Tuesday, October 1, 2019

#InkTober2019: Hello Again, Fountain Pens!

9/29/19 I've missed you, pen and ink.

I’ve missed my fountain pens.

Shortly after I began sketching, I started using fountain pens, and they became my line-drawing instrument of choice. (Long-time blog readers may recall my epic fountain pen search that preoccupied me for much of 2015.) The variable, organic line I can get with some of my favorites can’t be reproduced with any other implement. I still love that line. Even when I began making the transition away from watercolors and towards markers and eventually colored pencils in 2016, I still relied mostly on a fountain pen line for drawings before adding color.

Sometime in 2018, though, I found myself using fountain pens less and less. This wasn’t a conscious act, but it may have been partly due to my training from the colored pencil classes I took. I was taught to make the outline in a pencil hue that would be used to color the object, which would make the initial linework disappear and blend into the rest of the object. I guess it stopped making sense to draw an ink line with a pen when I already had a drawing and coloring instrument in my hand. And maybe more to the point, I got used to seeing objects without an outline around them and liked the look. When I really needed to work fast – drawing people in action, for example – I still used a pen line, but I found myself grabbing a fat brush marker instead.

When I was getting ready for Amsterdam in July, I realized I hadn’t used the fountain pen in my bag in a long time. Somewhat reluctantly, I took it out – and not without grief.

Today, on the first day of InkTober, I’m delighted to say I’m putting my favorite fountain pens back into action, at least for the next 31 days. A fountain pen can be the source of many joys, only one of which is to make an outline drawing before coloring. For this year’s personal InkTober challenge, I’m going to use only fountain pens to rediscover those joys.

And my sketchbook of choice? Initially, I was going to use a small Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook or Rhodia journal, both of which have smooth papers that are pleasant to use with fountain pens and are thick enough to tolerate the wet output of ink from my favorite nibs. As I was looking through my shelves one day, though, I came across an old Moleskine pocket-size notebook – the kind with the heavy paper that looks like a manila folder. After making a few sketches in it back in October 2011 (only a month after I began sketching), I abandoned it and moved on to a different book.

10/24/11 The first two pages in the Moleskine sketchbook.
What is interesting to me are the first two pages, where I made a few sketches in pencil, and after that I switched to ink. Ever since, whenever I’ve drawn with a pen, I’ve gone straight to ink without a pencil draft – come hell or high water. I didn’t know about InkTober yet, but I like seeing the evidence of that attitude in myself back then. I thought it would be fun to honor that spirit by using that same Moleskine sketchbook (which I tested with fountain pen, and it’s better than I expected) for InkTober.

I’ll be reporting in a few times this month on my InkTober progress, and when I do, I’ll also include sketches from those first few sketchbook pages. 


  1. Back to ink and a moleskin too. Nice for Inktober.

  2. Welcome back to fountain pen land and good luck with InkTober.

    1. It feels good to be back! But I feel rusty! Amazing what time away will do to make one feel creaky again... like skipping the gym while traveling. ;-)

    2. Boy, can I relate to that. I've lost nearly two years without much drawing and it shows.


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