Sketchbook Practice : Using Pens to Explore Negative Space | Ohn Mar Win | Skillshare

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Sketchbook Practice : Using Pens to Explore Negative Space

teacher avatar Ohn Mar Win, Illustrator Artist Educator

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Class Introduction


    • 2.

      Materials and reference


    • 3.

      Some examples


    • 4.

      Posca pen with Fruit


    • 5.

      Pens with Florals


    • 6.

      Final thoughts and Homework


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About This Class

In this class you will be creating an interesting, vibrant painted and textural 'ground' - the surface that our image will sit on. Then using a white Posca pen ( or white gouache ) we will be blocking out fruit 'shapes' and then adding small college details that will really enhance the look of your piece. The results will be super!

Further on we will explore a floral theme using posca and gel pens, where we will be mindful of the negative space between flowers to create a balanced composition. 

This class will be a fun exercise and would be suitable for all. Be open to explore this theme further perhaps with examples beyond what I have thought of ! I can't wait to see what you create.

PLEASE PLEASE USE THE HASHTAG #ohnmarskillshare when posting on Instagram. Due to amount of followers I have I might not catch your post in time if you just 'tag' my name 


Meet Your Teacher

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Ohn Mar Win

Illustrator Artist Educator

Top Teacher

Hello I'm Ohn Mar a UK based artist, illustrator author with a long and varied 20 year career. 

I am a great advocate of sketchbooks having filled over 30+, which each serving as a record of my creative journey as a self-taught watercolourist for the last 7 years. They have helped capture my explorations in texture, line and tone as I extend my knowledge with this medium.  I also share process videos and sketchbook tours on my YouTube channel - please subscribe! 



Filling my sketchbooks remains a constant in my life,  and furthermore inspiring many folks to pick up a paintbrush. Oftentimes these sketch explorations provide the basis for classes here on Skil... See full profile

