Friday, May 13, 2016

Pen and Ink

Time was when you read the term "pen and ink" it mostly meant drawings done with a dip pen and black ("India") ink. Today, the term is more commonly applied to drawings done using a technical pen with a fixed-diameter, cylindrical tip. Rapidograph is a common brand of tech pen that's widely available. These pens were originally made for drafting and technical drawing of other kinds, but because of convenience they've virtually replaced dip pens. The problem with tech pens is they lack the ability to vary line width. Each pen lays down a uniform line thickness, an advantage in technical drawings. In practice, technical pens are handy, fit in the pocket, contain an ink reservoir (no dipping into an open ink bottle), and are therefore simply easier to use.

In spite of a long-term trend toward technical pens, I still use an array of old metal nibs that I've collected here and there over the years. This sort of pen point can be enormously expressive and can yield delightful results. Most of the drawings I've done with these near-antiques have been studies.  Here are a few pen and ink drawings made for practice.

The first drawing is a view of the Iowa state capitol building. The capitol has two facing wings, each with two small copper-green domes. There is a much larger central dome over a big central rotunda, seen on the left of the drawing. The big dome is  completely gilded in 24kt gold. I could have continued the drawing to the bottom of the page, but chose to stop just below the evergreens to focus attention on the two domes above.
This is a local mansion, Salisbury House, built piecemeal nearly a century ago by a local business magnate. It was constructed by combining parts of several ancient English manor houses that he purchased, disassembled, and shipped to Iowa. Salisbury House was the residence of the builder and his family for a long while before eventually becoming a museum, as it is today. Inside it has wonderful beamed ceilings, a rather impressive library of old, rare books, and an air of real magnificence. This is an "ink and wash" drawing, first done with a dip pen and then toned with diluted ink washed on with a soft brush.

Here is a smaller drawing of an iris, employing more traditional ink methods. I had done this same subject in silverpoint awhile before this drawing and decided to see if I could translate the silverpoint image to one in ink. The problems with the two techniques are different in some ways but mostly similar. Pen and ink is at least as unforgiving as silverpoint so that you must be very certain of yourself as you put down lines. Both also rely more on crosshatched darks than other techniques. Notice the varying line weight (thickness) in various sections of the drawing. I thought this one turned out reasonably well.
Another bearded iris, this time done from a photo I saw online. This drawing is approximately the same size as the one above, but in this case I relied on crosshatching the background to emphasize the brighter, lighter color of the blossom and did very little shading of the petals. There are numerous passages of this one where pressure on the nib gave a darker, thicker line within the same stroke.
Although this kind of pen and ink drawing is now rare, it's a challenging way to hone your drawing skills.
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Posts about drawing:
Pen and Ink
Metalpoint
Drawing Practice
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