Project Review – January 2016

The project so far: Since June 2015, I have been on a mission to swab test fountain pen inks using water and bleach. Why? Because I believe that fountain pen inks have qualities that can be exploited for purposes other than just handwriting.

My test process is very simple. I saturate an area of heavy rough textured water colour paper, usually a Bockingford 200lb, and then add a drop of ink into that wet area. The ink blends with the water and reduces in concentration as is spreads away from the point of entry. As the ink comes out of solution the dyes that make up the ink can be observed in different areas as the paper dries.

And once dry, I can write or paint on top with bleach which reacts at a different intensity depending upon the density of the ink underneath. The reactions can vary from a dull gold over dense ink areas to a vibrant neon effect over less dense areas. But what is of key importance is that it is only with fountain pen inks that this bizarre reaction happens.

This process is very much serendipity led and the beauty of the final outcomes are invariably dictated by this. Not only do I find the final images beautiful to look at but, I get a great feeling of satisfaction creating them too. I’m also a firm believer in the concept of ‘less is more’ and I love the idea of alchemy or in this case changing fountain pen inks into gold!

With over 600 inks that I’m aware of and 150 samples tested so far, the results have been diverse and fascinating. Some inks don’t react at all while others reveal a whole range of unexpected behaviours, colours and reactions to bleach, even turning a deep black! Click here to check out some of these gorgeous outcomes

What has the project revealed this far? The investigations have revealed some interesting possibilities. For example, I have recently been testing document inks, which are bleach resistant, and this has thrown up a whole new area of experimentation and technique when used together with non document inks! Click here for more

I am hoping that through my tests this example maybe one of several new art techniques I’m exploring, that are unique only to fountain pen inks. Looking ahead, I am hoping that fountain pen inks and bleach could have an exciting future in the creative scene and maybe, just maybe, could become a genre of its’ own? Click here to see 12 of the most fascinating inks I’ve sampled so far!

How long will the project last? The project has only really just got going, so no end in sight just yet and interesting outcomes are happening all the time. So who knows where this project could lead? Could it help start a handwriting revival? Inspire people to illustrate their journals? Or simply encourage people to look deeper into simple mundane things we never think about and discover something new?

Learned outcomes to-date? The most important thing that I have learned from all this is not to be afraid to go into areas of the unknown. The biggest mistake one can make is to make no mistakes at all and as Friedrich Nietzsche once said ‘From out of chaos will come a dancing star!’ I hope that in some way, this article can encourage exploration and experimentation.

Should anyone reading this want to follow my progress and / or donate fountain pen ink samples, please do get in touch.