Wednesday 26 December 2012

Making Quill Pens for Drawing

When I was in Santo Domingo for the last Urban Sketchers symposium, I took part in a workshop, run by Nina Johnasson, where I tried out a bamboo pen for the first time. I loved the slightly unpredictable line and the way it influenced my drawing style:

I still haven't got around to making or buying a bamboo pen, but it reminded me that I have been intending to make a quill pen, to play around with line quality in much the same way. 

I have been to the coast a couple of times in recent months and each time have collected lots of big seagull feathers. I know goose quills are supposed to be the best, but I didn't have any luck trying to get hold of some of them. Here are the four seagull quills I made:

I found a couple of films on YouTube to help. One technique involces 'cooking' the feather in hot sand (that makes the quill stiff and hard, so probably much like bamboo), another blanches the feather in boiling water, which keeps flexibility. I decided to try the water first - flexibility sounds and good and water sounds easier!

As you can see from this close-up, my cuts are a bit ragged (it's all very small and fiddly), but that doesn't seem to matter.

I tested them out in the back of a sketchbook, drawing bits and bobs that were on my desk. They are a bit inclined to blot badly when you first begin to draw after dipping in ink, but I got the hang of them more and more and got this under control. 

The line does have the same unpredicable quality that I liked with the bamboo. When I get some time, I will try the sand technique and see how that alters the line.


Vivien said...

Happy New Year, Lynne, and thanks for your blog over the year - always interesting and enthusing. All the best for 2013!

jabbott said...

Cool drawings,and happy new year!

Anonymous said...


Enjoyed your Blog.

Vincent Van Gogh used Quills
for his many lines but I can't find
a definitive book on his style.

Could you write me.

Retired lawyer in Michigan

LAHRdesign said...

Hi Lynne, I'm trying to find drawings made with quill pens--not so easy. Thanks for sharing. Did you heat treat and soak your feathers? I find they are more flexible. Found instructions online.