Pen & Wet brush rendering: Exploration of Light & Shadow

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


This project is designed for the rendering course (THEA292 – one of required courses for BFA design students), and help students get comfortable with wet media and get ready to start 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, adding 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 how moods are expressed, and apply their discovery 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: Architecture, Costume design, Lighting design, Scenic design

Activity Objectives:

  • To help get comfortable with the wet media (watercolor) and ready to start the watercolor rendering as a transitional project between the 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 be more versed in the perspective drawing without a perspective grid
  • To develop artistic skills in rendering

Activity Goals:

  • It would be more helpful to have this project after students build some basic skills for the dry media such as a pencil, pen, or marker in the large range of value scales.
  • Many sample works by designers or painters will help create more plausible lighting situation in appropriate value scales.
  • The review of the 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 principle of perspective drawing and the basic skills of dry media in values, a simple set contour drawing will be given as a sample for student to get an idea 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 ¼” margin at top and bottom and between thumbnails, and 3” margin at left and right.
  3. Students can simply copy a sample provided or modify it even further as they want 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 a water based – oil based or water proof pen will not work for this project.  
  5. Add minimal shading with hatching as done in a pencil drawing to create impressive moods in 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.
  8. Additional paint (blue) doesn’t have to be used for this project. Only blue pen will be used.
ex) sample work by the author

Time Required:

This project was used to bridge a dry media to a wet media rendering in the course ‘rendering’, a required course for BFA design students. So, the student spent about two weeks at the middle of the semester after six weeks of the dry media practices and before wet media projects for the rest of the semester. The rendering in this method should not take 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, the blue works well but may 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 of grey scale sample works by Simon Adjiashvili are attached below. 12 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 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 thumbnail.


This project can be more flexibly evaluated, but I created an evaluation checklist as 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.

Evaluation measures: total 100%

  1. One or two vanishing point perspective is properly applied in each thumbnail. 10      9        8        7        6        5        4        3        2        1        0
  2. The appropriate range of values from 0 in value scale are overall expressed in the entire picture plane to create impressive mood. 10      9        8        7        6        5        4        3        2        1        0
  3. Three different lighting situations are thoughtfully designed and differently presented in three thumbnails. 10      9        8        7        6        5        4        3        2        1        0
  4. The highlight and shadow are properly expressed around at least one figure in the right proportion. 10      9        8        7        6        5        4        3        2        1        0
  5. The line weight is considered and effectively applied without being dominant in black. 10      9        8        7        6        5        4        3        2        1        0
  6. The settings and figure have the plausible shadows in perspective on the floor cast by the light. 10      9        8        7        6        5        4        3        2        1        0
  7. The blue or black pen was effectively employed for shading before wet brushing. 10      9        8        7        6        5        4        3        2        1        0
  8. The wet brushing was properly explored to render moods without redundant brush strokes. 10      9        8        7        6        5        4        3        2        1        0
  9. The rendering shows a personal exploration and depth of commitment. 10      9        8        7        6        5        4        3        2        1        0
  10. The rendering is neatly and clearly labeled with required info – name, project title, class title, year and artist’s signature, and meets the format requirement. 10      9        8        7        6        5        4        3        2        1        0