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1. Class Introduction: Hello, I'm [inaudible] and I'm an illustrator and service designer and in this class I'm going to take you through a really fun, that simple technique that's going to create some terrific results. We're going to lay down a color ground and have some texture running through it. Then we're going to introduce the Tosca Pen, we're going to block out silhouettes of shapes and then transform them into some fun fruit with just a touch of collage for contrast and then later on we're going to be using gel pens and Tosca to create some simple but effective florals. Please join me for this class because we are going to have so much fun. 2. Materials and reference: These are the two Posca pen sets that I own. These is a 12 color set, which has got slightly thin nib and this is a thicker pen set, and it comes in a variety of colors. They're part of the same family that produce Uni-Ball pens. I'm just going to quickly show you what they do. These are the two pens sets that I've got side by side, its the thin version, and that's the more thicker bullet nib version. Both pens, you have to give it a shake and you might have to press down a bit like this to get the paint going. It does give a lovely, almost solid white line, but it is slightly opaque as well. This pen is permanent on poorer surfaces like paper, but isn't permanent on things like glass or plastic and it's water-based and it's safe to use by kids as well, my little one. My daughter uses it. This is the thick one. You can see it is marginally thicker and I like to make marks like this with a thick one, and dots, and dashes. With both, you can get a degree of precision and you use it like you would like a felt tip, but what comes out is paint basically. You can go over it if you've got other Posca markers, it'd be better if I let that dry, but I'll just show you it goes over that and the colors white mix, but it is much better if I were to let it dry. If you don't have any white Posca's white goulash or any other colored goulash would work fine. Later on in class, we're going to use some gel pens and please don't be put off by the fact that I use uni-ball, just whatever gel pens that you have, any colors that you've got, if I can get a gel pen in luminous orange by Staedtler, I'm not saying that they do do that, I will use it. This one is from Muji and this is a pink one because there weren't any pink uni-ball pens that I liked. I just mix and match here and I expect you can do the same. Also for this class, I'm going to be using a variety of brushes, but please don't feel pressured to go out and buy brushes like these, is literally just the creating texture. This is for spreading the paint or ink on very quickly and a wide area and this is just literally for color. This is like my kid's paintbrush and is just purely for texture. I'm either going to be using rolled-up tissue to get ink off the page. For this one, I'm going to be introducing a little bit of acrylic and some acrylic ink as well, just prefer the sheer vibrancy of it, you can use watercolors. In various pages of my sketchbook, I do use water colors with this technique. But just to show you the pop when I apply the Posca, this is going to just make it so vibrant. I've just gone on to Google and typed in fruit and veg to call up an image search just to show you the variety of colors we've got within the fruit and vegetable kingdom. Look at that. You can have all manner of variety of colors like tomatoes, peppers. Within the orange section, we've got clementines, pineapples, various chili peppers, and in the yellow, bananas and star fruit, and going through from green, and then blues, and then purple's with red onions and plum. I really want you to explore which colors appeal to you and what you think you might want to do as a fruit or vegetable for this technique because you can create some amazing fine print results. Look at how bright these are. I really want you to have fun. 3. Some examples : Now I want to show you a close-up of this example here, where I've laid on the red ground. You can see some of the texture coming through here where I've put on a bit of orange as well as red or magenta and I've applied the posca. Then on a separate sheet of paper, I've put green paint down, again I've just added a bit of texture through that green paint, and then cut out stork shapes, and then simply glued it onto the strawberries. But I'll take you through the whole process later. In this example, we've sliced in whole lemons. I did actually start using white goulash, which works just as well if you apply it with a thin paint brush. In this one, I started using the white gel pen, but then in between some of the blossoms, I added the thick white posca to give a negative effect. In this example, I used green paint in between the outlines of the leaves to give again, a negative feel. 4. Posca pen with Fruit : So in my palette here, I'm going to be mixing up a lot of yellow paint using just a really big brush. It doesn't have to be in any standard. This is just to add that little bit more vibrancy. I'm going to add a few drops of that yellow acrylic. Then I'm going to start applying it to my sketch book. We're literally just going to slap it on. I'm also going to be dropping on straight onto the paint, a bit of yellow ocher acrylic ink as well and mixing that in. You can see the paint's just spreading and just apply it really quickly. Don't think about it too much. We're going to do some fun stuff with it now. Now that you've applied it, just don't worry too much. Also, I'll be using the tissue. You can just see some little effects coming through. While it's wet, I'm going to add just a hint of orange, just so that there's lots of contrast. There we go. This is really random. Please don't overthink it at this stage. It really doesn't matter. You just want it to be as interesting as possible. I might just dab a bit off. I've got too much orange here. I'm just going to wipe that off using the tissue because the contrast is being lost. I'm just going to re-apply the yellow. There we go. I'm just going to let it dry now. While that is drying, we're just going to make up a bit of green on just plain cartridge paper, and we're going to use this for the stalk, so just slap on the paint. Try to vary the greens by using different mixtures of yellow and blue. If you've got concentrated watercolors, use those, because this is going to be perfect, because it's going to really look vibrant against the yellow. You don't need very much, because we only need about five or six stalks, and that would do. Over here we have the very dry page that we painted earlier. Now we're going to add the outline of lemons. One thing you have to bear in mind is because we're going to add stalks and leaves to the leaf space, that we're going to make something that's going to look good on this page. So please look at your reference and I've got mine here. So first of all, I'm going to draw the outline of my first lemon. I'm going to do another one here. I think, at a slightly different angle. But I'm going to add the stalks here, so I'm going to draw the bulk of it here. One thing you have to also bear in mind is you don't want to be adding too much white Posca, because