:: blog ::

Wanted: ball-point pen

Or Learning To Draw Water on Zoom

I hate ball-point pens. Yes, I know. Hate is a strong word. I’m not usually picky about my materials, but I really really do hate to use ballpoints. So much so that I have removed Every Ballpoint Pen from my studio. (Okay, full disclosure: I keep one that is out of ink to use as stylus on meat trays to make monoprints.)

But, with the stay-at-home order, Jack Laws has taken the Nature Journaling workshops online. And the latest one was How to Draw Water with a Ball Point Pen.

I did not have an appropriate pen. I searched and searched…and finally my partner found one in the back of the kitchen everything drawer. Success!

Within the first 5 minutes of the workshop, Jack said that the process works just fine with a pencil. GAHHHHHHHH! 🙂

It got better from there. In fact, it got AWESOME from there. I (and the other 336 journalers on Zoom) learned simple techniques to sketch that most formidable and elusive combo: water and reflections.

I took some notes at a breakneck pace.

For the last activity, I switched back to my fave pen. Looking at the notes, I see that the ball point pen has a lovely line quality. While this doesn’t inspire me to run out and buy a 10-pack of ball-points, it does open my mind to the unique marks they make. I feel my hatred abating; maybe I’m on a path to love them…after all, we need more love in the world.


I learned that using an unfamiliar tool can open up new approaches. I also learned wave doodles, how to sculpt a landscape with soft lines, and that a couple of ducks go a long way.

I was surprised by how easy it was to fall into the process and get immersed in the session. I didn’t expect that on Zoom. Seeing how Jack builds each step was a revelation and demystified the process of capturing water and reflections.

Next time I’d like to double-down on the ball-point action. Maybe experiment with blue!

About Jack & the Nature Journal Club

Jack Laws (aka John Muir Laws) inspired me (and thousands of others) to dedicate serious time to nature journaling. Jack is a naturalist, artist, and educator who loves connecting people to nature through art and science. He created the Nature Journal Club (NJC) and supports the global growth of the come-one-come-all grassroots effort. He’s also one hell of a teacher.

I’m lucky to live in the SF Bay Area where Jack does a monthly NJC workshop at various locations, and I try to go as often as possible. A couple of years ago I got to join Jack and in touring the bay with my workshop on Sketchnoting. He’s not only a wonderful teacher, but a caring soul and an inspiring man.

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