I borrowed this phrase from the recently deceased Canadian painter Robert Genn who believed that there is only so much we can learn about how to paint from the many fine instructors and resources available today. The true learning comes from going off on our own and just doing it - Go to your room!

I have had the good fortune to take instruction from outstanding artists in Canada and the USA. I continue to work on my own development ( Going to MY room!) . I share, through this blog and workshops, what I have learned and what others have shared with me.

I created this blog primarily for those attending my workshops to keep in touch and to further share as we grow together. If others are interested in following that would be great.

Enjoy the journey.

Thursday 14 March 2013

Interesting new tools - acrylic markers


Always wanting to try new "stuff". Recently became aware of acrylic marker pens. These pens contain liquid acrylics - that are reported to cover and dry like normal liquid acrylic paint. Had to try them. Many of you may have already been working with them but they are new to me.

From previous posts you would know that I like to do rough underdrawings for most of my acrylic and oil paintings - both studio and plein air. I start with water soluble pencil then lay in the final sketch using something permanent that can be seen through the first layers of paint but are finally covered with added paint. I use Sharpie black markers ( can be a challenge to cover with acrylics and oils will not cover easily) and China Markers - in a variety of colours that do cover well. I know many have trouble using these so when I heard of the new markers the obvious thing was acrylic over acrylic or oil over acrylic both work well so this might be worth trying.

So I get a few pens made by Montana. Got the very fine, fine, mid sized and larger to try.All are purchases as empty and need to be loaded. Got black and a few colours to try. It is a bit of a trick the first time opening the pen for loading but there are good instructions on the Montana web page.

Four sizes all loaded with acrylic paint

Replacement nibs, pen, and two sizes of acrylic for filling 

It works as expected. Used as an underdrawing it dries well and can be over painted without concern. Ideal for my purpose may be to to get a variety of colours thinking more of value than hue. 

I find that if I scrub hard I can lift some of the paint - but not enough to be a problem.

Have been trying it both in studio and plein air. Find the Fine (2mm) to be a good general drawing pen. The very fine is just too darn fine for what I do and will not work well on course linen or canvas but is great for sketching on paper. Also can be used to add fine details to a  painting. Recently started playing with the wide tips to boldly block in dark values and think there may be a real role for it there as well.

Initial drawing with water sol red pencil (need to enlarge to see it) then rough block ins with wide black and colours.

Rub on of neutral warms ( transparent red iron oxide I think) to soften overall then start of bringing in opaques to boats.

20x30  nearing completion ( or scrape pile)

Where it sits now. Need more thought. Am after a moody east coast feeling but went wild with water.

These pens are excellent for redrawing during painting - adding changes as they come. Also great for creating lines - masts in this case.

Not cheap but really a handy addition to the tool box. I am off to Tofino for a few days and plan to try them sketching on paper.

Used for initial sketch-in plein air and liked it 



  1. Wonderful initial drawing and will have to try these markers. BTW where did you buy a clamp like yours for the sketch book? I enlarged the photo, but could not find any helpful information.
    Thank you!

  2. Brian... after you've been experimenting with the Montana markers for a while, could you let us know whether the felt tips get clogged/ruined with dried paint? Also wondering if you can refill them with your own paint or if you must continually buy Montana refills? Thx! Have fun in Tofino!

  3. Yes, I noticed and wondered about the clamp too. Would like to get one.


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