Tomorrow is October 1st, the kickoff to Inktober, a month when artists challenge themselves to create an ink drawing every day. Are you in? I hope so—I look forward to this event every year. I always encourage artists to take part in Inktober if they can, since it’s a great opportunity to take your creativity and art practice up several notches.
Artist Jake Parker created Inktober in 2009 as a way to develop his inking skills and encourage positive drawing habits. Since then, the annual event has exploded, and artists all around the world take part. Find fellow inkers on social media with the hashtag #Inktober. If you want to know more about Inktober, go to inktober.com.
Each year I choose something different to focus on for Inktober. Last year I challenged myself to work more with dip pens and ink, and the process was so enlightening. Dip pens can be intimidating, since they’re most closely associated with formal calligraphy. But they’re actually easy to use and capable of making even the most humble line look like a work of art. The lovely thicks and thins, drips and puddles, and lights and darks of the ink are so beautiful.
Use dip pens and ink to sketch, write, or make marks, and they’ll immediately loosen you up. I’m sometimes a little stressed when I head into my workspace, so using a dip pen is like therapy for me. The unpredictability of the ink and the funkiness of the pen remind me that great things happen when you let go, and that it’s okay not to control the process all the time.
This year I wanted to keep going with pen and ink, but also explore pens I’ve amassed from trips to the art store. Inktober is the perfect catalyst to get those items out and use them. If you don’t have a lot of pens in your stash, now is a great time to see what’s available. Technology has given us a fantastic variety of nibs and inks to work with, and pens are a staple in so many areas of mixed media, such as art journaling, collage, Zendoodle, and mixed-media painting.
To warm up for the challenge, a few days ago I got out a Soft Brush Faber-Castell PITT artist pen in Dark Indigo and a smooth-paper journal to record my experiments. Oh my gosh, that Dark Indigo color. To me it looks like a version of my favorite Payne’s gray, a dark blue-gray hue that’s the color of a cloudy night sky.
I must confess, I find brush pens daunting. They’re used a lot for lettering, which is always a challenge for me. For drawing, I use a pencil or a fine-line pen, not a brush tip. But I discovered that this flexible brush nib had so much to offer. I was able to create beautiful scrolled lines and subtle shading by pressing and lifting the nib. I thought the designs would make great borders for an art journal page.
Layering colors over the ink is easy. I tried a white gel pen, shimmery acrylic ink, and pigment ink, and they all worked well.
This pen is forgiving enough that creating lettering using my own handwriting looked pretty good—even better when I shaded it a bit with a pigment pen. And by pressing just the nib of the brush pen against the paper, I could create small teardrop-shaped marks.
Next, I broke out my four-set of Copic Multiliners in Sepia; these fine-nib pens have waterproof pigment-based ink that’s archival. The nib sizes range from 0.05 to 0.5. I quickly discovered that these strong nibs are great for sketching, and having a choice of nib widths in the set means you can easily add details and depth.
But the big revelation was that before the inks are completely dry, the color spreads a bit with water. This is a great way to add simple shading, and it turns a plain sketch into something special. Also, I love the shade—sepia and sanguine are two of my favorite colors to draw with.
Next, to get a little more experience with pen and ink, I gathered a jar of Winsor & Newton Calligraphy Ink in Indian red, a couple of pointed dip pens, and a watercolor brush. I also pulled out a Fabriano Studio Watercolor Pad (hot press) and played a bit with the ink, diluting it with water and using it as paint, then when dry, adding some loose lines with a dip pen.
After that I brushed some Daniel Smith Transparent Watercolor Ground onto a sheet of vintage ledger paper and painted some loose flowers in diluted ink. When that was dry, I outlined the shapes with the dip pen, letting the ink flow any way it wanted to. Smaller flowers were painted on a separate sheet of ledger paper, cut out, and glued onto the piece for a little dimension.
Thank goodness Inktober goes for 31 days—that gives me lots of time to play with more pens and inks, and think of ways to incorporate them into my mixed-media work. I’m all in for this challenge, and I hope you are too!