Below is a step by step instruction on how to create artworks like the recently posted “Ghirardelli“, in pen, ink and watercolor.  Look out – here comes the next Bob Ross!

Step 1. Find a mediocre old personal photo, preferably from at least a decade ago. You don’t want to make this too easy on yourself.


San Francisco from the Water, 2004. A photographer I am not.

Step 2. Crop picture as desired. Be sure to crop out any particularly difficult parts. It’s important to know your strong suits.

Ghirardelli, Cropped

Step 3. Gather your tools. Everyone knows the more tools you use the better it’s going to turn out, right?

Drawing and Inking Tools

Drawing and Inking Tools – Is that a French Curve? Why yes, yes it is.

Step 4. Turn your iPod on to your current audiobook of choice while you tape down, measure, align, overanalyze, hem, haw and start marking up the paper to correspond to the cropped photo referenced through Photoshop or other software of choice.

Warning: This part can take a very very very long time. Did I say “long time”? I actually meant, looooooooooooonnnnnnnnngggggg tiiiiiimmmmmmmmee!

Ghirardelli - Initial Drawing

Ghirardelli – Initial Drawing. Jumped the gun on the ink.

Step 5. Get impatient with the drawing part and start inking before you have it all drawn out, hoping against hope you won’t regret this decision.

Ghirardelli Inking

Inking of Ghirardelli Drawing. Good try but that’s missing a lot of detail.

Step 6. Review your artwork. At this stage it’s normal to doubt all prior efforts and question your validity as an artist at all. Reevaluate how different this is from the initial photo and decide you better step up your game. Draw and ink in the remaining details.

Pen and ink of part of the San Francisco skyline that includes the Ghirardelli sign. By Esther BeLer Wodrich

Ghirardelli, Fully Drawn and Inked. That’s more like it.

Step 7. …and, you are done!

Not so fast! After all that hard work you’ll be tempted to stop here. It might not be a bad decision, but then you’d never know how it would have turned out in color. Time to get out the watercolors. Don’t worry, since you’ve inked in all the dark spots, this should be easy, right?! Well, it’s all relative, isn’t it.

Watercolor of part of San Francisco skyline with Ghirardelli sign as focal point

Ghirardelli – The Finished Product

NOW you are done.
If you’re anything like me, you probably held your breath through the entire artwork.

Take a look at your finished product. Did it turn out as you’d hoped? If so, hurray!
They won’t all. If not, put it away and look at it a few days later. You’d be surprised how some time and perspective can change your view.

Speaking of perspective . . .



Watercolor of part of San Francisco skyline with Ghirardelli sign as focal point





Happy painting!