How to Modify a Drawing Board for Portable Pen and Ink

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Overwintered geraniums

A few years ago, as I was trawling the web looking for inspiration, I came upon the drawings of George Butler and Studio 1482. I was attracted to the reportage style, yes, but was especially excited by the spidery, uneven quality of their pen-and-ink lines.

While beautiful, though, dip pen is not the easiest plein air medium for today's busy world -- it's inherently messy and a little awkward.

So, how could I make it a bit more user-friendly? Oh, do I love a challenge!

My first breakthrough was to look for a screw-top, clip-on metal palette cup (the kind used in oil painting, for mediums and such) that could be used as an inkwell. I figured I could just clip it onto my drawing board. Doesn't hold a ton of ink, but a little India ink goes a long way.

What I didn't realize, though, is that most of the cheap ones LEAK! It took forever (and many trips to various art supply stores) to find some whose welds were actually strong enough to make watertight seals. Finally I found a few that worked. Now, what to do with the lid while drawing?

Enter my personal MacGyver (who, by the way, has a great new blog). I told him what I needed: some way to keep the palette-cup cap from getting lost; some place to put the extra pens when I wasn't using them.

Here's what we came up with.


At the top left are two drilled holes filled with rare earth magnets and secured with adhesive (epoxy, I believe), to hold palette cup lids while drawing.



On the right are holes of different sizes, to hold pens:


Here's the setup in action in the back porch, where I drew the overwintered geraniums shown earlier in this post:


And yes, I have taken this setup out in the "field" -- I just put the tightly capped, ink-filled palette cup and pens in a quart-size zip-top baggie. (I'm going to investigate see-through dry bags for this purpose though -- the kind that kayakers use to stash their gear -- since regular ziptop bags get worn out pretty quickly.)

If I want clear water (for lightening the ink/cleaning the pen nibs) I use an Aquatote or similar container.

Can't wait for the weather to turn warm again so I can take my gear to the beach or park!

How about you? What methods do you use to keep your pen-and-ink materials tidy?

You Might Also Like