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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pen and Ink: A Personal History

I'm not exactly sure what has spurred my latest artistic preoccupation, but I've had pen and ink on the brain lately. I think it was attending the letterpress workshop that really got some old wheels turning because I came home with a big stack of gorgeous printed paper, but knew that I needed to add something to the letterpress designs in order to translate the little 5 x 7 prints into something gift worthy.

I've loved ink drawing ever since grade nine art class when an inexpensive pen nib, holder, and bottle of black india ink were part of our $50 dollar basic art kit. Ink can be a pretty brutal medium to work with (especially India ink) because one misplaced stroke or wayward drop can destroy hours worth of hunched-over, painstaking crosshatching. But I've always loved precise, detailed, life drawings and pen and ink has such a beautiful clarity when it's done well.

I did quite a few ink drawings in high school (my first angry elf sketch still hangs proudly in my parent's living room), but my true love affair with ink really began with a backpacking trip I took with Wren when we were nineteen. We spent five and a half months scampering through Europe like poor little church mice in dirty clothes and along the way we saw some pretty incredible art and architecture. While there, we decided to start making pen sketches of some of the buildings and statues with the intention of sending our drawings back to our families at Christmas. The resulting sketch book is one of the most cherished things I posses.

[Insert my mother pointing out that because the book was 'a gift to my family' technically it is HERS and that I don't have any rights to it and should return it to her immediately. Yes, Mom, I know.]

I was thinking a lot about the book today while I was out wandering around the city (and having my bank card eaten by a malfunctioning ATM!), especially when I stopped into an art supply store to pick up a little bottle of blue india ink. I'm planning to use this to add some sketches to the prints I made at the letterpress workshop, but I'm not quite sure yet what I'm going to draw.

Hopefully the ink is close enough to the blue from the letterpress prints. It looks like a good match in the bottle.

Details and photos of the resulting treasures/disasters to follow shortly.


  1. Blue ink!! V. exciting - can't wait to see how it turns out.

  2. Paradigm shifting, right!

    There's lots of ink to go around if you're interested in re-living those good old backpacking days!