Using dip pens

I began this exercise with a pen but then switched to using a twig, one end splayed to resemble a brush. I drew vegetables and fruit, alone and in groups. The drawings can be seen below:

The persimmon was drawn carefully with a dip pen but once I switched to using the twigs, detail was harder and the marks made by the twigs difficult to control. The twigs did not uniformly distribute their ink but tended to dump too much on the page when freshly wetted. The paper in the sketchbook also caused thicker lines to bleed. These two factors combined meant that I had to abandon any idea of fine lines!

In the end, I decided to work on a larger scale so that I could introduce a level of detail into the drawings while exploiting the unpredictability of the marks made by the splayed fibres of the wood. The three grouped still lifes were drawn fairly rapidly and in succession. I changed the colours and concentrations of ink but otherwise moved quickly between them. It was easier to introduce areas of intense tone using the concentrated inks but it was also harder to control the intensity and to introduce graduation of tone. The last drawing above, has more depth but also less subtlety than the two groups drawn with more dilute ink.

I enjoyed exploring the range of marks produced by the twig. Hatching was possible but rougher and I found that I tended to make a wider range of marks to represent the different textures rather than to rely on hatching as I had done in earlier tonal drawings. Lines were livelier and less controlled. The roughness of the tool seemed to encourage more energetic work – faster, more spontaneous and experimental.

The disadvantage was that the finished work appears rougher and less polished than, say, a fine ink pen can produce. However, I am not sure that that matters, in this context – maybe both have their place.


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