Posts Tagged ‘Speedball Super Black India Ink’

The ‘Dipping Pen’ at DVSA!

13/10/2017

Yesterday was my first day back at the Dundas Valley School of Art for the fall term. It was a one-day workshop and our theme was pen and ink drawing with the traditional dipping pen. All of my one-day pen and ink workshops to date have employed disposable sketching pens from Pilot, Micron and Staedtler. They’re easy to use; no muss and no fuss. They’re portable and I use them for sketching all the time. However, for my sustained studio drawings, I always use a good old metal nib and a bottle of India ink.

I’ve been drawing with these tools since I was a teenager. My all-time favourite ink is Speedball Super Black and I’ve always used their nibs and holders, as well. These are what I recommended on my material list for the workshop. I suggested a choice of three different nibs; 22B Extra Fine, 56 School and 99 Drawing. The paper I recommended was Strathmore Bristol. By the way, Speedball Super Black comes in an extremely practical bottle with a wide (easy for dipping) mouth and a wider (hard to knock over) base.

Decades of experience have taught me not just how to draw but how to manage the dipping pen. It’s very easy to make a mess and unfortunate blobs are common for the novice. I started the day with my hard-earned tips regarding the care, transport and use of the metal nib. Everything matters, especially how your work area is organized.

The students were given about a half hour to try out their materials, experimenting with marks and strokes and getting a feel for the nibs. Next, I handed out a template of a basic feather shape. With my demonstration, I discussed mark-making and patterns. It gave the students a chance to unleash their imaginations while practicing with their new tools. They took to it very well. The usual problems were encountered but the only real disaster was a coffee spill! The three recommended nibs were tried by most of the students and the 99 Drawing was considered to be the most difficult to use. It’s very sensitive to pressure and wonderful to work with but may require a little more experience in order to gain confidence with it. Have a look at the feathers. Click on the image for an enlarged version. There’s some lovely detail to enjoy!

Our second drawing was of a leaf. I issued handouts with a black and white photo of the leaf. It wasn’t a very good photo, a bit blurry, so we discussed ways to clarify and simplify the image. My demonstration dealt again with technique but also with the concept of ‘light and shadow’.

We took our time with the leaf drawings and they were very successful. Overall, it was an enjoyable day with an enthusiastic and talented group of art students. My next one-day workshop at DVSA is an Introduction to Drawing Birds with pen and ink and takes place on Thursday, November 2. Care to join us?

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Pen and Ink Studio at DVSA – Week Seven!

24/02/2017

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NUTS! The students screamed in unison when I showed them the subject for our pen and ink drawings yesterday at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Well, I’m exaggerating. They always wonder what will emerge from my bag of tricks and they’re forever keen to test their skills.

We covered a lot of ground yesterday. Let’s start with my demonstration. I drew a dish in pencil.

Step one of pen and ink demonstration by Barry Coombs

Next, I added some nuts. Two in the dish and one in front of it. I decided on a light source coming from the upper right. Look at the little study on the bottom right of the sheet. This helped me simplify the light and shadow pattern on my subject.

Step two of pen and ink demonstration by Barry Coombs

Those messy pen lines on the upper sheet are a result of another demonstration. The students asked me for my thoughts on using a traditional metal nib with a bottle of India ink. We’ve been using disposable sketching pens for our drawings in class. No muss, no fuss! The traditional tools can be messy. Spills. Heartbreaking blobs in the middle of a drawing you’ve spent hours on. So, the disposable pens are fine for our learning process. However, the metal nib, used thoughtfully and with care, can give a drawing a special quality.

The next image shows my setup and tools. The paper is Strathmore Bristol, vellum surface. The nib is a School 56 and it’s in a wooden holder. My ink is Speedball Super Black India Ink, my favourite! The wide mouth and base help prevent spills. The white tester card helps prevent blobs. I test the pen every time I dip it in the ink before I touch my drawing. I also clean my nib every 5 minutes or so with paper towel and an organic nib cleaning fluid (spit). Oh, and there’s my demonstration again with most of the ink work completed.

Step three of pen and ink demonstration by Barry Coombs

The students enjoyed the nuts.

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Before I sign off, let’s take a moment to look at some of the personal projects. The sunflowers are a work in progress by Vicky. This is a full sheet of watercolour paper and she’s using calligraphy dipping nibs. I took this photo at the start of the class yesterday so there’ll be a lot more to see next week.

Pen and watercolour by Vicky

Pen and watercolour by Vicky

Here’s another drawing by Val. It’s a small piece, approx. 9 x 12″, and she’s combined pen with watercolour.

Pen and watercolour by Val

Pen and watercolour by Val

That’s it, in a nutshell! There’s one more week of Pen and Ink Studio at DVSA. I’ll be offering four one-day pen workshops this spring and they’re already posted on the DVSA website. Join us!