The nuance of FOUNTAIN PEN ink art

In a modern age that is increasingly becoming more black and white, fountain pen inks are packed full of tonal subtlety and are a fabulous visual reminder of just how important and relevant nuance is in our lives.


On a recent walk around Leeds Castle in Kent I took the above photograph with a view to creating an ink swatch painting. I think you’ll agree, it’s nothing special, in fact, it’s bloody awful, but you had to be there in the moment to appreciate how good the walk was. All the senses were active, it was cold with bird sound all around and it smelled dank of winter decay. The lake was a mirror and the clouds looked like mountains. It was dreamy and I could imagine a princess being held captive in the castle. So how do you get all that from a photograph? You don’t! You have recreate the story yourself. And you can’t do that by copying a colour photograph.


The first thing I do is convert the image into a high contrasting black and white image – exaggerating those clouds to look more mountain like and the lake more reflective, because I’m not going to to paint this with colour – I’m going to paint this with tone. So having got my reference sorted I choose my ink and in this case I’m using Diamine Tempest which has a great tonal range, great chromatography, a sheen and a gold shimmer. I lay a chromo background into some wetted Bockingford HP watercolour paper and wait patiently for it to dry naturally.


Then, referring back to my black and white image, I use a rigger brush and a Noodler’s Creaper pen to paint in the key tonal information only. The magic all comes from the chromo background with all that serendipity and nuance within the ink. A little bleach for the highlights adds a little more magic and there you have it. The magical world that I really experienced that day.

HEY! If you’re interested to know more about how to use fountain pen inks in more creative ways – whether it’s simply to observe their chromatic behaviours, or, to recreate one of my swatch cards, or, to learn how to use them in watercolour painting, illustration and calligraphy, why not check out my online course or, even better, sign up for a workshop?

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