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  • Writer's pictureBonnie Johnson

Breaking Down my Pointillism Process

Updated: Jun 27, 2020

I just completed a new piece of ink pointillism! In celebration I wanted to share a more in depth look at my process creating pointillism art.

Microfall, 5 x 5 in, 2020

What is pointillism?

Pointillism is the practice of applying small, distinct dots of color applied in layers and patterns to form an image. Paint and ink can be used to create pointillism art.

My Pointillism

I started creating pointillism when I was 10 years old and an art teacher introduced it to me. Right away I chose to work with ink. Not only that, I chose the smallest tipped pens to create my dots. I wanted to work on a very small and detailed scale, and today I am not different.

I use Micron 005(0.20mm) colored pens to create my dots. My palette is limited to the colors of red, blue, yellow, green, purple, orange, brown, black, and pink.

Where Do I Start?

To begin my pointillism I make a highly detailed sketch. This sketch not only outlines the shapes of my subject matter, but also the locations of shadows and highlights. This sketch is easily removable when the work is complete and serves as a crucial road-map during the inking process.

Also I use my reference image. I am quite choosy about my pointillism subject matter. My reference photos for pointillism are always ones I take myself, usually on hikes out in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

A digital photo is important as I work on a small and detailed scale. So I need to be able to zoom in on various sections within the photo. Most of the time I am not looking at the full image, instead zoomed in on the specific section I'm working on.

Adding Dots

Pointillism is a layers game. A patient layers game.

So once I have everything in place I choose a place to start and begin to make spaced first layers blocking in my biggest colors. What I mean by spaced layers in low dot density per square centimeter(higher density comes later as more layers are added).

Now I like to work on one section at a time, layer it to completion then move on(kind of like a printer). So the next step in layering after the base colors is the additional colors to achieve greater color depth and variety(refer to the limited palette I described above). After that it's additional layers to achieve the correct saturation and shading levels for the area.

Take the shaded moss area as an example. The base color is green. The additional colors needed to make the green appear warmer and more natural are, yellow, orange and brown. Then additional layers of green and black are needed to achieve a shadowed appearance and for the color to come across at a distance.

More Days More Dots

I usually work on a pointillism piece a little bit(hour or so) each day or every few days. It's a very repetitive action so I want to avoid straining my hand. It takes a while for all of the work to add up, but as I said, it's a patience game.

Finishing Up

Once I have completed adding dots to all sections of my piece I take a step back and look at the piece as a whole, comparing it to the reference photo. At this point I add finishing touches in places where saturation or shadowing is lacking.

All Done!

Finishing a pointillism project is incredibly satisfying. A project that takes months(or a year) for an artist to complete is always an accomplishment.

At this point I make a high resolution scan of the work for sharing on social media and for addition to my website, as well as future show submissions.

Check out my YouTube series on creating pointillism art, as well as past blog posts for written lessons on pointillism. Best of luck making all those dots!

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