Sabrina Underwood
Pen and Ink Artist Sabrina Underwood
Photo credit: Underwood

(January, 2004) - Sabrina Underwood combines the past with the present through an Old World Style of pen and ink drawing.  Her artwork appears in numerous publications around the world.  Sabrina feels that art is a very personal thing ... approaching each rendering as a work that should stand the test of time.

    - Mark D McKinley     [Mark's Online Graphics Site]

The Interview  Why do you embrace the older methods of pen and ink drawing when so many more advanced technical pens are readily available today?

Sabrina Underwood: I believe that the ability to draw is a gift and if utilized correctly and projects completed it may become a timeless gift to others.  Being gifted with a certain skill, one is connected to the past, present and hopefully to the future.  How better to embrace that connection to the past than dipping Old World Style into a cauldron of ink ... transferring the past to present day ... so that the connection to the past can exist into the future?  Do you collect old style writing instruments?

Sabrina Underwood:  Yes, actually I have several.  What's the oldest pen you've added to your collection?  Describe the most unique pen in your collection.

Sabrina Underwood:  The oldest stick I believe to be from the late 1800's.  I judge the age based on construction and material used.  The end that holds the nib is fashioned of brass and there's a ribbed section for gripping.  I believe it to have been a fine lady's writing tool for it's ornate design and was probably expensive.  And because it is somewhat thinner than most, I think it was crafted for a lady's hand. Where were you able to find such pens?

Sabrina Underwood:  The one I describe was a gift.  But I am always on the look-out in antique shops.  Does the composition itself ever play a role in determining the method of shading you'll use?

Sabrina Underwood:  Absolutely!  Recently I needed to capture the whisp of breath and chose stippling to create very tiny lines ... almost naked to the eye ... yet present. Which method of shading are you most comfortable with?

Sabrina Underwood:  Cross hatching has served me well for over 30 years now.  Line atop line, I can recess a space, create a curve or shadow at will.  What qualities do you look for in the paper you use?

Sabrina Underwood:  Smooth finish that won't hinder ink flow ... Stable weight to ensure a long life and quality suitable for framing.  Wouldn't have it any other way.  What I do is too difficult to waste on lousey paper.  So those qualities are consistent even when a drawing's created to be used only for publication purposes?

Sabrina Underwood:  There is no difference.  The paper I work on is suitable for framing or any other use.  Art should always be crafted on something intended for permanency.  Has a particular pen ever become an inspiration in itself?

Sabrina Underwood:  The antique pen I've described has led my hand more than once.  It seems to capture eyes better than other instruments.  It's a habit now more than anything to reach for that particular item when soulful eyes are needed.  When you're creating a pen and ink rendering of someone's pet what becomes your focal point -- your starting place?

Sabrina Underwood:  Hmmm ... pets are tricky.  As with people, animals tend to show their nature and spirit in the eyes.  I usually outline the sketch and work to capture the energy of the eyes first.  Then I can go from there.  For if I can capture the "look" the rest is easy.  The energy of the eyes ... I like that!  Do you prefer working from a photograph or from a sketch?

Sabrina Underwood:  I generally work from photographs for portraits.  Cameras are fantastic - aren't they?

But many commissions are done from written words alone.  I'd say at least 50% of my commissions began as someone's want of - say an altar piece - and we work from their ideas and wishes.  What type of music would best reflect your state of mind before beginning a challenging work of art.

Sabrina Underwood:  Well, the operative word in your question here is "challenging" - yes?  Yes.

Sabrina Underwood:  For that a little energy raising is always good.  "Ancient Mother"'s "The Circle is Cast" can take me from quiet and calm to fully energized by the song's end.  It is one of my all time favorites.  Share an unusual experience you've had while attending an art show that featured your own works.

Sabrina Underwood:  A girl, who could have not been more than 20, hugely pregnant, and meagerly dressed approached my booth one event.  She picked up a print of "The Asgard" and hugged it like a long, lost friend.  A soft sigh escaped her as she held it back from her and ran her hand across it.

I watched her face fall when she slid the print back into it's slot.

"Wait! You like that one?" I asked.  Unconsciously, her hand smoothed across the expanse of her belly and she replied: "Yes, I love it!  Your stuff is beautiful ... But I have no money."

Earlier that day while taking a walk myself, I'd noticed her plopped on a small stool next to a table.  "Aren't you an artisan, too?"  I prodded.  Still absorbed in "The Asgard", with glazed expression on her face, she nodded a quiet ... small ... almost sad nod.

Then she looked up!  A moment of change and opportunity, with hope in her eyes she asked: "Would you trade with me?"  The twinkle in her eye unmatchable.

This wasn't brain surgery!

I perked immediately and said "Of course!  Don't all pagans barter?"  I had watched her move as if weighed by stone ... now her girth was no object in her movement.  Surely, this size she must be due any day ... but she was dragging me!  My husband, Jim, gave me a wink as she led me by hand across the yard ... each step lighter than the one before.

We reached her table.  I made my selection and we hugged.  When our hug parted she had tears in her eyes.

So did I.

Of all the prints sold all over the world each day, it's hers I remember the most.

To do artwork is a fantastic thing.  But to have that artwork SO appreciated is something else entirely!  Sometimes we are granted the chance to *See* what we do and how we may affect others.  That is precious. That is sacred and something I keep very close to my heart.  What a neat story.  You've noted an important distinction between simply ego and actually coming to terms with one's work.

Sabrina Underwood:  And her trade?  It is an honored item in my home ... a steady reminder that what I do may truly touch another.  With words as your pen -- combine the use of stippling and cross-hatching in a drawing -- then add a watercolor wash.  Describe what you've drawn ... the colors you've used ... and how you merged those three elements into one unusual work of art.

Sabrina Underwood:  Do you know why almost all of my artwork is crafted with black and white?  Not only does it capture an Old World Style and feeling - but more importantly it allows YOU - the viewer - to add the color.  Take the piece "Morgan" for example: Had I chosen to give her gown a deep amber color, someone who thinks of Morgan in blue will not connect with the piece ... nor green ... nor red ... nor violet ... you get the idea!

So just for fun ... not trying to avoid your question here ... but let's talk black and white and the many shades of gray that lie between.

Pen and Ink is like sculpting, building, sewing, cooking, even working at most any job ... each step is based upon the one before ... and so on ... and so on.  Like any crafting the most exciting is when the art during these steps begets it's own personality.  The image begins to emerge - sometimes matching what lies in the mind's eye and sometimes taking it's own direction!

The Goddess Diana has been portrayed many, many times throughout history, but I wonder how many artists dared meditate and bade her counsel?  I had a different idea entirely prior to doing the piece "Diana" ...
yet one black line placed on white, clean paper ... Diana would be heard!  And shades of gray she spoke ... clearly and distinctly ... Undeniable, down to the last detail...even the Spinone <the dog>.

There's an expression - a flow - a connection when such occurs that I feel Ink allows and the artwork evolves one tiny line at a time ... until full expression is released.

It is the purest thing I know.  The lack of color adds to it's purity and clarity and endless expression.  I'll put down the lines ... you take it where you will in your own mind's eye ... add color or not.  But the lines will allow for your own interpretation and what the God or Goddess might have you see.

Much as the antique tool I reach for ... I am only the instrument ... what comes from me is meant to be seen.
The rest is up to you.

(C) 2004 Mark's Online Graphics Site

Sabrina's Web sites
Sabrina's Lasting Impressions
Signature Artware Images by Sabrina
Mystical and Magical Art by Sabrina the Ink Witch


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