Tag Archives: quill pens

Things To Do With A Seagull

4 May

Quill and ink life drawing.

I’ve been on a two-day course in Renaissance-style drawing at Swansea Metropolitan University – which used to be the Art College. It was very thorough and we used the sort of paper and drawing materials that were available back in the days of Leonardo and Michaelangelo. Paper was scarce and expensive so they tended to make little drawings, using both sides of the paper and cramming as much on as possible. There were no pencils [check out the history of pencils at the Most Excellent British Pencil Museum] so they used silverpoint instead. They drew in ink using nib pens and quills made from bird feathers. Swansea, being a seaside city, has an enormous population of seagulls and their feathers are a very good size for quill pens. And so we were supplied with a pile of seagull feathers that had been bleached to get rid of any lurking lurgis and cut with a scalpel and off we went. The quill was surprisingly soft and almost brush-like, flowing across the paper with a free and easy, albeit blotchy, line. It wasn’t possible to do any detail with it but it’s good for rough sketching and blocking out a composition. I used white chalk to add highlights to the drawing above.

Sketch with quill, dip pen, ink and chalk.

Our teacher asked us to do a drawing with different media, using a rougher medium for the overall drawing and focussing in on a detailed section with a finer medium. I used a seagull quill and sepia ink for the main drawing above and a fine nib pen and chalk to develop the detail in the left hand. The local seagulls are a nuisance who rip open bin bags, cover cars with guano and steal food from small children, so it’s good to find something they’re useful for.

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