Chicory and Dock

I OCCASIONALLY feel the need to do what I call an ‘inky’ drawing, with free-flowing ink, so why not go all the way and use a bamboo pen and Winsor & Newton black Indian ink?


  • once you’ve dipped your bamboo pen in the ink, the first time you hold it over the paper a drop of ink will blot down onto the paper
  • you can’t take your time drawing the lines while the ink is running freely or you’ll end up with another blot
  • the ink soon runs out and you start to get a broken scratchy line


  • you get a bold line, one that reminds me of a woodcut
  • there’s an organic quality to the diminishing size and changing quality of the line as the ink runs out. In the same way that slug slime trails are organic!
  • makes me work more quickly

That last one, ‘makes me work more quickly’ isn’t necessarily an advantage; the main point of observational drawing for me is to slow down and make contact with the natural world (or in some cases the manmade world).

I just try to work as accurately as I can within the limitations of the medium. There’s no rubbing out if a line goes wrong, so you just have to go for it. I’ve never skied but I imagine the feeling of barely controlled chaos that I get when I’m drawing with a piece of sharpened bamboo and blottily viscous ink is similar to the feeling you must get when you first go skiing down the nursery slopes.

Bamboo pen and Indian ink is the white knuckle ride of drawing. Perhaps next time I’ll try the comfy armchair and slippers version of drawing and go back to my ArtPen!

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