Frida Kahlo & the Art of Pen & Ink


So yeah, it’s been two months since I’ve posted something. Yowsa – have I been a deadbeat blogger. In my defense, I’ve spent these last two months interviewing for a new job title, succeeding in obtaining a promotion, and settling in to my new responsibilities at work. Alright, and I’ve also been totally unmotivated to do ANYTHING. Once the weekend comes, I check out from productivity. Nonetheless, I’ve gotten my ass in gear to finally create.

I have always felt a connection with Frida Kahlo – her spirit, her art, and her unibrow. I remember vividly learning about her and her relationship with muralist Diego Rivera in my high school art class. What a torrid affair that was! Adultery, communism, violence, passion, sickness – all the inspirations for fabulous art. I sometimes wonder if the monotony of my daily routine is the reason I feel uninspired at times. I quickly assure myself that it is better to wait for the inspiration than find it by learning my husband has been having an affair with my sister (no ideas Pat and Sarah).

One of the themes that has always struck me about Frida’s art is her ability to just paint herself, unapologetic and honest of her emotions. So many times she is just staring out from the painting, almost saying to the viewer, “This is me. This is my pain,” or “This is where I find happiness.” I decided that I wanted to create the same type of painting – a self-portrait of the way I feel living in New York City. The way the buildings, and people, and well, city life, feel like they’re looming over me, ready to crush me or give me a severe case of Jimmy Stewart vertigo.

Pen and Ink is one of the oldest mediums in existence. Whether it was used in early Chinese art on silk or by Renaissance painters Leonardo Da Vinci and Raphael, pen and ink was a highly adored art form. There are many techniques used to create different values or shades, including “cross-hatching” (making lines in a criss-cross pattern; the closer the lines are to each other, the darker the shade) or “stippling” (making small dots to create different grayscale values depending on how clustered the dots are to each other).

Once I began this piece, I realized how long it takes to create a handmade pen & ink drawing. We’ve all gotten so used to the instant art created by Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. A click of a mouse and the photo you’ve just taken instantly becomes a pen & ink sketch. While I do love certain aspects of technology (my kitchen sink and coffeemaker instantly come to mind), there are other aspects that I feel prompt us to lose some of life’s beautiful simplicities (hello texting).

Before I digress into my feelings on Twitter, let me get back to the drawing. This mashup uses a Frida-esque composition with the artistic medium of pen & ink. I had originally slated to just keep this simple black & white, but the result felt oddly incomplete given Frida’s use of vibrant colors. In the end, I decided to “tint” the drawing using colored pencils.

My initial drawing.


  1. To be honest I prefer the original. The pastel colors you added later don't really contribute the "bold" feel Frida's portraits exude. Looking at her work is like being kicked in the gut with color. I love the black and white seems a little more raw.


  2. I like the colored one!