 3…I’m still not sure whether I’ve done the right thing.Time will tell!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll tell you what an art director told me: He didn’t like the clean lines of my digital art. He much preferred the fluid unevenness of my ink drawings. In fact, the gal who won the “best portfolio” award of the NYC SCBWI conference has loose, organic lines. Google Mika Song and you’ll see what I mean. 🙂


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