Your drawing questions answered:

By November 13, 2014Questions

Questions, Answers & Tips:

Judith Noiseux: Hi there! I am wanting to give my sister an oriental brush for her 7oth birthday, she has expressed an interest in exploring oriental art forms and calligraphy with a brush. She is an artist. I have watched some of your videos and looked at your brushes but, cannot decide which brush I should buy her as a starter brush if she is to have only one for awhile. Can you help me with that, it is a special birthday after all. Thank you! Judith Noiseux

BB: Hi! Thanks for contacting me . This is the brush I recommend to all my students if they are only going to get one brush. Happy Holidays! Best, Bill

12/12/2016ed: What is the best way to get started? I’m terrified!! 60 years old and would like to have some fun painting and drawing. Loose and full of color. What do I do?

BB: This is the most simple and direct step you can take… do some workshops at your local art center with the teachers who have the best reputation for teaching and encouraging a free and creative approach …with either abstract, figurative or collage…or travel to Art of the Carolinas in the late fall and try out of some of their top national instructors (I used to teach there but am taking a break) ALso, if your good at learning from books and DVD’s they can be a big help too (if you don’t have them, mine are good) but you need live instruction. There’s no reason to be terrified and do have fun. 😉

6/23/2016Roger: Will you be teaching any classes or conducting workshops this 2016 summer?

BB: Please pardon my delayed response. Unfiortunately I won’t be.Sorry. 🙁

4/11/2016Nina: Bill, I recently bought your biggest sumi brush from Rexart I believe. I am looking for a sumi brush 3-4 larger, do you make custom brushes? If not, where can I find them? Apart from traveling to China (which will not happen, I’m afraid), I mean. THANK YOU for answering my question, Nina

BB: Nina, Sorry for the late answer, I am working on carrying some really giant brushes from China but it hasn’t come together yet.If it works out I will let you know.. They are just not generally available in the West because there is not enough demand

9/3/2015Berit : Hello Bill. I have got your book Figure painting which I like really much. Do you have any workshops going on for a few days or a week? Berit Fougner, Lillehammer, Norway

BB: Hello Berrit, Thanks for your question and please pardon the delayed response. I will be giving a 3-day figure workshop at the Ringling College, Longboat Key Center for the Arts heer in Florida on Long Boat Key February 21 thru 23rd 2017…


BB: No such plans at this moment although that could change. Thanks for asking.

3/20/2015Sokuzan: Thanks Bill for the links. Your large Sumi brush is excellent!! One more question…we go through a lot of Sumi ink at Sokukoji Buddhist Temple Monastery as I teach Enso as a regular awareness practice to monks and lay practitioners. Where can I buy,where to get large bottles of Sumi ink that are cost effective. The small ones are so expensive when you go through a lot of them…Or a good replacement for Sumi ink may be good…if there is one.Thank you very much!

BB: Thank you . I am happy to be able to be of assistance.I am glad you like the big brush. Art materials are by definition unique and not interchangeable without a vast difference of effect. Here’s the biggest bottle around… 60 Oz : …that’s a pretty economical bottle. If everyone is properly diluting the ink it should go a long way. Also , I save and reuse what ever students don’t use it then.just requires less dilution. You can always see when and if it loses its potency.

2/26/2015Sokuzan: I have all of your fantastic brushes. Thank you for getting them made and available. I am preparing to do a large Enso on a 48″x48″ piece of expensive handmade paper ($60) Do you have any suggestions on how I could approach this. I already intend on doing several “warm-up” strokes on large heavy construction paper before i jump off the “cliff”.. Thanks much, Sokuzan

BB: Check this.: ….and this: For preparation I suggest working on these types of strokes and others you may find in books or online or on my DVD’s. There is a specific method to the hand motion of the enso stroke which i explain and demonstrate in my DVD Zen Breakout with Sumi Brushes and Zen Pens, etc You can find explanations in many books on Japanese brush painting as well. Beyond the physical technique the main thing is to have a plan of action before you start and all your materials totally ready and then follow your plan with conviction and freedom at the same time . I would suggest becoming adept at doing them on $10 dollar sheets of paper before attacking the big one..

2/19/2015Ghadeer: Hello, i have been watching your youtube videos on Enso drawing for the past 30 minutes and you have inspired me to attempt drawing my own. I am experienced the “void” a while back and it was a life changing experience for me. i would like to do that using your advise. i like in the UAE and this is the best i can do right now. i would like to purchase all the tools to create my own Enso, so if you can please advise me on that; which of your brushes to buy? and what paint to use (black only) and is there any special type of paper i need to use? thank you and your work is phenomenal. thank you very much!

BB: Sorry for the long delay in responding and thank you for your kind comments. Check this.: ….and this: For preparation I suggest working on these types of strokes and others you may find in books or online or on my DVD’s. There is a specific method to the hand motion of the enso stroke which i explain and demonstrate in my DVD Zen Breakout with Sumi Brushes and Zen Pens, etc You can find explanations in many books on Japanese brush painting as well. Beyond the physical technique the main thing is to have a plan of action before you start and all your materials totally ready and then follow your plan with conviction and freedom at the same time . I recommend the series of brushes called ” Bill Buchman Zen Sumi Brush –Numbers 1, 2, 2.5 or 3. You may find them here . As for ink …Sumi Ink of any brand of black. You may use acrylic inks for colored ensos. The paper is also up to you the better the quality , the better the result. I hope this helps and Happy Painting!

12/1/2014Deirdre: Hi, love your figure drawings!! I study Sumi-e and also do figure drawings! I am just starting to combine the two. I was looking at your female nudes gallery and I was wonderin what kind of paper you are working on???? Please let me know if you are ever doing a workshop or classes in the NYC area. Thanks

BB: These are the materials I generally use in my figure work: Crayons/Chalks/Pastels:… Cretacolor Pastel Chalk Fired Deep Black, Extra Soft;… Cretacolor Art Chunky;… Cretacolor Pastel Carré;… Sennelier Soft Pastels,…Conté Crayon 2B;… Oil Pastels: Sennelier Artists Oil Pastels, Regular;… Sennelier Artists Oil Pastels, “Grand”;… Charcoal:… General’s Charcoal Chunk;… Graphite: Cretacolor Monolith graphite pencils;… Cretacolor Graphite 5.6 mm leads and holders;… Water-Soluble Crayons:… Cretacolor Aquastics or Caran D’ache Neo Color II;… Fountain Pen & Ink:… Pelikan Souveran M series 1000,600,400 or 300) Fountain Pen, B nib;… Pelikan Fount India Ink;… Rollerball Pen: Various Zebra rollerballs .7 mm or larger;… Sumi Brushes:… Bill Buchman Zen Sumi Brushes (various sizes – available through this site);… Reed Pens: Bill Buchman Zen Reed Pen (available soon);… Sumi Ink: Yasutomo Liquid Sumi Ink;…Other watermedia for use with Sumi brush:… Lascaux Acrylic Gouache;… Sennelier Watercolors, Turner Acrylic Gouache;… Liquitex or other airbrush colors(liquid acrylic)… Sketch & Drawing Paper: Fabriano Eco-White 56 lbs (120gms) and 94 lbs (200gms) – 20” x 25.5”;… … Canson Biggie “Sketch” pad 50 lbs 18″ x 24”;… Fabriano Studio Sheets – 200 & 300 gms – 19.5″x 27.5″;… Watercolor Paper:… Fabriano Artistico Watercolor Paper – 200 gms & 330 gms &640gms- Traditional White – 22″ x 30″;… Fabriano Studio Watercolor Sheets – 200 gms & 300gms – 19.5″x 27.5″;… Brush Cleaner for Sumi Brushes: General’s Brush Cleaner; …also….An oriental style circular mixing dish with seven sections; plastic or ceramic;… A water container for cleaning brushes and some paper towels;… A plastic squirt bottle. i hope this helps. Please see my ‘Art is an Attitude” DVD and my book “Expressive Figure Drawing” for more detailed explanations and demonstrations of how and when I use these materials. I will try to let you know if I am teaching in NYC. Happy drawing! Best Regards, Bill

11/7/2014Steve: Other than the cretacolor aquastics, what water soluble crayons do you use? Also what types of acrylic ink?

BB: Besides Cretacolor Aquastics, there are also the Cretacolor Aquabriques, which are great. Caran D”ache NeoColor II are also good if you can find ’em. You might also try the Cretacolor Art Chunkys which are very powerful water -soluble chalks.Regarding acrylic inks I use. Dr. PH Martins, Schmincke, Golden and Liquitex. However i find that the Lascaux Acrylic Gouaches can do everything acrylic inks can do plus they also can be used opaquely and somewhat thickly. I think the colors are even more vivid as well. They are what I recommend most.highly. I hope this helps.

9/30/2014Steven Nelson: Good morning. I am 35 years old have been drawing my whole life but did not go to school for art. That said I have done quite a bit of self study, along with a few art classes. I did independent study during my high school years. I live in Vermont and am now trying to establish myself as an artist but truly trying to develop my own style. I have always been interested in expressive style (Henry Matisse was one of my first favorite artists). The idea that the stroke and the line are what create art not a detailed perfect reproduction of any subject. Perfectly realistic drawings are is nice but I view perfection as wild and impressionistic. Your style and approach is awesome. I ordered and have watched three of your videos: Art is attitude and both Zen breakthrough videos. I am not trying to copy your style but rather to focus on the process and my own mood to create art. However, I have low self esteem and find it difficult to create finished works. Would you ever critique my work? I’m sure it would be invaluable as I strive for to represent mood in my art.

BB: Thanks for your question and congratulations on just keeping drawing all those years.. I am very glad that you find my videos helpful. They are certainly designed to help take you in the direction you want. A big key is to do the exercises therein many, many times. If you do the exercises faithfully to the letter this will not lead to a copying of my style but rather to developing the balance of freedom, control, skill and confidence which which will enable you to develop your own artistic manner. Both confidence and style come from doing the work more than anything else. That said confidence can also be cultivated other ways . I have devoted several key sections in my book, “Expressive Figure Drawing” (Watson Guptill, 2010) to how to develop confidence (mainly by learning to emphasize the “process” rather than the “product”. I suggest reading and following those sections.If you email me a few images I can give you a few tips but I generally don’t believe in instruction by critique. You learn by following processes and doing. As far as finishing pieces, it’s more important to just do a lot of drawing. If an idea comes from one of your studies that you feel deserves working up into a more finished statement let that motivate you rather than just the idea that you have to do finished pieces. Hope this helps. Happy drawing and painting!

9/22/2014Jim Gmeiner: Hi Bill I purchased your DVDs and amazing. I have used Corel Painter but now working on improving my freehand sketching with your Art is an Attitude and ZB: Figure Drawing Techniques. Could you please tell what is the paper you use for the ink and wash drawings? I will sigh up for your newsletter but wondering if you will have any upcoming workshops that are several days long in 2015. Thanks much and back to your DVDs. Jim

BB: Dear Jim, Thanks for your query. I am really glad you find the DVD’s so helpful. As of now , my schedule for the coming year includes weekly classes on Mondays at the Venice Art Center in Venice, FL. on both drawing and abstraction. I will also be giving one day (two 3hr drawing workshops) at the Art of the Carolinas Expo in Raleigh in November. Otherwise. I will be giving a creativity classes at the Longboat Key Center for the Arts in the fall and a Creativity/Abstraction workshop there in the spring as well. . That’s all there is on tap for now. If you want to take your drawing even further in the meantime might I suggest getting my book “Expressive Figure Drawing” which is 176 pages packed with a thorough course in drawing techniques and concepts. Regarding the paper: If i am just practicing I often use the 18 x 24″ Biggie Sketch pad which is economical. For more finished work I go to the Strathmore watercolor paper,, 300 or 400 series, 18 by 24″ wirebound pads and/or Fabriano Studio watercolor paper in individual sheets (various sizes). Any acid free paper that can handle water media will work. But each paper will lend its own look to the technique. Happy drawing and please check my course schedule on my site for updates. Best, Bill

8/15/2014Jenna: Hello, my name is Jenna Draper and I am currently studying visual arts in Year 12 at high school in Adelaide, South Australia. As a component of my studies, I have chosen to research the question ‘Why are artists still fascinated in the human form?’ and I would greatly appreciate you answering the following short questions to further expand on my research and knowledge. 1. For what reason have you used the naked human form in your work? 2. Why have you chosen to work in a colourful, emotive style? 3. Is there a particular concept or message that you wish to convey or capture in your figures? 4. What do you think attracts people to your life drawing sessions? Thank you very much for your consideration, and for your lovely artwork!

