Drawing with ink offers many creative possibilities, and is an excellent way to develop confidence. Traditional Indian and Chinese inks, quills, and dip pens have been around for centuries, while manufacturers are now making an exciting range of archival inks for drafting pens and felt-tip pens. For the pen-and-ink exercises in this book, you will need a small bottle of Indian ink, a nib holder, and a fine drawing nib. If you don't have a dip pen and ink, you could also use a fiber-tip pen or even ballpoint and black watercolor for the washes, but it is well worth the effort to explore pen and ink for the beautiful quality of line that is unique to the medium.
Basic drawing pens consist of a simple plastic pencil-shaped holder with a removable metal drawing nib. Art shops stock a variety of drawing nibs; choose a simple fine-pointed steel drawing nib to start with. Don't be confused by the wide selection of calligraphy nibs, most of which are not suitable for drawing.
Get a few as spares, and if there is a range, choose a few different ones to experiment with. Some people are more heavy-handed than others and will need a stronger nib. Mapping pens have very fine, almost scratchy nibs, while Copperplate writing nibs are more flexible and give greater variation in line weight.
You can also draw with fountain pens and technical drawing pens, though these give a rather mechanical, less-expressive line.
Indian Ink is made from soot mixed with ammonia and varnish (traditionally shellac). It has a bluish undertone and slight gloss. Indian ink is water-resistant when dry, which is useful if you wish to add watercolor washes to the drawing, or it may be thinned with distilled water for washes. Until recently, Indian ink has been unsuitable for fountain and drafting pens, as it clogged their fine capillary systems. However, manufacturers are now producing fine Indian inks specifically for these pens. Check the labels carefully and be sure to buy the correct (lightfast, permanent) ink for your pen type.
Chinese ink comes in a dry stick form that has to be rubbed on a stone with water to make the liquid ink. This ink is usually used with a brush. Winsor and Newton make a “Liquid Indian Ink,” which is actually a Chinese ink made from ink sticks. It has a more watery consistency than regular ink and is not water-resistant. It is ideal for use in pen-and-wash drawings where a soft look is required.
Most of the inks you'll see in art shops are nonpigmented inks made with chemical dyes. These are intended for illustrators and should be avoided for works of fine art, as they are not lightfast. If you wish to use colored ink, several major brands produce acrylic-based pigment inks; these are identified on the label as pigmented and lightfast. Watercolors can also be used to add color to an ink drawing, which is especially effective when subtle warm sepia tones or cool gray-blues are used. You might like to get a tube of burnt umber or Prussian blue watercolor paint for this. Many artists like to use tea or coffee to tint their washes or stain the paper, but it should be noted that these colorings are not lightfast, so they may change or fade over time.
A range of fiber-tip and brush-tip pigment pens are available, which are handy for sketching and journaling, and you'll see many examples in this book done with these pens. Try them in the shop to see which style and size of nib you like best. Choose an archival-quality pen—one that has lightfast ink, made for drawing or scrapbooking. Permanent pens (meaning simply that it won't wash off) sold for writing often contain ink made from unstable chemical dyes that will fade over time. That said, some artists create wonderful drawings using a plain old ballpoint pen and have the finished picture scanned and printed for an archival copy of the image.
Always try to keep artist-quality materials on hand. Over time, it's heartbreaking to watch the colors in that special sketch you made disappear before your eyes. If you do draw something with dubious materials, such as a ballpoint pen or newsprint paper, scan or photograph the picture so you have a permanent record of it.