Combining Pen And Ink Sketches & Lettering

I’ve been having fun getting back to not only sketching and drawing in dip pen and ink, but also returning to handlettering. Which is actually full-circle for me since I started using dip pens, including feather quills, for the first time in the 1970s for calligraphy, specifically medieval illumination. Then I worked in a sign shop for five years and learned to letter with a brush. When I started to freelance as a graphic designer (the sign shop also did that) and then as an illustrator, handlettering was an intrinsic part of a lot of my work. But as a painter in oil….not so much. However, I’m not giving up oil painting, just jiggering my work life to include the new media.

Great Egret, Gillott 659 Crowquill (same nib used by Joseph Pennell)

I poked around on and to my surprise and pleasure found found a wealth of old books for sign painting, showcard lettering and lettering in general, including instructional booklets. I’ll be posting about those, including a bibliography, in the future. I downloaded them as pdfs into Apple Books, so they are image shots of the originals, not optical scans.

River Otter, Gillott 1950 Artist’s nib

For these three pieces I tried out three different nibs on 4×6″ pieces of Strathmore 300 vellum bristol. I did the drawing first then added the lettering. All the nibs are ones that are recommended in most of the pen and ink instruction books I’ve found, including the ones by Arthur Guptill and Henry Pitz. And I’ll be posting all of that information in the future also.

All of the animals are done from photo reference I shot. The egret was recently in our backyard at our pond. The lettering is largely made up, adapted from one of the alphabet sample books.

I’ve also done some landscape and tree studies. You can see those over on Let me know what you think in the comments!

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