BB: Hi Jenna, And thanks for being interested in my thoughts on these questions. This forum is primarily for helping people with technical questions about drawing but philosophical questions are also important and welcome. I would start by saying that there are many reasons for the fascination we experience in seeing the human form. Alexander Pope in 1734 said: “The proper study of Mankind is Man”… We are curious about many things but we are most curious and interested in ourselves. A great deal has been written about the enormous influence our bodily appearance has on how people react to us The human reaction to bodily appearance is primal and multifold: to a surprising extent, we evaluate and judge who a person is, what they are like, what they do and their social, sexual and even intellectual attractiveness according to their physical attributes. And throughout history, every culture seems to have placed a value on certain characteristics of bodily appearance. Clothing can be used to enhance, alter, detract from and even hide our physical appearance. But the unclothed human body is factual in nature. There is a reason for the expression “the naked truth”. And nakedness in art has long been understood as a symbol of truth. Of course our attraction to the naked form is also rooted in the sexual urge, so dominant in human behavior, ancient and modern..Like many artists before (Michelangelo, chief among them) I believe that the naked human body gives us the ultimate measure and means for understanding and expressing the idea of beauty…the perfect subject for the study of form and function, rhythm and movement, line and expression, etc. To me the body is a piece of music or poetry which I enjoy translating into an artwork for all to appreciate and enjoy. I do so in a colorful, emotive style because that expresses who I am and what I wish to say as an artist. My desire is to convey a message of delight as well as the other various moods of life. I mean to express these through the pure vitality and natural expressive power of the human body. As to why people are attracted to my life drawing sessions: it is primarily that they wish learn how to draw and believe, rightly, that studying the human figure is the way to do this. Drawing is a primal urge. Thanks to a life of learning and application in this field, this is something I can help the willing student to learn how to do.. For more on the questions you raise, please delve into my book, “Expressive Figure Drawing”. Good luck with your paper! Cheers, Bill

7/6/2014elle gould: Making arrangements to see you in Fish Creek.

BB: That is terrific! It is a beautiful venue and we are going to learn a lot! I look forward to seeing you there… Bill

3/6/2014Elle: Hi Bill, I am hooked! Your DVD’s and your book are all wonderful. I love painting people (and animals) and really want to put you in my “bucket list”. I mainly study with Charles Reid and Ted Nuttall, and love your techniques and expression. Will you be giving any workshops that I can attend other than the one in March in Florida? I live in AZ and could travel to your workshops, but need to drive as I cannot fly. Please let me know if you have anything at all in Figurative painting and drawing. You have become one of my heroes and I happily study your work. Many thanks.

BB: I answer all questions through this website column which protects the privacy if all while making the information available to all . Thank you for your lovely comments and I am very happy you are able to get a lot out of what I do. These workshops are beyond driving distance but I will mention the following. I will be giving a three day figure drawing workshop June 26- 28 at the Peninsula Art School in Fish Creek, WI. It is great art center in a charming and beautiful vacation area which I love to go to, among other things, for the sheer beauty of the environs. I do one day of figure plus 2 other days on abstraction, creativity, etc. at the Art of the Carolinas Expo in November in Raleigh, NC. I have nothing in the SW at the moment although I hope to arrange something in the future. Please consider putting in a request at an art center that is in a location good for you. Sometimes that leads to them checking me out and contacting me. Thanks, best regards, and happy drawing!

3/5/2014elle gould: Have watched and read all of your materials. Are you giving any workshops in figure anywhere in the Southwest? Anywhere at all? I live in PHX area, but can travel.

BB: Please see the answer above. Thanks.

3/5/2014Jeff: Hello! I am reading the course syllabus from a figure drawing class for which I have been scheduled to model. I have never modeled before. What is implied or expected from this description: “Using a traditional, Western approach, the exercises reduce, isolate, and analyze aspects of human form and then require the students to assemble and synthesize the form in a holistic manner.” Thank you for your time and consideration.

BB: I suggest taking poses that are natural. think of standing waiting for a bus. Make a point of having more weight on one foot than the other , include a slight twist in your torso, place you arms and hands somewhere on your body (head, neck, shoulders, hips, etc) rather than hanging them aimlessly, Arch your back slightly, keep your body open and your head still. Everyone will think you’ve been doing it for years. 🙂

1/27/2014dominique: hello Bill ! I have been studying and practising your amazing book on inspirational figure drawing since July and I find it very ”inspirational’ and useful. Thank you for it. I live in Canada, and i will be in Florida for the next 2 weeks from Jan 13 to 28th to escape the cold; and wondering if you have a store where i could buy directly the sumi brushes without having to mail order them. Also, is it possible to visit your gallery while in Venice or Long boat key? I hope to be able to paint with you at the next training session in the summer or fall. thanks again for sharing your knowledge. Looking forward to meeting you one day

BB: Hello Dominique, I appreciate very much knowing that you find my book, “Expressive Figure Drawing” inspiring and useful and thank you for your questions. First I will mention that I have an ongoing figure drawing class that you can join while here on Tuesday morning at the Venice Art Center if you are nearby. We will be meeting from 9:30AM to 12PM tomorrow, Jan 14th and you are most welcome to just sign up on the spot and come for the one day with us. The next class after that is on Jan. 28. If you wish, you will be able to buy the Zen brushes and pens directly from me in class.. Otherwise they do carry a few models of my brushes in the Venice Art Center Store as well (if you are only able to come on a day I am not there). Then again you may order all of my brushes and pens on Amazon.Com (US) while you are here and , with 2 day shipping, they will be on your doorstep, without fail, 2 days later. If you can’t make it to the class, please feel free to e-mail me (see contact info at lower right) to discuss the possibility of a gallery visit. I look very much forward to both meeting you and having you in my class at some point. And Happy Drawing!

1/12/2014Vhanscieboedhak: Wonderful painting. I have? been prcaciting for about 4 months. I am really struggling with bamboo leaves. i understand the placement and grouping but the shape is difficult for me. maybe one or two will turn out but to do more comes out badly. do you have any suggestions? i did just purchase your bear wolf hair brush so i am hoping that may help. thank you for your time and i look forward to your new videos.

BB: Thank you for your comments. It is difficult to say what the difficulty is without seeing you make the stroke but I think most people struggle with bringing the bamboo leaf to a successful point at the end. Try lifting the brush with a quick little flourish, almost a flick, at the end in order to finish with a sharp point. Remember …you have to give up control to get control. 🙂

10/10/2013ennio: Dear Bill I would like to buy the book figure drawing and DVD what do you recommend me ? thanks Ennio

BB: Hello Ennio, Thanks for your question. For learning about drawing the figure, here are the links to the book , ” Expressive Figure Drawing” and the DVD’s Art is an Attitude and Zen Breakthrough: FIgure Drawing Techniques. You can start anywhere…and these will get you started right. Together they make a very complete course in figure drawing basics and beyond. Link 1: Link 2: Link 3: You can also find acrive links on this website in the “New Book”and “DVDs” Menu. Please let me know if this helps or if you need more information. Happy drawing!

9/21/2013Nic: I love your art and wonder if you will ever be doing workshops in the UK…..I hope so as I’d love to book a spot right now!

BB: Thanks very much for your kind words and for your question. I wish I could say yes but nothing planned at present. If you know of any art arganization that would like to have me present a workshop or series of workshops in the UK I would be most happy to do so. .All the Best…

9/4/2013SK: Hello Bill! I finally got my coins together to order the Japanese Sumi Brushes and Reed Pens. I’m very excited! What brand of paper (and other surfaces) do you recommend to work with Sumi brushes and Reed pens? Thank you. Respectfully, SK

BB: Dear SK, .I am glad you are excited and thanks for your question. I find working with the brushes and pens exciting too My philosophy of art materials can be summed up as follows. Choose your material according to its intended purpose and always use quality materials even when you are learning. I use Fabriano papers just about exclusively for their excellent quality and reliability. However for beginning practice and experimentation a “Canson Biggie “Sketch” pad (Red or Green cover) 18” x 24” is very useful and affordable and comes in a large quantity (100 or 125 sheets). BUT PLEASE NOTE: for any more finished work and to really learn how to work with water media, brushes and pens you will also need to work with better quality papers. Here are those I recommend: 1) For a relatively economical choice for watercolor, ink and pen work I recommend “ Fabriano Eco White Drawing Paper and Pads – 200 gm/94 lb” – which come in pads and sheets of various sizes. 2) The next higher level of quality, while still economical, are the “Fabriano Studio watercolor pads and sheets”. 3) For highest quality paper I recommend the “Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper” which comes in pads and sheets of various sizes. These are the papers I use. I will mention that traditional Chinese (and Japanese) Sumi painting is done on Chinese and Japanese papers of many different kinds and materials ( often referred to incorrectly as “rice” paper”) These involve painting techniques different from those I employ and teach. To use the Sumi brushes and Zen pens in a modern Western approach such as I do the papers described above will serve you extremely well. I always recommend working large rather than small but it is good to experiment to find the size and type of paper that suits you best. Start with the least expensive papers and work your way up to the “good” paper.To find places to purchase these papers put their names exactly they appear above into your search engine. In most cases you will find the best prices online. Thank you much for purchasing the Zen brushes and pens and I wish you happy drawing and painting with them. And remember…. practice makes perfect and persistence wins the prize. 🙂 PS You can also use your brushes and pens with liquid acrylics, acrylic inks and acrylic gouache on canvas (for acrylics). Be sure to wash brushes and pens thoroughly in between and after use. While not wishing to be too self promoting and recognizing that it involves more “coins” I should point out that detailed explanations and many demonstrations regarding the various usages of these materials and paper surfaces can be found in my DVD’s and book. 🙂

8/21/2013christina: Bill: I wanted to draw and paint with you in Florida the end of November to the end of December, 2013 when I will be there. I checked your workshop schedule and the Venice catalog but do not see anything listed.Are you teaching anywhere in FLA during that time?

BB: No problem. The Venice Art Center is drawing up its schedule for 2013-2014 right now and I imagine it will be posted in a few weeks. I will be teaching figure drawing (Expressive Figure Drawing) one morning a week and my abstraction/creativity class (Creative Breakout) one afternoon a week, most likely both each Tuesday. (starting in October and continuing through April.) Once the schedule is nailed down it will be posted both on the Venice Art Center site as well as my own. Thanks for your inquiry. I look forward to seeing you in the fall. 🙂

6/13/2013john: If you were given the option of choosing only one class and those classes were PAINTING STUDIO: Teaches acrylic, watercolor, and inking. Develop skills in a supportive environment that stresses process and expression, not just end product. FIGURE DRAWING: An opportunity to learn composition and proportion as you study techniques to interpret the human form. Working with live models.

BB: If this is a question my answer is …go with the better teacher.

