The realistic pen and ink artwork of Sue Pownall portrays the essence of her surroundings as she travels around the world, exploring locations as diverse as the UK, Italy, Qatar, Oman, Sudan, South Korea, and the US (to name just a few!). Sue's perceptive eye captures the nuances of each culture she explores, from the Pharoah statues of Sudan to the stone churches of rural Italy.
Sue's sketchbook is her constant companion on her daily outings as she sketches the details that give each location its particular flavor: the people, architecture, animals, natural scenery, and objects that are part of everyday life. In addition to sketching with pen and ink, Sue often adds watercolor washes to her line work to bring color to her art, such as you see in the artwork to the right.
This fascinating interview provides an inside glimpse into Sue's artistic process. Be sure to click on her drawings so that you can view the amount of detail in her pen and ink artwork up-close.
How long have you been an artist?
I have always drawn since my mum and dad gave me my first crayon and piece of paper, and only once drew on something I shouldn't have - mum's cookbook. I attended art college in Colchester then Plymouth, UK way-back-when and then worked as a graphic designer for about 8 years until I left the formal art world. After that, I continued to sketch and produce the occasional finished artwork in a limited way until September 2009 when I returned to being an artist and illustrator.
How did you learn to draw in pen and ink?
It was at art college that I really focused on drawing with all types of ink pens, but I mainly had to teach myself the techniques through reading art books and emulating artists I liked as the majority of my lecturers were painters. A great influence was a college printing course where I learnt to etch and yearned to be the next Albrecht Dürer. Unfortunately / fortunately I found the process too slow and liked the relative immediacy of drawing with pen & ink better.
What is your favorite subject matter to draw?
I prefer to draw buildings and landscapes for finished pieces of work. However, when I sketch, which I also do in ink or ink and watercolour, I draw people and more buildings.
Do you usually work from a photograph or from real life, or both?
When I sketch it is always from life, for example I draw people at sporting events and cafés, or even my feet when watching TV. However, when I do a finished piece it is generally from a photo that I have taken, although I sometimes have to find reference photos on-line. For the recent exhibition I took part in, I successfully experimented and used one of my sketches along with a photo of the subject. (See artwork below.)
15th Street Mosque, Khartoum. Pen & ink 400x200mm © Sue Pownall 2010.
Click on the artwork above to view a larger version with greater detail.
In the photos below you can see several pen and ink artworks that Sue sketched from life:
Why does pen and ink appeal to you as a fine art medium?
From an early age I was aware of a pen drawing of my grandmother's farm hung in my parents' house and I wanted to be able to copy it. Since then I have enjoyed trying to produce my impression of subjects in a tonal way. Also, I like the fact that once a mark is made there is no going back unlike other mediums where you can just erase or paint a mistake out. Finally, I like the fact that pen and ink is a medium that is neglected and so my work stands out from the sea of colour.
Are there any challenges to working with pen and ink?
As I mentioned in the last question, if you make a mistake with a pen you have to work with it as it is irreversible. You have to incorporate it somehow into the overall image or start again. Also, paper can cause a problem; if it is too porous it drinks up the ink and if it is not smooth enough you cannot get a good line quality.
Do you work in any other media?
Yes I use watercolours, often as line and wash but also alone. Also, just for fun I experiment with acrylics.
What's your favorite brand of pen for creating pen and ink drawings?
I generally use Staedtler Pigment Liners in 0.05 up to 0.5 for finished pieces. For sketching, I prefer the Staedtler 0.1 or any fine pen I can get my hands on.
What brand of watercolors do you use?
Winsor & Newton half-pans in a travel set plus W&N Payne's Grey in a tube.
Do you have any tips for people who would like to learn how to draw in pen and ink?
Practice, practice, practice. Ignore lines that are in the wrong place and work around them. Use drawing tutorials and books to try the different techniques. There are very few workshops given on pen & ink, so it is often a matter of self-study, because of that I am contemplating setting up a workshop either online or for small groups to learn the basics.
Where can people find your pen and ink artwork online?
I blog my sketches and finished work at http://artofanomad.blogspot.com.
I also have a facebook page where people can see my latest work and read my art news.
I am also a member of Urban Sketchers, a blog featuring sketches by various artists that are sketched on location around the world.
Sue is currently accepting commissions, so if you have a photo you would like her to render in pen and ink or pen, ink and wash, send her a message!
Learn more about pen and ink drawings by returning to the Pen and Ink Artwork Main Page. Learn about pen and ink techniques, pen and ink materials, and discover other pen and ink artists!