The Creative Plan – Inktense Pencils

Like always once that Christmas period hits my timetable goes right out the window. I’m not sure why, my summer breaks are usually very low key affairs. However, there were changes with work that I had to prioritise, then catching up with family and friends, not to mention Chinese New Year came quickly after that.

Now, dare I say it, all is calm… fingers crossed I am now back on track with my Creative Plan. Not that I haven’t been working on it, its just that my weekly turnaround times kept extending themselves.

So instead of uploading one week at a time below are all the remaining exercises in one hit using Inktense pencils.


The First Animals, Franz Marc. Image courtesy of

Franz Marc is a nice pairing with Inktense pencils because his colours were bold and vibrant and for the most part he kept them and his shapes clean. I’m sure he would have loved these pencils.  


With the first mask I stuck to only one colour – Iris Blue for the body and Bright Blue for shadows and definition. 


Initially I was going to rush in and colour all the shapes but my internal warning system told me that might leave them all looking the same, so I only coloured in areas that I felt would help give volume to the mask.

First layer of pencil before applying water

The empty sections were then coloured with pigment I brushed off from the coloured areas which was more of a tint. This was the right decision as that tonal variation gave the illustration a lot more energy and balance. Then to finish it off I went over sections with pencil but didn’t wet it.

Completed drawing
Detail of finished piece


My goal for this one was to build layers with the intention that the first layer would come through as a highlight. I also drew in patterns hoping they would come through as well.

My thumbnail concepts
Transferring them to a larger traceable size

Franz Marc has lots of highlights to accentuate shape using a dark to light to dark burnishing technique. So in this instance I was wanting to manipulate the colour to create highlights and volume.

Blue Horses by Franz Marc. Image courtesy of
First layer of pencils

This medium pulled off so much colour in one go, I had to be careful not to flood the entire area with colour as its hard to remove or dilute it once wet unlike watercolour paints.

So to keep the lighter areas light and darker dark I brushed water from the lightest section into the darkest section. Normally I would do it in the reverse order because the idea is to pull colour out from your source, but due to this medium’s intensity I reversed the process and it was much easier to control.

Wetting the first pencil stage

There were also issues when I started to wet the second layer. I kept pulling off some of the base layer and the two colours were blending, so much so that I was losing some of the pattern work and had to redraw them again.

Adding second layer of pencils with a darker more contrasting colour
Second layer of pencils

To avoid “contaminating” the colours I had to keep wiping and drying my brush clean with each stroke. I also noticed with the smaller sections like the little bells I pulled off the paper with the second layer.

Detail showing second layer of colour blended in

Despite the delicate manoeuvres I was happy with the end piece. The colours were surprisingly so vivid.

Finished piece
Close up of finished piece


The final mask was going to be as realistic as I was capable of creating.

Thumbnail Concept
Developing my idea
First pencils

Again, the vibrancy of Inktense pencils is what really makes this medium so attractive. This one does have more of a colour pencil finish to it, so you might ask why not use colour pencils instead?

Finished piece

Well, the Inktense lead is much softer than traditional colour pencils and being able to build your layers with a brush gets you to the finish line faster and without an enormous amount of physical labour.

Close up of finished piece

There are only two to three layers of blended colours in this, then I went over it with pencil to give the shapes definition and the shadows more volume.

Close up of finished piece


The pieces of music chosen were:
‘Move’ by Miles Davis
‘Kidda’ by Natascha Atlas
‘Aquarium’ by Saint-Saens


To create my ideas the first step was to free-form the creative process. I played each piece of music on a loop and allowed any scribbles, shapes, colours to just happen. It didn’t matter if they weren’t complete ideas or not initially a good fit with the music as long as it was spontaneous and genuine. 

Free-forming to Miles Davis

Admittedly it was really hard to block out any pre-existing imagery or colours that I already associated with these music genres, cultures or artist.

Free-forming with Natascha Atlas

Once I got a feel for what direction I wanted to go with each piece the next stage was to develop it further, keeping in mind that I also wanted to explore the qualities of Inktense pencils.

Free-forming to Saint-Saens


I must confess what limited knowledge I have of 50s and 60s American jazz was enough to infiltrate my ideas. I kept picturing late night city scenes – neon signs, traffic lights, cars honking, bars, clubs, night life.  As the trumpet features heavily in the song (Davis being one of the best in the business) I wanted to incorporate that instrument in some abstract way.

Taking my concept to a finished layout – where you can make out a trumpet shape

Because there are so many layers in this music piece and is saturated with movement and energy I wanted a lot of textures in my drawing.

