Bowsprite: A New York Harbor Sketchbook

tools of the trade

Posted in art by bowsprite on 2011/01/15

Voila! this is it: a hand-cut reed pen, made from bamboo sticks available at any gardening store to stake up plants. It is with this pen that I make what Monkeyfist calls, with characteristic sensitivity, ‘blind retard lines’.

Dip pen into black ink. I prefer calligraphy and drawing inks for their fluidity, but they are not waterproof, and washes will bleed, which I do not mind. I like waterproof inks, but the lacquer coats and suffocates my pen.

I like to draw on site, directly with ink and pen (no pencil) in a 9″ x 12″ recycled paper sketchbook. FleetWeek merits the 14″ x 20″ big guns pad. For the washes, I like charcoal paper because of the texture; rarely use watercolor paper. I like papers that drink the washes unevenly. Bank statements and bill envelopes were great, but I’ve gone online.

To do lettering or fine line details (Plimsoll marks) I use metal pen nibs in a simple wooden nib holder.

With exotic names like Aviator, Bronze Falcon, Globe, Figaro, Herald, Imperial, Magazine, Mail, Panama, Pedigree, School, Silversteel, and others, the nibs are shaped differently. I cannot tell the differences.

Colors are usually added later, but sometimes I like to paint at the spot. I always carry a plastic bucket on a long line that I throw off the pier to collect water, and I wet my palette and rinse my brushes in the briny. Therefore, I technically make saltwatercolors.

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16 Responses

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  1. Mage Bailey said, on 2011/01/15 at 18:54

    Oh, I have missed you.

    Oh, you are far more adventuresome than I with my single wooden pen and india ink. I’d far rather draw with a marker, but no matter what they say about themselves, they fade. I like to take smooooooooooooth paper which will vaguely take my colors and love my ink.

    • bowsprite said, on 2011/01/15 at 20:33

      ooh. I love markers, pens, swizzle sticks dipped in sangria, coffee stirrers…

  2. billcanoe said, on 2011/01/15 at 19:09

    ” I wet my palette and rinse my brushes in the briny.”

    Suggest Red Breast Irish whiskey for any further palette wetting.

    • bowsprite said, on 2011/01/15 at 20:32

      ah! now that would best wet the palate!
      (I always miss these little jokes!!! thanks!)

  3. Michael said, on 2011/01/15 at 21:06

    “I like papers that drink the washes unevenly. ” That was my favorite bit.

  4. tugster said, on 2011/01/15 at 22:00

    suppose you wanted to draw a large vessel like queen someone or other, would you use a tool of this size: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9246373@N06/5359065746/in/photostream/ ?

  5. o docker said, on 2011/01/16 at 01:38

    With inks and pens you’re ready

    For an expedition in the bush.

    I loved your nibs and your washes,

    But my favorite was your tusche.

  6. Bill said, on 2011/01/17 at 06:34

    Cool. I love it when artists reveal their secrets. I can’t draw worth a ding dang, so I am always fascinated by seeing how it’s done. A pen made from a stake. I would have never guessed.

  7. Carol Lois Haywood said, on 2011/01/17 at 19:16

    We love your lines, Bowsprite!

  8. Buck said, on 2011/01/20 at 15:10

    Mont Blanc accompanies Bowsprite to the sea!

    There’s something about the mountain and Mohammad but I can’t quite work it out. So nice to see your drawings again!

  9. Vagabonde said, on 2011/01/24 at 20:09

    Saltwater painting – I like that – it has a ring to it – “my friend in New York is a specialist in saltwater painting” that should not fail to impress. Actually I am impressed myself that you use so many different types of brushes wooden tools, sticks, etc. You are very versatile. Xoxo VB

  10. [...] du sel.”   The title here comes from the final line in bowsprite’s post on her “tools of the trade.”  She’s also shown her studio in the most recent post here, and further discussed the [...]

  11. The Columnista said, on 2011/01/25 at 09:35

    Thank you for sharing your secrets, now we can picture you working away!

  12. Cold is the Sea said, on 2011/01/28 at 20:27

    Ah…the method behind the magic is revealed…

    Turnabout is fair play…

    I use a 0 brush for thicker lines, a 000 for fine ones (Windsor and Newton sable, preferred, but I have cheap blends and synthetics too) and a 5 brush for large areas.
    I use Higgins waterproof ink and work on cheap, smooth Strathmore bristol (hate it, it gets a little bleedy). I really prefer sumi ink because I like how shiny it gets – but it bleeds when I put watercolors over it (and I hate to color first).

    For pens, I get the best use out of a Hunt 104 nib. If I’m just sketching at work, I use a uniball and Tomo sumi ink pen on Moleskine.

    Great post…I love reading about how other people work.

    “Saltwatercolors”… ha!

  13. billcanoe said, on 2011/04/27 at 18:37

    Stopped in a gallery in Dunedin last week. They had some works of a “brushmaker” (I didn’t know this was an art…) displayed. Prices were also displayed. I was completly badgered by the prices…

    http://www.paintedfishgallery.com/index.html

    • bowsprite said, on 2011/04/27 at 18:57

      ain’t Art grand?!? when I see something I sort of like in a NYC gallery, I say, “I’ll go home and make that.” But where would I put a stuffed goat covered with red paint wearing a tire?


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