Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dipping Into the Past

You can see the depth of color the ink provides on the paper, especially in the dots.

I recently decided to be more historic by using a dip pen to draw my frakturs. Dip pens are inconvenient, messy and difficult to use. So why would I torture myself, you ask? Well, I actually enjoy it. More importantly, the look this medium creates is beautiful. The depth of color achieved by letting the ink seep into the page gives a more permanent look. The lines look etched into the page, not simply drawn on. The ink runs a little as it soaks into the paper, and the final product looks so much older than I could have anticipated. 

The old tools and the new, looking down on a work in progress. 
 I would love to say I cut my own nibs (pen tips) from a feather and dip it into a nice old well full of ink I made by crushing berries and other various and sundry items. The historian in me desires historical accuracy in all things historic. My sanity, on the other hand, desires other things. And so, in an effort not to send my already overworked brain over the edge, I have conceded to use a modern plastic handle, metal nibs, and store-bought ink. 

Though I have made these concessions, the process is hardly less adventurous. After working with a dip pen and ink I begin to look less than beautiful. Like I described with the paper, the ink runs down the pen and soaks into skin. It also stays on the surface, allowing me more opportunities to smudge it with my hands and arms. Sometimes the pen gets a life of its own, and drops ink wherever it would like on the page. This is usually remedied by adding polka dots to the rest of the fraktur to disguise the accidental spot.

Finished piece using a dip pen to outline

To me, the unpredictability of the ink is what makes the piece unique and a bit more folky. Why let a mistake get to you? Making it work in the design is half the fun, adding an extra challenge to my task. My lines might not be exactly straight, and I may have smudged this leaf over there. But that's what folk art is about: making the most of the materials and talent you have, and aiming toward something lovely, not necessarily perfect. And so, charming mistakes and all, my frakturs come to life. The color runs deep and adds a touch of the past to the present day.

"Ring the bell that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in." ~Leonard Cohen



  1. Your work is AMAZING, simply AMAZING!!!!! Tina

  2. Thanks so much! I am so glad you enjoy it.

  3. Another beautifully written post . . . I love that even as a young woman you delve further and further into the past.
    Your Leonard Cohen quote is one of my favorites!
    honored to own a piece of your art.
    Lori Ann

  4. The Frakturs do look so much richer. You art is beautiful and I also appreciate that a young woman is so interested in history and learning an old skill like this one. I used pens and ink similar to this years ago to learn calligraphy-they are definitely something to master.

    1. Thanks so much for your lovely words Kathryn!

  5. lovely work, I drive myself crazy with historical accuracy also. lol I found someone who makes pens for dipping out of bamboo. It is a wonderful pen! She lives in England.