Brush vs Pen

Ink is a huge part of my art experience. I started using ink on drawings when I was about 14, as before that point I was terrified of the permanent nature of ink and not being able to retroactively modify a drawing. It was a weird habit, but I think we can all relate to the anxiety of putting those permanent mediums on a sketch, we’re never really convinced that we’re “done” are we?

For years I was only using felt tip ink pens, specifically Micron from Sakura Studios. These are still great pens and I love to use them. Throughout my teens I was pretty deep in anime, and I struggled with reconciling the quality of the pen strokes with the industry standard quality of either calligraphy pens or liner brushing. So I varied my line width by just going over them again and again, marking directly adjacent to the first stroke. This was time consuming and sometimes tedious, though I do still use this method with felt tip pens.

Using a brush gave me a whole new appreciation of ink as a medium. I realized how versatile it is, and how much of a mood of its own it has. I first used a brush in an art class when I was 20, and managed some really cool pieces even with my crude brushes of what I would now consider the wrong type for the job. The drawing below was my final project for the ink portion of that class.

I didn’t use brushes for ink again for quite a long time. I have often been very mobile, I spent a lot of time outside my own home, and so I preferred very portable mediums that didn’t require much preparation. This is partially what led me to choose colored pencil as my preferred coloring method, and I was always determined to make the best image with as crude a medium as possible. That habit very much influenced my enjoyment of and participation in the lowbrow art movement, and generally fit with my anti-elite attitude towards the art world as a whole.

Anywho after the last year or so of using different types of pens, such as large felt tips and brush pens (lol), I became very frustrated with the obstacle of drying pens. The bigger the pen the bigger the problem, and thick bold lines have always been dear to me. So I decided to take another shot at other ways of putting ink on paper, and with all the brushes I have for doing watercolor now I figured it was high time for brushing ink. This was the result of that. Yesterday.

Not too shabby. I used a round size 2 brush for this. The biggest struggle to begin with was handling the SEVERELY DIMINISHED amount if tactile feedback from brush meeting paper. I’m used to being able to feel just how much pressure is being applied, as with felt tips, but the softness of the brush and the greater control of the ink wetness/concentration made it at times unwieldy and I’d end up with massive lines I didn’t want. It took a lot of patience and finesse to acclimate to the sensitivity of the medium. After all, for my thinnest lines I had to remember that I was marking the page by dragging 1-3 hairs across it. Not much tactile feedback to be had there.

But once I got used to it I remembered how much I love the flowing personality of the lines, and the ease of texture with just the slightest change in pressure or direction.

It also gave me a feeling of being MORE minimalist than pen and ink… and maybe more sustainable. I carry around like 50 pens in my pencil bag, different sizes and colors even, and when they run out… I throw them away. How many Micron pens and other non-refillable felt tips are floating through the ocean, piling up in landfills, injuring and poisoning animals and plants? Sure, you’ve gotta toss an ink bottle eventually, but the difference in mileage is immense. (Then there’s packaging waste, which isn’t even a contest.)

So you can look forward to more of the brush from now on. Next up: I have to try the calligraphy/fountain pens again. 🙂

With watercolor and ink.

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