Author: Carolyn A Pappas

End of Summer (drawings of tree trunks and roots)

I’ve been working on pen and ink all summer, but now I’m feeling like a change. The start of the school year always feels like a natural starting point and actually feels like a better time for new ventures than the beginning of the calendar year for me.

©2019 Carolyn A Pappas, Tree trunk with roots (7/16/2019). Ink in large moleskine.

School starts tomorrow so I think it might be the perfect time to shift to a new way of working for awhile. I miss painting in watercolor and making more colorful art. So stay tuned for some more work in a colorful vein in my next update.

©2019 Carolyn A Pappas, Tree trunk with roots (August 2019). Ink in large moleskine.

A fountain pen I really enjoy, and some drawings I made with it

Since April, I’ve been using the Platinum Carbon Desk Pen with Platinum Carbon black ink. I originally heard about this pen through an art facebook group that I’m a part of. I used the ink cartridge that came with the pen and I’m on my second cartridge. I haven’t yet tried the converter. The ink cartridges and converters come with a small ball bearing inside to agitate the ink and prevent clumping, which is quite unique.

pen and ink landscape pond
©2019 Carolyn A Pappas, Hopedale Pond (June 2019). Platinum Carbon ink in large moleskine.

An interesting hack I found online is when Cathy Johnson used a hacksaw to remove the pointy tapered end of the pen so it would accept the cap. I personally don’t mind if I can’t cap the end of the pen, but I think this is a very creative solution.

All summer, I’ve been making pen and ink drawings of various places that I’ve visited for day trips and small getaways. It’s been the longest time that I’ve worked in one medium without deviating and so far I haven’t lost interest. This is the closest thing I’ve done to a series in fact. Some of these drawings are duds, of course, but I will have to collect my favorite ones and find an interesting way to display/publish them.

I made these drawings from photos I took at the Hopedale Fairy Walk in the Hopedale Parklands. Here is an interesting story I found about the history of the pond and how women gained the right to go swimming in it in the early 1900’s. I always like to find out little tidbits about the history of the places I visit.

pen and ink landscape pond trees
©2019 Carolyn A Pappas, Hopedale Pond in Portrait Orientation (June 2019). Platinum Carbon ink in large moleskine.

pen and ink landscape lake pond tree
©2019 Carolyn A Pappas, Hopedale Pond with Overhanging Tree (June 2019). Platinum Carbon ink in large moleskine.

John Hanson Project album art

Back to Art in the New Year

John Hanson Project album art
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Wilderness River. Pen and ink with watercolor, 8 x 8 inches. Album art for John Hanson Project.

I had so many plans for my art in 2018 but things did not work as planned. I sorely underestimated the mental and physical energy that working full time as a new nurse would require. I was working more hours than a normal 40 hour workweek with odd shifts and a very irregular sleep schedule. For the last three months of the year, I didn’t pick up a pencil or a paint brush even one time and I felt so out of sorts. I’ve since taken some steps to remedy that situation and I’m looking forward to having more time for artwork in the coming months.

I have no formal goals for this year, but I just want to have fun and concentrate on making art daily or as close to daily as possible. I also want to focus on sending out my newsletter every month–I neglected to send that out for the last few months of the year and I regretted it. My January edition will be going out within the next few days (click here to sign up).

I’m looking forward to what 2019 will hold for me and I hope that everyone reading this has a prosperous and fulfilling year ahead.


Above is an illustration I completed for the cover art for the self-released album by John Hanson Project. I’ve known John for several years and he is an extremely dedicated musician who has been working tirelessly for years to realize his musical dreams. I highly recommend that you check out his new album Go On.

Preparing for Inktober: thoughts on some pen and ink instructional books

tulip sketch

I’m getting back into the swing of art after taking a much needed break.

I’ve recently started reviving from a serious artistic funk in which I haven’t had the inclination or desire to engage in any sort of art at all. I didn’t even want to look at other people’s art, check Instagram, look for “inspiration” online, or anything similar.

I’ve never really experienced anything like this in the past. I wasn’t feeling depressed or anything of the sort, but I do think that I shifted focus to other areas of my life that were more immediately pressing (finances, etc.). I considered pushing on and continuing to work despite feeling very averse to the idea. The advice of many established artists is to “show up and do the work” and so forth. Instead, I truly felt like I just needed to rest my brain and to do nothing.

