Vincent Van Gogh and Reed Pen Mark Making. Artist Research.

People won’t know this but I am an experienced watercolour painter and user of anything inky !! Well that just means I have a Reed Pen or two and just love to play around with it. A Reed Pen is just a piece of bamboo that has been shaped to a point or flat edge and once dipped in ink makes wonderful fluid marks.

Reed Pen and Acrylic Ink
Reed Pen and Acrylic Ink

Van Gogh was an expert with a Reed Pen, here are two samples of his expressive drawing. My favourite is the Sailing Boats drawing, the use of wavy lines and short dashes to explain the sea in wonderful. His use of thick and thin marks gives the water a choppy feel, with the sky’s movement just written as closed and open lines.

Sailing Boats Ink drawing with Reed Pen 1888
Lane at Les Saintes-Maries Ink drawing with Reed Pen 1888

The lane at Les Saintes-Maries is wonderful too, with it’s dotty path and woolly bushes and plants at the side. Van Gogh has used short marks to draw the roofs and followed their shape. And I just love the quick scribble for the wood smoke from the chimneys. He has also shown us one point perspective as the path runs off into the distance.

I’m adding two of Van Gogh’s paintings, as he continues his mark making in paint. The shoes on the floor look organic, well worn and so alive. The lines at the side of the shoe give it a feeling that it was just ‘dropped’ there on the floor, as bit like a cartoon line to show movement.

Shoes. 1888
Pears 1888

I love these pears just piled up. Each one looks ready to eat. His use of emotional lines and shading really do create the form of the pears, in such a way that you want to touch them. His composition is that of a triangle shape as the pears seem to rise to a point. Plus the back ground lines are drawn upwards, as if it was the back of a tree and the base is expressed as short lines.

Here’s my practice sheet on making marks with a Reed Pen and Acrylic ink. I’m just playing around.

Mark Making like Van Gogh using a Reed Pen and Ink.

Odilon Redon. Artist research. Part 1. Form and gesture.

Odilon Redon (1840-1916)  French artist who was a print maker, painter, drawing ‘noirs’, pastelist, and draughtsman.

Post- Impressionism and symbolism.

I chose one of his charcoal drawings; ‘Armor’ 1891, charcoal and conte crayon.



This drawing is very dark, Redon has used charcoal to maximum effect to create deep areas of black tone to make this ‘woman’ look covered up in a balaclava style headgear. I think it may be a woman, as the eye has a female feel, ‘she’ has been drawn with long eyelashes and has a gentle nose. But it could be a man. ‘Her’ face is a bright feature in this drawing. You can just make out how the charcoal and conte pencil marks are drawn around the head, they have a spiky and fuzzy feel. You cannot see any emotion on her face, but I get the feeling she is hiding. The background is also shaded quite dark, but not totally as you can see the structure of her head and neck. Her shoulders are expressed with cross hatched line and deep scribbling. This drawing gives me a sense of fear, evasion and something unspoken, I mean the ‘woman’ seems to be gagged by the headgear. A tat creepy, but I like it.

I understand Redon was influenced by Hindu and Buddist religion and his worked can be described as ‘a synthesis of nightmares and dreams’. He seems to explore his imagination and internal feelings, you can see this in his charcoal drawings. His later work shows lots of colour described in pastel and they are of flowers and still life subjects.

His work reminds me, or has echos of the writings of the psychoanalyst Carl Jung.

Joan Jonas and Picasso at the Tate Modern June 2018

This month I went to see the exhibitions at the Tate Modern, The EY  Exhibition Picasso 1932, Joan Jonas and Shape of Light. I was interested in Picasso and Joan Jonas as they both practice drawing and mark making in their art. Both explore emotions and story telling using a multidisciplinary approach too.


Picasso’s drawing practice was varied as it showed his work in different forms, such as on paper, on collage and in print. He drew with free flowing movements, portraying work on large and small images. Also, on close up inspection of his sculptures you can see the mark of the artist. I was interested in his use of composition, line, tone, shape, pattern and form. One room had many of his ink drawings, which showed rich light and dark tones.


Joan Jonas was inspiring too, her drawing appears on stones, chalk boards, large sheets of paper, sand, objects and her body. She uses her drawing in relation to video performance with reference to fairy tales and stories. I like the way she used long sticks with chalk for drawing and a reed pen and ink for sketching. In fact her drawing appears on walls and canvases too. Her drawing methods are quick, short marks that are a response to the performance she is engaged in. Animals, birds and fish feature highly as images. Jonas holds the paper against her body and face to draw, she even has actors drawing next to her in a ritualistic way.

I would be interested in exploring some of Jonas’s techniques, particularly using video/film to record the movements and physical actions of drawing.