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Richard Bell’s Wild West Yorkshire nature diary Wednesday, 30th July 2008

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AS I’M DRAWING with a vintage nib (see yesterday), I decide to complete my drawing with washes of vintage Indian ink from my desk drawer. Before I gravitated to watercolour, I favoured coloured inks, using them in student sketchbooks and even for some of my first book illustrations - for instance in John Man’s Day of the Dinosaur.


Inks & Acrylics

I used Pelikan (the squat yellow bottle) to start with, then I went on to the Winsor & Newton range introduced in the mid-1970s which featured quirky illustrations on the labels, such as the plant pots on the square bottle of peat brown in the foreground of my drawing. This range didn’t feature a rubber pipette in the lid. Rotring (behind the Pelikan), which did, came into the picture in the late 1970s and, finally in the 1990s I went on to Daler FW Acrylic Artists inks. I did tend to think of FWs as liquid paint; you have to shake the bottle to stir up the pigment. But coming back to my vintage bottles of Pelikan ‘Specials’, still in perfect condition after 30 odd years, I think they’re my all time favourite. I guess that they’re not as permanent as, for instance, the FW, so I would never use them for a picture that was intended to be framed, but they’re giving me some ideas for book illustration projects.


Four Colour Process


After 30 years in the book business it’s natural for me to think in terms of the process colours used in printing; you can build up a range of colours by using the primaries.


Inks are suited for this method as they’re often transparent and, because they often contain either shellac or acrylic, you can usually paint a second wash, or glaze as an oil painter might think of it, without disturbing the previous colour (once it has dried). You can build up luminous colours which have a bit of a sheen to them, reminding me of stained glass.


It adds an unpredictability to the drawing because although 100% red plus blue plus yellow theoretically gives you a neutral black, it can also give you browns, dark greens and purplish greys, depending on the strength of each wash (I usually dilute them with water).

1. Black drawing plus Pelikan Special Red

2. Plus Pelikan Special Blue

3. Plus Pelikan Special Yellow