Jul 1, 2010

The Pen and Ink Book

Materials and Techniques for Today's Artist
by Jos A. Smith

I thought for something a little different I'd tell you about an art book today. This one is not so much an instruction book as a showcase of the wide versatility possible with inks. It's not really for beginners but if you've already tried drawing in ink and are excited about it, this book can really springboard you into some new techniques and creativity. It starts out by describing some unique tools used for inking- from steel nibs to those made of cane and quills (yes, cut from bird feathers!) to fountain pens or the everyday ballpoint. Quality papers and other drawing surfaces, varieties of ink and other useful materials are also discussed. Then the book goes into a series of examples of technique- linework, cross-hatching, stippling, washes, etc. There are some very interesting effects he creates using mixed media- combining inks with acrylics, or pastels, or even crayon. All the techniques are illustrated with the author's own work, which is surprisingly varied. Some are lively and fun -done for children's picture books- others quite complex and dark in nature. A few could be disturbing to the sensitive viewer. I thought they were all really imaginative and fantastic. Anyhow, the book doesn't really show any step-by-step examples of how to arrive at the finished product, although he discusses the techniques a lot is left up to the individual artist to learn by experimenting himself. That doesn't bother me much, I find the book highly inspirational and love looking at all the images. One part I really like is a section where he shows how a single image- in this case a person's face- can have a different feel just by how it is rendered. The example shows this same face drawn in a dozen different styles of linework and it really is quite illuminating. This is by far one of my favorite art books. It was a gift from my father. You can see some of the artist's work here.

Rating: 5/5 ........ 176 pages, 1992


  1. I so wish that I was a more artsy person, and that I actually had need of this book. You make it sound fascinating! Do you draw in ink as well? If so, I would love to see something that you've done!

  2. Yes, I do! I used to be an art student and I was enamoured of drawing with steel flexible nibs dipped in an ink bottle. I haven't done any like that in a long time, usually now I just grab a regular ballpoint pen. There's a lot of my quick sketches here, and a some I spent more care on here and here.

  3. I've been travelling with a pen and a sketch book for several years now but I've never made the effort to pick up a how-to book. How ridiculous is that.

    Though it sounds like I should start with a more basic book than this one. There are so many books stores near Yale, where I'm staying this summer, I should check out their art sections.


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