6/6/2013Kelly Walsh: What size Japanese Sumi brush do you recommend for acrylic ink washes over water soluble crayon drawings on 18″ x 24″ paper? Thank you.

BB: For easy can use any want! If you’re just starting I recommend the Zen brush #2 from Japan to start with as an all around Sumi brush. Then maybe you want expand to the the Zen brush #2 from China which is bigger. For the really big brushes you can go on to the Chinese and Japanese #3 Zen Brushes which are each unique. You can read about the differences in their descriptions and see photos on to help you choose what is right for you. Of course, you can also use the smaller brushes, such as the # 1’s -either the Japanese or Chinese. You can even use the smaller brushes from the “Classic ” Japanese series. The main thing is to keep your washes somewhat transparent to aid the resist effect… but, PLEASE NOTE…you want to be using oil pastels or non-water-soluble wax crayons for your resist. The water-soluble crayon marks will just wash away when you paint over them with watercolor! I hope this helps. Happy painting!

5/11/2013Kelly Walsh: Dear Bill, I just watched the DVD again and realized that you have a materials list. Other than what you listed, do you have any other favorite gel pens and/or paper to use with them? Also, do you have any recommendations for nibs or pens for illustrative drawing with pen and ink in the style of Aubrey Beardsley or Shel Silverstein? I’m having trouble finding specific technical information about this type of drawing. Do you have any advice on how to achieve this type of line: I really appreciate any information you can provide! I just bought the book you recommended and am planning on getting “Zen Breakthrough: Figure Drawing Techniques” because I’m really impressed by the techniques you demonstrate.

BB: Dear Kelly, I do think that many of your questions will be answered by the aforementioned book or possibly on my DVD’s. Also the drawing at the link you provided appears to be painted with a brush rather than a pen . I have to toot my own horn and say that some of the most interesting pen lines you will find are made by my Zen pens which are reed pens which come in three widths (easily found on Amazon – Bill Buchman Zen pens). The reed pen is a dip pen which may be used with drawing inks and watercolors but I prefer it with Sumi ink. I would also recomend you try a crowquill pen nib used with an ordinary nib holder for very fine and varied lines like Silverstein’s. Also check out Saul Steinberg’s pen techniques. Pen master’s such as these have an assortment of pens and nibs for different effects. I am not sure what Aubrey Beardsly used but would guess an assortment of fine nibs and and brushes with India ink. He is so famous you might find an analyies of his technique online..maybe Wikipedia?. In any case, try to accumulate as many different types of pens and nibs as you can and find out what works for you. I will mention that another very interesting type of line is achieved by using an ordinary stick or dowel dipped in ink to draw with. You can draw with anything that makes a mark. Also studying calligraphy is a very good way to expand your knowledge of pens and strokes and develop good pen technique. Arthur Guptill’s “Rendering in Pen and Ink” has lots of great foundational pen drawing exercises and is the classic text on traditional pen drawing. Also many wonderful line drawings are done with a fine brush rather than a pen. This could be one one possible key to understanding Beardsley and Silverstein’s techniques. I hope this helps. I am sure the books and DVD’s will. Happy drawing! .

4/24/2013Kelly Walsh: Dear Bill, Thank you for the information. I’m thinking about getting some of your other DVDs because “Art is an Attitude” is so good! I was hoping you could tell me what paper you are using in that DVD. Are there any other gel pens you like using in addition to the Uni-ball Gel Impact? Thank you!

BB: I use many different papers. I recommend any paper that says it may be used with ink. Canson Biggie pads, Strathmore drawing pads, Fabriano Eco-White (white ecological ) and Fabriano Accademia are my favorites. Just make sure it’s artist quality drawing paper Never use newsprint.. The main thing that will effect how your pen works on paper is how smooth or rough it is. For highly detailed work smooth is better. For more expressive work a rougher surface may be better. I am going to be posting some new drawings of cats on Expressive Figure Drawing’s Facebook page in a couple of days . Keep an eye out for them. Happy Drawing! PS: Gel pens change all the time. I find that Zebra Pens are amongh the best. One of there brands is Sarasa which makes some good ones that are easy to find. But there are plenty of good ones around these days. My definition of a good gel pen is one that can make a very smooth line with out skipping when used at a maximum speed…also,ones that never leak due to changes of temperature and pressure. Some have been known to leak on airplane flights!!

4/24/2013Kelly: Hi, I just bought the DVD “Art is an Attitude” and the book “Expressive Figure Drawing” and I was wondering if any of the other books or DVDs have Bill using a gel pen. Thank you. “Art is an Attitude” is amazing.

BB: Thank you , Kelly, My other DVD’s show many other line techniques including reed pen techniques which can be adapted to the gel pen, but only the “Art is an Attitude” DVD and “Expressive Figure Drawing” book include actual gel pen techniques. Howwever , my favorite pen technique book is: The Pen and Ink Book: Materials and Techniques for Today’s Artist (Watson-Guptill by Jos Smith… which you may find helpful. Happy drawing!

4/24/2013bill: Figure classes. I have just started figures after doing transparent water colors for a few years. I am a member of Ringlings Englewood Art center and would like to take classes @ Venice, please give me your fall schedule and any requirements thanks bill johnson.

BB: Hi Bill, We will start up again in November . Just check the Venice Art Center’s fall schedule when it comes out, sign up and ask for the materials list.Then you’ll be all set. Look forward to seeing you then.. 🙂

4/16/2013Linda: Hi Bill, Older musician new to drawing but having fun. I’m sure this is an elementary question but I have done a pic of a top tree swing in a large tree with a fence in the near distance. I wanted to put a blanket on the ground but can not get it to look like its laying flat. Help lol. Ty in advance.

BB: Well not nearly so elementary as you might think. Artists struggled for thousands of years to locate objects on a 2-dimensional picture plane as they appear in the 3-dimensional world until the methods of linear perspective were gradually developed during the Renaissance. To do what you wish requires learning how to use these basic rules and drawing methods of linear perspective but this is not very difficult. I suggest you search on line for sites and/ or YouTube videos that show you how to draw various rectangular objects and shapes in perspective Once you understand how to do this you would simply place a rectangle in perspective where you wish to on your ground plane and then convert it to a blanket by adding some ruffles along the edges connected to a few wrinkles and folds running in from the those edges. Making the rectangle slightly irregular will make it more convincing. Hope this helps…

3/27/2013Konstandinos: By any chance do you have a video showing how you set up your sumi ink? It looks like you have a giant bucket full of ink in the videos I’ve seen, so I’m curious if it’s ink from a bottle straight or mixed with water or if you make your own ink from the sumi ink sticks. Thanks!

BB: he type of receptacle used to properly load the brush depends on the brush size. For small and medium sizes (brush head of two inches or less) I will tend to use an ordinary oriental flower palette (ceramic or plastic) with six wells plus one in the center . The extra wells can be filled with some water to control your dilutions. For brushes larger than this I will use a plastic disposable drinking cup. or even a small disposable plastic or styrofoam soup bowl, an actual soup bowl or very large flower palette with detachable segments such as the Panda Giant Palette available from Jerry’s Artarama.. Any buckets used are filled with water for cleaning the brush. Remember the ink is normally used diluted according to the desired darkness. Many Sumi artists use a flat dish (like a dinner dish) to spread and control the ink tone. Also,…the quantities of ink that I use would take all day to make from ink sticks. Therefore,I use Sumi ink from the bottle and as said it is invariably diluted to some degree if only because your brush, at the very least, is always thoroughly wet before you load it with ink You may see a great deal of detailed demonstrations on how I use the Sumi brushes on the DVD, ” Zen Breakthrough: Making Contemporary Experimental Art with Sumi Brushes, Reed Pens and Mixed Media” and on “Zen Breakthrough 2: Figure Drawing Techniques “..available on Amazon.

3/25/2013JEANNINE: Why does my drawing slant to one side? I am right handed and the drawing slants to the right. How do I fix this?

BB: Dear Jeanine, Measure and make a small mark at the half-way points along all four sides of your paper. Draw a very light line between the center points of the two short sides and then again between the center points of the two longer sides. You should now have a very light cross dividing your paper vertically and horizontally into four equal rectangles. These two center lines are the horizontal and vertical axes of your page and are identical to your own and your model’s vertical and horizontal orientation in real life and space, Then when you draw make sure that you sit straight in front of the page so that you are physically oriented to feel the horizontal axis of the page as parallel to the ground and the vertical page axis as representing straight up and down.This is called being square to your page. If you are drawing from life, all the angles (contours and axes) of your subject should then be drawn on the page in the same relation to the vertical and horizontal axis as you see them in life. In other words, those same angles should be reproduced when you place your figure on the page. There are two systems . the clock system and the compass system for doing this. You basically use the angles of the clock hours or compass points to identify the angles of all parts of your figure (or other subject) so you can place them in correct relation to vertical and horizontal.axes of your page. For a really thorough explanation of how to do this and how this works please refer to pages 34-35 and 100-101 in my book Expressive Figure Drawing where it is covered in far greater detail and with accompanying diagrams . The main point, however, is quite simple: relate all your lines and angles in your drawing to the horizontal and vertical axes of the page just as they are related to the horizontal and vertical axes of your subject as it appears to you in real life. Sounds complicated but it really isn’t especially if you use the clock system. Give it a try! Happy Drawing!

2/10/2013Peggy: I currently am raising my 7 yr old grandson. He has been drawing for a few yrs and I noticed he seems very talented. I got him artists pencils, some are charcoal and a few sketch pads. Well he took off, it’s crazy but he seems to be teaching himself how to use the charcoal and the erasers with them and I believe his work is amazing. Where could I have his work looked at? Can I send anywhere? He loves pencils the best and that’s what he excels in….he can capture the personality of a person in his drawings… that common in a 7 yr old? He just turned 7 in December….he is an ADHD child as well who responds well to meds. Please answer me back….it seems to calm him to draw and I’d like some feedback as whether I should pursue lessons. Thank you for your time.

BB: Well, i am an art teacher not a psychologist but i guess sometime the lines blur. I would suggest asking him if he would like to study drawing in a class or with an art teacher..(you might have to wait a year or two on depends on the kid). If yes, then I would suggest looking for an art teacher from the nearest Montessori school or a “magnet’ school with an emphasis in the arts and if you can afford it get him weekly private lessons. Make sure it is teacher who teaches by encouragement and makes it fun! You may have an art school or community art center in your area that offers children’s art classes (especially in the summer). I suggest taking him to museums where he can see traditional drawings and paintings. But don’t make a big deal of it…just like its the most natural thing in the world…which it is .And get him books on how to draw animals, and people and just books with great art from the museums to look at. Look at the books with him and ask him his opinion of the different pictures. Also there are a lot of very fun books on art written especially for kids. You can often find them at Goodwill bookstores and also used on Amazon. My son’s favorite was “When Pigaso met Mootisse”. Exposure is the main thing …and never make it a chore or devalue it!!! I should add that it is an age where many kids draw…it is normally in the teen years that it either takes hold or falls away. I hope this helps.

1/30/2013Patrice Murphy: Bill – LOVE your DVD on sumi brushes and reed pen. Have a question on the mediums. What ratio do you typically use to dilute acrylic liquid inks and sumi inks? Do you use a flow release agent? Doesnt’ seem to flow the way it looks on the dvd. Many thanks for all your instruction and inspiration.

