Pencil techniques

Sketching up stories, concepts and designs with  pencil

Pencil drawings and text by Frits Ahlefeldt

I often use pencils to sketch up concepts and ideas, and from time to time I work with pencils in the finished drawings. pencils give a more “unfinished”somehow, like the drawing is something that was made to catch an idea and inspire, more than to be a finished work. 

Story sketching

pencil sketch of a vulture, drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt
Character sketch from a story by Frits Ahlefeldt

Pencil sketching can be used in many ways in stories, from character sketching, to Storyboards, place designs, story-paths, clothes, tools etc. It is a way to visualize and develop both the story-line, the characters and the story map the narrative moves through. Sometimes I also use pencils in cartoons and stories, that are later drawn over with ink and then the pencil erased – but they started out as pencil drawings – especially when drawing up more complex scenes and situations.

Concept sketching

Pencil sketch with watercolor of a backpack with wheels. concept by Frits Ahlefeldt
Concept sketch of self-driving backpack. Concept idea by Frits Ahlefeldt

When I develop ideas, concepts or research designs I sometimes do it in pencil, it is a simple and fast way to think up new understandings of how things might work. Even using an eraser from time to time it is a help to see a certain composition or design.  – combining the pencil with watercolors gives a more finished look.

Visual notes

Moleskine pencil sketch by Frits Ahlefeldt
Logbook sketch from a hike

Drawing fast sketches in notebooks is one of the most classic ways designers, writers, researchers and scientists use pencils. It is fast, can be done everywhere, even on museums that will not accept anything else. And is maybe the quickest way to pin down ideas before they fly away. Both at day, and if you wake up in the middle of the night, or are stopping quick before a bridge on the road.

Examples of some of my pencil drawings

My collection of pencil drawings are one of my collections of different illustration and drawing styles: see the others here: 

Pure watercolor techniques

Ink and watercolor techniques

Ink & Watercolor Techniques

Drawing techniques in ink and watercolor

Text and illustrations by Frits Ahlefeldt

Black ink has a definitive and exact feel to it,. Like it really wants to define things. Very often used in both storytelling and in technical drawings It can be used in various ways, both depending on the tools used ( pens, brushes etc. ) and in how and if colors are added to the final drawing. I most often use ink for cartoons, for drawing up philosophy and for stories to be published in Newspapers and magazines. But I also use it for reportage sketching, live brainstorms and quick logbook notes

Ink in cartoons and stories

Drawing of a man with three eyes reading the odd news
You become what you read – ink and watercolor cartoon by Frits Ahlefeldt

Ink illustrations are the most used expression in graphic novels, storytelling and cartoons, it is easy to read, even in dim light and it is fast and more easy to show face expressions, body movements, speed lines and other things that help tell the story clearly. If used alone the feel get even more graphical and the black and white expression can be used to limit the amount of information to a very strong black and white world, where shadows, lines, patterns and other  non-color related expressions tell the whole story. Some cartoons are made in both colored and black/white version and it shows that the color can often be left out without any lack of meaning. Actually some stories works best in black and white. Others best in color, depending on what the idea, message and feel of the story is

Pens or brushwork

Nietzsche clinging onto a horse running ink illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt
Using brushes the lines of the illustration can change a lot – ink illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt

Cartoons are often made with pens, this gives an exact with of the illustration lines ( often different pens are combined for different width of line) and it makes a few things much easier, like the master cartoonist sketching up in pencil and assistants ink-drawing the story and coloring it, while the master cartoonist, moves on to the next new drawings. But a few legendary cartoonists, like Bill Watterson, ( Calvin and Hobbes) works alone, and do all the work only with brushes. These are much more dynamic with the width and line ever-changing in with, structure, edges and looks.

Technical drawings

Drawing of water running through a time watch mill
A not so technical drawing, I did of the mechanical flow of time

Way back in the days I worked as an architect I used to do a lot of technical design and architectural drawings with ink pens. Drawing designs, sections, floor plans and other technical  visualizations. It is another of the ways ink can be used to create exact lines, that can be used to define everything from gigantic cruise ships to design of the delicate mechanics of Swiss watches

Manuals, diagrams, flowcharts, statistics and scenarios

Drawing of a group of people and users working on screens to construct a trail network
Flow of how a community based trail network can be made and facilitated using digital tools

Another way ink drawings are often used is to show how things can be put together, evolve or flow. There are graphic designers specialized in these fields. Only doing visualizations of how things work. This field is often called information design and used to be done mostly in hand, using ink and watercolor. Today the majority of information visualizations are done with digital drawing tools that can give an even more smooth, easy to read look.

