Lines and Colors art blog

Eye Candy for Today: Gibson ink drawings

Charles Dana Gibson, classic pen and ink illustration
Various drawings, Charles Dana Gibson

From the Toronto Public Library.

Gibson was one of the great masters of pen and ink and a major early figure in “Golden Age” illustration.

Look at the head of the “Gibson Girl” the center, and the variety of lines, from the short, fine pen strokes around the eyes and nose, to the fluid, calligraphic curves at the top of the hair (which I assume are done with a brush). Wonderful.


5 responses to “Eye Candy for Today: Gibson ink drawings”

  1. not necessarily done with a brush – remember that in his day nibs were very very flexible, I have some fountain pen from 1905, made for people used to using dip nibs for writing and they can make a hairline to a line as lage as the nail on my pinky – and we’re talking writing nibs, not nibs for artists!
    but if anybody knows more about Gibson’s toold I’d love to hear about it!

    many thanks for sharing art daily, your site is my first stop in the morning!

    1. Yes, you may be right. You can no longer get pen nibs as fine as those available at the time, either. I’ve seen a number of pen drawings by Howard Pyle, some of the Pre-Raphaelites and others, that have lines so fine that I was unable to reproduce them with any pen point I could purchase (at least here in the US), — distinctly finer than the Hunt 104 or the Gillott 303.

      Thanks for the kind words about Lines and Colors.

  2. Just cannot get enough of Gibson! Just finished his biography “Portrait of an Era as Drawn by C.D. Gibson: A Biography [Fairfax Davis Downey, Charles Dana Gibson”. Required reading for Gibson fans.

  3. Ron Wodaski Avatar
    Ron Wodaski

    Pen nibs are a very complicated affair. I have had several custom nibs made by “nibmeisters” who can recreate old-style nibs, even such wonderful treats as the Waterman Artist nib.

    I have a soft German nib that is as capable as any of the older nibs, but it’s really a different beast in terms of how you use it. It does not have the spring of old nibs, but used carefully it can produce remarkable hairlines or up to a 2mm line.

    Tuning of the nib is only one part of using these tools; conforming the feed to the nib is also very important as it controls ink flow very precisely if you know what you are doing. Subtle changes to the curve of the nib or the feed can be used to create just the type of flow you want for both narrow lines and wide, expansive lines.

    Not that the art of the pens is as important as the skill and eye, but you really need a pen that fits your style, and they are much harder to come by these days than in Gibson’s, that’s for sure. But they are out there, both (expensive) relics from the past and modern wonders hand-tuned.

    1. Thanks, Ron.

      Nice thought about “nibmeisters” out there recreating old nibs.

      Yes, I agree about how important the ink flow is in a pen nib.

      I’ve worked with a couple of reasonably flexible nibs, the Hunt 108 and Gillott 2788, but they don’t make lines that vary as much as Gibsons. I eventually went to W&N Series 7 watercolor brushes for more calligraphic lines after that.