Nat Blog

(It’s the Way that You Do It!)

The Idea Develops

The Idea Gets Some Interest

The Idea Takes on a New Direction

The Story Emerges

A Commitment From a Publisher

Checking the Text

Finding the Characters

Finding the Characters

Getting the Paints Out

All About Line Drawing

Finding the Painting Style

A Happy Accident

Choosing The Colours

12 - The Thick & the Thin of It
Finding the Painting Style

July 2011


Billys head in inkIn my early sketches of the Nat the Cat characters I used a black outline drawn with a pen; the style is similar to that used in my Duck books. If you look carefully you’ll notice that the line thickness varies very subtly; this gives the line its personality and aliveness. This is achieved by varying the pressure of the pen on the paper so that the tip of the nib is splayed to a greater or lesser degree. More pressure gives a thicker line, less makes it thinner. This technique can be seen in the work of H.E .Bateman; a wonderful pen and ink artist who influenced me a lot when I was at College. Bateman did something very clever, he used his line thickness to suggest light and shade. If he imagined the light source to be to the left , as in this self portrait sketch, then he made his line thinner on left side (see the legs). As his pen reached the other ‘shade side’ of his legs he pressed harder with the pen and made a thicker line. This produced a very graceful line of alternating thickness which subconsciously conveyed a sense of light and shade – even though there was no actual shading ! When IBateman was at college and was still heavily influenced by my drawing heroes such as Bateman I ended up copying their style. It’s interesting to note how my line has evolved into something totally different now: whereas Bateman’s is fluid, mine (at least on this drawing), is quite scratchy . This is a good example of how a line is not just a line; each artist’s line is as varied as their handwriting.


I want to distinguish this new series from Duck so I've made up my mind that Nat will be painted rather than drawn and so any outlines will also be painted.. Paint comes off a brush in a total different way than ink flows from a pen - unless you have a tiny brush it’s a thicker line and it’s even more responsive to touch. The amount that a pen’s pressure can be varied is dependant on the flexibility of the nib, as it is solid, this is not very much and so it can only produce a subtle variation in line thickness. A brush however is often longer than a nib and being made of bristles it is totally flexible so the variation in line thickness is much greater than that of a pen. For this reason a brush is a very sensitive tool and this is why the zen artists used it in their paintings and calligraphy. The slightest shift in the movement of the hand up, down or sideways with a loaded brush produces a big difference in the line created on the paper.

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