Drawing together with people – live drawing and graphic facilitation

Live drawings from Frits Ahlefeldt
Drawing live is about getting the ideas, thoughts and input from the day, together in a graphic resume

A special way to use ink drawings are live, together with people, or at conference, doing a visual resume or drawing on a gigantic wall of paper. It is a way of using ink drawings that has been growing in popularity for around the last twenty years.

There are a few different ways to do this, but the idea is that the participants after the day will get a drawn resume of all that happened, was developed and agreed about during the day. Like a landscape of understanding, often showing the path of progress as a road, both through the day and – especially at strategy workshops the direction the group should pursue in the future, where they come from and what challenges ( gaps, monsters, competitors ) they will meet along the adventure.

Reportage drawings

Reportage drawing from a pirate like cafe'
Reportage drawing from a place where it would not be wise to take a camera out

Ink is also great when doing live drawings from events, theater plays, courtrooms, street life and other real life situations. the robust, waterproof tools lines of ink can capture action, despair, dreams, relationships and the feel of a place or scene, in unique ways that neither photos or other techniques can’t. More when journalists and others draw up stories instead of filming or photographing them they do not disturb or interrupt the event. in the same way. In a strange way, drawing up a situation is less intrusive than photographing it. It is one of the reasons people can be admitted to draw in a courtroom, but not to take photographs in it.

Even more, when drawing at a place people will often come over, and start to tell stories, relate and also give information or experiences, that would not otherwise be an option. ( like inviting you in to see the building you are drawing and telling you the story about it – can be really fun. )

Logbook and diary notes

Just as the rain started we walked into a small fishing village where the old Inn, was open. My two daughters and I were the only guests there and the owner told us stories about the old inn

Ink is great to do notes and sketches in for a diary, logbook or travel journal. It is a very quick and personal way to remember places and situations and you can twist them for a more personal feel. It is authentic in a special way and has a value that will last for many years. I still have notes from hikes I did more than twenty years ago, and the drawings are as fresh and clear as if I did them yesterday. Great to remember things, not only things that could as well be captured by a camera, but also the things that is harder, like the drawing of how you felt like a fish out of water, or how the atmosphere is on a bridge, a warm summer night

Ink and color illustrations  – all in all

Drawing of people walking along different stories, drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt
Story-lines unfolding in ink and watercolor – illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt

Drawing in ink is one of the oldest and most robust way of graphic storytelling, it has been with us an eternity and is still today a simple, global language all can relate too. When combined with watercolors the expression change a bit, but still it can tell stories as nothing else, even and maybe even more so in a digital context. Compared to photos ink drawings are more personal, if you drank too much coffee, or was very tired, all will show in the lines, as will any mistake and correction you had to make. With ink there are no room for regrets – every correction can be seen ( at least in the originals ) and the papers are easy to keep and the artworks can last for thousand of years, if well protected.

Ink and Watercolor techniques are one of the visual tools and techniques I describe: See some of my descriptions of the other visual techniques I use here:

Watercolor techniques

Pencil techniques ( coming soon ) 

 

Copenhagen Watercolors

Houses and places in Copenhagen in Watercolor

Watercolor paintings by Frits Ahlefeldt

For many years I walked around in Copenhagen painting watercolors of places and houses, learning much about both the city, its people and dynamics of places. Often I sad and talked with people in breaks, listening to stories both from locals and from travelers

I did the paintings in all times of the year, in all kinds of weather and almost always in front of the places I was painting, using only brushes, no ink or pencil, just watercolors, paper and water.

Here are some examples from my years of painting watercolors in Copenhagen:

My watercolor paintings of Copenhagen one by one:

Museum in central Cph. Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Thorvaldsens Museum
Royal Castle Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Rosenborg Castle – Copenhagen
Fishing boat, Newhaven, Copenhagen
Newhaven, Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Boat and yellow house, Nyhavn, Copenhagen
Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Black boats, Nyhavn, Copenhagen
Cafees Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Cafe’ life in Copenhagen
Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Boats and houses, Nyhavn
Nyhavn, ship, Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
White Boat Copenhagen, Newhaven
Blue white Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt, ship in Copenhagen,
Grey day, Newhaven, Copenhagen
Church in Central København, Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Nikolai Church – Copenhagen
Church detail. Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Detail from Church ( Nikolai) in Copenhagen
Church Tower, Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Nikolai church tower, Copenhagen
Cafe by church. Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Cafe’ by Nikolai Church, Copenhagen
Marmor kirken Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Marble church – Copenhagen, watercolor
Kongelige Teater, Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Royal theater, Copenhagen
Old City square with the central church. Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Old City Square, Copenhagen. Denmark
Frelser Church Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Christianshavn, Copenhagen with Frelser Church
Graabrodre torv, Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Small square Copenhagen ( Graabrodre torv)
Gammel torv, København, Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Copenhagen Square
Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt. Strøget, Cafe' Norden
Stroget and Fountain, street life Copenhagen
The Danish Parliament, Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Christiansborg, Parliament. denmark. Copenhagen
Christiansborg, Copenhagen Watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Christiansborg and Channel – Copenhagen Streetscape

All watercolors by Frits Ahlefeldt

Copenhagen Watercolors is one of my watercolor collections – see them all here

Watercolor projects by Frits Ahlefeldt

Watercolor techniques

Watercolor painting – Techniques, use and expressions

Text and watercolors by Frits Ahlefeldt

Pure watercolors are considered one of the most poetic and hard to do of all the visual art forms. In its most basic form, using only transparent watercolors, brushes, water and paper, there is still a lot of things that can accomplished.

