A pencil was my first tool when I began to draw in earnest years ago. I wanted to be able to erase, to make my drawings just “right”, and then put watercolor over top of it, working within the lines carefully. What has evolved in my switch to pen is difficult to describe or explain, but somewhere along the way, I fell in love with pens. Typically it is a ballpoint pen, but I also enjoy felt tip, roller ball, permanent and non-permanent inks. The major “advantage” I now enjoy is the fact that you CANNOT undo mistakes. They are left on the page as a record of where my hand has been, how I was “seeing” in the moment (whether correctly or no), and then the restatements and re-do’s (if I choose). I tell my students that drawing with a pen is actually freeing! You are taking off the table the whole issue of “having to make it right”, and just letting the lines fall where they may. You’re even able to say to any viewer to whom you might show your drawings: “I couldn’t erase…I was using a pen.” Most of the time, your viewers do not see “mistakes” as you see them! Drawing in pen gives you a great excuse to go ahead and make mistakes.
When I draw in pencil and then add watercolor, I miss my lines terribly. I used to be so sad that a drawing “disappeared” when the watercolor was laid in. Drawing in pen solves this problem for me, since I can still see the lines even after watercoloring. I love the linework as a foundation on which to hang the color, and I want to still be able to see the foundation after the color has been added!
No two pens are alike. Some are gloppy and thick, some are smooth and thin. Some smudge, some don’t. Some bleed, run, and oozle when water is added. Just within the world of pens, there is so much to explore. You can use a water brush to “paint” after drawing with non-permanent pens just by touching a line and pulling the ink out into the areas you want. You can use your thumb to smudge the glopped ink. You can vary the value of your pen by pressing down harder for darker values and lightening up for the paler values. Pen is wonderful for cross-hatching, for crisp lines as well as choppy. Of course, my favorite, is the smooth flow of pen in continuous line drawings.
Like Mikey (from a commercial popular in my childhood) used to say, “Try it, you’ll like it!”