Saturday, August 29, 2009

Plein Air Value Sketches using Grey-scale Markers

Value Sketch using grey-scale markers by Steve Penberthy
I've been experimenting with using grey-scale markers to create value sketches. This isn't a new idea out there in the world of drawing, but I ran across a demonstration in one of my books, "Watercolor Journeys" by Richard Schilling where he uses a two-marker system to create three-value sketches (a middle gray, dark grey, and the white of the paper to make up the three values) which got me started thinking about and using this technique.

Last year, I bought a set of Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen Manga Set. This set contains eight pens (one fine-nib black, one medium-nib black, and six brush pens of varying values of gray). I haven't used this set for much, but thought it would be perfect for the two sketches pictured here. Both of these sketches were done on location, plein-air style. Using the pens is much like watercolor painting: I laid down my lightest values first, then worked from light to dark. My method differs from Schilling's, in that he puts down everything that's in the middle value first, then adds the darks, then adds details with a fine-line pen (whites are planned for ahead and painted around). I find Schilling's method slightly more difficult, but I have followed along with his demonstration in his book to get the feel of it (results not pictured).
Coffee Cartel by Steve Penberthy
Both of these sketches are 6" x 9" (15 x 23 cm) in my Aquabee Super Deluxe 808 sketchbook. I did these two sketches on a heavily overcast day, so I didn't have the opportunity to really render much shadow and light as I would have preferred. However, I felt is was more important to get out there and produce work than wait for perfect weather conditions.


caseytoussaint said...

These are wonderful - I can never do anything I like with those sorts of markers, but now you've inspired me to want to try again!

Steve Penberthy said...

Casey: Glad this inspired you to work with the markers again! You may also want to check out a posting on using color markers for sketching at

Thanks for stopping by!

DrawPaintSTL said...

Beautiful sketches! Lovely to see someone else sketching a location I know so well.

Thanks for the positive feedback too!



quirkyartist said...

What a jolly good idea! Have you also got the book 'Fast Sketching Techniques', where he uses the black of the (big flat graphite) pencil for the dark, the white of the paper for the white, and a paper stump to quickly work up some grey tones. I've had some success with that, but now I'll have to try your method as well.

Krista Meister said...

I have said grey scale markers (Copic and Prismacolor) and even that book. I remember reading about his idea and thought, hmmmm, must try it someday. Glad you did! I like the looseness of the top image very much.

Gabrielle said...

Ooo, I really like these! I know they are "just" value sketches, but I like them as art, too.

Your posts are always so helpful, with tips and good links. Thanks for that!

Ann said...

I really like these sketches too. I have read about using gray markers this way, for value studies, but haven't tried them yet. You have inspired me to give this a try with your wonderful sketches!