Watercolors can be made both very fast, for expressive sketches, or slow and precise for exact documentation – especially through history watercolors have been used to show technical and precise drawings of anything from botanical studies to the most complicated gigantic technical drawings of houses and steam engines.

Combining watercolors with either ink or pencil ( graphic tools) covers much of the foundation of the illustration, concept-sketching and visual storytelling styles used both throughout the world and history, from the earliest cave paintings to the digital revolution of today.  

Watercolor of an orangutan in a suit, artwork by Frits Ahlefeldt
My Watercolor tools – How my desk looks many of my workdays

For more than 30 years watercolors has been a very close friend of mine. Still learning new things about watercolors all the time and it is by far the most difficult drawing technique I have worked with so far. Watercolors are the tool I use on most workdays and in most of my stories, projects and also in most of my jobs ( often in connection with ink or pencil )

Here are some examples from my work with watercolors of used in different situations and for different results:

Five ways watercolors are used:

As illustrations in printed stories

Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt of Blue tribal elephant
Blue Tribal Elephant Blue Watercolor

Watercolors is one of the grand illustration techniques and using only watercolors without ink or pencil can give a very special feel to a book, from the most dreamy to an photo-like exactness

As a concept and design tool for architects and designers

Watercolor painting of an art exhibition
art museum sketch by Frits Ahlefeldt

I received much of my education in watercolor painting the many years I studied architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of fine arts. Watercolors was used in a lot of different connections from showing how the feel would be, to how light would fall through a window, or on location, doing detailed studies of houses or places. Architects used to paint watercolors in a lot of different context and situations. And many of the greatest buildings around us was presented, originally, as watercolor paintings to explain and show the concept and vision – ( That was before digital visualization, screens and 3D techniques took over this world)

In digital media

man standing among framed images
Framed stories in a digital context

A whole new role for watercolors are in digital screen based media, watercolors are one of the most beautiful visual tools you can use. The transparency of the watercolors, where light is reflected by the different layers of colors and from the white of the paper is a very good match for the way screens work, by making light come out and back to the viewer. It might be possible that watercolors can find a new role in digital media

As logbook notes

Watercolor of two kids watching fish, painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Watching fish with my daughters –  Watercolor logbook

Watercolors are easy to carry, small and light and not explosive, so they can be used in many different places, in the landscapes, on the trails, in planes, on ships. They are great for diary and logbook notes, for research studies and for sitting down and relaxing. And watercolor painting can even be used for getting in contact with the locals, as watercolor painting a scene is much less intrusive than taking photos. All you need is a small box of watercolors, a piece of paper or notebook, a small jar of water and some brushes.

And your watercolored impressions, logs and notes will be much more personal and give events, stories and memories their own life.

As fine art

Collection animal in clothes A4 watercolor art prints by Frits Ahlefeldt

The popularity of watercolors as a fine art form come and goes, it had its peak in the end of the romantic period, just before photos came to the stage. Most artist have a high respect for the difficulty of mastering this expression, but few have done it to an almost impossible lightness. Today watercolors are priced much lower than oils and acrylics. And are considered one of the not so fine ( expensive) investments. often selling at half or lover price as a same sized oil or acrylic painting.

I have a collection of my watercolors for sale as fine art originals; see them here:

 FritsAhlefeldt.dk  – Watercolor Originals

Watercolors used in connection with pencil or ink

When combined with pencil, charcoal, ink or other drawing tools and techniques the expression of the watercolors can change a lot. Two examples are the classic concept sketch and the cartoon:

Classic Concept sketch – pencil and watercolor

Click image to see concept illustrations by Frits ahlefeldt
Click image to see my concept illustrations of innovation

Doing concept sketches can not only help one see the idea better, but can also be used to both understand existing designs or present new designs. This style is unique in it’s not so finished look, that helps people understand that it is really a sketch, and not a finalized design or product. Something that can be very important to help people get creative.