BB: Thanks for your excellent question. The answer however is not so easy. These inks are meant to be used at all levels of dilution (although rarely at full strength). . The mixture that ends up on the paper at any given moment is the result of how much moisture and or ink is on the brush when you load it. and how much you wiped off or let drip off (if any) before applying it to the paper. It is also very dependent on how deeply or lightly you press the brush into the paper thus forcing the brush do deliver more or less ink in the process. The variations of tone that one achieves are a result of developing a real feel for the different ways of loading of the brush and delivering the ink to the the paper. The manipulations and the results are nearly unlimited as I have tried to show on the DVD’s. I would suggest starting with a ratio of ink to water somewhere around 3:1 or 4:1. But if you handle the brush correctly (which means striving for a lively variation of tone) it will rarely contain the same ratio each time you load the brush. The wetness of the deeply you dip much you remove.. will determine what is actually on your brush and then the application does the rest. This is the essence of the experience of being a Sumi brush artist…having a real instinctive sense of what is going to come off when you touch the paper.. This develops through spending a lot of time using the brush. The ink strokes on my DVD appear the way they do as a result of brush loading and manipulation… no special flow agents except hand and mind acting in sensitive response to the possibilities in the brush. In the East when you have developed this sensitivity it is called having good “ink”. The mistake that beginners make is using only the tip of the brush and not digging it into the paper and varying the brush pressure. The brush is made to be used roughly -like a chisel -not like a feather…and it is made to take this handling too ,So try a rougher approach and you will discover how to get more tone variation…press and lift… and lift. Thanks for your kind comments and happy painting!

1/28/2013Ovi: I’ve been strugling constructing a beautiful feminim face. What is it which makes a womans face beutiful? I just can’t put my finger on it. If I try my best, it still looks like a tire old mans face, while I really want is a woman. Do you have any tips or solutions for that? Ovi.

BB: Dear Ovi, Thanks for your interesting question. Here is what I recommend.: Get some fashion magazines like Vogue or W. Do some very simple line drawings using a soft (2B) conté crayon or better yet some colored pastel pencils (or colored pencils). Don;t use a graphite pencil. If you drawings come out looking like tired old men it is most likely because you are putting in too many detailed shadows and lines. Instead put in only the most important simple lines and either no shadows or very light ones When portraying a beautiful feminine face (in the traditional Western sense) keep the nose extra simple and under-emphasized, the features regular, and somewhat symmetrical , high cheek bones, thick lips, large oval eyes, long necks, very few and soft shadows…this is the traditional Western ideal .and you will find it prevails throughout the fashion magazine pics Remember stick to simple essential lines. Also women’s faces and bodies have more rounded lines…men’s are more angular. I should mention that the above all refers to the popular Western notion of beauty which like all things popular ends up being a cliché. If you can see and feel what is beautiful in any face (or any other subject) then you can put that beauty into your drawing And ultimately it is the beauty in yourself that you must put into your drawing to make it beautiful…the more…. the better.

12/30/2012Elizabeth: Hi Bill, An artist told me that he used “ganged” sumi brushes. I’m too afraid to ask him what that means! What DOES that mean? Thanks.

BB: Thanks for your question. I can find no reference to this expression anywhere in relation to sumi brushes and have never heard it used that way but ganging refers to tying tools together Thus I have a theory as to what your friend may be referring to. There is a wide somewhat flat brush similar to a hake brush which is made up of several individual brush heads linked together in a row to make a wide thick swath . This would be an example of a “ganged” brush. Alternatively any way in which you were able to tie or rig several brushes together to be used as a single implement would be an example of “ganged” brushes. Anyway I would suggest asking your friend what he is referring to,, since it is , no doubt, less dangerous than it sounds and may lead you to some interesting painting effects. If he gives you information different or in agreement with what I have written I would appreciate your letting me know. Happy painting!

12/14/2012celeste: I’d like to purchase your creativity dvd for my mom as a christmas gift. I’d also like to include a few supplies to get her started. Do you have a list of supplied used in the video? or a recommended starter pack? Thanks, Celeste

BB: Dear Celeste, Thank you for your interest in my DVD’s. If you decide to give the Creativity Breakout DVD or any of the others (they are all about different aspects of creativity) and wanted to include a starter kit of reasonably priced art materials to go along,Here is what I would suggest: A box set ( the 10 or 20 color set) of the Cretacolor Aquabrique watercolors…and a pack of the Cretacolor Art Chunky Colored Charcoals. For a brush i would recommend my Chinese Zen Brush 1 -Medium – or if you want to go a little more fancy my Japanese Zen Brush 1 – fine or Japanese Zen Brush 2 – Medium. These represent a lot of bang for the buck and would go a very long way with some real quality materials. Best wishes, Bill

11/24/2012Raven: I like to draw people from photos, and my biggest problem is position/proportion. When I draw the subjects from the photo, they appear either too large or too small on my paper. What are some tips to get accurate size while drawing from a photo? I only know the method of using a grid to line up the pictures. Is there any other ways?

BB: Good question! First..the grid method works really well and is a very accurate way of transferring an image on to a fresh rectangular space . The length and width of the new picture space must have the same proportions as the area of the grid of your original . For example, if your original picture is contained in a grid that is 4 inches x 6 inches then the larger grid where you are going to transfer the image could be 8 x 12 (2 times larger) or 12 x 18 (three times larger), etc. Its also important that the grid divisions (squares) are also proportionate. That is. if your squares in the 4 x 6 are 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch then the squares in the 8 x 12 need to be twice the size: 1 inch by 1 inch and so on. Then everything will come out perfectly proportionate on your new image..However, please note that Images copied from photos in this accurate way can tend to appear very static. Many artists through the centuries have felt that accurate proportions are inherently boring in terms of visual expressiveness and have modified proportions according to their expressive needs. Have a look at works by Michelangelo, Reubens, El Greco and Modigliani to name a few. Generally I recommend slightly exaggerating the bulk of what you are drawing and adjusting everything accordingly to make the objects, particularly figures, appear more solid and alive. . As far as freehand placing of the forms from a photo onto a larger scale page goes: try just approximating instead of trying to be totally accurate. Of course, use a pencil and adjust your estimates with liberal use of your eraser. It may take several tries but each time you will improve and be more satisfied. Also, first doing a freehand copy on to a blank rectangle of the same size as your original will help you to see the sizes, relationships and placements… particularly if you visualize the negative spaces that exist between your forms and the edges of your page. By the way, you can also use an opaque projector but, again, the drawn images will come out static unless you bulk them up and adjust them a little. Its like making a meal from a recipe …you have to adjust the seasoning and the ingredients according to taste and what actually works. 🙂

7/21/2012Charlie: Bill, I would like to paint a picture of a chess board that will be from the perspective of the viewer, going out into the sky (which will be the top one third of the canvas). How do I draw the chess board so that it has the right perspective, but still uses up the entire width of the canvas?

BB: First draw a horizon line a third of the way down from the top of your canvas and place your vanishing point just off center. Place equal spaced reference points along the bottom of your canvas to indicate the size of the squares as they appear closest to the viewer. Draw straight lines from those equal spaced reference points to your vanishing point. With the canvas in a fixed position, you need to have an area big enough outside your canvas so you can continue to place those equal spaced reference points very very far to the right and left beyond the perimeter of your canvas to indicate the imaginary squares not visible within your canvas which will give your reference points for the rest of receding lines on the left and right. When they get very close together up at the horizon line than that’s enough receding lines (at a certain point you will need to just fudge them on both sides). Draw a line parallel to the bottom of the canvas at a distance from the bottom that is just slightly less than the distance between two of your adjacent bottom equidistant reference points that define your squares. If this line creates the illusion of reasonably square looking squares in perspective then you are good. Then go to watch these two online videos: on Youtube and on MetaCafe to see how you place equidistant objects (like poles and squares) going back in space using the midpoint method. The examples are with telephone poles receding at equal placements in space. By using the same midpoint principle as demonstrated there and imagining the pole lines to be horizontal i.e. like your chessboard lines, you can find the correct placement for all your horizontal lines going back until they blend together close to the horizon. If you can follow all this you can do it!

7/2/2012Peter: Bye the bye, your tape on drawing the human body has models, what can you do if you’re in the situation where the possibility of using models is zero, I doubt my wife would be up for it!!.would large photos do from magazines /art books etc, and even so are the techniques shown transferable to other projects such as still life etc

BB: These are great questions! There are many solutions. First, check if there is an art center anywhere in your vicinity..they often have inexpensive open sessions or classes with clothed or nude models. Sometimes there are also local artists who meetup in weekly drawing groups which are often welcoming to new members to help share the cost of a model. These can be searched for online. There is also a great free website which is designed to be used as an alternative for the live model situation and which I highly recommend: . You can also do drawings from photographs or online images of drawings and paintings that you like as well as of, course, unlimited naked photos that are online. Some of the most artistic photos can be found on www.Model which, by the way can also be used to locate models working in your area.The techniques and exercises described in my book and on my DVD’s for learning how to draw the figure can and should be applied when drawing still life objects , landscapes, animals, from life and from photos or monitors. etc. In fact the techniques will really help and should lead to quite interesting results, too. By the way if you have pets or animals around they often make good models although they rarely hold still except when asleep. But it is really good practice to try to record observations of moving figures made on the fly, so to speak. The beach is another great place for drawing bodies. And train, plane and bus stations are great for practicing quick sketching. Copying master drawings from art books is also especially valuable. So there really are a lot of options. The challenge is to do it and to do it in an organized and progressive way as the DVD’s and book suggest. You can make real progress this way. Happy drawing! PS I forgot to mention that there are also books and DVD’s available of posed models photographed specifically for artists to draw from which you can search for online.

6/25/2012Linda: First of all–love your abstracts!. My question is regarding the video on Jerry’sArtarama–“Acrylic resist”. What are you using for the “crayon (resist) ” lines? I would love to attend a workshop if you ever get in the Dallas area.

BB: Dear Linda, Thank you for the positive feedback which is always much appreciated. I use Sennelier Oil Pastels (regular and “grand” size) to create the crayon resist with my acrylics and watercolors. its important to realize that you have to press hard to get the resist effect and that it will vary in effectiveness according to the paint used as well. You can improve the resist effect after the fact by lifting paint that adheres to the resist with a dry brush or paper towel.. Of course, needless to say, the clip at Jerry’s is just a small sample of what is on the full DVD’s on my abstract techniques, “Zen Breakthrought”, “Keeping the Melody”, and “Creative Breakout”… where these and many other techniques and materials are explained and demonstrated in full detail. In fact . each DVD contains more than could possibly be covered in a single workshop. Still I hope i get to Dallas… and I hope this is helpful. Happy Painting!

6/12/2012Frances Travers: what is so good about your Zen pen please When I use a drawing pen it never flows nicely .Will this one do so ?

