Live Lessons: "Sea Turtle" - Pen and Ink

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This lesson series features:
6 Hours of Instruction
6 Videos

About This Lesson Series...

In this 6 part lesson series, you'll create a pen and ink drawing of a sea turtle. Watch and learn as we cover every step of the process from start to finish.

Lesson 1 (1:12:12)

In lesson one, we sketch out the shape of the turtle with graphite. We start with large shapes to ensure accuracy and then define the contours with ease.

Lesson 2 (1:14:21)

In lesson two, we begin with pen and ink applications, starting with the head. We use dip pens for this lesson series, but technical drawing pens can be used as well.

Lesson 3 (1:14:50)

In lesson three, we work our way down the neck and on to the first fin. I’ll show how to create different values and textures as we begin to create the illusion of form through hatching.

Lesson 4 (1:09:17)

In lesson four, we continue down the body, working from the left to the right. In this lesson, we discuss the importance of cross contour lines and how the directional strokes that you make communicate the form of the subject.

Lesson 5 (1:03:35)

In lesson five, we address the patterns on the shell, add the markings of the underbelly and continue to develop shading to develop the illusion of light.

Lesson 6 (58:59)

In lesson six, we complete the drawing by addressing the rear fin - adding the patterns and adjusting the contrast. We also enhance the line quality by adding some thicker lines in areas.

Sea turtle drawing with pen and ink

Resources for this Lesson...


Photo Reference

Finished Result

Here's what you'll need...

  • Bristol paper
  • Graphite pencil
  • Dip (Nib) pens or technical drawing pens
  • Bottled ink (if using dip pens)
  • Kneaded eraser

Lesson Discussion

  1. Hi Matt, I’ve not watched this yet but I want to do it as I’m in middle of doing pen & ink course, I’ve also got another dog portrait commission to do, that’s 3 I’ve done. I think a little business opportunity might be presenting itself lol.
    They all free no charge as they were gifts.
    Could I take the time to ask, it mentions Bristol paper on a lot of your work, well I’m really liking Strathmore paper. We have an online store that do only Strathmore and a bit back I got one of their sample packs which was good value for money.
    Anyway do you mean Bristol board or is it called board instead of paper or not.
    On the site they do say board. And I’m ready to order some now.
    No rush to answer this

    Thank you for your time as always Matt.
    Kind regards Christine

    • Hi Christine!

      The terms “paper” and “board” are used interchangeable to describe Bristol surfaces. It is a little thicker than traditional paper – very similar to card stock. This is why some call it board and others call it paper.

      • Cheers Matt, your time is always appreciated 🙂
        This sea turtle is shaping up great, I love turtles, well all animals and ocean life.

  2. Hi Matt: I’m being challenged by my changing vision, but although things don’t seem “normal”, I am able to come up with what looks like
    this neat, Mexican? looking turtle…lol…
    My pen today does not seem to be reacting, (the nib), as it did yesterday…doesn’t seem to grab ink the same.
    This is def new…

    I am loving it….

  3. I particularly love drawing with ink and look forward to watching the uploaded videos ( I live in the European time zone ). It’s frustrating at times to have to wait til Saturday or even Sunday to see them. Can they possibly be uploaded sooner? I know I am ignorant of the procedure….but would love to see them sooner.

    Keep up the good work!

  4. Hi Matt,

    back in the drawing saddle as of today. I’m intrigued with the modules you offer want to start the Pen and Ink course. I have drawn with Pen & Ink in the past. Now I am looking to buy a new pen and am overwhelmed with possibilities. I use 0.005 and 0.01 Microns and a Platinum Carbon a lot now because they don’t bleed. I broke so many KOH-I-NOOR Rapidographs in Florida due to clogging that I never want to chance using them again……and they are so pricey…….Fountain pens have been suggested and I would like to get one but which brand and which nib and what model leaves me in the dust. I think I need an extra fine nib but I’d also like to be able to vary the width. I like working with fine and delicate linework much of the time. What pens in the moderate price range would you recommend. I’m sure you’ve had students like me with a light hand and would appreciate the advice. I’ve also played with D.S. Walnut ink and enjoy it, especially when I want a wash effect with line on top. I would like to have a pen that I can load with it. With a Fountain pen I could load it and not have an open container of ink with 4 animals running around the room.LOL….seriously dangerous i my home.

  5. Hi Matt
    I totally agree with your comments in the latter portion of Lesson Three. If you have the drawing ability – go for it. However there are some, many, or a lot – that do not. Their skills are limited. You provide the information as to methodology, values etal. The value in your teaching is what the “individual” hopes to achieve in their artistic journey. In my case, the relaxing, methodical, expansion of knowledge, skills etc. is my fun. I am not fussy for oils, pastels but love watercolors. I am not anal about art, but do appreciate the masters like Caravaggio. They had their method(s) of transfer of the rough image outline. The weekly lessons are extremely valuable to me – retired, happy, able to hone my skills and knowledge. Keep going – your efforts are appreciated.

  6. Gotta share something funny with you guys. I am drawing this sea turtle and needed to step away for a minute. Went outside on the deck with a cup of water. After taking in mother nature for a few minutes I poured what was left of my water off the deck and right on top of a huge box turtle. What are the odds? My wife and I love nature so the turtle not only got an accidental bath but a huge strawberry to eat as well. He is tearing into it with gusto.

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