Pen & Wet Brush Rendering: Exploration of Light & Shadow

Submitted by Inseung Park, Theatre & Dance, University of New Mexico


This project is designed for our rendering course THEA 292 – one of the required courses for BFA design students. It helps students get comfortable with wet media and acts as an introduction to watercolor without fear. Students will create three thumbnails (about 8″ x 4″ in size), rendering a simple interior box set in perspective with a water based blue pen. After students finish a contour drawing with a blue pen, they add hatching for minimal shading. Then, the wet brush is employed to create impressive moods. During the process of this project, it would be a great idea for students to explore samples of artists’ paintings in varied art media to research how moods are expressed, and apply their discoveries into the rendering. Eventually, students will create three different lighting situations in three thumbnails.

Length of Activity

Full class period exercise or week long project

Area of Technical Theatre

  • Costume Design
  • Scenic Design
  • Lighting Design
  • Architecture

Activity Objectives

  • To get comfortable with wet media (watercolor) and ready to start watercolor rendering
  • A transitional project between dry and wet media
  • To explore how mood is expressed in stage settings with various lighting situations
  • To practice light and shadow in various value scales in a monochromatic work
  • To become more versed in perspective drawing without a perspective grid
  • To develop artistic skills in rendering

Activity Goals

  • It would be helpful to implement this project after students build some basic skills with dry media such as a pencil, pen, or marker in a large range of value scales.
  • Many sample works by designers or painters will help create more plausible lighting situations in appropriate value scales.
  • The review of perspective principles (one and two vanishing point perspective) will be the basis to make this project successful.


The process of the project is as written below:

  1. After reviewing the principles of perspective drawing and the basic skills of dry media in values, a simple set contour drawing will be given as a sample for students to get an idea of how to start the project.
  2. The mixed media paper (17”x14”) is taped down on the table in portrait layout – three thumbnails (8”x4”) drawn at the center of the paper, 1 1⁄4” margins at top and bottom and between thumbnails, and 3” margins at left and right.
  3. Students can simply copy a sample or modify it with a pencil. The perspective principle should be applied in this drawing.
  4. Trace over the pencil drawing with a blue pen, which must be water based – an oil based or waterproof pen will not work for this project.
  5. Add minimal shading with hatching as done in a pencil drawing to create impressive moods in the three thumbnails differently – students need to explore how the light and shadow work in each thumbnail before they move further.
  6. Apply a wet brushing to represent the mood like a watercolor. Students learn how to control water and brush stroke in the process.
  7. Once dry, students can revise shadows with a pen if necessary.
Above example by the author, Inseung Park

Time Required

This project was used to bridge a dry media project and a wet media project in the course. So, the students spent about two weeks in the middle of the semester on this project after six weeks of dry media practices and before wet media projects for the rest of the semester. The rendering in this method should not take a very long time but they need enough practice to maximize the success of the project.

Required Materials

  • Mixed media paper or Bristol board (vellum surface) – it should be good for both dry and wet medias
  • Dry media pencil, pen (water based, blue works well but maybe try various colors of pens – black, red, brown etc.), watercolor brush (No. 6 round), water container, watercolor palette, paper towel
  • Many samples of artists’ paintings – Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, Ramon Casas, Simon Adjiashvili, etc.
  • Students are asked to draw at least one figure in rendering.
  • Some grey scale sample works by Simon Adjiashvili are attached below. Twelve sample works were provided. Students chose three out of twelve.


  • It is designed for a monochromatic rendering to focus more on the training for value scales. But, it can be a multi-color rendering or developed further with watercolor.
  • It was done with three thumbnail renderings but can be done with a single rendering or a storyboard with any number of thumbnails.


This project can be more flexibly evaluated, but I created an evaluation checklist (example below) to give students a reminder of important points for the stronger establishment of the basic skills, and to do a fair evaluation. It can be appropriately redesigned to serve the class objective.