BB: That’s a very good question since the way a pen flows is its most important quality. So it deserves a good answer. I have used a lot of time and energy over the years searching for pens of all kinds that flowed easily and therefore allowed me to draw as quickly as I wanted without worrying about skipping. For everyday quick sketching with a pen with self contained ink I have found many rollerball and gel pens that work fine… for example, those made by Sarasa, Zebra and Uniball.. Working with dip pens (where you must periodically dip the pen into an external well of ink) is an entirely different experience. There are many fine metal tips available to be used with holders which will flow well and are reliable but require frequent dipping. When it comes to reed pens it is another matter. I designed my Zen Reed Pens specifically because I couldn’t find any reed pens commercially available which held enough ink or delivered the ink smoothly and reliably to the page. I can say, without any exaggeration, that the Zen pens in all three sizes do both of these things spectacularly well. They also give an unusually artistic and lively line that is like no other. The number one (fine) size pen which delivers a thin line (and therefore conserves ink) also flows continuously for an unusually long time for a dip pen ( actually all three sizes do this very well).. So, yes , my “Zen” pens are designed to flow nicely and deliver a very distinctive line. SO that is my answer. But while we are at it, here are some helpful hints and tips about how to get the most out of any pen you use for drawing: First, it is important to use drawing paper made for artists. Ordinary everyday writing or printing paper may not have enough “grab” or tooth, as it is called, to properly draw the ink out of the pen. and ordinary paper is not designed for the demands of ink drawing generally. Another general drawing tip is that you have to use the right amount of pressure…too light a pressure may cause a pen to skip and too heavy a pressure will just slow you down and disturb the paper. It is very helpful to do eye-hand control exercises with your pens to develop a relaxed but firm pressure control. You may wish to see my book Expressive Figure Drawing which shows how to do these exercises. Also every pen operates a little differently so you often have to adjust to its characteristics. For example EVERY pen has an ideal speed of delivery and when you go past that point it will skip. So, for me, a pen that “flows nicely” ideally should have a very high ideal speed of delivery. The Zen pen when handled properly definitely has this quality. More hints: Have a good level and stable drawing surface; always draw with some sheets of paper underneath the one you are drawing on to provide a little “give” to the paper (This doesn’t apply if you are drawing on a heavy watercolor paper or Bristol board); when drawing with any pen (and especially with the reed pen) keep solid contact with the paper as you draw. It is this solid contact which draws the ink out and keeps it flowing. Its amazing how much there is to just using a pen, isn’t it? But don’t let that stop you. Learn as you go. Also, I almost forgot to mention… With the Zen Reed Pens I recommend using drawing inks such as Sumi ink or acrylic ink. Or, if you want a very black black, then try India ink. Ordinary writing inks are not pigmented enough and will fade. PS: . A whole book or DVD could be dedicated to what you can do with the Zen pens. But since this answer is already so long i recommend, for some more information and tips about reed pens and the Zen Pens in particular, check out my DVD’s or search online for clips I have made showing them in action and/or that you also check out if you haven’t been there yet. Thanks for your question & happy drawing!

5/4/2012Cathy: Bill, thank you. Now I know how to follow my own “music”. Thanks for showing me how to find the path. This meant a lot.

BB: You are most welcome, Cathy. It is my greatest pleasure.

3/25/2012Cathy: Hi Bill, What sumi brush do you recommend? I see there is the Japanese or a Chinese sumi brush on Amazon but I’m not sure which one to get…. Another question,(not sure if I can even get to what I’m asking!) I have been trying out watercolors for a couple of years, trying to emulate this or that artist, taking lessons, etc to learn how to paint,(I love color) but I still do not seem to find a way to express myself with painting that comes naturally. I find the most joy out of gesture drawing. I did buy your DVD and love it. I plan on going to figure drawing classes to practice what I’ve learned from your DVD and book. I guess my question is, how to know what direction to follow in expressing myself in art? thanks Cathy

BB: Dear Cathy , Thank you for this greatand sincere question. which is difficult to answer.I (not the brush question, of course, but the question of personal direction). I can only tell you my own experience and what i have observed. Some artists struggle with this question their whole lives and never find the answer. Others can only do one thing well so their problem is solved before they begin. This is how I think of it myself: There is a thread , which I sometimes think of as a melody or a feeling of something poetic, or of something meaningful that each one of us has within.This feeling of beauty or meaning is what drives us to want to make something artistic. In ancient times it was called an artist’s muse – hence, the word, music!! This feeling is elusive and requires courting as one would with an attractive lover who plays hard to get. One needs learn how to cooperate with, listen to follow and make friends with this elusive feeling/sense. I have found that the only way to learn how to follow this is to pick the approach that you feel is most you at the present moment and then put your hand to the plow and get busy making the art that you can. It is when one does this that the ideas come, things happen and every now and then one catches a little bit of what one intuitively is looking for. Then comes the hard part You have to retain and build on those little successes by being observant and by analyzing what works. Also if you show your work to others they will tell you what you are good at as well. So really one must be a good worker, a good listener to one’s inner impulse and a good follower of that impulse . Be quick to recognize and build on small successes trusting they will lead gradually to bigger ones. What prevents most who dream of making art from achieving it in reality is that they become discouraged when they don’t live up to their vision right away. But that is simply not how it works. There is a profound truth to the old saying that you have to break a lot of eggs to make an omelet. If yu said to me, put it in three words i would say, “Trust and do” Also looking closely at lots or great art in museums and in books will inspire and motivate you . Imitate what you admire..Your individuality will always shine through. Regarding the Chinese and Japanese brushes I have tried to differentiate them in their descriptions. The Japanese are more refined and more precise. the Chinese brushes are looser and a little rougher in effect. The choice of the sizes is according to how big and free or more contained and controlled you plan to work. Bigger = freer; smaller = more control. Do the exercises and the inspiration will come. “Nuff said.

3/24/2012I.R.: Bill quick question…(maybe) I’m paranoid about acrylics on my sumi brushes…does just soaking them keep them safe?or do you use soap after use? I keep thinking goat hair and weasel hair might appreciate a shampoo. I’ve lost regular bristle brushes to the quick drying properties of acrylics before…I use the heavy body acrylics and water them down, but have some of the fluid kind as well. ;-).

BB: Dear I.R,.Heavy body acrylics are harder on Sumi brushes (and regular brushes) than the lighter varieties . This is because the paint that is left behind down inside the ferrule (where the brush hairs are attached) will dry thick and hard and ultimitaly shorten the flexible length of the brush hairs . This makes the brush behave differently .To avoid this problem I use the Lascaux acrylic gouache which has some body but can be diluted down to watercolor consistency and therefore cleans out thoroughly. If you do use heavy body acrylics with Sumi brushes you just have to spend more time cleaning them. And , yes, use hand soap, shampoo or even dish soap. Even better, use the best brush cleaner around: General’s Brush Cleaner. That stuff even brings brushes back to life that have dried paint in them.!

3/9/2012Eleanore: I know how to draw 2 point perspective. I sketch my buildilng, eyeball the vanish- ing points and conform my building’s lines with the vanishing points. Some- times it doesn’t look right, as if the build- ing is obtruse (wider then the required 90 degrees) or acute (narrower). Since a normal building requires 90 degree angles on the corners it’s important to get it correct. I do not know how far out I should put my vanishing points. There’s got to be something better than guessing. Thanks for your patience. El

BB: Dear Eleanor, I am not the best person to be asking as I specialize in the figure and in abstraction. But at one time i worked quite hard at understanding the use of vanishing points in perspective (One has to remember, too, that there many other powerful perspective devices -overlapping, shading, color, atmosphere , etc.)This is what I found out: The best way to learn perspective and the ideal vanishing points is to go out in the countryside and draw an isolated building or two buildings with space in between or around them.The key is understanding your perspective construction is this: the horizon is always exactly level with your eye. . Everything in the drawing is defined by where you are standing or sitting ..where your eye level and position is. If you look at a building sitting down the horizon will be lower! behind the building. If you stand up it appears higher!. This is an amazing sensation. When you go out and observe this in a natural setting you begin to understand that perspective is not just a bunch of vanishing points but a way of establishing and defining where you are viewing the building (or other object) from. The other important level to understand is the ground level which is defined by your feet on the ground. Perspective when done well tells the viewer exactly where you were standing or sitting when you made the painting or drawing!. The only way to really understand this is to drawing some simple , not too large structures..barns , houses from real life . And the vanishing points will often be completely off the page! But the big key is placing the horizon line so that it realistically reflects the natural height you are viewing your structure from . I think it is that fact plus the fact that at least one vanishing point (if not both) is going to be off the page that has been causing your problems. . I really think the only way you can get a good natural feel for 2 point (and 3 pt) perspective is to stand and sit and change angles as you view a small simple building and observe and record in simple perspective sketches how the angles, points and positions positions. Once you understand the eye level the ground line and the vanishing pts. of the page you will actually be able to “guess” correctly! Cheers.

2/28/2012Eleanore Malone: 2 point perspective. Where do you put the vanishing points so the block has 90 degree corners instead of being obtuse? I have read much but there doesn’t seem to be a formula. Thanks

BB: Not clear on what you are asking . Can you be more precise as to what you are trying to do??

2/28/2012Cathy: Thanks! I’ll be ordering it! Love your drawings/paintings!

BB: Thanks too. It means a lot to me . Enjoy

1/31/2012Cathy: Hi, is your Zen Breakthrough, Figure Drawing available? thanks!

BB: Thanks so much for asking! Next week is the debut. Amazon should have them by Wednesday (or sooner) straightt hot off the press!

1/31/2012Ismael: Hi Bill, I’ve recently acquired your book and DVD’s (all of them) and am finding them extremely inspiring and instructional. Am wondering when your new DVD on using Sumi brushes for figure drawing/painting will come out? Also, enjoyed your little cameo on Henry Li’s youtube videos. thanks, again

BB: Thanks very much for checking in. I am always extremely happy to hear of the usefulness of my efforts. I am counting the days until my two new videos arrive from the manufacturer.The new figure DVD is called “Zen Breakthrough: Figure Drawing Techniques” (not to be confused with my recent “Zen Breakthrough: Making Contemporary Art with Sumi Bushes,Reed Pens, and Mixed Media”). It is also two hours and twenty minutes long and features a wide variety of figure drawing techniques with Sumi brushes, reed pens, and other unique materials. The other new DVD expected shortly is entitled “Keeping The Melody: Making Contemporary Abstracts with Inspiring Materials and Techniques” It is loaded with creative strategies and practical applications for making abstracts. It is also over 2 hours long. I hope to have them both available on Amazon through the seller “Sumi Brushes” within a few weeks. with free shipping (like very nearly all my products) Great that you spotted Henry’s video. Thanks again and happy painting and drawing!

1/11/2012Christine Schmidt: What schools did Bill take training? What credentials?

