Pen Control

Today’s pen-and-ink exercises are all about control — of which I have little! We’ve looked at contour lines, parallel lines, and criss-cross lines, and today we’re kicking it up a notch with cross-hatching.

What’s the difference between criss-cross and cross-hatching? Good question. The answer is that word again: CONTROL. With criss-cross lines, maybe it’s all right if our lines are a little bit here, there, and everywhere. With cross-hatching, however, we’re going for precision. The more precise our lines, the better our ink drawings will appear. This is because cross-hatching is used primarily for creating value.

One of the best tutorials I’ve found for cross-hatching information and practices is this one from Shoo Rayner Drawing:

In this video — which is about 6 minutes long — he mentions how easy it is to get bored and start scribbling! He must have been talking directly to me, because that’s exactly what happens when I’m doing pen-and-ink work. I get frustrated. I get impatient. And, yes, I start scribbling! Just look at what happened to that tree I was drawing!

From my Sketchbook

In the video, the instructor also suggests drawing boxes for practice. Mine aren’t very good, but I did try. So, I hatched with lines going across, going up and down, going diagonally in different directions. I chanted pen control…pen control…pen control… and I think it was all good exercise.

And then I found another way to practice pen control… one that allowed me a little more creative freedom and held my interest a bit more. It’s what I’m calling a “Fletcher-Doodle”.

My Unfinished “Fletcher Doodle”

This doodle is not named after Arnold Fletcher, whose oil-painting book has helped me with my art studies, but after Dr. Robert Fletcher, the retinologist my husband visits regularly. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, I must still go with my husband since he’s not allowed to drive after having an eye shot. I can’t accompany him into the office, however. So, I sit in the lobby, sketchbook in hand.

Today seemed like a good time to work on that all-important pen control, and I did it by creating a fanciful little doodle of lines. I don’t think I have any actual cross-hatching here, but the doodle is far from finished. What you’re looking at covers about a third of a page in my 9 x 12 sketchbook. When my husband returns for his next shot — September 28 — I’ll take my Fletcher-Doodle along and add to it.

For what it’s worth, doodling was much more fun than patiently practicing line after line in an exercise book. Either way, though, if we want to become better artists in ink, gaining a bit of pen control is definitely something to work on — or to play with. Take your pick!



    1. Thank you so very much for your kind words. I really don’t have any talent at all for art. šŸ™‚ It’s something I’ve always been interested in, so about 5 years ago I decided I was going to learn to draw. I’ve had to work very hard at it, and I practice my drawing every day. I wish I’d started when I was young. Anyone can learn to draw, so make it part of your daily routine!


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