what you want is the color that you've just created, this vibrant yellow to show through as much as possible. So I'm just going to carry on over the rest of the page, adding the outlines of my lemons. When you're drawing the outline of your fruit, do take into consideration where the stalks are going to go and if they make a pleasing arrangement. You don't want to be leaving too much space around each fruit because you want the yellow to show through, because that's the statement for the fruit, what's what characterizes it, so be aware of that. Now, we're going to color it in. I'm just looking to see because we need to think about the stalks, so I think I'm going to have a stalk here and a leaf here. Also, I think the stalk will have to go there and the leaf will go there. But we're going to start filling it in now, and don't try to fill everything in because personally, I think being able to see just a hint of that yellow underneath really adds to the concept behind this technique. Don't be precious about the direction that the pen goes, because just filling it in like this really adds movement, and excitement, and energy. Don't labor over this filling in stage. Make it as random, but unique as possible. One of the reasons why we had to make the paint so vibrant, why, for this particular class, I didn't use my watercolors so much, it needs to contrast with the white Posca. If you had a very wishy-washy yellow for this, the Posca wouldn't show up against it. You know what? Hold on. I'm just going to shake my Posca to see if more white's going to come out. There's a little bit more, but it might mean that I'm at the end of this particular Posca and I'm going to have to get another one out. I might just have enough of this page. No, it's coming through now. Do be careful about putting your hand or finger in the wet paint and dragging it. There we have it, we've got some lemons there, and now we're going to add the stalks and leaves. So the first one I'm going to do stalks for is this one here, do to the stalk coming off and the leaf here perhaps. I might do two leaves to this lemon, stalk there, leaf there, leaf there. Here we have the dried green that we did on just basic cottage paper. I've got a cutting mat and I've got a scalpel, but again, you can use scissors. So I'm going to pick out areas on here which I think are fairly interesting. I'm just going to do this free hand using reference that I've got in front of me. If you want to draw out a shape, then please, by all means, do so. I'm just looking at this one and I'm just going to just gauge it on that. I think it's going to have a leaf here, a bit more, and another leaf like so. Bearing in mind I'm very old and I was an in-house artist in the good old days when there weren't too many computers around, and I was very much employed as a cut and paste artist. So there we go. That's a little bit big, but it looks good. Look at the contrast on that. I'm really pleased with that. In fact, I might just leave it like that because I like it so much. We're just going to use basic kids glue and stick it on. Be very careful when using the glue. You don't want to rip off some of the leaves. There we go. I'm not going to stick it right at the top like that. I'm going to just drop it in here, I think. I actually like the fact that that leaf overlaps the lemon. I think that makes a really nice depth. Now I'm going to do something for this leaf. Now, because we don't have very much space here, I think the leaf is going to have to point downwards and again, overlap a part of this lemon. So I've got that in front of me. I'm just going to, again, cut it out freehand. I like to select an interesting section of green that's got a bit of texture and contrast. Let's see how that looks. That's lovely. That's just a tiny bit too long. I'm going to cut that off. There you go. A lot of what you see me do, I just make it up. I do not really have a concise plan. I know I roughly want to do this? Now, then moving on to the other lemons. I left a space. Obviously, I was going to put something here. Let's go for it. Let's see. That looks really good. Now, let's just assess this. That's looking great. Now, I've got this leaf. I think I'm going to have to have a leaf here. I might overlap it, here, and the stalk going up there. Now, I've cut out small stems and assessing it, I realized that I had quite a lot of negative space, so I've just cut out a few more leaves here, and I'm going to just add a few more because we do have a fair bit of negative space, and I think it would be very nice if we could fill those up. I think one last thing that would work really great with this is if I just added a little bit of dimple detail that you get in the skin of the lemon. I'm just going to use a black micron to add this. As soon as we've got a bit of space here, I'm just going to write it in lemons just to fill up that space because I don't like too much negative space. I've just noticed, I think it would look really good if I just had some thin white Posca dots just to contrast. I thought I'd finished, but I've just reassessed it because I'm always reassessing what I've done. I think just to give contrast, I'm just going to add a few white dots just to offset the black and to say that one side is dark and one side is light. I'm just going to add these really quickly. Now we are finished. I think that really deaths add a little something extra. I'm really pleased with that. 5. Pens with Florals: Another way you can use this technique is to lay out down the ground. Again, this time it's an orange yellow, and then I've used the white posca to pick out the petals, and then, orange gel pen to add details and also other floral shapes and you can use whatever floral shapes. This is just the simplest that I could probably think of on that day. Now for the floral, I'm just going to apply acrylic straight onto the page, like so and just spread it around. Then I'm going to take a tissue and just apply it like that. You can see there's a bit of texture in there. What you want is it needs to remain vibrant so that it contrasts really well with the white posca and I'm going to apply some dark indigo watercolor as well. I haven't washed my brush properly, so it retains some of that turquoise acrylic. You can see I'm applying it very quickly and not deliberately. Something that's fun and contrasted. So that when the eye moves across the page, there's lots of visual stimulus, dropping just a tiny bit of paints gray just to make it really dark. I'm not just rubbing using my fingers. Please don't be too precious at this stage, just have fun. Now this has dried out. I started by using the thick posca pen with the thick name, and also the gel pen, the unibold signal. But please use whatever gel pen you've got to create a thin white line here. I'm just going to add up small pieces here. I'm drawing each petal individually but we'll be leaving a space for the thick posca. Now please feel free to use any flower that you want to do. I'll show you some different examples later on. But also with this, I want to do large and small flowers just for contrast. To make the page interesting, to make the sketch interesting. In some of these are fill in, some of these I will leave blank. [inaudible] dots in the middle. Also I