I’ll have some paintings to show soon, but lately I’ve been mostly diving into dip pen and ink sketch studies, trying out various nibs I’ve been accumulating for the last year. I used dip pens for calligraphy and drawing back in the 1970s/1980s, but moved away from pen and ink for color illustration and then, for the last 20 years, oil painting.
Life moves on, changes are made and now I’m going to be painting somewhat less, but still entering a selection of good juried shows and doing subjects that I’ve wanted to get to for quite awhile. I’ve also realized that I don’t really enjoy painting on location. It’s always felt like, well, Work. But sketching? Never anything but a joy and a pleasure. So I’ll be doing my oil painting in the studio from now on and working on location in pen and ink, sometimes watercolor and maybe some other dry media like Berol color sticks.
I’ve done these three landscape and tree studies in the last couple of days, trying out what are considered to be some of the finest nibs made specifically for artists.
I’ve also added handlettering back to the mix, something I’ve also did back in the last century. You can learn more about that and see three sketches that also use pen lettering over at my SketchWild site. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments!
Once upon a time (back in the mid 1970s), when I first had professional art aspirations, my first media was pen and ink, heavily influenced by medieval illumination and Alphonse Mucha. I used them for many years when I was a freelance graphic designer. In the early 1990s, after getting a BFA Illustration from the Academy of Art (then) College, I was able to realize a childhood dream and spent two years in private study with a local artist learning to paint in oil. And since 1997, that’s what I’ve pursued professionally. But I never quite let go of pen and ink, using it for sketching on my travels. Everything from sketching animals…
…to spending a morning drawing these ruins I saw in Evora, Portugal.
The revival of location sketching with the urban sketchers movement and more has inspired me to return to my roots. I’ve been using Sakura Micron pens for years for my Mongolia journals, both for writing and sketching, along with other trips, but had become increasingly irritated with them. They don’t seem to hold a consistent tip anymore, which means I can’t trust them. I did some research and finally settled on what now appears to the the high quality standard, Copic Multiliners, and bought a full set of them. But…dip pens still beckoned. They have a feel and make a line that can’t be created any other way. So for a year now I’ve been building a collection of nibs via Etsy and eBay and, using Jet Pens excellent reviews, buying a half dozen different bottles of ink, experimenting a bit between my painting work. But can I use them in the field without making an unholy mess? Well, late 19th and early 20th century artists like Joseph Pennell, Henry Pitz, Earnest Watson, Arthur Guptill and William Robinson Leigh did it. And that led me to the wonderful world of inkwells, including ones made specifically for traveling. I’ll be doing an inkwell post in the future, along with discussions of nibs, ink and paper. Once my SketchWild site launches I’ll be offering dip pen drawing instruction. If you think you’d be interested in that let me know in the comments. Over the past month or so I’ve been “test driving” nibs while also trying out possible painting subjects. Of of yesterday, here’s what I’ve done:
Over the last couple of days I’ve done a series of small drawings on the Strathmore 300 vellum bristol. This time, unlike the ones above, I did do a light preliminary pencil sketch. They took maybe an hour and change at most. The purpose was to explore how each nib feels when used for an actual drawing. All of them have things I like about them but I found I really did like the Gillott #303 Extra Fine quite a lot.
On the ones above I added the background shape both to pop out the white of the light sides of the animals and to see how filling in an area would work with that particular nib. All were ok, but want to experiment more.
And the Copic pens? Love, love, love them. I’ve joined artist Cathy Johnson’s “Sketch With Me!” Facebook group. She does virtual events one weekend a month. This is what I posted in October, an arrangement of squash from our garden. Copic pen and watercolor in a Stillman and Birn Zeta series wirebound sketchbook.