Now that things have quieted down a bit, I am focusing more on my art again. This time though, I am interested in expanding beyond floral art (not eliminating it entirely, of course). Throughout school and in the months following, I was drawn to florals because they made me happy and it was a subject matter that felt comfortable and easy to me. Now, I’m wanting to branch out and tackle some other subjects (other aspects of botany, rocks, and landscapes). I’m also working on some sewing projects and I’m imagining how I can incorporate sewing and embroidery into my art.

Cathy Johnson recently discussed her recent “dry spell.” I always like to read about how other artists deal with their creative ebbs and flows and it also makes me feel a little less uncomfortable with the whole process.

The following images are some of the pieces I painted in the last several months. Stay tuned for some new work in my next update.

tulip sketch
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Discarded Tulips Sketch (5/13/2018). Pen and ink and watercolor in large moleskine.

pansy watercolor
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Pansy. Watercolor and rubberstamping, 5 x 5 inches.

pen and ink watercolor flower sketch
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Greenery (5/21/2018). Ink and watercolor in large moleskine.

pen and ink succulents
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, US Botanic Garden (Feb 2018). Ink and watercolor in large moleskine.

tulips sketch

New Illustrations for Inspire! Art Watercolor Brush Pens

I haven’t been this excited in awhile.

A few months ago I got an illustration job that was perfect for me. I was commissioned to make some artwork with a new line of watercolor brush pens by the Inspire! Art company. The purpose of the illustrations were to demonstrate the kind of work the pens could produce and to show examples alongside the product photos online.

I had so much fun because I had free choice to draw whatever I wanted and I even got to work in my own sketchbook!

I really had a lot of fun with these pens. There are a huge range of line weights possible with these brush tips. I think the clearest example of finer lines is in the outlining in the butterflies wings. I also liked the painterly way I could work, as seen in the Johnny Jump Ups piece and the tulip petals. The colors are very tropical but coordinate well with each other within a color family. The set also comes with two water brushes in a fine and broader size.

You can check out these pens on their Amazon sales page (click through all the photos to see my work).

tulips sketch
Tulips by Carolyn A Pappas. Illustration for Inspire! Art Watercolor Brush Pens.

To see some more examples of my work with these pens, follow Inspire! Art on Instagram as I made some additional drawings that haven’t been published yet.

swallowtail butterfly
Swallowtail Butterfly on Zinnia by Carolyn A Pappas. Illustration for Inspire! Art Watercolor Brush Pens.

johnny jump ups sketch
Johnny Jump Ups by Carolyn A Pappas. Illustration for Inspire! Art Watercolor Brush Pens.

pen and ink mountain sketch

Explorers’ Sketchbooks

Although I have taken some memorable trips in the past, I am more of a homebody and prefer the comfort of my familiar environment. I do love to read travelogues and travel vicariously through other people’s photos though.

I recently found the book Explorers’ Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery & Adventure by husband and wife Huw Lewis-Jones and Kari Hebert. It is a thick book (320 pages) and features photos of artists and sketchbook spreads from 70 different explorers’ sketchbooks, logs, and nature journals.

I haven’t had a chance to read all of the profiles yet, but I’ve been enjoying myself by reading one or two essays at a time in spare moments. I really like how there is a mix or photographs showing the book in its entirety (tattered pages, crumbling spine, etc.) as well as details of individual drawings and photos/drawings of the artists themselves. Another thing I appreciate is that the featured sketchbooks are from modern day explorers as well as those from the more distant past. Although many of the sketchbook pages shown are beautifully illustrated, there are also some utilitarian pages included with lists of figures, diagrams and penciled in comments.

I think my favorite sketchbook so far is from Edward Norton. He had some majestic mountain landscapes featured, as well as closeup studies of plants. His quote below reminds me of something that a modern day plein air sketcher would say.

“I sketched feverishly, my water freezing as fast as I put it on the paper, as also my fingers.” -Edward Norton (1884-1954)

Clearly this book was on my mind when I came across some of my late great uncle’s photographs while organizing through my reference photos on the computer recently. I couldn’t resist making an ink and watercolor interpretation of this mountain scene as if I were on location. Unfortunately, my uncle didn’t label or organize any of his photos so it is a mystery as to where he was when he took the photo.