think up here it'd be nice to have a version where the petal is a side view, a profile. Again, just for interest, just for something different, so we're going do that. This is something that I've thought of just now. I often don't as if you watch my other classes I don't have a precise plan. I have a vague plan of what I want to do, but I tend to just go with the flow and make it after as I go along but still in that space there, it would create a lovely contrast to what's going on here. I quite like to add a stalk going like that. I might do the same. I think here. So I just made that up now and I'm just using white postcard just for ease. But please feel free to use any other color that you've got, if you've got other colors available to you. Just work quickly and look around the page and see where your petals can go. All the time I'm looking at the page here and I think the same again, here just because we got a little bit of space and that's just the perfect size to fit in a daisy in profile like that. I think I'm just going do something slightly different because we've got too much space here and I haven't got room to include entire daisy. I think what I'm going to do is just do, I often do this in a lot of my sketches. Let's just deal with two round shapes like that. Again it add contrast and interest. But the main emphasis is still on the daisies of course. It's going to fill out the rest of the page. It's important to remember not to overthink, keeps swapping your pens over, maybe introduce some other colors although, just to show you, I've just used white and yellow. But you might want to use touch of blue or add leaves. It's up to you. But try to make it a balance composition. Try to change the scale a bit with large flowers, medium-size flowers, and also small flowers if you want. Now I've got to this stage. I'm going to assess how it's going. I can't just leave it like that or I can fill up the whole page. It depends on what you're wanting. I'm I like the fact that there's these little flowers popping out from the background. I don't think I'm going to fill in the entire page. I'm what I think would look really great is if I just added a few more just in the background at a smaller scale to just to share a bit of depth that I think I need to fill up this space here. But let's do those in the background. You can still see the texture through that, which I really love. Now I'm going to introduce the thin Posca [inaudible] which gives just slightly thicker line than the white gel pen. Now that we're getting into slightly more delicate work because the gel pen was too thin, but the thick one, Posca was just a bit too not precise enough to do this more delicate flowers like that. I'm just quickly filling in the background with some of these very small blooms, just to break up the background. Let's see how it's looking or I didn't fill in that gap. But I think what would be nice because I could leave it like that, but I think what we're going do is just add a few more dots here and there. Just to give you a bit more. I thought of using white gap. I think just for the contrast, I keep using that word but is to create a more interesting sketch. I'm just going to add little yellow dots that echo the inside of these flowers just randomly, nothing too ordered. Maybe just to fill in some of these gaps in between the flowers as well. Bringing on a dark background. It means that the yellow one, why does specially show up wonderfully here. I've still got a little bit of negative space happening in some of these, let's say pocket. I'm going to add these little rings of dots just because it makes for a more pleasing appearance. I'm adding a few more little decorative white features just to fill up that space. Let's look at it again. Wow, I think that makes really good. I'm really pleased with that. I think I'm going to stop it there. I'm just going to quickly take you through some flower petal shapes you can make up your own. But I just want to show you some other techniques that I employ. Please do see cat reference on Pinterest and just experiment. I can use a colored unibold to add stripes on it like this or you can use a thin white gel pen and do that with it. You can use obviously the gel pen to create neutral flowers like that, or you can use this movement to create petals and add details like that. Again, if you don't have any white poscas, You can use white gowash, any other colored gowash to create these very similar shapes and markings. I just wanted to show you also slightly contrast big and small florals and how they can be interpreted. You can use the white gel pen to apply different lines. Although I've used plain paper. Just to show you a very quick example, I wanted to show that you can use that same technique that we used with the lemons to take away the background or to fill in the background. With white posca so that It creates a negative effect. As you can see, some of the shapes are a lot more intricate and you will need a bit more skill. Perhaps use a thinner pen. But at the same time, I'm not overthinking it. There's still a lot of energy in the line work. Next I'm going to be introducing adaptly posca just to add a pop of color so that it contrasts nicely with the white and the blue and adds a little deep sea motif. I already did this in a few minutes, but I think it gives a good example of what can be achieved with this technique and it'd be great to explore this further. I recently did this one where we can see the outline of the flows in white pen and I've added gel pen for other little two florals in the background, creating almost a deep see effect. Other floral is happening here using the white gel pen. I've just really explored how else this technique could be used really and how to be fun with it. I really hope that you'll be able to do the same. 6. Final thoughts and Homework: Now I'd love you to go away and think of some fruit. It doesn't necessarily have to be lemons, it could be oranges, or limes, or strawberries, but try and make fruit that's really colorful and also has a distinctive shape. Now one thing that I'd like to talk about just in this final section is all artists will go through when creating just even a sketch of this nature. This is not working out and this is actually rubbish phase. Please trust me, I go through that quite often. In fact, on a daily basis. It's quite natural when you're a creative to judge yourself and your work. But my tips for dealing with this is be gentle on yourself, be kind on yourself, and also maybe take a step back just for two minutes and come back to it again. Then reassess it and think, "Oh, maybe the contrast isn't working here or there's too much negative space." It's just something you have to work through. Just spend an extra few minutes. Stay calm because more often than not, you will manage to make it work and it will be a very successful image because you've taken the extra time and you've built in that extra bit of focus and giving yourself the permission to step outside the comfort zone. That's where the magic happens. The magic always happens outside of comfort zone. So please just push through that barrier and your sketch is going to be phenomenal. I hope you all have a fantastic day and I'll catch up with you soon. Bye.