BB: Although this space is for questions about drawing I consider this a fair question. A short summary of my background (with many things left out) as an artist goes like this: Thanks to my mother, an accomplished amateur artist, I grew up surrounded by art and I regularly attended with great interest as a child and throughout my youth the great exhibitions during the years of Modernism’s triumph in America ( the 50’s and 60’s) at MOMA, the Guggenheim, the Met, etc. Studied art (including figure drawing) with various teachers as a teenager including with two artist/teachers of national significance, Fletcher Martin and Victor D’Amico. The first was at the Albany Institute of Art and the second at the Institute of Modern Art (also known as the Barge -Now the Victor D’Amico Institute of Art, I believe). At the time I took classes with Victor he was the director of Education at the Museum of Modern Art. I did a series of oil paintings in high school which may be seen on this website under the gallery heading “Early Works”. After high school I spent two years studying painting and drawing at Cornell University. After a stint at Boston University majoring in English. I spent some time traveling, fought forest fires in Alaska, did street portraits in Boulder , Colorado, played in rock and blues bands, including the Mojos with friend Sesu Coleman, (punk luminary , and founding member of the Magic Tramps), attended Woodstock, (saw Jimi Hendrix play the Star Spangled Banner at 6:30 in the Monday morning there when there were only 200 of us left in the audience). Studied exotic religions including Zen. Moved to Boston where I studied Jazz Improvisation and Third stream music at the New England Conservatory of Music and took courses with the leading musicians and music teachers of the day including Jaki Byard, Ran Blake, John Lewis, and George Russell. Played trumpet in the New England Conservatory Ensembles under Phil Wilson and Ernie Wilkins. Had my own jazz band and played and worked with such luminaries of today as Tiger Okoshi,, Ricky Ford, Akira Tana, Leonard “Boots” Maleson and Claudio Roditi . I received a Bachelors and Master’s Degree in Music from the New England Conservatory of Music and became a full time jazz musician and worked with such major figures as Jo Jones (Count Basie’s drummer -the inventor of modern rhythm) Nils Bertil Dahlander (who worked with Charlie Parker, Earl Hines and Teddy Wilson) Joe Muranyi (who worked with Louie Armstrong), Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis , Red Callender, singer Joe Lee Wilson etc.. Got fed up with the jazz (non) life. Returned to my artistic roots (circa 1980) . Moved to Europe, Studied European art on my own and at first hand and close up for the next five years in Paris , Florence, Amsterdam, London, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Germany , etc. and painted and drew. Taking with me all that I had learned I settled in Copenhagen, Denmark (1985) and began full time art activities concentrating on figure drawing and abstraction… for a long period I was drawing from the live model as much as twenty hours a week. I met and learned a great deal from friendships with mature painters and poets that befriended me in Scandinavia, such as Gunnar Saietz, Buster Bruun, Krister Follin, Leaonard Malone and Emmanuel Abdul Rahim (with whom I studied Schillinger techniques ) as well as from just working and exhibiting. Please see my regular bio page on this site for the list of exhibitions from then till now. I always taught occasional private students in both music and art since my teen years. In 2001 I returned to the US and began teaching workshops and small classes in Florida. In 2007 I recorded the DVD, “Art is an Attitude” on figure drawing in which I put the essentials for learning how to draw the figure on film. This led to being invited in 2008 to write the book “Expressive Figure Drawing” for publisher Watson- Guptilll (the premier publisher of art instructional books for the last 100 years). This also lead to being asked by importer Savoir Faire to demonstrate my techniques for leading European art materials manufacturers and to give workshops nationally at many different venues. I continue to teach, exhibit and sell my work, and have other related projects such as my line of “Zen” Sumi Brushes and Bamboo Pens.. My third DVD “Zen Breakthrough” on contemporary uses of the Sumi brush and bamboo pen has just come out. My fourth , “Zen Breakthrough II”, on figure drawing with the Sumi brush and reed pen and other unique materials, will be out in a few weeks. A fifth DVD. “Keeping the Melody” on the subject of using unique art materials for making contemporary abstraction will be out early in 2012. I find that the toughest lesson to convey to my students is that we learn by doing. The works that can be seen in the various categories in the gallery on this website constitute a record of my studies, journeys, friendships, experiences and aspirations This learning process is very much a never ending ongoing one. As you might imagine from this synopsis, musicians and poets and their creations and of course, life itself, are as important a part of what informs my work and teaching as what I have learned from visual artists and traditional art educational resources.

12/12/2011Anibal Coufal: Many thanks for your site! I really respect what you’re writing here.

BB: Thanks for letting me know!!

11/25/2011chadron: I am an artist you can see my work at my question today is what should i do to be succesful at art and be in a gallery someday ? I would like to be great like known and great like you one day.

BB: Sorry for the delay in answering your question & I appreciate your optimistic estimate of me and my work. How to be successful as an artist in today’s world is not an easy question and there is no easy answer. Also, every person’s path is different.. I will try to list (in no particular order) what I think are some of the most important activities & qualities that may help lead to developing your art and being accepted into the professional art environment. 1.Get a bachelors and masters degree in fine art at a school with art teachers you respect and like. 2. Establish good work habits and plan your work and study strategies both for daily work as well as in 6 month to 1 year segments. .Establish achievable goals and achieve them in a step by step program. 2. Be ambitious.Work harder than everyone else. 3. Go to every museum and international level art exhibition. Study the art there. Figure out what you like and don’t like. 4. Go to openings and art galleries and make friends in that environment… especially with artists better than you. Study with them if possible. Ask lots of questions. Act on what you learn if you get good advice. Learn to distinguish from good and bad advice.. 5. Figure out what your goal is: i.e: what type of art you wish to make and make this goal as narrow and achievable as you possibly can. Pursue this goal with laser-like consistency and persistence 6. Develop emotional skin as tough as rhinoceros while shepherding, cultivating and refining the tender artistic sources, resources and motivations within you. 7. Learn how to pray.

11/8/2011Hallie Heald: I am a college student in a small liberal arts college in California. I am in my first life drawing class and started out well but am now stuck doing the same quality of work. I continue to disappoint myself and my teacher because I am never finished in the 20 min drawing time. I am a perfectionist and focus on the modeling and details of the figure. Everyone in my class is excelling and I am failing. how do I break these habits ( i practice almost daily).

BB: Stop trying to do the Mona Lisa! Ignore the details ..learn to draw the big shapes and capture the gestural elements. , My book and DVD explain and demonstrate exactly how to do this so I will not repeat here..The exercises therein will enable you to break the self defeating “perfectionism” habit which is based on an illusion…that a drawing to be any good , has to be perfect.. Would you go to learn tennis, golf, or the violin and expect to play every shot or note perfectly right away? Why should drawing be any different? To learn anything you have to become humble and willing to make mistakes. . even fail.There is an exercise called “make a bad drawing” in which the goal is to make the worst drawing you can ..this will break this tendency to over carefulness. If you have to do something perfectly observe the directional angles of the main body segments perfectly. That will give much better results that superficial modeling which is just one aspect of drawing and of lesser importance than most other aspects (see book). Direct your efforts on mastering these other principles. If you are sincere you must do this You must struggle to improve..I have never heard any one claim that it should be easy or perfect. Remember…practicing the wrong things is worse than not practicing at all.

10/27/2011Cathy: I just bought your wonderful book Expressive Figure Drawing. I have been using watercolors and sketching with them but love your expressive drawings. How can I translate your expressive figure drawing to still life and sketching? I also love your statement about “working with what comes out rather than “correcting” what you do”…..I just want to immerse myself in learning as much as I can about this! thanks, (are you ever coming up to Northern CA to teach-Sonoma County ?)

BB: Thanks for your kind comments and enthusiasm. I hope to come to Northern CA sometime but haven’t lined anything up yet If you have any good suggestions as to where I should teach up there I am all ears.I hope you you can come to on of my workshops at some point at any rate . I am doing a figure drawing workshop in Santa Barbara the weekend of the 21st of this month if that helps . In the meantime have you seen my DVD’s which offer much additional info and “live” demonstrations of my approach (available at Film Baby and Amazon)? I have three new DVDs coming out within the next few months as well. You can translate my approach to still life and landscape, etc. The principles are exactly the same. Try it!


BB: It has occured to me that your question was not regarding making a good background in a figure drawing but rather why one should have a good foundation in figure drawing. I answered the first possibility a while ago below.. Now I will try to answer this second possibility: The human figure is not the most difficult thing to draw as anyone who has tried to draw a horse or a bare tree knows. But the varied forms of the human figure are a perfect subject to develop all the basic drawing skills…. Answer regarding the background aspect of a figure drawing: Everything in a picture should be there for a reason. It should serve the purpose of advancing the message and meaning the artist wishes to convey. For me the message I wish to convey is about the emotional and musical power of the rhythms, contours and spatial relationships of the figure itself. So, for me, the only reason to put in a background is to make those things clearer. However I most often find that if the weight and angles of the figure relative to the page are convincing then a background other than the tone of the paper is superfluous.To put in an identifiable background would tell a different story ..perhaps about the model’s life and situation actual narrative about the model’s world. That would be, in my way of thinking, the reason to make a background with its own interest and identity… BTW. If it is just a question of having a good atmospheric background color I recommend doing a light varied watercolor wash (or even a heavier one in liquid acrylic) and then doing your drawing in layers of dark and light on top. Also you can try working on tinted papers and drawing with materials that contrast with the paper (white crayon on black paper for example).

10/8/2011karen: hi bill, i am wanting to make my own torchon, can you advise or point me in the right direction as all i can find on line seems to be food related. many thanks x

BB: I have never tried to make one.. Torchons come in many sizes and are very useful for blending especially in areas too narrow for your fingers because they have nice (rounded )points.. Some artists use tissue paper, chamois cloths (wrapped around a pencil point, bits of sponge , fingers and so on. It would hard to improve upon a manufactured torchon and they cost very little. Maybe get a ready made and use the time on making drawings instead? 🙂

9/14/2011Er Sanjeev Kulkarni: …2… from a loooong time I wanted to sketch on your pattern… exactly the same type of sketches with a brief watercolor… how you made your hand turn so easily.. you know…it required a lot of efforts to come out of your sketchbook and nude male/female figures.. you are simply splendid…absolutely awesome.. regards with a lot of luv your greatest fan from India,Asia

BB: Thank You very much. I appreciate your comments and your drawing passion from a world away. Its all about seeing…the more carefully and deeply your eye sees, the more information there is for your hand to follow. ..The eye is the master and the hand is the slave. :-)…The artist is both.

9/6/2011sanjeev: I am interested in only sketches with gel pens drawn with a speed without any details…that too with a neat proportion.what exactly should I do to achieve this.can you recommend a good site..??thanks

BB: To do what you describe you need to learn how to do gesture drawings with a pen. Thorough explanations and demonstrations of the main ways to learn how to do this are found in both my figure drawing book “Expressive Figure Drawing” (Please see on Amazon) and my figure drawing DVD, “Art is an Attitude” (Please see elsewhere on my site or else on Amazon). To learn how to do this please check these out. For this purpose I also recommend the book “The Natural Way to Draw” by Nicoliades. Happy drawing!

9/6/2011Debbie: Good Morning Bill – another question from greenhornville 🙂 – I just received your book Expressive Figure Drawing and LOVE LOVE LOVE It! Is there a certain kind of ‘paper’ that you favor when doing acrylic ink/gouache washes? In your book on page 20 you have an example of a figure done with with sumi brush and thin acrylic ink wash, what kind of paper did you use for that? As always thanks so much Bill! Debbie

BB: I am glad you are so happy with the book.The real answer to the question you ask is simple: you can use any kind of paper that is made to be able to take water media. Page 44 in the “Materials” section of my book gives a good explanation of the various types of papers and makes recommendations. As far as that specific picture goes: In my foreign sojourns I have used many papers that were local to the country I was in. The picture you refer to was done quite a few years ago on a good quality (but by no means, exceptional quality) “sketch” paper that is local to and only available in Denmark. The photograph makes it appear more off-white than it is (white surfaces are notoriously variable in photographs and photographs don’t reveal the qualities of paper particularly well). The papers I recommend in my book are the best that I know of and I really do recommend them over others that are around. because they are best suited for the techniques in the book…they are the ones I use. For you to to start with I recommend the Fabriano Eco-White 220 gr (95 lb) which is similar to the paper in the image you refer to. I think you can get it through Jerry’s Artarama. If not just Google it and I am sure you will find it. Good luck and happy drawing!

8/20/2011debbie: Good Morning Bill and Happy Sunday 🙂 I”ve got some watercolor paper that is kind of an off-white. I know this sounds like such a stupid question, but can a person gesso over the paper so it’s white-white or is there another way to to tint the paper so its super white. Many Thanks! Debbie

BB: Dear Debbie, You can go over the paper with one or two layers of thin diluted gesso to create an all white waterproof surface but it defeats the purpose of the watercolor paper. with its attractive absorbent surface. Once gessoed you can still paint on it with acrylic or even oil (depending on the type of gesso) but the surface will not easily accept watercolor or ink. The paper will also warp unless you have it stretched and taped. I personally much prefer off-white watercolor paper which is warmer in tone. Probably its better to use the off-white as is and next time get a very white paper if you really need the cooler background tone. 🙂

8/14/2011Debbie: Aloha Bill, Just wanted to say how much I love your instruction and your art 🙂 Quick question: ‘what brand of acrylic ink do you use?’ Thank you! :))))

BB: There are several good brands. Dr. PH Martins Spectralite and Tech inks, GoldenAirbrush color and Schminke all work well and have different color choices. I especially like the new Liquitex. Best of alI I like the Lascaux acrylic gouache which functions like an acrylic ink when diluted but can also be uses more thickly. I hope this helps. Aloha

8/10/2011Jay: Hello Bill. I recently purchased one of your line of sumi brushes. I never knew such a quality brush could be had for so reasonable a price. It performs wonderfully and has only shed one hair that I’m aware of. My question is when are your line of bamboo pens coming out. ?

