Pen & Ink Drawings with Mandy

This week’s column in The Sunday Courier and Press is about Mandy Gerth. My Telling Your Story column always includes information on getting started with the particular art or craft. Here is a reprint of the story that appeared in today’s paper.

Some artists create with the same medium for years while others like Mandy Gerth of Evansville, Ind change their art to fit their current life situation. Mandy has moved from a studio with clay to her home computer filled with pen and ink drawings.

Mandy Gerth at her drawing table

Mandy Gerth at her drawing table

She has been creating all of her life. “I was always around things being made. My grandma Carol Gerth taught me how to sew and I was involved in 4H,” said Gerth.

After receiving her MFA in Ceramics from SIU in Carbondale, she moved to Philadelphia where she lived with her husband for six years until returning home in 2009.

In Philadelphia, she pursued her love of ceramics and even worked in an arts outreach program with children. She owned a clay studio outside of their home, but after their first child was born that arrangement didn’t work.

Mandy decided that with her growing family she needed to retool her art. She started making collages and selling at craft fairs. But she ended up with a lot of inventory. “I love originals, but after a couple years you have files and files of stock. “

She noticed artists were selling digital prints. “I just never thought I’d use a computer for my art. However, what helped me was that I bought other artists’ digital prints and hung them in our home.”

The computer is just another tool to help her make her art. “If you capture something, it doesn’t matter how you get there,” she added.

“I love writing letters so I started making stationery and gradually moved into the pen and ink drawings because it’s so efficient for where I am in my life right now.”

Mandy’s art starts with a pen and ink drawing. She uses dip pens with interchangeable tips.  “I really like the quality of the line as opposed to drawing with a regular pen. When you dip the pen into the ink it starts off dark and gets lighter,” Gerth explained.

The process from original pen and ink to finished art

The process from original pen and ink to finished art

After she completes her drawing, she scans it into Photoshop where she adds color. She prints out the digitally colored image and begins building color to the print with colored pencils, chalks, and then topping the layers with ink. This original is scanned or photographed. Once that image is in the computer, she prints only with she needs with archival inks on museum quality smooth finish paper.

Because of her focus on being earth friendly, Mandy uses 100% post consumer paper, recycled backing board, biodegradable sleeves, and only prints out as she gets orders.

The inspiration for her drawings comes from the details of daily life. “As a full-time homemaker, I’m around all of these objects that I use daily. The texture of those things add to our lives especially those we touch,” Gerth explained.

One of my favorite set of her drawings:

Seasons Passing, Four Seasons Set

Seasons Passing, Four Seasons Set

And this one.

Daily Work, Yellow Iron

Daily Work, Yellow Iron

So how does a beginner learn to draw? “Drawing is like running. You don’t need a bunch of equipment. All you need is paper and a pen and do it every day.” “We all know how, we just need to strip away the memories of all of the teachers who told us we couldn’t draw,” she added.

Mandy sees drawing as just another hand skill. “It’s like learning to sew, you can do it. The idea that art is different somehow and something you are born with isn’t true.”

According to Mandy, drawing is a language you train yourself to learn. Seeing shadows, understanding values and texture are all part of learning to draw.

Drawing is also about using your mistakes as part of the composition. “Don’t use an eraser. Leave the “mistake” as texture.”

“Once you come to the point where you start to capture the essence of your subject instead of trying to reproduce it, you will be starting to make a good piece of art.”

She emphasized that drawing takes practice. For example, the muscles that make a light line need to be exercised. With practice they will gain memory.

Mandy recommends “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Betty Edwards. Taking classes are also a good place to learn.

Since making art often helps to work through emotions, Mandy finds it nourishing.  It also gives her a sense of accomplishment. “So much of the stuff we do over and over –dishes, laundry, and cleaning – leave us nothing to show at the end of the day.”

If you would like to see Mandy’s art, she will be participating in Brinker’s 4th Annual Art Show on Saturday, June 4 at 111 South in Evansville.  You can also visit her etsy shop or email her at


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