Saturday, January 6, 2018

Using Speedball's Dip Pens

I use dip pens when I create illustrations and lettering because they deliver a look that evokes the style of the Golden Age of Ornamental Penmanship, which lasted from about 1850 to 1925.

Some of the most reliable dip pen nibs are the Hunt 102 and the Speedball C-series of nibs, which I'm using here for a map of Chandara. Some of these pens have a heritage that goes back in an unbroken line for more than 100 years.

The manufacturer, The Speedball Company still makes nibs, penholders, and many art products in their factory in North Carolina. (Link to video tour of their factory)

They just redid their website, creating Pro Pages that spotlight letterers, illustrators, and printmakers who use their products. When they realized that I've used their products since I was a teenager, they asked to feature my work, too.

No money changes hands, but it’s a nice way for a group of artists to appreciate a the work of a company and for a company to appreciate the work of artists.
Speedball Pro Pages: Drawing and Lettering
Lecture about the Golden Age of Ornamental Penmanship
The map appears on the inside of the dust jacket of the hardcover edition of Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara, which you can get signed from my website.
Speedball textbook for pen & brush lettering


Philipp Wöhner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Philipp Wöhner said...

Hey James,

great to see that Joe Sutphin is also featured with his "My Place" video!

Do some of you use reed pens? A drawing colleague made me one.
Out of that reason I also produced a little clip which you can see here if you like:
you can see the reed pen close up in the end.

I am not really experienced in usig dip pens, but they appears to be harder to control, but the lines are kind of characteristic.

(sidefact: the chicken you can hear in the beginning of the video is actually a real chicken from my grandmas barn, which I recorded with a field recorder)

Greetings from Leipzig, Germany

Steve said...

Thanks, Jim, for this timely reminder of the charms of dip pens. Many years ago I gave them regular use, but I have been neglecting mine, along with my 1940 instructional manual, "Speedball Elementary Alphabets" by Ross George. I have some projects in mind for 2018 which will benefit from dip pen lettering and drawing.

Chris Jouan said...

Once again your blog post coincides with where I am artistically. I have been experimenting with dip pens and scanning the art for my digital work. It lends character to what would be a sterile medium. It also satisfies a need to create tactile imagery. I have been using Speedball ink on vellum bristol and duralar with Tachikawa nibs and mapping nibs. I love it!

Susan Krzywicki said...

Hello James. I linked over to the Speedball page and looked around. Did all these artists come out of some specialized sub-genre? I noticed that there were no women featured. So, maybe the whole world of calligraphy that I'm used to is not Speedball's marketplace?

I don't know enough about this, so maybe I missed something. I kinda thought I'd see some artists who do these beautiful hand-letters things I see all over the blogger websites - wedding invitations, and inspirational posters, and dot journals and Midori journals?

James Gurney said...

Susan, they just launched this Pro Pages feature and they have said they want to add artists. So if you have a list of your favorite innovative calligraphers or block printers who use Speedball and who want to be considered, please send them a list of names and links. The company wants to build links with the creative community.

Chris, me too. I've always used these tools, but I'm using them more nowadays for the same reasons. There's nothing more tactile and satisfying than carving a lino block.

Steve, I know you've introduced me to some woodblock artists and some really interesting papers, and I know you've delved into that too. Can't wait to see what you do with that. The Speedball reference books are some of the best model alphabets, and they show the sequence of strokes, which is really helpful.

Philipp, I really haven't done much with reed pens. I've got a couple tucked away and will have to give them a try.