It’s strange how sketching and drawing are such old and established practices—pen and ink drawing has been around since ancient Egyptian times!—and yet no two draftsmen are ever really the same, and each one’s pursuit can lead to very different results. Perhaps that comes from how many materials you can use to create sketch drawings: pencil, pastel, charcoal, ink—and all of them give you a different range of handling and control.
You can make linear drawings or an outline drawing, with forms taking shape through contour. Or you can go in the complete opposite direction and practice how to sketch with layer upon layer of shading or tone.
If working with the former, I’ve found the best way to practice my linework is to use a dip pen. It was super frustrating to learn how to sketch with it, though, because it only holds a small amount of ink and I had to constantly go back, back, back to the ink pot. But once I got into the rhythm of working with the pen and became sensitive to the amount of pressure I put on the nib, I learned to create very different lines…and a lot of drips! But it’s like I had gotten a whole new lease on sketching. To get comfortable with pen-and-ink, you have to embrace spontaneity and just go with it—continuing to add lines and marks to make your statement.
But it is worth it, as the 14th century artist Cennino Cennini’s words ring in my ear:
“Do you realize what will happen to you if you practice drawing with a pen? That it will make you expert, skillful, and capable of much drawing out of your own head.”
It’s what I aspire to every time I pick up the pen for sketching!
If I needed more proof that drawing is incredibly dynamic and “young” for its age, I need to look no further than out my window, across the street, or walking around my neighborhood. The people I see and the blur their movements and actions make across my field of vision present the deep and wide range of possibilities that I can explore with drawing and sketching, in any medium. I have the DVDs of Marc Taro Holmes to thank for that–Drawing and Painting in a Travel Journal, Drawing People in Places, and Panoramic Landscape Painting. They are an exciting gateway for the many of us who understand that drawing is about both about technical mastery and artistic inspiration. So look up and out, and let the drawing begin!