If you can recognize this scene, or can suggest any similar books featuring the inside of sketchbooks, please leave me a comment below.

pen and ink mountain sketch
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Exploring (4/6/2018). Noodler’s Luxury Blue and Lexington Gray ink and watercolor wash in large moleskine.

gnarly tree ink drawing

Starting Fresh for Spring (plus new pen and ink work)

I took a break from art for a few days to get my studio (i.e., my bedroom) in order. I wasn’t really happy with the lighting in my space, so I made a change and swapped bedrooms with my daughter. I was also struggling with clutter overload, so I took the opportunity to dispose of a lot of excess stuff and completely reorganize. The changing of the seasons seemed like the perfect time to undertake the project.

My art supplies and personal possessions are much more manageable now, but the whole job took more than two days and it was exhausting. Unlike some of the glamorous studio tours I’ve seen, my room is very plain and simple and nothing special to look at (hence, no pictures!).

One thing I love about my new setup is that my scanner is next to my desk now, so I can use it whenever I want. I didn’t have a place for it before and I had to keep it in my basement, which made scanning a real chore. I also got a new Ottlite with an attached magnifying glass (which has already been coming in handy).

After I got everything set up, I had a massive scan-a-thon and rounded up some of my recent pen and ink work to show you all. Thanks for looking and enjoy!

pen and ink nature drawing
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Ink Medley (1/20/2018). Ink in Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook.

pen and ink tree sketch drawing
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Tree Sketch (2/28/2018). Ink and rubber stamps in large moleskine.

gnarly tree ink drawing
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Gnarly Tree. Ink in large moleskine.

pen and ink tree roots
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Tree Roots. Ink in Stillman & Birn Epsilon Sketchbook.

camellia watercolor painting

Small Watercolor Florals

pink roses watercolor
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Medley of Pink Roses. Watercolor, 12 x 16 cm. For the 2018 Twitter Art Exhibit.

camellia watercolor painting
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Camellia from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Collection. Watercolor on a blank note card, 8.9 x 12.4 cm.
Lately, I’ve been interested in painting watercolor without a pen and ink drawing underneath as a way to improve my painting ability. I love pen and ink, but I sometimes find that I use it as a crutch for out-of-practice watercolor skills. It can be fairly easy to make a detailed ink drawing, slap on a few watercolor washes and come out with a really nice looking piece of art. Using just watercolor is trickier because flaws become more apparent, especially when using different techniques such as wet on wet painting.

I’ve found this video from Steve Mitchell’s The Mind of Watercolor so helpful in preventing overworked areas and understanding why they occur. I never took a formal watercolor course, so everything I learned comes from trial and error, instructional books/videos, and even a few kind souls who gently pointed things out to me about my technique. I still find myself returning to some of these same errors, especially “painting in the danger zone,” as Steve refers to it in the video. I highly recommend Steve’s videos. He has a ton of experience and I always end up laughing at his dry sense of humor.

nature sketching

Review: Pentel Arts Hybrid Technica Pen

I recently came back from a trip to Washington, DC where I got to visit a Blick store. While I was there, I got some new pens, including the Pentel Arts Hybrid Technica Pen. This is a gel pen with a metal tip and acid-free, archival, water and fade resistant ink. It comes in five sizes, from 0.3 mm to 0.8 mm. I got the 0.3 mm size to try out because I usually go for the finest lines. Below is a nature study I did in my Moleskine watercolor sketchbook using this pen.

forest lily drawing
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Forest Lily. Ink and watercolor in watercolor moleskine.

I really like this pen for the following reasons:

  • It is smooth, even on coldpress watercolor paper. I didn’t notice any skipping, ink globs, or smearing. Reviewers on the Blick website noted some issues with globbing with the larger sizes.
  • The ink is very black and the side of the pen is clear so you can easily see how much ink is left.
  • Unlike felt tip fineliners where the nib tends to relax and get larger over time, the Pentel Arts Hybrid Technica has a tungsten carbide roller ball for a consistent line.

Things about this pen that I wish were different are:

  • I wish the ink were waterproof and not just water resistant. When I used watercolor over my drawing, the bleeding was minimal, but somewhat unpredictable as some areas bled more than others.
  • I wish this pen came in other colors besides just black. I would especially like a brown or sepia colored ink.
  • I wish refills were available instead of the whole pen being disposable.

Overall, this is a great pen and perfect for throwing into my purse when I don’t want to have to worry about making sure my fountain pen is freshly inked up. I’m thinking of buying a few more in the 0.3 mm size as well as trying out some of the larger sizes.

nature sketching
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Forest Lily in Progress. Ink in watercolor moleskine.