Cartoons

Drawing of a small backpacker bull, angry and walking
Angry bull walking illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt

When watercolors are combined with ink sketches you get a very different expression, one that is very easy to read, close to storytelling and most often used in both cartoons, in communication projects, reports and even in clip art. Combining watercolors and ink is a much faster and much easier thing to do. It is a technique where the ink does most of the work and the watercolors are mostly left to fill in the blanks

My collection of watercolor projects:

Elephant Tribal walking, by Frits Ahlefeldt
Walking Tribal Elephant – example from my watercolor elephant collection here ( click image to see my Watercolor elephant collection)

The other day I just realized that I have whole collections of watercolors all in the same style and made at a special time, in a project or connection with stories I wanted to tell for different purposes:  you can see some of them here on my collection of watercolor projects on my site right here:

Watercolor projects by Frits Ahlefeldt

 

Tribal Animals Watercolors

Collection of Frits Ahlefeldt Tribal Animals

My Watercolor paintings of Tribal Animals:

My Tribal Animals Watercolors as individual Watercolor files:

Platypus tribal watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Platypus watercolor side view
Watercolour by Frits Ahlefeldt, of a Platypus with stribes
Platypus watercolor tribal looks
Bear watercolor with Tattoo like markings
Tribal bear side view Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt

illustration in watercolor of buzzard Painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Watercolor of Buzzard, bird of prey
Snail with Tattoo like pattern Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Tribal Snail Watercolor
Snail with Tattoo like pattern Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Tribal snail on green ground
Snail with Tattoo like pattern Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Moving snail watercolor Tribal
Elephant Tribal walking, by Frits Ahlefeldt
Walking Tribal Elephant
Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt of Blue tribal elephant
Blue Tribal Elephant Blue Watercolor
Golden blue elephant with Tattoo like patterns, artwork by Frits Ahlefeldt
Elephant Tribal, side view, watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Watercolour of a dolphin
Dolphin Tribal watercolor
Two Elephants front view, version two. Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Two elephants watercolor
Two Elephants front view, version one. Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Watercolour of two elephants, tribal style
Two Indian elephants standing head to head. Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt of a young Lynx
Young Lynx Watercolor
Lynx watercolor illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt
Lynx watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Tribal octopus creature with blue stripes swimming
Swimming red octopus with tribal stripes
Watercolor of blue striped red octopus creature
Tribal octopus spirit side view. Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Watercolor of an eight armed octopus with tribal stripes
Octopus painting , stripes blue and red version

Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt, Indian elephant with stripes
Indian Elephant with stripes – Watercolor experiment by Frits Ahlefeldt
Woman in a circle, four arms and legs. watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
First watercolor draft, sketching up idea for a “Vitruvian woman
Watercolor of a sea turtle in a circle
Sea Turtle watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Rhino With offspring, watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Rhino watercolour by Frits Ahlefeldt
Indian Rhino Watercolor
Rhino watercolour by Frits Ahlefeldt
Rhino charging Watercolor
Rhino watercolour by Frits Ahlefeldt
Rhino in watercolor sideview

My Tribal Animals Collection is one of my Watercolor collections, see the rest of them here:

All Frits Ahlefeldt Watercolor Collections

Elephants in Watercolor

Collection of elephant watercolors by Frits Ahlefeldt

Watercolor paintings of elephants made in hand by Frits Ahlefeldt, no pencil sketching, just watercolors on paper

Download all the digital files of all my watercolor elephants on Art.FritsAhlefeldt.com

My Elephant Watercolors as individual watercolor files:

Elephant Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Elephant Grey Front view
Elephant Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Charging elephant front view
Elephant group Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Red elephant study by Frits Ahlefeldt
Elephant Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Elephant facing

huge elephant front view watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Grey Blue Elephant Front Facing – watercolor
Elephant Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Elephant sketch
Elephant Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Elephant Watercolor
Elephant standing frong, art by Frits Ahlefeldt
Elephant watercolor, front view
Elephant watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Elephant sideview, young

Front facing green elephant
Large Elephant Tribal Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Elephant Tribal walking, by Frits Ahlefeldt
Walking Tribal Elephant
Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt of Blue tribal elephant
Blue Tribal Elephant Blue Watercolor
Golden blue elephant with Tattoo like patterns, artwork by Frits Ahlefeldt
Elephant Tribal, side view, watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Watercolor of elephant art by Frits Ahlefeldt
Dark young elephant, side view
Watercolor of elephant art by Frits Ahlefeldt
Bluish old elephant Watercolor
Watercolor of elephant art by Frits Ahlefeldt
Reddish Elephant in Watercolor – front view
Elephant in suit watercolor painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
Two Elephants front view, version two. Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Two elephants watercolor
Two Elephants front view, version one. Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Watercolour of two elephants, tribal style
Two Indian elephants standing head to head. Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt
Watercolor of a group of elephants
Elephant group Watercolor

Watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt, Indian elephant with stripes
Indian Elephant with stripes – Watercolor experiment by Frits Ahlefeldt
Watercolur of elephant
Study of large elephant Watercolor