Creating the first layer
The brushing water over it all
Detail of first layer

The next step was to make it look like a night scene, but this was where I struggled the most. My idea was to “paint” a dark blue wash over all the colourful patterns but once I wetted my second layer, which was a dark blue pencil, it started to pull off not just the colours beneath but the patterns as well.

Finished piece

After ditching that method I had to restrict all the night sky painting to the edges and carefully blend out the blue into the centre of each shape. Thus the final piece wasn’t what I was after and I actually prefer the initial pencil stage more.

Detail showing areas where the water was still pulling off elements from the first layer


This one was tricky. After the layering debacle of the Miles Davis piece I knew my plans for this one wasn’t going to work here, which had a lot of layering.

Plan B – a design that would showcase Inktense pencils

My new idea instead embraced that aspect of Inktense which I guess was my downfall in the last piece. I created a multi-coloured starfish/flower motif and really tightly packed down the colour as much as I could.

First stage

Then I played the song on a loop and let the patterns flow. All the colours came from pulling off or removing it from the starfish.

Finished piece


I wanted this one to be a water saturated drawing, you know, being underwater and all.

Revising my idea

When I was working with watercolour pencils I loved how the pencil shavings bled into the paper and made it soft and blotchy, so tried it in this instance.

However, the results weren’t as effective with Inktense pencils. The shavings just sat there and didn’t really do much at all.

Early stages of drawing

To salvage it I sponged and swiped up as much of the shavings to try and lessen the abrasive texture it created as it was meant to be soft and blurry like deep sea water.

My attempts to try and wipe off the excess shavings

It took several attempts to remove as much of the shavings without breaking down the paper, as you can see I wasn’t that successful. But I was determined to salvage it despite  it taking sooo long and tedious for my temperament.

Detail of shaving

The final drawing was okay but it was hard work, and with hindsight the original concept would have worked better using watercolours or watercolour pencils.

Finished piece
Details of finished piece
Details of finished piece

Project_5_Exercise_5ON LOCATION

I attended an Urban Sketchers Sydney meet at Callan Park, in the inner west suburb of Lilyfield. Shamefully it was the first time I had been there – had passed it many, many times in my life and had heard of it, but never connected the name to the place.

Callan Park

In a very small nutshell – the history of the buildings and site is that in the 1800s it was owned by a mixture of the Crown and private land owners. In that same century, the government ended up buying the private lands and established a mental asylum. Over time it has also acted as a hospital for returning soldiers in the 1900s and a training ground for nurses.

Callan Park

Currently, many of the building from various periods seem abandoned and in need of some TLC. The concern that this land could be sold and turned into yet another wave of high rise apartments on what is prime real estate looms ominously. The possibility that all its history could be wiped away makes it feel like a place in limbo. Hence the need to support groups like Friends of Callan Park.

Callan Park

There are some who have brought life back to Callan Park and called it home – the NSW Writers Centre and the Sydney College of the Arts. Of course they would be creative types!

If you do live in Sydney it is a wonderful place to visit, not even for its historical or artistic value, it has some great picnic spots too!


I had used Inktense pencils many times out on location so made a point of trying to use them differently from how I had previously. But I had no idea how.

Callan Park

The first drawing I tried dry brushing the pigment around. The textured paper was quite abrasive with the pencil so that didn’t make me happy. The result is okay but I thought the colour would come out more so I could manipulate it.

Dry brush technique

The next two drawing were much more exciting for me. Still thinking about how lovely wetting the paper and drawing over it was with watercolour pencils I decided to try it again. This time I kept it simple and stuck to one colour. I also didn’t think too hard about it and just drew.

Callan Park

It was a very warm summer’s day making it a little challenging as the paper kept drying faster than I could use it. That’s why my linework has a lot of variation in tone and texture, which looks really good. It was all done with the one pencil but I got different results based on the wet-dry condition of my paper.

Wet on wet technique

I tried a second one, to make sure it wasn’t just dumb luck and it turned out not too shabby. There isn’t the same kind of depth as the first but that could be down to the colour being a lot brighter.

Callan Park
Wet on wet technique

My next one was braving it with several colours which turned out okay…. Where I was sitting had dappled light making it really hard to see not only my paper clearly but what I was drawing too. My eyes had to constantly readjusting to bright lights and cool shadows then vice versa.

Callan Park
Wet on wet technique

The final one was trying to create a misty, eerie atmosphere using textured paper and a dry brush technique. It kind of worked but fell a little short for me, even though I can’t pinpoint why.

Callan Point
Dry brush technique

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