Friday, May 23, 2014

Bleeding Heart Sketch with Watercolor Calligraphy

Every spring I'm tempted to sketch the bleeding heart plant that grows by our front porch, but I'm usually so busy weeding, pruning, mulching, and planting that I never get around to it. It's easy to feel overwhelmed in the spring with all the yard work and gardening I have to do, but this year I decided I needed to practice what I preach to my students - I needed to just make the time, and DO IT!
Pigma Micron pen & watercolor in 10" x 7" Canson Montval watercolor sketchbook

So I did it!

I decided to keep the design simple. Instead of filling the page, as I usually do, I focused on just one undulating stem with its pretty pink blossoms.

Painting just a few leaves was enough to suggest the rest of the plant.

The lettering was done with a traditional calligraphy nib. I first lightly sketched in a few curving guidelines and roughed in the quote with pencil, to figure out the spacing of the lettering. Then I inked it with a calligraphy pen.

One of my students (and favorite artists!), Sharon Nolin, introduced me to the idea of using watercolor paint in place of ink in a calligraphy pen when adding lettering to a sketchbook page. "Tape" brand nibs work well with this technique because they have a reservoir on top, making it easy to fill with a watercolor brush.  

Just load a brush with paint and dab it into the reservoir. (Sometimes, to start the pen flowing, it seems to help if I wet the underside of the nib with the brush, also.)

I like having the freedom now to coordinate the color of my lettering with the colors in a sketch. Lettering done with a calligraphy pen looks a bit more formal than my usual hand-drawn lettering styles, but I think on this page, it was the perfect choice.


  1. I love how you drew the simple stem arcing across the page. The composition and colors work so well!

  2. Lovely work as always; wonderful tip for lettering with watercolor!

  3. I really like how clean and uncluttered this looks allowing the detail and beautiful colors to come through. The additional of your script is beautiful. Thanks for sharing your technique. I am going to find one of those nibs and give it a try. I enjoy following your page!


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