Pen and ink is a medium with a long history, but despite some modern revival in interest (as evidenced by the current internet-wide exercise of Inktober), its importance has faded from its time as a major drawing medium for Renaissance and Baroque masters, and its strong popularity as a medium for illustration during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Pen and ink is a medium with unique characteristics — in linearity, texture and tone — that have a visual charm shared only with similar techniques in printmaking.
From the waning years of the medium’s heyday as a staple of book illustration, we have a classic volume that is simply the best book on pen and ink I’ve ever encountered: Rendering in Pen and Ink by Arthur L. Guptill
The original version of the book was published in 1930 as Drawing with Pen and Ink, and versions of that volume are still available. The edition titled Rendering in Pen and Ink was created in 1976, leaving out a few of the original illustrations, adding many others and condensing the area devoted to text while enlarging that given to images.
This is a from-the-ground up treatise on drawing with pen and ink, starting with materials, basic marks and methods of making tones — hatching, cross-hatching, stipple and freeform textures — and going on through methods of rendering trees and landscapes, architecture, still life, people and more.
Much emphasis is given to making and controlling tones and suggesting light and shade, something that those learning pen and ink often struggle with, as well as conveying the textures of natural and artificial surfaces.
Many of the illustrations, particular those explaining the basics of ink drawing and rendering, are by Arthur Guptill himself, and he is no slouch at pen drawing. The book is also profusely illustrated with plates by some of the best pen and ink artists from the turn of the 20th century, a high point for the use of pen and ink in books and magazines.
The drawing may strike some as “old fashioned”, in that it has a character of classic illustration — but to others, myself included, this is a Good Thing — a welcome grounding in techniques taken from masters of the medium.
The current 60th Anniversary edition of the book, which is huge, both in page size and number, is available for under $30 on Amazon U.S. For my money, a single chapter would be worth that! (I’ll note that I have an older, well-worn hardbound edition that I’m using for my review, and I can’t speak to the binding and paper quality of the current printing.)
I’ve had the book since I was in my early 20s; I considered it a gem then, and the years have not dimmed my enthusiasm for its value. Rendering in Pen and Ink is highly regarded as a standard must-have book among illustrators and comics artists, but is less well known to other contemporary artists.
There are a lot of books available on drawing in pen and ink, but if you have any interest in working in, and hopefully mastering the medium, this one should be on your shelf.