Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Life is the art of drawing without an eraser

...which is why you really need to practice drawing in pen and ink!

10 reasons to draw in pen and ink

When you draw in pen and ink you'll learn...

1. How to observe

When you can't erase, you'll find you learn to become much more observant and practice looking more carefully on a routine basis when you're drawing.

Drawing with a pen and without an eraser means you slow down at first and pay more attention to how and where you make marks

2. How to become develop motor control and become confident in your drawing

After you learned how to observe and practised and trained both your eye and your hand, you also become much more confident when drawing.

I now frequently draw using a pen without looking at the page - it's the drawing equivalent of touch typing!

This is a video of me drawing trees at Chartwell with a pen - it's not speeded up.

3. How to hatch

.....because that's how you create tone when drawing with a line

A head with absolutely no contour lines
drawn entirely from observation
using hatching lines

pen and ink
Katherine Tyrrell

4. How to make marks in different ways

.....because it's fun and effective to draw in ways which don't involve lines.

Plus you also need to learn ways to resolve those mistakes you made....

This drawing of a garden with flowers by Vincent van Gogh
uses all sort of different marks - lines, hatching, dots, circles, - to create the overall effect

5. How many implements can be used to draw with when using ink

I've got a number of favourite and very different pens - and I've also very much enjoyed trying new ways of drawing with ink.

I tried using a reed pen after seeing Van Gogh's wonderful pen and ink drawings and learned how to cut my own quill pen and draw with it at a class at the V&A. I keep meaning to find a class about brush painting with ink, preferably one which leans towards a Chinese or Japanese perspective.

Uma (Horse), ca. 1890
Uma (Horse).
Ink drawing on paper by unnamed artist shows a horse sitting on the ground

6. How varying weight of line introduces interest and 'draws the eye'.

Being able to see that not everything you see has precisely the same weight or impact is what makes thing look 'real'. When the weight of line is identical throughout the drawing it runs the risk of looking mechnical and consequently relies on other techniques for interest.

I've worked my way through a fair few drawing pens producing consistent or variable lines.

2015 was the year that I began to get to grips with the sailor Pen with a bent Fude nib. Below you can see a comprehensive introduction to pens with Fude nibs by Teoh Yi Chie.

7. Inks are coloured as well as black

Drawing in pen and ink does not need to be boring or monochrome! (It's the same with life - you can break out of your routine and try something new!)

You can get inks in bright and vibrant colours as well as more traditional colours. Inks are also made from a wide variety of organic and inorganic substances - from oak galls to acrylic.

Green & Stone have an amazing selection of inks
My favourite is sepia ink because you get a softer line. I learned this from reviewing Turner's drawings in pen and ink.  It's a colour of ink which dates back to the Greeks and Romans

Did you know that the word 'sepia' is the Latin form of the Greek σηπία or sēpía which means cuttlefish (from which it was derived).

8. Which inks are permanent and lightfast

These are the ones that enable you to create artwork which will stand the test of time!

I like knowing that if I'm making a drawing that it's not going to fade away.

Plus why you must flush a pen out if using a permanent ink -because it can harden inside the mechanism.

9. Which inks are soluble with water

....and how to gradate washes using inks.

One of the most famous pen and ink drawings
Academics have counted how few marks it took to create this drawing
This is A Young Woman Sleeping by Rembrandt

You also learn pretty fast which inks to avoid using a watercolour wash with - and avoid a muddy mess!

10. About artists and illustrators who also drew in pen and ink

There's a wealth of terrific draughtsmanship which opens up to you when you study how people drew in pen and ink in the past.  Looking at pen and ink drawings from the past always makes me itch to get my own pens out. (see a link below to a past blog post on this topic)

The Inktober Initiative

How do you fancy doing 31 drawings in pen and ink in 31 days? It's not a bad idea - especially as October is Big Draw month.

The Inktober initiative was created by Jake Parker in 2009 and he's been doining it annually ever since.

This is his blog post about it - Inktober 31 drawings 31 days - which includes a great review of various instruments for drawing with ink.
InkTober rules:
1) Make a drawing in ink (you can do a pencil under-drawing if you want).
2) Post it on your blog (or tumblr, instagram, twitter, facebook, flickr, Pinterest or just pin it on your wall.)
3) Hashtag it with #inktober
4) Repeat
Note: you can do it daily, or go the half-marathon route and post every other day, or just do the 5K and post once a week. What ever you decide, just be consistent with it. INKtober is about growing and improving and forming positive habits, so the more you’re consistent the better.

Earlier blogs posts about drawing with pen and ink

Chloe's Chair (1994)
11.5" x 8.5", Rotring Art Pen and brown ink in Daler Rowney sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
  • The Rotring Art Pen (2007) - When I first started drawing in pen and ink I struggled to find a suitable pen to draw with. However, once I came across the Rotring Art sketching pen I was in raptures
  • Drawing in a new sketchbook - There's nothing quite like starting a new big sketchbook with a double page pen and ink drawing!
I have 'a thing' about the first sketch in a new sketchbook. I have to try and set the tone by making sure it is a good one and if possible I like it to be a challenge as well.
Fish! Supper
11.5" x 17", pen and ink in Daler Rowney sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell
  • The Pen and Ink Book (2007) a review of the book by Jos. A Smith (published by Watson Guptill) 
  • Drawing A Head - 24th January 2008 (2008) - I used to work to self-imposed challenges in my 'Drawing A Head' Class. On this occasion I took a larger piece of paper and determined to do three views of the same head - in pen and ink - and no outlining. I had to do all the studies by drawing the value structure ...
  • Artists and illustrators drawing in pen and ink (2010) - as well as referencing lots of links to artists who draw in pen and ink this post refers to my pen and ink website which is offline at moment but I hope to resurrect it soon.
  • Drawings of Holocaust Survivors (2014) In the latter half of 2013, a young man and art student called Gideon Summerfield developed a project to draw Holocaust Survivors called "From Generation to Generation (L'Dor V'Dor)" in pen and ink.
Note: The title comes from a quotation by John W. Gardner, the author of 'On Leadership'


  1. Love, love, love this!!! I'm in for Inktober...

  2. Wonderful idea - but oh dear, I missed Inktober. I even missed Nibvember. Can I do Drawcember?


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