Monday, November 26, 2007

The Technical Pen

I recently picked up a copy of The Technical Pen by Gary Simmons. I hesitated to get it because I already have Rendering in Pen and Ink by Arthur Guptill. But, as Simmons book is focused on radiograph/technical pens, as opposed to pens with nibs, I thought it might be worth it.

I haven't been disappointed. It's been a great read. In the beginning he goes through a couple of the big name pens. It should be noted that he is regularly employed by one of the makers. He refers to the "disposable" kind of pen, e.g. Micron, as a pen marker. Lately, I've been running through pens quickly, so if anyone else wants to weigh in on radiograph/technical pens and their preference, I'd love to hear it.

He has the standard section on different types of strokes, useful but not evolutionary. He has an interesting section where he does one drawing in 24 different ways. He spends the chapter talking about how the different strokes are successful, or unsuccessful and why. Throughout the book he comments on the tension in pen and ink work where the stroke choice can affect value and texture. Sometimes, you want texture, sometimes you don't. I found this ongoing theme very thought-provoking and stimulating.

His final three chapters are on sketching loosely, producing a "tight" (or careful, deliberate) work, and color and the pen. The first two of these sections are thorough - they have exercises and ideas on how to progress through a work. He has several good thoughts about sketching on the spot with the limitations of a pen. He also has a nice process laid out for producing very exact, detailed pen and ink work. The final section looks fascinating to me (I've only glanced through it). I haven't really considered using colored inks before, but with the illustrations included here, I may have to try that. He achieves some things that I didn't really think were possible.

In short, I'm thoroughly pleased with this book. It doesn't seem to be in print anymore, but should you run across a copy in a used bookstore and you're interested in pen and ink, I'd definitely recommend getting it.

If I had to rate it, I'd give it 4 pencils. (I'd like to say 5, but I think the audience for it is rather small.) It's not really for a beginner, I think you do need to be interested in pen and ink and have some experience. At times, I think it is written almost like an instruction manual. That appeals to me, but I don't think it appeals to most people. It's not a comprehensive treatise on creativity, or drawing. It's a thorough explanation of all the different ways to make marks with a technical pen and the effects that are achieved.

Above is a 30 min sketch exercise from a reference by kuntal on morguefile.com. Done with no outlining, approx. 6 in x 10 in.

5 comments:

Valerie Jones said...

Thanks for sharing! I might have to purchase "The Technical Pen". It looks like an excellent book! I used to use that pen and then I gave up on it because it clogged so much when not in use. Even after cleaning it, I couldn't get it to work. I know it is operator error and not the pen. I have a pen and ink piece I have to do for my aunt that is on a round sawblade. I have been trying to decide whether to use the Rapidograph or the Micron on it. The Micron might be better as to not scratch the acrylic underpainting. hmmmm...choices, choices.

Jeanette said...

THis sounds like an interesting book to have in my library Rose. Thanks for doing the review. Something for my Christmas wish list. :)

I use pen off and on and have a variety from Micron to Nexus to Rapidograph.

I like the Rapidograph the best, likely because I can purchase the finer nibs with it and I enjoy using those to get tiny detail work done. People do have problems with Rapidographs clogging with underuse sometimes, but I've been lucky even when I don't use them for awhile. Touch wood....

Rose Welty said...

That's the only problem with reviews...they add books to your wish list. Yikes, mine has really grown in the last few months, I shall have to be selective at Christmas. :)

Thanks for your thoughts on the pens. I am very tempted with the Radiograph for black and possibly some Nexus ones for color.

Belinda Lindhardt said...

Wow this is interesting Rose.
I love pens and have recently purchased some new felt tiped pens ..with a very fine tip.. just love them :)

As usual a fabulous review i will have to keep my eye out for this book :)

Bigs said...

Hi Rose and all,

I like pens and am planning to get rapidographs. I like Claudia Nice's work and in her book 'Drawing in Pen & Ink' she discusses the cleaning of them (they are her favourite pen too). She shows how to disassemble the pen to clean it and recommends that you clean it every month whether it needs it or not. Also she says that most clogging problems occur when the air channel is flooded - this creates a vacuum (air lock) which prevents the ink from flowing. You should clean it as soon as this happens. And shaking the pen is apparantly a major cause of this happening.

She recommends cleaning your pen once a month for maintenance and before storage of more than a month also whenever it clogs.

Looks like I will be cleaning pens for a long time - I'll have dishpan hands between my normal washing up, cleaning my brushes, and now my pens when I get them :)