Pen and ink was used by many draughtsmen during the Baroque, Rococo, Romantic, Neoclassical art movements and throughout the nineteenth century. Examples include: Foetus in Utero (1512), a scientific drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci using pen and ink with red chalk (Royal Library, Windsor Castle); Running Youth with Left Arm Extended (1504) by Michelangelo using pen and brown ink (British Museum); Pastoral Landscape by Claude Lorrain (1644) using pen with brown and grey brown wash; The Prophet Jonah Before the Walls of Ninevah (1654) by Rembrandt, reed pen in bistre with wash (Albertina Museum, Vienna); An Island in the Lagoon by Canaletto (18th century), using pen, brown ink and carbon ink wash (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford); numerous drawings by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya; Samuel Palmer's 1825 series of landscapes; View of Arles (1888) by Vincent Van Gogh, ink with reed pen and wash (Museum of Art, Rhode Island); Reclining Nude by Pablo Picasso (20th century), a pure line pen and ink drawing (Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University); Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven by Gerald Scarfe (Tate Modern). Another modern example of the use of pen and ink, can be seen in the National Self-Portrait Collection of Ireland at the University of Limerick. See for example the sumi ink portrait by the Irish artist Fionnuala Ni Chiosain.
Calligraphy, the art of stylized writing, is performed with a pen and a brush, using water-based rather than oil-based inks on good quality, highly absorbent paper. Pen and ink calligraphy was raised to a high level in Islamic art, since Islam forbids the representation of living beings. A strong parallel tradition existed among Aramaic and Hebrew scholars, exemplified in Hebrew Biblical art from the 9th and 10th Centuries.
The development of pen and ink artwork in Western drawing, dates from the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Canterbury and Winchester illuminated manuscripts of the 9th century, whose hallmarks include lively figures and animals, decorative foliage and exquisite calligraphy.
Drawing ink first appeared in China, about 3,000 BCE. This early ink was a combination of pinewood smoke, lamp oil, and gelatin from animal skins. Next, about 400 CE, a new ink formula began to be used, incorporating ferrous sulfate (produced from iron and sulfuric acid), tannin (produced from gall-nuts) and a thickener. Since then, art inks have been made from a diversity of sources, ranging from sooty carbon based materials (bistre) to dyes derived from berries, oak galls, insects, cuttlefish and crustaceans.
Only black and white inks are permanent, as other inks contain soluble dyes rather than pigments and are not lightfast. For monochrome line drawings, most artists prefer black Indian ink, which is both permanent and waterproof. Coloured waterproof inks (also called artists' drawing inks) are available in a range of about 20 colours. Waterproof ink is essential if you wish to use a wash or tint on top of a line drawing, otherwise the linework will run. Being denser, these inks dry to a slightly gloss finish with a precise painterly quality. Non-waterproof coloured inks contain no shellac and are used mainly for washes. They can also be used for line drawings provided no washes are applied.
There are two basic types: dip pens and reservoir pens. Note that the nib itself is referred to as the pen, while the main shaft is called the penholder. There are tons of different shaped nibs, each of which produces different marks.
Reed, quill and metal pens (that is, metal nibs set in metal holders) are classified as dip pens. They are loaded by being dipped into the ink. Traditional bamboo or reed varieties are now considered somewhat old-fashioned but are still preferred by some draughtsmen for making bold strokes. Ultra-fine lines are best made by mapping pens, or crow-quill pens.
This type of pen carries its own supply of ink in a special holder or cartridge, thus avoiding the need for 'dipping'. However, the nib is typically less flexible that that of a dip pen. Reservoir pens include: fountain pens and technical pens The chief advantage of the latter, used by designers and illustrators, is its ability to deliver a constant flow of ink regardless of the direction in which the pen is moved. Many technical draughtsmen favour the Rotring Rapidograph or Isograph series of technical pens. Rapidographs are commonly employed by comic book and graphic novel artists, while micron pens have become very popular due to their line work and disposability. For the fine artist, the best variety is the 'art pen' or 'sketching pen', which combines most of the expressiveness of a dip pen with all the consistency of a reservoir pen.
Fibre-Tipped Pens and Markers
With their consistent, quick-drying colours, modern marker pens may be more associated with graphic studios than fine art studios, but they make an excellent medium when sketching or dawing outdoors. If you intend to overlay colours, choose a solvent-based marker and, as support, use pads designed to resist colour-bleeding.
Ink drawing and painting can also be executed with a brush, a technique widely used by Western Renaissance and Chinese artists, as well as Rembrandt, Claude Lorrain, Goya and certain artist-groups. For example, the technique of combined pen-and-brush drawing was practised by the draftsmen of Germany and Holland, especially in the circle around Albrecht Durer as well as the south German Danube school, led by Altdorfer and Wolf Huber. Chinese brushes are particularly versatile for applying ink, as are sable and other soft-hair brushes.
Contemporary Pen and Ink Art
The increasing sophistication of computer software programs like Photoshop, Poser, Painter and Piranisi, enables artists to automatically take a photograph and fashion it into a form of pen-and-ink image. Whether such digital or computerized graphic art leads to an enhancement or decline of traditional pen and ink drawing, remains unclear.