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The Wonderful World of Ink: Discovering the Joys of Ink Illustration

By Pathways

By Glory Alozie

Finding your style is probably one of the hardest things to do as an illustrator. When I first joined Pathways, I thought I knew what my style was and was sure that change wouldn’t be greeting me anytime soon. Lo and behold, my style has changed and it’s evolving everyday. 

It all started at our Illustrating Animals masterclass at Nottingham Trent University. I had two minutes to draw a crocodile and decided to use a new material. After panicking for the first 20 seconds, I took the brush dipped in ink and water, and drew a wonky line across the page. The crocodile drawing was finished with time to spare. It looked like nothing I’d ever drawn before but it definitely looked like some sort of crocodile, albeit a skinny one.

Crocodile illustration by Glory Alozie

I enjoyed the freedom this kind of mark making brought – it had the ability to look different while still being effective. However, I didn’t pick the brush up again until our Sequential Narratives masterclass. Drawing a ballerina on the moon hitting a tree was already difficult, but when I tried drawing it with brush and ink, I had a lot more fun. At this point I started seriously thinking ink could become one of my regular materials.

Ballerina dancing on the moon by Glory Alozie

I experimented with ink more and introduced it to the illustrations I made for Literature Brief 3, set by Scholastic. Drawing boats, trucks and cars using ink turned out to be some of my favourite parts of the brief. 

However! It was during our Non-Fiction Illustration and Illustrated Fiction short courses, that I really felt that the world of ink was a wonderful one. The two short courses ran on adjacent weekends and were hosted by Flying Eye books with illustrators Owen Davey and William Grill, and Usborne Publishing with illustrators Hannah Shaw and Jonny Hannah. Both really got me thinking about two things: What kind of journey do I want to take my viewers on through my illustrations? What were the different ways in which brush and ink could help me deliver these adventures?

Th-ink-ing about Non-fiction Illustration

I wasn’t too excited about the Non-Fiction Illustration course at first since I didn’t think non-fiction was an area I was likely to go into. Was I wrong? Yes. During the two day course, illustrators Owen Davey and William Grill made non-fiction illustration look cool. They took us through their processes and told us how they developed their own styles.  Both had very different approaches to illustration but agreed that finding their personal styles had not been a quick or easy process. Gathering research for their non-fiction projects took them from meeting experts to travelling the world.

As part of this short course, we were tasked with choosing a subject and illustrating the first couple of spreads of a mock non-fiction book. I chose Peter Thomas, the first Nigerian Royal Air Force Pilot. Thanks to some great advice from the illustrators and Flying Eye Books, I chose to work with ink once again. I was shown another technique that was very effective with landscapes and city skylines. It involved using different sized brushes to explore the shapes of buildings and their surroundings and concentrating more on the spaces in-between, rather than black outlines. The result? Illustrations I really liked and hope to replicate in future Pathways briefs.

Inky cityscape by Glory Alozie

Splashing with ink during the Illustrated Fiction Short Course

With my new found vigour to use ink again, I welcomed the next short course. During the course, Usborne books, Jonny Hannah and Hannah Shaw showed us different ways of developing fiction stories. Again, both illustrators had very different styles and approaches: Jonny’s was vibrant and busy, while Hannah’s was comedic with hidden surprises. Both made their stories look fun and inviting. 

Our main task for the weekend was to illustrate spreads from pre-existing books based on our own interpretations, without looking at what the books actually looked like beforehand! I picked a story  from the options that we were given and later found out it was from the book “The House with the Chicken Legs”.  This was another chance for me to explore the wonderful world of ink. I also decided to mix materials and see what brush and ink would look like alongside colouring pencils, brush pens and fine liners. I had great chats with Jonny, Hannah and Becky from Usborne who each encouraged different aspects of my work and pushed me to keep experimenting with movement, facial expressions, night scenes and weirdness. Thanks to them, I now have a plethora of weird chicken leg houses to put in my portfolio!   

The House with Chicken Legs illustration by Glory Alozie

These two short courses really helped me explore the world of ink. For me, brush and ink is more freeing than pencil. You can’t rub it out, so the first stroke has to be the best but it helps you look differently at mistakes and how you can make them work in your favour. Plus, it looks great on paper and it’s fun! But don’t just take my word for it, try it yourself. I’ve found it’s really good to try out different materials – you never know which one will become your favourite!

In conclusion, I may not know exactly what my style is yet, but I am having a ball on this journey of discovery. It is safe to say the next brief will be full of inky illustrations from me and experiments with textures. I can’t wait! 

Glory Alozie is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator. She likes to illustrate weird and wonderful scenes and characters and never fails to fill her drawings with bold lines and bright colours. Her favourite illustrator is Vashti Harrison and she can’t wait to one day, inspire kids with her awesome artwork too.

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