A Proliferation of Whiskers – Pencil to Paint Tutorial

Artwork-Zebra Zensations Technical Pen, QoR watercolor and White Signo Uniball gel pen on a Hahnemühle Cold Pressed Watercolor Postcard. Brushes: Princeton Elite Travel Round size 10.

Did you know that a walrus can eat 4,000 – 6,000 clams in one sitting?

Doodlewash prompt ‘walrus’.

This painting is what is known as a ‘line and wash’ because it is drawn in pen first and then painted with watercolor.

Before You Start

Photo courtesy of skeeze on Pixabay 

What drew me to the reference photo was that wild stare and the whiskers, so I knew I wanted to focus on that. I also wanted to capture that splotchiness of color but I didn’t want it to compete with the focus on the stare/whiskers.

I first considered using a rough postcard, but decided it was the wrong kind of texture, and went with a cold-pressed postcard instead.


(This scan is darkened so you can see the pencil lines. You should pencil lines in lightly)

The shapes in this painting are simple so I free-handed it. Notice how the folds of the walrus’s body tend to echo each other. Vertically, the tusks, the separation of face and body, and eye and body all have a similar flow. The same thing with the top lip, the back of the head and the folds along the back.

This very sketchy pencil drawing was used to place detail and to make sure everything fit on the card. I didn’t bother with the whiskers. They’re too much fussy detail and too easy to place to bother with at this point.

Not sure if you’re up to drawing this? Art Tutor has a great grid program that will help by applying a grid to your uploaded photo. You can also crop and adjust color and value.


Although there is a lot of texture in the walrus’ skin, I decided to minimize that, making everything subordinate to the whiskers and eye (though the shapes are simple, this walrus could be painted in many different ways). At this step, I established my values*, drew the outline and spent a lot of time on the whiskers.

Values= dark to light. When you establish your values, you are deciding where the darkest areas are, and some of the important mid-tones.


I did a light wash of Quinacridone Magenta over the entire Walrus, and then I dabbed a light wash of Nickel Azo Yellow over the whisker and nose area, then Transparent Pyrrole Orange around the nose, the lip and the folds around the head and neck. By ‘dabbed’, I mean I bounced the brush up and down, sometimes using the tip and sometimes the side of the brush.

Using dabbing motions again, Dioxine Purple was splashed over most of the walrus. I dropped burnt sienna here and there in shaded areas. When the paint was dry, I did some dry brushing with a hint of the purple for texture.

Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue were mixed half & half for the darkest value under the eye and whiskers. I thinned it with more water and painted in the areas between the whiskers.

Using the side of my round brush, the ripples of water were done with Phthalo Blue GS and Sap Green was dropped in while the blue was still quite wet. With a dry brush, I picked up just a little of the color from the water and used it to shade the tusks.

Once that dried, I used a White Signo Uniball gel pen to highlight the top layer of whiskers, and added a few dots along the snout and around the eye.


And Where You Can Buy Them

Hahnemühle Cold Press Watercolor Postcards (review).

Zebra Zensations Technical pens (review)

QOR Watercolor Half Pan Set of 12 Ultimate Mixing Set   (review)

Princeton Aqua Elite Series 4850 Synthetic Kolinsky Sable Round, Size 10

White Uniball Signo Gel Pens


Published by Life Imitates Doodles Art, Reviews & Tutorials

Artist Ambassador for Zebra Pens. I'm a self-taught artist who dances about with all sorts of artistic mediums. My main loves are Watercolor, Zentangle and Ballpoint pen. The subjects of my work are many and varied and change at whim. I'm a little bit crazy, but doesn't that come with being an artist? At my Life Imitates Doodles Blog, I post a list of resource links for Tangles, Tutorials and Giveaways two times a week. I also write reviews, hold giveaways and share my art work.

8 thoughts on “A Proliferation of Whiskers – Pencil to Paint Tutorial

  1. I would love to take a class from you, or sit next to you while you sketch/painted. You break everything down beautifully. What a wonderful painting!

    1. Thank you so very much, Lori! It’s a lot easier to break down the steps after the fact than to try and teach while I’m doing it. I end up stuttering and not painting. You know, the ‘not able to walk and chew gum at the same time’ effect. You’re in Gresham, right? Maybe after the first of the year we can meet somewhere for coffee and a little sketching.

      1. Sandra! I just found all your replies. So sorry! Yes! I would love to have a meet up. What days are you available? Tuesdays would be my best. I work for a few hours on Tuesdays at Craft Warehouse until noonish. Or Thursday afternoons, or Wednesday afternoons……..okay so just about any afternoon except Mondays. Lol

  2. Love this step by step instruction and sharing the color palette and mixing you used. This really turned out well!…it looks so complicated and cryptic but you broke it down to lovely essentials….love the colors and that way you used the water shades for the shadow on that tusk….and warmer colors to remind us this is a mammal. I believe Lewis Carroll would love this!

  3. Thank you for the step by step tutorial on “Whiskers” the walrus. I like how you make it look easy to create.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: