Plein-air pen and wash on paper


Welcome to my site

Most of my sketches are started with pen and ink on paper depicting a framework of a scene. A lot of scribbles define the outline of shapes and their relative proportions compared to surrounding features in a particular view of  a landscape, cityscape or a still life. Then comes the fun part. Filling in areas with parallel lines, more scribbles or solid black renderings to add depth to the scene.

Nanaimo Boat Yard

Even more pleasure is derived from applying watercolour pigments  to create  light and dark shapes, and of course, colours; and like magic, a collection of lines is transformed into an array of surfaces to give a three-dimensional illusion of the subject.

As I live in Nanaimo, my drawings illustrate, for the most part Vancouver Island landscapes, urban settings and vistas. I like the watercolour on paper medium as it is versatile for use on location in all kinds of environments.  I have made sketches  in the car during cold or rainy weather and even made sketches in my kayak when conditions were favourable.

Nanaimo-Stone's Marina 2 (Small)

Stone’s Marina

I learned to draw from real life during my vocational training in the Netherlands many years ago. Drawing on location is a challenging activity and a skill that can be acquired by anyone; learning to paint and to colour on the other hand, is a lifelong endeavor that can be both pleasing and trying, but always captivating. The transparency of the medium allows me to keep the sketches “loose” or “sketchy”, leaving some room for viewers to supplement my interpretation of a scene with their own feelings or experience.

I thank you for visiting and would welcome comments you may wish to make on my sketches.


John Hofman, Nanaimo BC

250 755 1757

Please do not copy any text, pictures or other materials from this website without my consent.



32 thoughts on “Introduction

  1. Fantastic John. Really enjoyed viewing you work! Bob Evans. Kelowna.

  2. Love your work, John. Wonderful detail but still loose and painterly. Jan Evans

  3. Thank you for describing your process. I carry a sketchbook everywhere and hope to eventually be as loose as you are while making a scene vivid. (I won’t live long enough, I’m sure — your work speaks to years of application.)

  4. How do I sign up for your blog? I don’t find a mechanism for giving you my email. thanks.

  5. It’s great to discover your work through Doodlewash, John. I really like your style which also resonates with me because I live on the Lower Mainland and make regular trips to the island where I have family. Your drawings of the ferry terminals and Granville St. Bridge are amazing — your engineering training definitely shows!! What you do in Nanaimo, I’d like to do here in New Westminster but I’m still working on my drawing and painting skills. As Julia says above, there is no widget for subscribing to your blog by email — it would be nice to get updates via email as you post.

  6. Beautiful Work, highly inspirational.

  7. John, you’re always such an inspiration! Thanks for sharing these great images!

  8. I only became aware of you when I saw the painting on A Better Nanaimo. Do you have a gallery or when can I see your work . Thx Brian Wallace

  9. Hi John – recently purchased your original work from Artzi Stuff and came across your blog. I love your loose and expressive style delivered via watercolour. I’m a travel sketcher as well, but your works are amazing – what an inspiration! I’m a total fan. Looking forward to your next post!

  10. Hi John,
    Happy to discover your website and delighted to see that you are still painting after all these years. We still enjoy the paintings we purchased from you many years ago in Calgary.

  11. We visited an old friend Victoria Whitfield and her friend Gene in Qualicum beach and lowen behold here an waterpainting from a Ponoka Pioneer elevator what I have been managing for 16 years . I wanted to steel it of the wall so nice of a watercolour . Victoria got hold of you and you made one for me . We just got it in via courier and we just love it . Such a memory good and bad. You did a fantastic job made memories come back alive. We will look at this with great pleasure and Victoria and Gene are happy that there’s is still hanging in there house. Thank you so much.

  12. Hi John
    What a treasure to have stumbled on your great body of work, I love all of your sketches and watercolors, I know that I will want to come back many many, more times to check out all of the ones posted here. I have always been a fan of your work. and a fan of working with you. Stay well and Happy Sketching! Greetings to you both!

    • Hi Hollie
      it is a pleasure and a surprise to hear from you after all these years and the memories of the time we worked together. Hope things are going well for you and your family.

  13. I’m fortunate to have stumbled upon your site. Your work is very inspiring! I’ll be looking forward to seeing what you post in the future.

  14. Hi John,
    I live in the Blue Mountains in Australia and teach drawing, sketching and watercolour. I am teaching pen and wash to a group of students at the moment and found your work on the net. It is such lovely work, so loose yet detailed, and such a variety of subject matter. I noticed your request not to copy your work, which I respect, so I wanted to know if it would be okay with you if I printed some of your pictures to show to my students as examples, they are such a good example of pen and wash work.
    Thanks and regards,
    Vanessa Joret
    (my website is

  15. Are you by any chance the John Hofman who grew up in Montreal and went to Monkland High School?

  16. Morning John…just love your work. Do you sketch lightly with pencil first or just start with pen from the get go? Nanaimo is fortunate to have you as a resident artist. 🙂

  17. I wud like to see some of the Nanaimo harbor pls

    • hello Diane
      If you look on my website under “posts”, in the sidebar there is a pull down menu, harbour and boats. There are a number of pictures of the Nanaimo Harbour. I may not have these anymore, but you might browse through them and give me an indication of your preferences, so that I can make a new one.
      Thank you for showing an interest in my work

  18. Hi John…I’m looking for a gift for my son and saw your pictures of shack island at Pipers lagoon. Do you have any available for sale right now? Pat

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