There are a few reasons for giving children real ink. Below is a drawing of a house that Hattie (6) did using black waterproof ink and a bamboo pen that I made. I’m showing this picture because I don’t have any pctures of child-calligraphy available and because I’d like to make a few points about ink and children.
- You can’t use waterproof or acrylic ink with a dip nib as it will clog the nib. Waterproof ink contains shellac which is varnish, and acrylic ink contains acrylic which will dry on the nib. We needed waterproof ink in order to do a watercolour wash over the ink, so I solved the problem by cutting bamboo pens for the children.
- Bamboo pens are easy to cut ( a future blog post?)
- The ink bottle is in a container so that it can’t be knocked over easily.
- The child should wear old clothes. (Hattie has got two arms, one is just submerged!)
- Place the ink to their right if they are right handed.
I’ll get onto calligraphy – will just finish with showing the results and the moral of the story first! Later they finished their drawings in the studio, dressed in Grandpa’s T-shirts again. I looked at the pale green upholstered seat of the chair Hattie was sitting on and thought – ‘mmm, her body is covering the chair so it should be safe’. But Hattie got ink on her fingers and it irritated her and she absent-mindedly wiped them on the chair. Hey-ho a good lesson for me, and anyway the chair needed re-doing! Don’t worry, Hattie didn’t get told off at all! My fault!
So back to Calligraphy.
Why ink when there are convenient chisel-edged felt-tips or even parallel pens?
- Because it’s more fun.
- Parellel pens are costly.
- A dip pen has an empathy with paper that a felt tip will never have.
- I never condescend to using cheap or convenience alternatives with teaching children, but try to find the middle ground cost-wise. This is as long as the materials are safe of course.
And some tips about pens
- Use tough nibs like Brause or Speedball. These are hardy and the reservoirs are part of the nibs.
- For extra large lettering, cut a balsa wood pen for the children.
- Bamboo pens don’t really hold much ink and the wood is not very sympathetic to the surface because it runs out of ink so quickly, but for pointed nibs or for drawing they are great. When you make one ensure that you add a reservoir to retain more ink.
- I don’t like the William Mitchell ergonomical holders because you have to get the nib in exactly the right position for the way you grip the pen. If you do more sophisticated pen-twisting, this holder can’t be rolled in your fingers.
- Wooden holders are yummy, but eventually the paint peels around the edge. I use Speedball holders.
What sort of ink?
- Fountain pen ink is very good although it has become quite expensive.
- You can use goauche from a tube mixed with water in an egg-cup to ink-consistency. Use a loaded old paintbrush (about # 3) to paint it onto the nib by brushing it against the side until it has collected in the reservoir. Schmincke Jet-black is a lovely gouache – some makes or different shades of black may be a bit oily.
- You can use watercolour from a tube in the same way. It is more transluscent, but that is part of the appeal especially when using colours. Buy strong colours like the Phthalo range of greens or blues. Quinacridones – reds and purples are good but transluscent. Cadmium Red is good but expensive. Don’t buy yellow or lime green as these colours don’t show up well.
- Old-fashioned cheap cake colouring works (non-archival!) I tried some modern gel-like colour and it wrote beautifully and glistened, but a few hours later it had still not dried.
- You can buy walnut crytals online (see Lime Trees gift shop) and dissolve them in water. My mini-kits with ABC Uncials will include a teaspoon of walnut crystals, measured to dissolve in 4 teaspoons (1 Tbs) of warm water and this amount will just fill a tiny jam-jar. Any excuse for a cream tea, if they serve jam in little jars.
- I am supplying the ink crystals & balsa pens with ABC Uncials and mini-kit so that children can get started with their calligraphy as soon as they receive the book and need not wait to order speedball pens and nibs. If you’d like extra crystals, order them here.
Here is Hattie’s final artwork of her parent’s house which we did as a surprise while they were at work.
Buy your copy of ABC Uncials with a mini-kit at Slice of Lime Gift shop before 15th October for the early bird offer. This illustration shows the Brause #3 nib in action.