The Technical Pen

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When it comes to resources, there’s one book I recommend any pen and ink artist to have in their library and that’s The Technical Pen by Gary Simmons. For anyone who wants to learn more on not just how to get the most out of their technical pen but also on just drawing with pen and ink in general, this book is full of explanations on how to build form, tone and textures in pen and ink renderings. Simmons does a wonderful job of giving step by step demonstrations that illustrate how to develop good, solid image construction from the initial pencil sketch to the final inking. He also points out the common mishaps and pitfalls and how to avoid them when mastering the medium. Although I mainly do stipple work, this is still my go-to reference guide for when I want to get a good idea on how to construct various line techniques and patterns. So if you come across this book at your local library be sure to pick it up and take a look through it. It’s also available on Amazon here, if you want to get your own copy. If it’s currently out of print, you may still be able to purchase a used copy at a descent price from some of the Amazon merchants.

Early Influences: Edward Gorey

I have quite a few early influences. Some still influence me ’til this day and some only fueled my artistic interests for a particular period in my life. As with most influences there’s always that first one; the one that gets a young mind’s creative juices flowing. So I got to thinking about who was that first one for me, that one artistic muse that kicked off my love for the pen and ink?

Digging way back into the recesses of my mind, back into my childhood where I spent lazy Sunday afternoons staring aimlessly at a tv waiting for something halfway interesting to come on. Sundays were notorious for boring tv viewing especially with the few channels that were available at the time. For no reason in particular the tv always ended up on PBS which is where I first saw the tv series Mystery! I’m sure I probably just dated myself. But in case you don’t remember or weren’t born yet, Mystery! was a spin off of PBS Masterpiece Theater featuring British crime dramas that aired from 1980 to 2006. (Growing up in Alaska I watched a lot of British tv series…and Justin Wilson, you know, that Cajun cook but I’m sure that was more so my moms doing.)

Anywho, now I’m not really all that into crime and mystery stories, my thing has always been scifi and fantasy, so it wasn’t the content of the series that I found myself waiting to see each Sunday after my initial discovery of the show. It was the opening sequence that held my attention. At the beginning of each episode was an animated title sequence featuring the original pen and ink drawings of none other than Edward Gorey. Well, I actually didn’t learn that the artist was Edward Gorey until decades later when I came across a book of his work at the bookstore. But even though I didn’t know who the artist was I always remembered his work. I loved the simple use of just black ink on white paper, the manner of detail in his linework and his ability to take such a simple yet unforgiving medium to create emotive illustrations to fit the theme of his works. Gorey captured my young mind in that animated sequence each Sunday afternoon and was the first to stir my artistic interest in drawing and particularly drawing in pen and ink. I still enjoy his works ’til this day and I still have this thing for opening sequences to shows and movies.

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