Keeping It Loose

Inktober has been a wonderful way for me to learn more about ink drawing. I am really enjoying it, and I’m almost sad that the month is coming to a close. My thoughts and feelings about ink drawing have changed a lot over the last few weeks, and I’m truly beginning to love it.

Each day, I learn more about inks, about different pens, about different techniques. And one of the most important things I’ve learned through my daily practices is how to relax, let go a bit, and keep my drawings loose.

Today’s Inktober drawing — a stand of white firs — was fun to do. The prompt words — box, squeak, stretch, dark, tree — led me here to this little forest scene:

INktober 26 - Fir (2)
Stand of White Fir — Ink and Water Drawing by Judith Kraus

If I were to draw this in graphite or with a very fine-tipped pen, I would do it much differently. I would show the bark on the trees, the sticks and twigs scattered over the ground, the branches of the trees on the horizon. It might make for a lovely drawing, and one morning I might decide to do it in detail.

But that wasn’t what I wanted to do today. When I looked at the reference photo, I knew I wanted to play with the picture a little bit, to just let go and let the ink create the image. I wanted a loose feeling to the finished drawing, and I had ideas on how I would get the effect I wanted. I’m pleased that it turned out close to the way I’d imagined.

I knew I wanted to use one of my new Elegant Writer pens with water-soluble ink. I first considered just doing it as an ink wash with my black India ink, but I decided against that. I knew I wanted the deep, dark color I would get with the Elegant Writer.

Because I would be using water to paint with the ink, I set my usual sketchbook aside and used a sheet of watercolor paper for this. With graphite, I sketched in a very simple horizon line and made a few marks to indicate the placement of the four trees.

NOTE: I know the rule about using odd numbers of objects in drawings and paintings. I could have drawn three trees or five trees, but… I didn’t. My reference photo shows four trees, and I liked the look of them. I think it’s all right to break rules from time to time, so, yes, I deliberately broke that old rule.

Before I did anything to the trees, I used a paintbrush to very lightly “brush in” a little color for the sky. First, you see, I made a few marks on scrap paper, then applied water over it to get that inky blue.

Next, I inked in the scene using an Elegant Writer with a 3.0 tip. I found I could use the edge for finer lines and the blunt tip for larger marks. I added in a few haphazard lines for the distant trees, and then I had fun going over it with a wet brush, letting the ink run and spread. I liked letting loose and not trying to control what was happening.

Years ago when I first attempted ink drawing, I would never have thought it could actually be fun. To me, that shows that I have grown as I’ve become an artist, and it feels good to create quick little works of art that actually turn out the way I want.


  • Creepy
  • Climb
  • Thunder
  • Coat
  • Tree




    1. Thanks, Liz. I’ve really had fun with Inktober this year. Playing with my “monkey mind” has kept me from getting too serious about what I’m doing. For me, that’s important. Being silly gives me a greater sense of freedom. I can try different things and not worry about making mistakes because it’s all for fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve been following your daily Inktober posts, but have been too busy to check in and respond. I have to say, I think this is one of your best. I think the fact that you had fun with something slightly out of your comfort zone shows. Experimentation is a necessary element in art, no matter how advanced you get; I think that’s where growth and personal style happens. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for following along, and especially for taking time to comment. I appreciate the kind words, and I agree that experimentation is a very helpful thing when it comes to art. I’ve learned a lot from “playing around” this month.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Same here. This is my third year doing Inktober, and I have learned something new about my art every year, but had fun doing it. That’s the whole point of this challenge, so this year I learned 1) It’s okay to make bad art (it’s for your learning experience, not a client). 2) It’s okay to use abstract form if you’re stuck on a prompt. 3) Something is better than nothing. Kind of supports 1&2 in that you’re not going to have the time/patience/skill to turn out realistic masterpieces every day. Yet by the end of the month turning out 31 inky drawings in 31 day IS impressive by any standard. 🙂 Which encourages me to know I can do difficult things. …I will keep following. Good luck with the remaining days!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks so much. Good luck to you, as well. And yes, 31 ink drawings in a month is impressive. It’s important that we realize what we’re actually accomplishing.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The reason your “four trees” composition works is that the eye sees three “forms”, one large (in the foreground), one medium (the two trees on the left) and one small (in the background). And they overlap. If they were all lined up and were all the same size, then yes, you would have had an unsatisfying composition. But this one is fine.

    Liked by 1 person

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