At one time I always carried some kind of of fibre tip pen with me, such as a Pilot Drawing Pen, but these days it’s just my three Lamy fountain pens – an AL-Star, a Safari and a Vista – with fine, extra fine and broad nibs. Fibre tips offer a degree of precision and convenience, until they start to dry up, but I find that a fountain pen feels more natural.
For natural history drawing, I usually go for my Lamy Vista with an extra fine nib which I keep filled with Noodler’s brown ink. Noodler’s becomes waterproof on contact with the cellulose in paper so I can add a watercolour wash. This gives a similar effect to a dip pen and Indian ink plus watercolour but a fountain pen is easier to work with as there’s no bottle of ink to either hold on to or to risk knocking over.
The Vista is a transparent version of the Safari so it’s even easier to check that the filler in the pen has enough ink in it when I set off to draw. At the moment this pen is filled with a mixture of Noodler’s black and El Lawrence brown (a kind of khaki, desert brown, named in honour of Lawrence of Arabia), because I had two half empty bottles and it’s easier to fill the pen from a full bottle. The black/brown mix reminds me of Pelikan Special Brown indian ink which I used for many years.
I keep the AL-Star, the aluminium version of the Safari, filled with black Noodler’s ink. This pen is fitted with a fine nib.
For bolder drawing I’ve got a bright yellow Safari (difficult to lose) with a broad nib. This is the freest flowing of the three pens and the larger, rounded tip, as seen in my photograph taken with a microscope, enables it to glide across the paper.
‘Time still weaves its web. Cold winds blow across the country – but blue sky, the occasional sight of flowers are the essence of future hope. Soon the green fire will be bursting from all the hedgerows . . . and the stagnant pools will become animated with life . . .’
The letters and diaries of William Baines (1899-1922) reveal the way the composer drew his inspiration from the Yorkshire landscape. His impressionistic piano pieces conjure up pictures of coast, woodland and moor.
The Yorkshire of William Baines, my final project for a Diploma in Art & Design course at Leeds coincided with the 50th anniversary of his death. I started by talking to his surviving friends and relatives and went on to produce a publication, two concerts and an exhibition that at the Harrogate Festival in 1972. As a result of all this work, Roger Carpenter invited me to provide the illustrations for his biography of Baines, Goodnight to Flamborough.
I’m reminded of that ‘green fire’ quote when the hawthorn leaves start to appear in the wintry hedges. This winter was the warmest on record for central England, and records begin in 1659 so, uniquely as far as I remember, we’ve had a few green leaves in the hedge throughout the winter.