Sunday, March 24, 2013

Water, and Water Lily

Water lily ink drawing by Susan Brubaker Knapp
Susan Brubaker Knapp here. My challenge this month was to try to sketch water, another natural surface. The drawing above is about 7.5" x 10", and is based on this photo I took several years ago:

I did this drawing in a small sketchbook I take with me when I travel to teach, and worked on it over the past month. I printed out photographs of things I wanted to sketch, and took them with me so that I could work from them on the go. 

I used crosshatching (lines drawn in at different directions) to get at the ripples in the water, and the changes in value. But I don’t think I captured it. I definitely don’t have the darkest values in yet. 

It is helpful to look at the drawing next to the photograph and examine the differences in value. I am also considering adding color to the ink drawing, and using dark shades of color to increase the values where they are needed in the drawing.

One of the tricks with ink drawings is to use different drawing/shading techniques on things that have different textures. The water was rippled; the flower was velvety. To add shading on the flower, I used dots, which look softer than the crosshatching does on the water.


Here’s a detail shot of the leaves and the stems, which were underwater. It was tricky to make the stems look like they were underwater, and add just enough shadows. 


  1. This is very beautiful with wonderful, careful, patient detail. Just to share a thought: Karlyn Holman (she has a website) used to do a water lily watercolor demonstration. She said her continual struggle had been with the water since in all her photos the water was so dark. This looked great in the photos, but not so in the paintings. Her solution was to change her thinking from what she really saw, and to make the water light and transparent, concentrating on colors and shapes within it, adjusting the values of the lilies and pads accordingly.

  2. Beautiful, Susan! I remember first learning to use cross-hatch and stipple techniques... haven't tried them in years, but they are certainly great ways to add shadow and texture. I like your idea about bringing photos with you to work from. It's nice to have a portable project for when you travel.

  3. Lovely place to begin from! Nicely done!

  4. Hi Susan, you've gotten me thinking about water as a surface -thanks for that stimulation, which I appreciate as a contrast to my usual attention to the aspect of water as transparent depth.

    Instead, to convey water as a surface, it makes sense to play with techniques such as the hatching that you showed us in your sketch... and your dissatisfaction with the hatching also makes sense, as the traditional hatching with straight lines serves so well to show planar surfaces, which isn't what you were going for with this particular water which is rippled, as you spoke to in your posting.

    This got me to playing with curved lines, repeated as ripples, and with cross-marks strategically added so as to show the dimensionality of the ripples... kind of a variation on hatching. Sorry that due to my lack of computer savvy I can't post my sketch for you to comment on, but perhaps you know what I mean, and perhaps you've also been playing with this sort of variation on hatching, as a way to represent the water surface in the photo?

    1. Playing with curvy lines sounds intriguing... maybe I'll try curvy lines in cross hatching, too!

  5. i think this turned out wonderful. thank you for sharing why you used different lines for different parts, that was interesting to consider.

  6. I love this drawing Susan, though I love all of your work! I have an almost identical photo that I might pull out (or actually print out) and try a drawing of. Lovely post!

  7. Wonderful work.
    Best regards!


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