New Nib Try-outs! And A Step-by-Step Demo.

This last couple of months or so I’ve been working my way through the nibs I’ve purchased that were specifically designed for drawing and drafting. For whatever reason, possibly because there weren’t as many made as the ones for writing or perhaps artists/draughtsmen (no “draughtswomen” back in the day) were harder on them, they can be somewhat more challenging to find. But they are out there, in varying sizes, colors, sharpness of the tip and amount of flexibility. The highly flexible ones are like a high-performance car, amazing to “drive” but if you lose control it’s not going to be good. Although ink spatters beat hitting a wall.

I used my own photo reference of a lion-tailed macaque, an endangered species that I saw in an accredited zoo, beginning with a pencil drawing, laying down shapes and getting the features correct. No fussing about “detail”.

Using an Esterbrook #354 I began with the face and muzzle working outward from there. I’m trying to get as close to the final values as I can on the first pass. Darker lines are the result of pressure on the nib which spreads the tines apart to let more ink flow. That same pressure is what contributes to their relatively short life span, so I’m being pretty conservative at this point. As a personal challenge I’m trying to avoid crosshatching to get the darker darks, although there’s nothing wrong with doing it that way.

And, once again, here’s the finished drawing, which took a little over an hour.

I also did one of a sheep I saw in Mongolia and a Rothschild giraffe I saw in Kenya.

After sketching in an outline I usually do the eye or eyes first. I suggested the fleecy coat without getting into detail, just loose indications since I wanted the head to be the focus.

I sketched the Rothschild’s giraffe with a Gillott 659 crowquill. I was particularly interested in tracking down this nib since it was used extensively by artist and author Joseph Pennell.

I used the same nibs for the lettering.

Specific Esterbrook and Gillott nibs are recommended in important pen and ink technique books by artist/authors like Arthur Guptill and Henry Pitz. Both the Esterbrook 354 and the Gillott 659 can be found on and off on Etsy and ebay. You can learn more about the history of Esterbrook nibs at The Esterbrook Project. Every known nib is listed there along with documentation. The site owner also sells Esterbrook and a few other brands of nibs on Etsy as White Apple Multimedia. I’ve bought nibs from him a couple of times and can vouch for his good service.


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