Tag: quill pen

A Few Trees

A Few Trees – Dehy Park – Independence, CA

I am rather enjoying sketching as part of my morning routine. Today’s sketch is still in Independence, California. There is a trail that connects the native plant garden to a small park, Dehy Park, and I think I took this picture along the pathway. I found the repeated curved rhythm of the trees to be utterly charming – I expect the wind has a lot to do with the way the trees are bent.

Anyway, I decided to not use my Micron pens, as I have for the past three days, but to use a quill I cut myself from a turkey or goose feather and my homemade iron gall ink. First, I sketched the grove.

A Few Trees – Iron Gall Ink & Quill Pen

Then, I let the ink dry – or thought I did! – before adding the watercolor. Areas of ink were still wet. One of the drawbacks of iron gall ink is that it does take a bit of time to dry. The wet ink messed up some of the paints by blending in with the colors, muddying them.

Once I noticed that I decided to use dots and such with the watercolor, especially for the foliage toward the top of the trees. I dabbed the paint on, in between the black, inky branches.

I mixed colors with a water brush, stronger than the paler colors I have been using, and just applied them. The effect wasn’t too bad. In between the leaves I used blue, again, tapping the paint in, avoiding the dark of the ink.

After the paint dried, I went through a second time with the iron gall ink, both with the quill and then a defunct water brush. I think it helped out, but overall, the sketch is still quite messy, and certainly not what I intended. What I do like is the sense of dappled sunlight in the leafy canopy.

A Few Trees – Iron Gall Ink, Quill Pen, Watercolor

Takeaway points: First, the ink needs to dry before applying the watercolor paint. My quill has a wider tip on it than your standard dip pen, and thus makes bold lines. However, a bit more care could create a better combination of lines, and perhaps render the sketch more interesting. Adding brushwork and stronger lines after the first ink and paint applications helped to strengthen some areas. After I did that, I went about the morning chores while the sketchbook dried outdoors in the morning sun. I had to wait an hour at least – and then, the scan of the final sketch!

Sketching with Iron Gall Ink and Watercolor

Long before we had metal dip pens, artists drew with reed pens and with quills cut from the pinion feathers of a swan, turkey, or goose.  If you look at the ink sketches of artists such as Rembrandt or DaVinci, you will see some very common characteristics.  The ink lines vary in width – narrow, wide.  Often the ink is brown, and so those not in the know think that brown ink was a thing way back when.  In reality, it is the degradation of iron gall ink (aka oak gall ink) through time.  When initially laid down, it was black.  With time, it turns brown, and with a lot of time and depending on its degree of acidity, the iron gall ink can destroy the paper and drawing.

Over the past week, I have been playing with iron gall ink and a quill pen I cut from a turkey feather.  I have some homemade iron gall ink nearly done – come Thursday, it will be ostensibly ready to use.  Today, because I am finally at a point where I have time to play, I drew with iron gall ink and my quill, and then applied watercolors.  The ink took its sweet time drying, and I didn’t blow dry it, but let it air dry or blotted it to see what would happen.  As it is a damp day, it took awhile.  Anyway, the following three pictures were first done with the ink, dried, and then painted in with watercolor.  If you look at the pen strokes, you will see variations.  I’ve never drawn with a quill before, so it was a new experience, one quite different than with a dip pen or fountain pen.

Kumquats – Ink

Kumquats – Ink and Watercolor

The kumquats were the very first drawings I did with the quill and ink.  I had to really think about textures.  You see, when you use iron gall ink, it begins as a light grey, but as it is exposed to the air, it becomes darker and darker until it is black.  This made values a challenge!

Bamboo Forest – Ink

Bamboo Forest – Ink and Watercolor

Here, the ink in the picture was not quite dry, and some bled into the watercolors as I lay them down.

Market Melons – Ink

Market Melons – Ink and Watercolor

For the melons, the ink was taking forever to dry!  I decided to see what would happen if I blotted the ink.  The result was smudges, which you can see throughout the picture.

Fruit – Watercolor

Fruit – Watercolor and Ink

This final set was done with a sketchy watercolor.  No thought was really given to composition or to color as I wanted to use the ink to express outlines, shapes, and shadows.

Altogether, this was a lot of fun, and for me there is a potential I hadn’t really thought about in getting a sense of history by using historical tools – quills, iron gall ink – that were once the best technology had to offer.  I wonder what Rembrandt and DaVinci would think about paints in a tube, rather than the task of purchasing, grinding, and creating their own paints . . . perhaps they made their own quills and inks, too.

The Art of the Written Word

This past week or so has found me wandering into another element of water-based media:  Ink.

Ink is used in drawing, but it is also used in writing, whether using the Roman alphabet, Cyrillic, Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, or any other form of an alphabet for any one of the myriad of languages found throughout the world.

Making ink is an art, and that means knowing something of chemistry (no matter how simple) and permanency.  Ink is black and ink is colored – as are paints.  This past week has found me suddenly distracted by the making of iron gall ink, also known as oak gall ink, and cutting quills from feathers.  You can read about my adventures here, here and here for starters.  You can return to Ink, Yarn, and Beer for more updates, too, if you want.

Consequently, I have not had much time to paint or draw as I have been spending a lot of time reading about ink and quills in particular, as well as watching videos on the same.  This morning, I came across one which rather blew me away as it is global in nature, but local in artistry.  Huh – what does that mean?  Take 30 minutes of time to be quiet and to watch . . .