A foray into illustration #1

I have been illustrating since I was very young (in particular for family birthday cards). I probably peaked when I was around 18 and have not really done a huge amount since then. I have however recently decided to pick it up again and have set myself an illustration project to do so (more on this soon).

I find that doing purely creative things benefits me greatly – it frees up my mind and in this sense I feel it aids creative thinking in my work life. It is also satisfying on a primal level – I think that everyone should have some creative outlet.

When I have illustrated things in the past it has generally been predominantly Pilot v5 fine liner with a basic addition of colour – colour being something I never really got on with. Before embarking on my project I decided to actually research how professional illustrators go about illustrating and discovered things I wish I learnt 15 years ago!

It speaks volumes for a more focused approach to anything – starting with market research – some bench marking and a strong desire to create at a highly professional standard.

The first of these discoveries is the dip pen, the second is coloured inks.

Coloured inks, dip pens, a couple of brushes & water colour pencils
Coloured inks, dip pens, a couple of brushes & water colour pencils

The dip pen and black ink makes a dense line (which is actually raised when it dries). When dry it is insoluble to other inks so does not run or bleed. The line they create has character and can be anything from 1mm thick (or more nib depending) to incredibly fine. I can hardly begin to describe how awesome they are compared with a normal fine liner. The line even creates a rather nice barrier to the coloured ink making coloring much easier.

Coloured inks, applied by brush, are also pretty cool – enabling you to give fairly flat colour accurately and with a steady richness that is very hard to achieve with pencils or felt-tips. You can use the coloured pencils to add shading and depth on top of the ink.

So far I have learnt;

  • Brilliance of dip pens & coloured ink
  • Scale of a drawing and understanding the resolution of what you are drawing (I drew a forest in a jungle – took a good half day but after a day or so I realised that it was just too detailed
  • That I particularly dislike coloring large flat areas – it curls the paper and is just boring – I will look to do these in photoshop perhaps – any tips welcome!
  • That, despite the ‘lost’ time, I am enjoying the challenge of learning as much as the illustration itself

Here are a few bits and pieces I have been doing for the projects I am entertaining myself with;

The first dip pen and ink illustration – enough to convince me that my shopping was worthwhile
A bit of jungle; too detailed for it’s size – but good learning
Exercise for the overweight!



  1. Andreisy says:

    Wow, four years too late but I just wanted to say how much I love your bearded dragon and forest sketch! Especially the forest: because of the variation of line and color, it doesn’t look cluttered or too detailed at all, just wild, as a forest should look! I wish i had the patience to do that 🙂

    I myself am trying to get back into my rhythm after a yearlong drawing hiatus. Artwork like yours are really helping to awaken my creative brain!

    1. Nate Murphy says:

      Andrisy.. that sounds good! I have been keeping going with it and its been really rewarding! Thank you for your kind words. I will have a look at your website too.

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