Pens and sketching

I bought an antique fountain pen a few years ago, and at first I like the idea of the pen more than the pen itself. It was a very wet pen with a flexible nib. In theory, it should be fantastic for drawing.

In practice, it was very hard to use. There were two possibilities:

  • It was a lousy pen
  • It was a fantastic pen that I was not good enough to use well.

I tried to draw with it; I tried some more. I finally put it away on a shelf.

A few weeks ago, I got it out, inked it up, and thought I’d see if I had learned anything about sketching in the meantime that might help. I did a few tentative drawings before realizing that this was the sort of pen that is only good at all-out speed. You can’t make tentative marks with this pen – if you do, you will get ink everywhere.

You have to commit to every line, every chicken-scratch, every scribble, and just go for it. Having realized these truths, I put pen to paper to try two things: some small silhouettes of geese for a painting in progress (although I plan to use a brush for them in the painting), and a bird pulling up in flight.

Here is a scan of both efforts on the same page. I’d have to say I’m finally liking this pen – but I have a way to go yet before I can really get the most out of it. What is remarkable about the larger sketch is that the finest lines and the thickest were all made by the same pen. I varied speed and pressure to get the different weights. Doing that was really the secret to unlocking the pen’s potential. I didn’t even make use of the flex capabilities – this pen can make a line 3-4mm in width! Amazing instrument. Looking forward to making more discoveries.

Strange bird small


One thought on “Pens and sketching

  1. Lovely drawing! I failed with a fountain pen years ago and have been scared of them ever since. Maybe because I’m a lefty? I’ll have to try again some day.


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