BB: Hi, It is because I found it was nearly impossible to find really top quality Sumi brushes in the US that I decided to make these brushes available so it is encouraging to hear your experience. My “Zen” bamboo pens will be available in a just a few weeks. I will post the news to you as soon as they are. Thank you very much. Enjoy!.

8/7/2011cardaddy: Hi guys! Cool website! Do you know more blogs on this topic?

BB: hasa great many figure drawing resources.

7/26/2011tom: do bamboo reed pens need to be soaked in water prior to use

BB: Not really, although it will tend to improve as you load it with sumi or india ink and work with it a little. Actually you want to avoid soaking it as it might cause the wood to expand and split. So when you are done using it rinse it thoroughly and dry it off thoroughly with a paper towel.

7/6/2011Sean : Hey Bill what kind of pastel or pen is it that you use when doing your figure drawings? Thank you!! Sean

BB: Hi Sean, These are the materials I generally use in my figure work: Crayons/Chalks/Pastels:… Cretacolor Pastel Chalk Fired Deep Black, Extra Soft;… Cretacolor Art Chunky;… Cretacolor Pastel Carré;… Sennelier Soft Pastels,…Conté Crayon 2B;… Oil Pastels: Sennelier Artists Oil Pastels, Regular;… Sennelier Artists Oil Pastels, “Grand”;… Charcoal:… General’s Charcoal Chunk;… Graphite: Cretacolor Monolith graphite pencils;… Cretacolor Graphite 5.6 mm leads and holders;… Water-Soluble Crayons:… Cretacolor Aquastics or Caran D’ache Neo Color II;… Fountain Pen & Ink:… Pelikan Souveran M series 1000,600,400 or 300) Fountain Pen, B nib;… Pelikan Fount India Ink;… Rollerball Pen: Various Zebra rollerballs .7 mm or larger;… Sumi Brushes:… Bill Buchman Zen Sumi Brushes (various sizes – available through this site);… Reed Pens: Bill Buchman Zen Reed Pen (available soon);… Sumi Ink: Yasutomo Liquid Sumi Ink;…Other watermedia for use with Sumi brush:… Lascaux Acrylic Gouache;… Sennelier Watercolors, Turner Acrylic Gouache;… Liquitex or other airbrush colors(liquid acrylic)… Sketch & Drawing Paper: Fabriano Eco-White 56 lbs (120gms) and 94 lbs (200gms) – 20” x 25.5”;… … Canson Biggie “Sketch” pad 50 lbs 18″ x 24”;… Fabriano Studio Sheets – 200 & 300 gms – 19.5″x 27.5″;… Watercolor Paper:… Fabriano Artistico Watercolor Paper – 200 gms & 330 gms &640gms- Traditional White – 22″ x 30″;… Fabriano Studio Watercolor Sheets – 200 gms & 300gms – 19.5″x 27.5″;… Brush Cleaner for Sumi Brushes: General’s Brush Cleaner; …also….An oriental style circular mixing dish with seven sections; plastic or ceramic;… A water container for cleaning brushes and some paper towels;… A plastic squirt bottle. i hope this helps. Please see my ‘Art is an Attitude” DVD and my book “Expressive Figure Drawing” for more detailed explanations and demonstrations of how and when I use these materials. Happy drawing! Best Regards, Bill

7/3/2011Harriet Williams: Bill,I guess i should have been more specific in my last question. I have most of the books you mentioned, what i”m looking for are books that have photos of the nude model in various poses. Many of the books have a DVD included to download. I should have been more specific. I can’t always make it to the evening live model drawing sessions locally. Thanks, H WIlliams

BB: Hm-I don’t have nuch help to offer you there- especially with photo DVD’s Don’t know much anout them although I know there a bunch of them around.around. What i have seen are pretty boring ..I would recommend drawing things around your house: furniture, fruit, flowers, plants pets, guests, family members, etc.. Drawing something from 3D life is best Or copying master drawings from drawing books.Sorry I can’t be more helpful.

6/7/2011Harriet: Hi Bill, I forgot to ask if you can recommend any DVD’s or books on drawing the nude figure. I’m tiring of the ones i have. They include The Nude Figure by Mark Edward Smith, The Nude Female Figure by (see previous author), and Art Models 3 by Maureen and Douglas Johnson. and I will try following your advice from the last posting!! Thanks again, H

BB: The Natural Way to Draw – Nicolaides; Learning to Draw – Robert Kaupelis; The Practice and Science Of Drawing – Harold Speed; The Art of Responsive Drawing – Nathan Goldstein; The Natural Way to Paint –Charles Reid; Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters – Robert Beverly Hale; plus of course, my “Art Is and Attitude” DVD and the “Expressive Figure Drawing” book. Look for my new DVD’s in a few months

6/6/2011Harriet: HI Bill, I’m working my way through your book. Several of my “experiments” have turned out well, others not so much, but will continue to plug away. I have a question about the use of oil pastels. Do you use any fixative and if not do they hold up well on paper? Should they be framed under glass? I find it difficult using the fountain and reed pens, i think because correcting seems impossible. I suppose i should continue to work with them until my drawings show improvement. I really like the ” structure drawing” with conte followed by contour and the massing-in followed by contour. These are great ways to loosen up prior to a session. In fact, for most of my successful drawing lately I have been using these methods. I’m drawing almost every day now and my enthusiasm seems to be based on those successful approaches. thanks

BB: Dear Harriet. I am glad you are getting motivated to draw as much as you are..The idea with the fountain pen and reed pen is to let yourself make “bad” (i.e.not fully controlled drawings) drawings until that doesn’t bother you any more. Then you can start to improve them by finding out how to make the uncontrolled parts work and maybe getting some more control going as well. The whole idea is getting used to working with what comes out rather than “correcting” what you do. Its a matter of commitment. As far as fixing of oil pastels: after a while they will cure and not be so moist to the touch. Sennelier makes an oil pastel fixative which can help . A thin (diluted layer) of acrylic varnish (matte or satin) is another possibility when you are completely finished.This works surprisingly well. For exhibition purposes they do need to be framed under glass or plexiglass. By all means keep that enthusiasm going.

6/6/2011John: Hi Mr. Buchmann, last year i bought your book and video ‘s and they are really great. But i have a question: when i practise with the sketches / drawing and after wards i want to use the water colors: –> do i need to wet the paper first or –> do i just use the brush with the water color soaked and then color the places? would be nice if you could help me with the correct order of drawing / sketching and coloring. thankz John Q. from the Netherlands.

BB: Hi John, I am glad you find my DVD’s and book useful. I never wet the paper first ..wet paper dilutes the color and makes it impossible to control (exception: … doing a light blue sky in a landscape) Follow the order as I do it on the DVD..oil pastel drawing first …then juicy watercolor.s Load the brush with the color so that when you paint with it the areas of greatest concentration will appear dark while the medium and light areas appear translucent (so that the paper shines through). Loading the brush with the right tone takes experimentation. The main thing is to use the brush really loaded and much wetter than you think it should be. Watercolor, as the name implies , ought to be wet…really wet. I recommend studying a book on art materials and their uses that will enumerate the basic ways watercolor can be used… just to learn how it behaves. I will be doing a DVD that will show this in the near future but you don’t need to wait for that. Go for it!

5/12/2011Jay: Hello Bill, I must tell you I have gotten a great deal of knowledge and inspiration from your book and DVD’s. In your book, you mention a brand of bamboo pen, Zen. I cannot find them sold anywhere online or in stores. The only ones I have found are badly made and to o frustrating to draw with. Do you have information on where I can find the pens you mentioned? Thank you.

BB: I am very glad to hear that and thank you for telling me. It means a lot to me. The bamboo pens I have designed and called the Bill Buchman Zen Pen will be coming out soon . They will be like the ones in my book and on the DVD’s (Actually, better) . Unfortunately they are not ready quite yet. I am waiting for the final details to fall into place and hope they will be available within a month or two. They will come in 3 different sizes and really work well. Please check back in about 6 weeks. Sorry for the delay.

4/12/2011Carol: Dear Mr Buchman: I love your jumbo Sumi Brush. I ordered it from Amazon from the link on your website. I have your Creative Break Out dvd and I have learned so much! I want to practice the one gesture ink paintings with the jumbo brush. I have a few questions about how to use the brush correctly that I was hoping you could help me with: 1. I followed the instructions and soaked it before I used it but when I painted it had almost a soapy bubbly consistency. Is that normal? and 2. When using the brush, should I dip in in water first and then ink, or dip a dry brush into the ink? Thank you very much again for the great tips and inspiring dvd. Carol

BB: Thank you for your message and for purchasing my DVD and the Zen brush and I am happy to hear you are getting so much out of the DVD. Regarding your questions: 1) When you soak your brush the first time to remove the starch some residual bubbles may appear but these will not continue for long. Sometimes your ink (which should always be diluted with water to some extent ) may also create some bubbles but this will only add to the interest of the brush stroke when dry. 2) Your brush should be thoroughly wet before using it so always allow the brush to soak for a couple of minutes before you begin . When you dip your wet brush in the ink the amount of wetness of your brush will influence the brush strokes that follow – the more water in your brush, the more translucent the stroke…the less water in your brush, the more opaque your stroke will appear. Happy Painting

4/8/2011pat: Hi Bill: I purchased your book while on holiday in Phoenix AZ. I note you mention you can purchase Zen sumi brushes through Jerry’s Arterama. I have looked them up and no Zen Sumi Brush available. On your site it directs me to and they do not ship to Canada. Any suggestions as to how one can obtain a set of these brushes. Thank you. Pat Jasper

BB: Dear Pat, Thank you for contacting me. I am sorry you have run into difficulty obtaining the brushes. I think the brushes should be shippable to Canada from Amazon. I will check out why they aren’t and see how it can be rectified. Alternatively you can buy them directly from me. Please send me an e-mail at and I will provide you with the relevant info..

3/8/2011ivan: Hi Bill I was in your San louis obispo class. I am trying to find out where to buy the “Oriental style mixing dish we used (ceramic) & also a holder for creta color crayons. Thanks Ivan

BB: Hi Ivan These links give you some choices. The crayon holders I usually use aren’t made any more. The ones listed below are all new to me. I’ve ordered the Hanson , the Lyra and the Standard to try them out . Jerry’s Artarama AmazonAnother Amazon Link Good luck and cheers, Bill PS. 4/8 These holders all turned out to be too large for the CretaColor crayons . I am still searching for a holder which will work and will post the link here when I find it. Anyone : Please let me know if you find one.

2/17/2011jacob: how to hold your pencil when drawing

BB: Please see answer below.

