Exercise 5a: Line and other marks

Draw lots of 5cm squares in your sketchbook.  Using pencil & pens, and charcoal or graphite, practise several different marks in each square.  Think about intensity, texture, smoothness, pattern, length, & repetition.  Try using different marks & hand holds as often as you can.

Materials used for this exercise:

Cartridge paper 170gsm, watercolour paper 300gsm, rollerball pens, calligraphy ink, waterproof ink, italic nib dip pen, fine nib dip pen, felt tips, 2B & 9B graphite sticks, graphite pencil, water-soluble coloured pencils, wax crayon, 6B pencil, 3H pencil, thin willow charcoal, card (to ‘draw’ with), brush, water, fingers.


  1. A rhythmic pattern in Uni-Ball fine pen – dots, continuous line, and pattern.
  2. Black calligraphy ink dropped into pattern ‘drawn’ with water.  The wet edges were pulled outwards using the edge of an off-cut of card.  Really liked this!
  3. Black calligraphy ink drawn with italic nib dip pen.  Additional lines drawn in Indian Red calligraphy ink using a fine nib dip pen.  Enjoyed the flexibility of the dip pen nibs – the line changing depending on the pressure applied.
  4. Graphite pencil zig-zags drawn with pencil almost on its side.  Like the ‘shadowing’.
  5. Viridian waterproof ink painted over white wax crayon jagged line.  Effect could be described as ‘subtle’ at best, dull at worst.
  6. Caran D’Ache water-soluble coloured pencils used to draw chaotic swirls.  Overlaid with random squiggles drawn with Uni-Pin 0.1 rollerball pen.
  7. Broken line drawn using graphite pencil.  Quite liked the negative space this created. Maybe pursue further?
  8. Overlapping lines in felt tip pen, following pattern by James Siena (Emma Dexter, Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing, Phaidon Press, 2005, p.293).  Interesting effect – could see it proving useful in drawing tangles of branches, perhaps?  The strongly contrasting colours give it a particular vibrancy.
  9. ‘Woven’ pattern made by using a 6B pencil almost horizontally.  Like the slightly rough texture, and the way the lines fade from dark to light.
  10. Pattern lightly stippled in sepia calligraphy ink using fine nib dip pen on 300gsm paper.  Vaguely stem-like and path-like patterns.
  11. Jagged lines and ‘chain’ effect in 3H pencil, felt tip, & 0.1 Uni-Pin rollerball pen.  Inspired by Ryoko Aoki, (Emma Dexter, Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing, Phaidon Press, 2005, p.18).  I find this an interesting mix of lines and was surprised at how much I liked the combination of the pencil and pens used.
  12. Thin willow charcoal lines drawn with the charcoal on it’s side, dragged and rolled.  Good ‘shadowing’.
  13. Black calligraphy ink dropped from brush on to 300gsm paper and then held up to allow it to drip.  Strangely sculptural forms.
  14. Spiral drawn with 3H pencil almost on it’s side, held at the top.  Outlined with same pencil.  Quite a 3D effect.
  15. Used Lyra 9B graphite stick to draw hatched lines across randomly laid off-cuts of paper.  This technique created interesting negative space.
  16. Caran D’Ache colour pencils in fluid red lines (path or river?), surrounded by green lines (grass?).  Shorter broken lines to create a feeling of distance… possibly.
  17. Yellow ochre calligraphy ink ‘drawn’ on 300gsm paper with edge of card off-cut.  Dragging it across the square resulted in broken lines that displayed a fairly dramatic change in colour intensity… almost appearing to change colour.
  18. Swirling and broken lines drawn using Lyra 2B & 9B graphite sticks, then painted over with water.
  19. Scribbled lines in Caran D’Ache colour pencils, then washed over with water.  Dropped black calligraphy ink into this, but it absorbed too much (probably because it was on 170gsm instead of watercolour paper).
  20. Indian Red calligraphy ink lines drawn vertically with brush, and then dragged horizontally using my finger.  These shapes were then outlined loosely with fine nib dip pen and sepia ink.  Like the slight roughness where the ink started to run out as I drew it with my finger.
  21. Broken and curved lines drawn using graphite pencil and Caran D’Ache colour pencils at varying pressure.  Feeling of movement created by directional curves.
  22. Square of intricate patterns inspired by Ernesto Caivano (Emma Dexter, Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing, Phaidon Press, 2005, p.52-55).  Felt tips plus Uni-Pin 0.1 rollerball pen created circles, squiggles, radiating lines, bands, dots, jagged lines, spirals, and geometrical leaf-like shapes.
  23. Fluid overlapping looped lines drawn with thin willow charcoal using graduated pressure.
  24. Lines of varying widths, to create tone and shape, drawn with Uni-Ball fine pen.

Tools I enjoyed most:

  • ink & water – wonderful fluidity and variety of line
  • using card or paper to ‘draw’
  • dip pens – for their flexibility and variety
  • pencil (both ordinary & graphite) – capable of good range of textures and lines
  • felt tips (surprisingly to me)

Best tools for different marks:

  • light marks – fine dip pen & ink, fine rollerball pens
  • heavy marks – ink & brush
  • assertive – graphite/pencils held on their side, thicker rollerball pens
  • tentative – fine dip pen (especially when stippled)
  • fluent – ink, pencils & graphite
  • continuous – charcoal, ink
  • broken – ink on brush or finger, masking
  • dotted – ink & dip pen
  • expressive – charcoal, ink

Clearly, I’m an ink lover.  Not seduced by colour pencils just yet, though…