Paul Hogarth on pen & ink

February 6, 2013


I am finding this book full or surprises. Ostensibly an artist summarising his approach to this medium (he’s written a similar book on pencil),  Paul Hogarth explains in detail thes processes behind his characteristically lively and quirky work.  Every illustration is explained in terms of original size and materials.

I bought this on the back of the connection between a friend of Hogarth’s, Ronald Searle, and the link down the generations between Searle and contemporary New York urban sketcher, Veronica Lawlor. I also found Hogarth’s illustrations of John Betjeman’s book on English churches also illuminating: the mix of vignettes and object drawing with larger watercolour-on-pencil sketches of buildings and rural landscapes. While the book on churches sheds light on Hogarth’s approach to watercolour, Creative Ink Drawing covers a range of interesting, unexpected topics, including:

* dealing with the logistics of on location sketching, especially working “furtively”, out of the range of the subjects;

* the use of multiple pens in any one drawing – it’s almost never about just one pen;

* his explanations about markers;

* moving from pencil to ink, the drive being more commercial in origin than aesthetic or artistic;

* choosing the right medium for the time available when sketching outdoors;

* his use of two sketchbooks – one small for taking colour and composition notes and a larger one for ‘developed’ drawings;

* the importance of the sketchbook in his pen & ink  output.

One expects a strongly English bent in an English illustrator: steel nibs and a Spencerian calligraphic background. What is illuminating his how American architecture changed his style and approach and process: American buildings demanded pen. Using markers to cover large areas are instrumental in his capturing architecture as he, the tourist-artist, quickly moves through a foreign land.

The book remains contemporary despite the references to brand names of pens and other materials long gone.

There are chapters covering all sorts of pens (including bamboo, fountain pens, ballpoints, markers) and some specific chapters give sound, practical advice on particular subjects: drawing people, landscape, architecture, the city and a final chapter on industrial buildings and industrial landscapes.

Urban sketching can often seem to be the province of graphic artists and commercial illustrators, but though sketched in sketchbooks for the most part, his sense of the “finished artwork” is very strong where he often aims for a composite composition (fragments and separate components combined to create an impression or feeling rather than being naturalistically true or realistic in a reportage sense).

Hogarth, Paul. Creative Ink Drawing. New York: Watson-Guptill, 1968. 160 pages. Mainly black-and-white work (some full page to show his use of Chinese brushwork), with a handful of colour illustrations (mainly to show his use of markers).


My pen-and-ink teacher is moving me through the genres! I’ve not tackled a portrait before and was taken by surprise today. With some advance warning, I would have done some practice based on Albert Durer prints, for starters. Never mind! I jumped at the chance to have a go at this on the basis of recent work on the skull and my memories of a FABULOUS portrait of a bearded old-timer in the South Australian Art Gallery by George Lambert.

Having done this to death, I did a quick sketch in pen, continuous line with my left (non-dominant) hand and came up with a much better result:

I baulk at drawing from my imagination. It feels wrong. I’m so used to drawing from reality – whatever that might mean. Ontologically and existentially more correct, more comfortable, truer. I found the advice of last week’s drawing teacher to daydream more particular threatening (!).

Nevertheless, we were given a schematic of perspective at Pen & Ink class today based on a drawing of a pergola with flowering roses, the finished image of which we weren’t shown (in case it would influence us too much).

 Our job was to get something on paper which was perspectivally correct (see my glaring error at right) and later we will add in watercolour washes and penwork. For my contextual landscape of grass, trees, shrubs, I reached for the sketchbook for past landscapes. Thanks goodness for sketchbooks.

Given all the Built Environment sketches I’ve been doing lately, my doing some proper perspective is well overdue. And I need to go back and look at the discussion on Borromini Bear’s weblog as well.

Homework: photocopy your previous Pen & Ink sketches on to watercolour paper and experiment with watercolour washes. Mmmm…….


I’ve been saving up this tiny piece of foil thinking it would make a nice drawing. Currently I’m alternating between Large Objects (requiring a pencil use to sight and measure) and Small Objects (some so small I have to squint to avoid mistakes caused by parallax error) as part of a daily routine of Object Drawing. To explore, line, texture, variety of mark-making, sighted and blind contour, tone: the usual shebang. Without the context of the perforations, the whole doesn’t read easily as a used pill wrapper. I found the expression of tone through pen much more difficult than I expected; I fell into the formula of using contour just for leading edges. It could well become (like my bizarre Scaffolding Double Coupler) material for long studies.

I dedicate this sketch to all the hard-working students in the drawing course,, which I think is in Melbourne. The teacher’s rules for in-class behaviour reminded me of my own teaching days. 

A very very tough week. But when things get tough, the sketchers get sketching (to cope)!

Around the middle of the day, last day of August. Elizabeth Bay marina, looking north over Sydney Harbour from Beare Park.  Quiet in the sunshine, except for Council workers using leaf blowers.

Just after the cold lull which hits Sydney every early Spring – this year, a spot of heavy fog; in the past, fierce winds which blow a lot of flowers off fruit trees affecting the season’s production.

Staedtler Fineliner pen and Winsor & Newtown watercolours.

Having opened the handbound sketchbook with dried specimens, I thought I’d move the focus to the dried seedpods. Here’s my first go: difficult to render in pen and ink because the seedpods are entirely in charcoal greys and browns which are nearly black. But this is, after all, a sketchbook – warts and all!

This first seedpod is a small one; other longer ones show the natural geometry to better effect. More of that anon!

The stylized geometric pattern to the left comes from a Gustav Klimt painting, currently on show in Melbourne. It’s chair upholstery fabric, accompanying the full-length figure.

Staedtler Fineliner pen 01. Drawn from a photograph taken in the early 1990s.

Changes since the 1990s

Replica historical lamp posts have been replaced by standard modern ones, as seen elsewhere in Sydney. The upstairs windows of the former hotel, 28 Harrington Street, now known as the Fine Food & Wine Bar,  have been replaced and remodelled. The jade green tiles below the ground floor windows remain intact; the paint colour scheme also remains the same: salmon pink and mud brown, with ochre, some pale blue and white has been introduced into the mix.

I know that currently the far left (Playfair Street) is occupied by a busy street market most of the time. This is of course Harrington Street, looking south from Argyle Street. It’s almost impossible to overlook the fact when sketching Sydney’s old 19th-century buildings that 20th-century skyscrapers loom large in the background – in this case, Goldfields House and Australia Square. While the hotel on the corner is in the limelight, the NSW Royal Society of Arts & Crafts used to occupy the building further up the road with the four large roof pediments – now the Harbour Rocks Hotel (34 Harrington Street).

1901 photographs

For a 1901 photograph of this view, coincidentally from this vantage point (but excluding the hotel on the corner), see – the photo is held by the NSW State Records Office, Digital ID 4481_a026_000192. The buildings are virtually unchanged; there were no trees in the distance in 1901 and the contemporary replica lightposts are modelled on gas lights, the originals of which can be seen in the 1901 photo. Another photo in the same series, Digital ID 4481_a026_000195 which shows the western side of Harrington Street (not in my drawing at all), shows that the hotel building was in existence in 1901.