Drawing with fountain pens

fountain pen sketch

Firstly I am more a doodler than an artist when it comes to fountain pens, so I am writing this post as a way of collating information about fountain pens and drawing.   So when it comes to anything requiring pen and ink I will use a fountain pen, I love them that much. When I saw the opportunity to try my hand at drawing for this article I jumped at the chance.  Below is an example of my drawing with fountain pens, as you can see its bad but fountain pens can be used for drawing.  On with the article.

 

Firstly a bit about how fountain pens work.  Fountain pens use a liquid ink in a converter or cartridge and capillary action transfers this ink directly to the paper.  This means that fountain pens flow better than a fineliner and are a lot wetter in most cases. There’s nothing quite like the feel of liquid ink flowing on to the paper and the smoothness of the right nib.  When using fineliners you will find they deteriorate over time but this doesn't happen with a fountain pen nib as they are made from steel or gold.

fountain pen anatomy

Fountain pens like to be held at a low angle, usually about 45 degrees.  This encourages a looser grip which then flows on to your lines. I tend to get a more relaxed line when I use fountain pens as opposed to other pens.  This doesn’t mean you have to hold them like a pen though, try experimenting with different ways of holding a fountain pen when your drawing and have a look at Liz Steel’s blog posts about fountain pen sketching https://www.lizsteel.com/fountain-pen-sketching-part-1-a-new-series/

Fountain pen nibs come in a wide variation of sizes and styles from extra extra fine to extra extra extra broad (3B) and beyond, there are also specialty nibs such as the stub nib, this is a nib that is flat on the tip not round like a standard nib.  The stub nib creates a thick line on the downstroke and a thin on the cross stroke because of the shape of the nib. The opposite to the stub is called an architect nib and it gives you a thin vertical or downstroke and a thick cross stroke. Another good nib for artists is a fude nib which is bent at the end and depending how you hold it how thick or thin the line becomes.

Fude nib

The easiest way to get line variation with a standard fountain pen nib though is flip the pen over and use it with the nib side to the paper.  This will make your line thinner for fine sketching and then flip it over for a thicker line. If you want more line variation than a standard nib will give you, you will want to look at a flexible nib. Flex nibs are made to be softer and have more give in them when you draw.  The tines of the nib spread slightly with pressure to produce a wider line. If you want to find out more about types of nibs for artists I suggest looking at The Fountain Pen Network http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/ , this is a forum that is devoted to everything about fountain pens and is a great source of information.

Not only is there a wide range of nibs that you can play with when drawing, there is thousands of different types and colours of inks, all with varying characteristics.  The three characteristics that I like the most are: shading, sheen and shimmer. Shading happens to an ink when the ink pools and dries creating lighter and darker spots. I think this property would be the most important to an artist using fountain pens as it gives more depth and feel to a piece.  The next characteristic is sheen, the definition of this is a soft lustre on a surface. This can make a colour look to be another colour in a certain light. A great example of this is Organic Studios Nitrogen ink, this ink looks to be blue but it sheens red beautifully. Lastly is shimmer, shimmer inks all have tiny particles of glitter in them that cause the ink to shimmer when put on paper.  Shimmer inks have become quite popular in the last few years but I am more partial to shading and sheen as they are more organic to me.

Shading sheen  shimmer
Shading Sheen Shimmer

 

Once you have acquired the fountain pen drawing bug you will want to start experimenting with inks.  Using the inks as watercolours is one of the ways you can do this. Most fountain pen inks aren’t waterproof so they blend nicely with the use of a wet brush.  You can also combine drawing with a waterproof ink such as Daimine’s Registrar Ink and then adding water colours in to the picture. Some other brands of permanent ink are Noodler's Bulletproof or polar range and De Atramentis Document ink.

Drawing with fountain pens is only limited by your imagination so get yourself a pen any pen to start with and go experiment.  If you are looking for inspiration for using fountain pens go and take a look at Liz Steel’s blog where she has created a series of posts about fountain pen sketching.  If your interested in different types of inks go to Mountain of Ink and do some research there.  Lastly I think the most useful resource I can point you to is The Fountain Pen Network if you can think of a question about fountain pens, inks or nibs you can find the answer there.

Lee Saul

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