Drawing with Reed Pens: Fun as a Novice
Reed pens have a rich history dating back centuries and offer a unique and organic approach to creating beautiful artwork. They give your artwork a distinctive and organic texture that gives it personality. In this post, I hope to introduce you to a new medium and encourage you to experiment with reed pens.
What is a reed pen?
As the name implies, a reed pen is a traditional drawing tool created by cutting and modifying a piece of reed or bamboo. Artists like Rembrandt and Van Gogh are known for using reed pens.
Vincent van Gogh, Ploughman in the Fields near Arles, 1888. National Gallery of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Why do modern artists use reed pens?
Reed pens are an appealing choice for artists for many reasons. Firstly, artists draw with a reed pen and ink because it creates distinctive strokes and accents. The irregularities in the pen's tip create a distinctive line quality that is difficult to replicate with other drawing tools. Artists can enjoy a unique way to express their ideas and develop their style.
Using a reed pen also allows artists to tap into a sense of nostalgia and connection to traditional art forms. The use of reed pens in ancient Egypt and medieval Europe has been documented in art history.
Study for one of the Syndics, Volckert Jansz. Rembrandt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Choosing the right paper for reed pen drawing
The choice of paper plays a crucial role in the quality of your reed pen drawings. It should handle the ink without bleeding or feathering while providing a smooth surface for the pen to glide on. Here are some factors to consider when selecting paper for reed pen drawing:
1. Thickness: Opt for thick paper to handle the ink without bleeding through. Thicker papers also provide better resistance to buckling and warping.
2. Texture: Smooth papers offer a consistent flow, making them suitable for detailed work, while rougher paper can add texture and character to your drawings.
3. Absorbency: Consider the absorbency of the paper and how it affects the ink drying time. Some types of paper may absorb the ink quickly, while others may allow for longer drying times, allowing you to manipulate the ink and create different effects.
If you want your artwork to stand the test of time, choose acid-free, archival-quality paper. It ensures that your drawings won't yellow or degrade over time, preserving their beauty for years.
Additionally, consider researching the ink you use to draw if you want your artwork to last.
Tips for maintaining and caring for reed pens
1. Clean after each use: Clean your reed pen thoroughly to remove any dried ink after every drawing session. Dip the pen in warm water and gently wipe it with a soft cloth or tissue. It will prevent ink buildup and ensure smooth ink flow in future uses.
2. Store carefully: Store your reed pens in a clean and dry place, away from direct sunlight or extreme temperatures. Avoid placing them with other materials that may damage the nibs.
Taking care of your reed pens will help maintain their shape and prevent them from drying out or becoming brittle.
If you're new to reed pen drawing, here are a few exercises to help you get started:
1. Line Variation Exercise: Practice creating varying line widths using your reed pen. Start with light pressure for thin lines, gradually increasing the pressure to create thicker lines. Experiment with different angles and speeds to create expressive strokes.
2. Texture Study: Choose a simple object or pattern and create a texture study using your reed pen. Focus on capturing the texture and details of the subject by using techniques such as cross-hatching or stippling.
3. Still-Life Drawing: Set up a still-life arrangement of objects and create a drawing using your reed pen. Experiment with different line weights and textures.
These exercises can be a delightful way to get to know your reed pens and have fun with this new medium.
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