Learn to Draw > Pens and nibsAll liquid paints can be used with a pen, as long as they are mixed to the right consistency. This requires experimentation. Ready-made inks naturally flow better from a pen and behave like writing ink.
Nowadays the draftsman is not bothered with sharpening his goose quill with a penknife. Steel nibs are sold in every thickness and degree of hardness, and there is a wide choice to suit all tastes. The most individual line, swelling and thinning as the pressure alters, is made with a soft nib specially designed for this purpose.
Ball-points are primarily for regular, even lines without any appreciable differentiation from pressure. A wide nib gives two thicknesses of line according to the angle at which it is held. Other nibs are made for writing and do not produce a sufficiently sensitive line for drawing. Yet there are draftsmen who prefer these. There are people, too, who swear that there is nothing like an old goose quill or reed pen. Made from ordinary reed, the latter lasts only a few strokes. Chinese reed pens, however, are made of more suitable and durable material.
A drawing instrument with felt nibs has come into vogue recently. It is suitable only for very coarse and largescale drawing. The color flows directly from a container located in the handle onto the felt tip. A practical reservoir pen for drawing ink has long been sought. Nothing so far has succeeded, for drawing ink is not strictly an ink but a mixed pigment which very easily blocks and encrusts the tubes leading to the nib, not to mention the nib itself.
The special inks can be obtained either waterproof or water soluble. The waterproof ones require some hours to dry before they become indelible.
My advice at the end of this review of pens is first to take a perfectly ordinary writing or drawing nib and see if there is really anything which can improve on it.
All the pencils, brushes, pens, and colors so far dealt with are for work on ordinary unprepared drawing paper.
Prepared paper is needed for only one type of drawing: silverpoint. Pure silver is, like pure lead or tin, very soft, but it makes a barely perceptible mark on good drawing paper. Rag paper is not hard enough and must be given a ground. Bone meal used to be employed exclusively for this purpose. The best was said to be from the wing bones of capons. The bones were heated red-hot until they became bleached and could be ground to a very fine powder. The powder was also used for polishing parchment. Enough of the powder remained in the pores to cause the silver to rub off. On paper, the bone ash has to be applied very thinly with a solution of glue. A very fine chalk paste, not too soft, mixed with gum arabic is equally effective.
Silverpoint, which is like a very hard, sharp pencil, shows hardly any difference in tone or fluctuation in the thickness of line. Heavier tones and values have to be made by closer spaced strokes. Silverpoint line produces a silver-gray effect, which by oxidation soon turns to a dark brown. Silverpoint has a very individual character, suitable mostly for small-scale drawings. It is the medium for a real craftsman who is after very fine detail.
There are many kinds of drawing paper on the market. They are not, unfortunately, always everything they are said to be. It is frustrating when paper expressly sold for pen drawing is so weakly sized that the ink runs.
Handmade mulberry-leaf paper, which is entirely free of wood, is still the best. Rather absorbent papers can be used for brush drawing, especially with genuine Chinese ink, for which they should not be too heavily sized. The Chinese even primed their papers with alum in order to make the surface soak up the coagulating ink particles to some extent. It is quite easy to prepare a two per cent solution of alum, carefully cover the paper with it, and leave it to dry. The steeped paper is then thoroughly rinsed and allowed to dry again before the drawing is begun.
Japanese papers with prominent ricestraw fibers are very popular. They are especially attractive to the beginner, as their texture gives a good emphasis to the picture plane. But in time one tires of the effect, which can underline the bad as well as the good qualities of the drawing.
Good painting paper is always suitable for drawing, but the reverse is not true; a paper which is suitable for pencil or pen drawing may contain alkaline or acid ingredients which will affect certain sensitive pigments.
Next: Drawing technique
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