A new technique for quick sketches

May 17, 2024 | 15 Comments

The other day I only had a little time to sketch (dark overcast day and fading light) so I grabbed my favourite Sailor Fude de Mannen pen (55 degree nib) and started doing a quick line drawing.

As I was finishing my drawing I felt that I needed a little tone so I added some graphite.

I haven’t mixed graphite and ink much in the past and to date, I haven’t been all that happy with the result. Previously I have added ink lines over a graphite sketch and regretted it but this time the graphite was just providing a little depth to an ink sketch and I really enjoyed doing that.

So I then did two other sketches in the same way.

As it was a grey dark day I didn’t feel the need to add colour and found these sketches super satisfying. Each took under 10 minutes to complete.

I was using two graphite pencils – 0.7 mechanical pencil with 2B lead and a Bruynzeel 8617 Aqua Sketch Soft (I recently discovered this when sorting my art supplies – is it something I acquired in Amsterdam in 2019?) I enjoyed having the fine mechanical lead for fine details and the broad pencil for shading and dark areas. The Aqua Sketch is a very nice pencil – and with water-soluble graphite, it’s very versatile. I have no idea where to buy them from if I want another one!

I’ve been inspired by Suhita Shirodkar’s use of ink and graphite for quick sketches in recent months and I definitely want to explore this combo of media more.


  • Yvonne Frindle says:

    ArtGraf’s water soluble carbon and/or water soluble graphite pencils might make good substitutes in time. I especially like the water soluble carbon pencil, which dissolves to a lovely inky blank, but the graphite ones are great too.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Yvonne!

      • Yvonne Frindle says:

        Another thought, the lovely people who run Adamstown Art in Newcastle (great source for Roman Szmal paints, among other things) import Bruynzeel pencils, so it might be worth contacting them and seeing if they can track down some Aqua Sketch Soft pencils.

      • Liz Steel says:

        Great idea – thanks!

  • Ginie Udy says:

    I love these sketches Liz!

  • Wendi Wells says:

    Hi Liz! I recently accidentally discovered my Derwent Drawing Ivory Black pencil is fairly water soluble. Who knew?! A couple of other colors in the set sort of smudge with water or a Tombow blender marker, but that’s about it. This Aqua Sketch Soft reminds me of the Ivory Black Derwent Drawing. I’m quite curious about it. After a quick Google search, I think the Aqua Sketch Soft might be part of a design set.

  • maria bergman says:

    Hi Liz
    Do you use the soluble aspect of the pencil or is it the deep black soft quality you’re after?
    Can’t find the individual pencil you’re using without buying a set of “Design Specialties” for $40!!
    So trying out the Conté à Paris Pierre Noir 2B which I find is water soluble. Might try a higher B in that.
    Fun experimenting!

  • Jamie C says:

    For some reason and ink sketch toned and shaded with pencil never occurred to me as an option! These sketches look great.

    I’m also fascinated by your new scenes! How is the new neighborhood sketching going? Are these done on a walk, while parked between errands? They look quick, like you were on a busy day and catching the moment.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Jamie. These sketches are not in my new ‘hood but a building/complex that has been part of my life since I was a child. It’s due to be demolished soon so these are quick sketches (either standing or on a stool) of views that mean something to me.

  • Martine says:

    Bruynzeel is a Dutch brand, so I think your hunch you acquired them in Amsterdam could very well be right. Whenever I use graphite or colour pencils it smudges all over my white paper. Not a fan. I do love tombow pencils for applying quick tone on a ink line drawing.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Martine – yes a dutch brand and we went to the Royal Talens factory too… so the pencil was probably given to me then.
      I find that 1. water-soluble graphite doesn’t smudge as much and 2. if I use card in between pages for the last 4 or so spreads, after that it hardly smudges.

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