Around ten years ago, I posted a few drawings from a journal I kept during a month’s stay in Japan in 1990. Wiley subsequently published a facsimile in 2000, Sketches from Japan, which is now out-of-print. Here are a few more pages from that journal, all drawn with a Mont Blanc fountain pen and using a contour line approach to the subject matter. The page above contains details that caught my eye as I walked the streets of O-Okayama. Below are a couple more street scenes of O-Okayama, a suburb of Tokyo where the Tokyo Institute of Technology is located.
Category Archives: Pens
More Travel Sketches from 1965
Following up on the last post, here are a couple more sketches from my summer travels in 1965. The above is a view of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris; below is Notre-Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, France.
I still remember how I had to press while drawing with the fountain pen because the stub nib restricted the ink flow. This resulted in the relatively dark feel of the sketches.
More Looking Back…
Rummaging around some old stuff stored in the basement, I came across more drawings that I did while traveling around Europe after spending the summer as an intern with Wilson & Womersley, an architectural and town planning firm in London. Above is a drawing of Piazza San Marco in Venice, done with a stub nibbed pen in 1965. Below is a similar view done with a fine-tipped nib in 1995. Prior to this, I had believed the only drawing that survived was one done of the Spanish Steps in Rome.
I will be posting a few more over the next couple of weeks.
Another Look Back…
In my very first post on this site in February 2012, I showed a composite of two sketches I had done of the Spanish Steps in Rome. Here I am posting the full views of each drawing.
The first is from the summer of 1965, when I was fortunate to have had, through an ACSA exchange program, an internship with Wilson & Womersley, an architectural and town planning firm with offices on Bedford Square in London. At the end of the summer, armed with a Eurail Pass, I traveled around Europe for a couple of weeks. I did a few sketches on site, but not as many as I would have liked. The only one I still have in my possession is this view of the Spanish Steps in Rome, drawn with a fountain pen with a stub nib.
This is another drawing of the same site from 2000, the first time I had the privilege of teaching in the University of Washington’s Architecture in Rome program. Similar viewpoints but drawn 35 years apart with different nibs and separated by a lifetime of experiences.
Horn & Hardart
Finding things while rummaging around looking for other items from long ago always triggers memories. One example are these ballpoint-pen sketches from 1963, when an ND classmate invited me to spend Christmas break with his family on Long Island. During a day trip into the City, I was drawn to these individuals—creating “characters”—dining at a Horn & Hardart, an early version of a fast-food restaurant at the corner of 42nd Street and 6th Avenue. I still remember perusing the stacks of glass-doored dispensers containing a variety of hot and cold foods, putting nickels into the selected slot, and removing the plate of food.
Changes over Time
The several times I had the privilege of teaching in the University of Washington’s Architecture in Rome program, I asked my students to keep a journal during the semester to record and document their history walks, field trips, and design studio work. To try and set an example, I kept my own sketchbook along with them. Here are a few sample pages showing how my drawings changed due to the passage of time as well as how my trusty Lamy fountain pen interacted with the different types of paper I used.
An Alley View
The Seattle Urban Sketchers group met at the Lenin stature in the Fremont neighborhood this past Sunday morning. Despite the, for Seattle, hot sun and extremely warm temperature, I managed to find a shady spot from which to draw this view along the alley between North 35th and North 36th Streets.
Alleys are interesting places. In addition to serving as conduits for goods and services, they provide more intimate views of the back sides of buildings and other structures, which we mostly see from their more public fronts.
If you look closely, you will notice the stray lines that indicate my several attempts to get the building forms in proper proportion, relative to the width of the view. It’s important to realize that it is extremely difficult to execute a drawing without any of these stray lines unless one draws first in pencil before inking over and erasing the pencil lines. I prefer using only ink and letting the process of building a drawing show through.
Drawing with the Apple Pencil
When I purchased my first iPad 5 years ago, I was excited to try out various drawing apps designed for the digital tablet. Disappointed with the lag time and feel of the styli available at the time, I resorted to drawing with my finger instead. At first, it was liberating to sketch so loosely but I soon returned to drawing with a fountain pen on real paper. I missed the feel of a metal nib flowing liquid ink onto a paper surface.
Hearing about the new Apple Pencil, I decided to try it out with the Procreate app. Here are a few examples.
I found that while the Apple Pencil had less lag and better “feel” than other styli I have tired, there was no doubt that I was drawing on a glass surface. Also, while the iPad has good palm rejection technology, I still inadvertently touched certain menus and options while drawing in the Procreate app, causing unintentional effects to occur randomly. Even so, realizing that I am not using all of the drawing app’s capabilities, I’m resolved to continue to experiment with the new media.
Starting a New Sketchbook
Having filled one sketchbook, I pulled a new one off the shelf to do this drawing. In beginning, I was instantly reminded of how the change from an absorbent surface to one treated with sizing affects the quality of lines from a fountain pen. Where I was used to being more tentative with thicker lines in my last sketchbook, I had to be more insistent with the thinner, lighter lines on the Moleskin paper.
This view is typical of the shipbuilding and related industries fronting the Ship Canal in the area between Fremont and Ballard, which some people are calling Freelard. I decided to begin with the barbed-wire-topped chain link fence and blackberry bushes that separated me on the street from what I was viewing, a ship under construction. The drawing ended up being more of a vignette than I had intended but that is the nature of sketching. Like a conversation, the drawing process can often lead to unexpected results.
Why I Like Drawing with a Fountain Pen
I usually sketch with a Lamy fountain pen, with the nib turned upside down for a finer line. When people ask me why, I tell them that I like the tactile feel of a nib as the wet ink flows through it onto paper. I like the fluidity, incisiveness, and decisiveness of ink lines. I like that I don’t have to press to make marks.
There is no going back if some lines go astray, as they often do. I simply draw new lines over the old. I don’t heavy-up any lines until I am sure, and even then, only to emphasize spatial edges.
If the surface of the paper is absorbent, the ink will bleed a little and the lines will be a bit thicker than I would want but I adjust. When drawing on smoother paper, I can draw with the finest lines. Here are a few sketches done on different types of paper.