MrHass is the founder and lead artist of SuperCrafts, a studio workshop based at Islington Mill, and offering a range of creative services, including art direction, print graphics and web design. MrHass is an incredibly skilled illustrator, as well as being a loyal customer of ours, and has kindly offered to share some of his tips and techniques for drawing with Indian Ink; a traditional form of image-making, that can yield stunning results in the right hands.
Illustration with indian ink is considered one of the traditional drawing media. Skill with pencil and painting do help, but drawing in only black ink isn’t simply an extension of these methods. To be good at inking in itself takes practice, and it definitely helps to approach it well prepared.
Black indian ink generally comes in standard liquid form, or as waterproof ink. The former is considered by most to flow better. Mixing of ink brands rarely happens in a single drawing, as each ink dries differently with some giving a shinier finish than others. Inkers generally work from a small bottle that won’t tip easily, as brushes and pens have to be loaded frequently.The choice of paper can vastly change the outcome of a picture. Two factors that influence a paper’s suitability are absorbency and texture. If ink is deposited in heavy washes, it’s good to have paper that will absorb it without rippling. Paper texture influences how accurately you can draw. A smoother paper generally allows for neater, more precise strokes, especially when finer pen nibs are in use.
Illustrations are generally inked by dip pen or brush. Brushes can be round or flat but it’s definitely easier to use brushes with soft bristles. The shape of the handle should be comfortable to hold, so that brush movements are free and easy. Cleaning the bristles regularly will stop them sticking together as you work, which can be done with normal water and then wiping dry with a piece of cloth.
The subject of dip pens is a broad one, as there is a huge number of nibs all suited for different things. Gillot, Leonardt, Hunt, and Tachikawa are some of the brands producing metal nibs, offering shapes suited for line work, lettering and hatching. Each nib behaves it’s own way but luckily they are not very expensive, so beginners can afford to try out the various shapes and types available. Using only pure black ink means flat tones and graded tones are created with various hatches and textures. As with the brushes, a small pot of water and piece of cloth is needed to clean the nib regularly, before the ink dries inside and becomes gummy.
Often a few pens are used in a single drawing, so marking the penholder helps distinguish which is which as drawing goes on. Balance, length, and how far up the fingers grip the pen affect how well they work with different nibs. The insert that holds the nib does vary between holders and the intended nib size, so it’s good to check this prior to any purchase.
Most inking happens over a light pencil drawing, which is rubbed out once the ink has dried. How long that takes depends on how much ink is deposited, so it’s crucial to check all is absolutely dry before any erasing begins. Using softer pencils means only a soft putty rubber is needed, which helps to keep the the paper in tact. Inking can often expose areas of paper that have been rubbed too aggressively, so harder rubbers should only be used on stubborn pencil marks. An abrasive rubber can remove small ink marks, but this should be done carefully to not distress the surface. A soft rubber can also be used for a final cleaning of the paper when all the inking is finished.For perfect curves and straight lines, many inkers will use rulers and flexible curves with a bevelled edge. This edge allows the rule to be moved away without dragging the wet ink along the paper’s surface. Masking fluid can also be put to use when doing ink drawings. It forms a membrane on the paper so washes of ink do not affect what is underneath. Types of fluid do vary but most are easy to use and hardly affect the paper, providing care is taken when peeling it away.Ink drawing is practised by artists, illustrators, architects, designers, letterers and calligraphers, all of whom approach it in a slightly different way. Whatever is being drawn, good preparation and the right tools make inking far easier and a lot more fun to do.