1/26/2011Mo: Hi Bill, I was in your San Luis Obispo workshop, I loved the class! You mentioned you would put a list of supplies you used during the class on your wed sight. It is probably there but I can’t seem to locate it. Please direct me. Thanks, Mo

BB: Here’s the complete list: Materials for Bill Buchman Courses/Workshops 2010-2011 – Water-Soluble Crayons: Cretacolor Aquastics;… Water-Soluble Colored Pencils: Cretacolor Aqua Monoliths;… Crayons/Chalks/Pastels: Cretacolor Pastel Chalk Fired Deep Black, Extra Soft;… Cretacolor Art Chunky;… Cretacolor Pastel Carré;… Conté Crayon 2B;… Oil Pastels: Sennelier Artists Oil Pastels – Regular;… Sennelier Artists Oil Pastels – “Grand”;… Charcoal: General’s Charcoal Chunk;… Graphite: Cretacolor Monolith graphite pencils;… Graphite 5.6 mm leads and holders;… Fountain Pen & Ink: Pelikan Souveran M1000,(or 800, 600,400 or 300) Fountain Pen, B nib;… Pelikan Fount India Ink;… Rollerball Pen: Zebra GR8 Roller Medium Point 0.7mm;… Sumi Brushes: Bill Buchman Zen Sumi Brushes (various sizes)(available through this site);… Reed Pens: Bill Buchman Zen Reed Pen (available soon);… Sumi Ink: Yasutomo Liquid Sumi Ink;… Acrylic Watermedia for use with Sumi brush: Lascaux Gouache;… Turner Acrylic Gouache;… Dr PH Martin Tech Inks;… Golden Airbrush Colors;… Sketch Paper: Fabriano Eco-White 56 lbs (120gms) 20” x 25.5”;… Fabriano Eco-White 94 lbs (200gms) 20” x 25.5”;… Canson Biggie “Sketch” pad 50 lbs 18″ x 24”;… Drawing Paper: Fabriano Studio Sheets – 300 gms – 19.5″x 27.5″;… Strathmore Drawing Paper Medium – 400 Series – 80 lb – 18” x 24” Watercolor Paper: Fabriano Artistico Watercolor Paper – 200 gms – Traditional White – 22″ x 30″;… Fabriano Artistico Watercolor Paper – 330 gms – Traditional White – 22″ x 30″;… Fabriano Artistico Watercolor Paper – 640 gms – Traditional White – 22″ x 30″;… Fabriano Studio Watercolor Sheets – 200 gms – 19.5″x 27.5″;… Fabriano Studio Watercolor Sheets – 300 gms – 19.5″x 27.5″;… Strathmore Watercolor Paper – 400 Series – 300 gms – 80 lbs – 18” x 24” Brush Cleaner for Sumi Brushes: General’s “The Master’s” Brush Cleaner and Preserver Final Drawing Fixative: Grumbacher Matte Final Fixative (all drawing media) Other materials: An oriental style circular mixing dish with seven sections; plastic or ceramic;… A water container for cleaning brushes and some paper towels;… A plastic squirt bottle.

11/23/2010EYEYE JUSTICE EROWO: what does take to draw to precision in a life drawing section?

BB: Please pardon the delay in my response. Thank you for a great and big question but there are no easy answers. The easiest suggestion, however, is just to observe and draw more slowly and carefully in order be more precise. But there is a great deal more to it than that. I would say learning to draw with precision is a training process. First of all, a drawing does not have to be totally accurate in order to be interesting. I have found that focusing too much on precision often leads to a lifeless result. There are different kinds of precision and some give a more lively and artistic result than others. For example if you accurately observe and capture the main angles of the axes of the hips, shoulders, spine, arms and legs you will end up with a figure that appears able to support itself. This impression of the correct weight distribution has more to do with the believable impression your drawing will make than any other aspect. Also being able to capture an accurate impression of the overall sense of action and interaction in a figure, ( known as capturing the “gesture”) will do more to make your drawing convincing than if you just portray surface details and the individual bits and pieces. Once you are able to capture the gesture and the directional axes of the various body parts it becomes a great deal easier to flesh in the details and the end result will be more convincing and powerful. There are many training exercises for learning how to isolate and accurately observe these factors as well as the contours, shading, volumes, and so on. The process is: once you have sensitized yourself to each type of observation it becomes easier to put the various aspects together. My DVD, Art is an Attitude and my upcoming book Expressive Figure Drawing (coming in December) explain fully explain how all this is accomplished. Since you asked such a big question I would humbly point you in those directions to find your question more fully answered. Best regards and happy drawing!

9/11/2010osmundp: how to hold a pencil when drawing

BB: Many people advocate holding your pencil loosely between your thumb and first two fingers almost horizontally so that the back end of the pencii dangles under your palm . I do not recommend this. We have all grown up writing with pencils (and pens) held firmly with the thumb and first two fingers so that the pencil is at an upright angle sticking up through the space formed between the thumb and the forefinger. This is already a familiar and natural position and definitely gives the most control. With this ordinary writing grip you still have firm control even if you draw in a free and loose manner. And by the way, free and loose, is the way to go. 🙂

5/30/2010Louise : How do I ‘clean’ a paper torchon for drawing? 🙂

BB: A torchon , also known as a stump, is a tool made of a hard roll of paper that is used for blending tones of charcoal, graphite(pencil), pastel, chalk or other dry abrasive drawing media. They come in different sizes and are a more accurate tool than your fingers for controlling “smearing ” effects. When you wish to clean it for fresh use, usually with a different drawing media, just sand it down a little with a piece of fine sandpaper. Stumps are good but try also pieces of sponge, felt, kleenex, or other odd materials for different blending and graduated tone effects. : -)

11/29/2009jina: how do you color your drawing, a plant with contrasting colors on the outsides of the drawing where there is space?

BB: If i am not mistaken, you are asking how to make a colored background to contrast with your subject. There are many ways to do this. First, it may not be necessary. The white background of the paper often makes the best background because it keeps the sense of air and transparency. You will notice I rarely give more than a slight hint of a background (if that) in my drawings because the background can take over and dominate the drawing and change the appearance of the subject (i.e the plant or figure) in unexpected and unwanted ways. But anyway good contrast and a feeling of air and transparency is generally what you want. The color should be applied in a diluted or porous and varied way. If the color is too flat or heavy it will tend to not look like space and will instead come forward and compete with your subject (although sometimes I like this effect). Using a different medium for your background can create an additional contrast of texture which can be very effective.In general do your backround so that it is less powerful than your subject and does not compete with it. A background should be just that – a background. PS if you do your drawing on toned or colored paper than you have a background color right from the beginning to contrast your subject with. i hope this helps. Good luck!

11/27/2009Emani: I am a college student majoring in Graphic Design. I am currently in Drawing 1. We are into self portraits now, and I am having the hardest time being able to draw the exact same thing on both sides of the face. I am not an artist, but have surprised myself on some of our projects! Is there any advise you could give that would help me with this problem. I know they say practice, but my project is due now and I need HELP! Thank you in advance for your assistance.

BB: Sorry if this answer comes too late. I believe you are referring to getting the eyes and ears and corners of the jaw, etc. to line up on both sides. You draw very light (6H pencil) guidelines parallel with the edges of you paper from one side to the other to indicate the bottom and top of both eyes ears, etc. This is assuming the head is level. if the head is at an angle the indicator lines will be parallel with the angle (at the same angle) as the head. Once you’ve got the basic positions you erase the guidelines and draw in the features. 🙂

11/23/2009monika: I am practicing the dvd “Art is an Attitude”; finally, I got to draw the last demo chapter 27 Mass & Line using acrylic ink & watercolor crayon. I like the finished color you get on a figure; I see there is a little bit of yellow, orange, red/ochre as they are bleeding into each other. When I mix my colors, I put a little water in a dish and start adding few drops of Dr. Ph. Martins Spectralite liquid acrylic little bit of yellow, red & brown. Then, I dip my sumi brush in, and all I get, is one shade of hot orange on a paper. Would you tell me why this happens, please help to understand. Looking forward to hear from you.Thank you again for your wonderful dvd.

BB: Monika, I am glad you are practicing the exercises You will find they they will pay off the more you can do. To get the effects of the mixed colors that you like: have three separate mixing containers or one mixing dish with separate divisions (like the oriental flower mixing dish you can see on the DVD).. Put several drops of one color in one and the next color in the next and so on so each color is separate. Always add the water second so you can control the concentration. You will end up with three separate fully mixed colors ready to paint with. The idea is to add one color to the paper very wet and then add the next so it comes into contact with the edge of the first color and blend with it a little bit. Yellow , red and brown are all warm colors and very close together . You will get a more interesting result using a combination that includes more contrasting colors. For example, try using a warm and a cool color together (like yellow and blue). I will be giving my figure drawing class on July 12 at the Learning & Product Expo in Chicago so you haven’t missed it. Try to make it if you can. You can register at Happy drawing!

6/23/2009david: what arethe 5 main drawing equipments andb th eir uses

BB: Nice question. You know…you can draw with almost anything. You can dip a stick into a bottle of ink or even a cup of coffee and make quite an interesting drawing. And not all artists would agree what the five main drawing tools are. So I can only say what my top favorites are. The number of traditional drawing tools is huge and growing all the time. Here follows a list of some of the traditional drawing tools (please be aware that each drawing tool has unique functions and abilities which are useful for differing results and effects; there are many terrific books dedicated to how to work with each of these types of drawing materials ): charcoal and charcoal pencils, chalks, pastels (hard and soft), Conte crayons, litho crayons and pencils, graphite pencils and carbon pencils, colored pencils (water-soluble and non water-soluble), wax crayons(water-soluble and non water-soluble), fountain pens, reed pens (bamboo), quill pens (feather),dip pens (with detachable nibs), sumi brush, brush pens, graphite powder, felt tips, gel pens and so on. In my teaching we start with a square conte type of crayon -I use the Cretacolor black pastel carre which is a little darker and richer than the conte. Also we draw with rollerball pens. My favorite is the Zebra GR8 Roller. And we draw with sumi brush with ink, reed pen with sumi ink, wax watercolor crayons (Cretacolor Aquastix))and Art Chunkies (big earthy chalks). So that’s my personal big seven. For the sake of full disclosure I should mention that I sometimes work for some of these companies and demonstrate their products but that doesn’t change the fact that these are my favorite materials anyway.

10/1/2008Tip #1: What is the best way to hold your pen or pencil when drawing?

BB: Some people like to hold their drawing instrument loosely and even awkwardly in order to be more expressive. I recommend holding your pen , pencil, or crayon firmly (although not tightly) in the same way you would hold it to write with. This gives maximum control. Having a good and naturally comfortable grip will help you to draw with a confident and fluid motion. Then the energy and movement of your arm and hand will translate to the page.

7/23/2008Julienne: Thanks Bill. Great video! Are you teaching any upcoming classes in the Los Angeles area. I am a student at Art Center College of Art and Design, and I need some additional help.

BB: Julienne, I will be teaching classes at the Learning and Product Expo in Pasadena, October 24-26. For more info see I hope to see you there!

5/30/2008prons: Hi I’ve been trying to draw lately and I’ve gotten better except for one problem. All my art looks like cartoon characters without the color. It seems I can’t figure out how the achieve the full look or shading of professional figure drawing. I’m just using a #2 pencil and notebook paper, so I’m not sure if the problem is my technique, or my equipment. Can you help point me in the right direction to pinpoint my problem?

BB: Perhaps the answer is both equipment and technique. Get an art sketchpad and try differnt types of drawing and sketching pencils and crayons. For shading I recommend trying a broken conte crayon on it’s side and practice making five patches of tone each distinctly different going from light to dark and then also single strips of shading going from dark to light. Also try the same thing with a water soluble lead pencil like General’s “Sketch and Wash” or a 6B (very soft)woodless (solid graphite pencil)pencil both with the point and on it’s side. Also get some styrofoam 3-dimensional shapes from Micheal’s Craft Store to study how to shade spheres, cubes, cylinders etc. and practice the shading effects. “Rendering in Pencil” by Arthur Guptill, “Anyone can Draw” by Artur Zaidenberg (you can find cheap out of print copies online) and a new one “Keys to Drawing” by Bert Dodson are 3 great books on drawing. And, of course, if possible, try a local figure drawing class or course. Happy drawing!

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