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Biodome Redux : Big Ink!

March 3, 2015


Here’s my sketches from the recent USK:MTL day trip to the Biodome Naturalia taxidermy collection.

Considering we had just scouted the place the week before, I wanted to switch up my technique. Last time was pencil and watercolor in a sketchbook. This time, large format (14×22″) ink drawings with the dipping pen. This format was probably too big honestly. I think 12×16″ or 11×14″ might have been fine. But it does allow you to crazy with broad pen strokes.


My main goal for today was becoming completely comfortable drawing with a bottle of liquid ink.

This might sound silly, but the fear of spilling ink has been the main thing holding me back from drawing with dip pens on location. I do love fountain pens, and they are a great solution for travel. But I’d rather be drawing with these more flexible nibs.

5ml Ink Vial Thumb Grip.

After some tinkering around, this is my current solution: I carry the ink in (very small!) 5 ml HDPE (Nalgene) bottles, and hold the bottle in the same hand that supports my stack of coroplast drawing boards. The vial of ink is safely clamped in the crook of my thumb.  The bottom edge of the panel is tucked against my well cushioned body. It’s very stable while standing, even walking around while drawing. I think it’s pretty much spill-proof.  Plus – it’s only 5ml. So if you did spill the whole thing, it’s not the worst mess.

One can easily carry a couple of these vials of ink in a pocket, trusting to the indestructible Nalgene bottle, which makes it easy to switch up colors as you draw.

I know, I know! This is some tedious stuff here – all this bla bla about how to hold a bottle! Yet these are the kind of things that are endlessly fascinating to urban sketchers :)


17 Comments leave one →
  1. March 3, 2015 9:10 AM

    Fabulous sketches! Those flexible nibbed dip pens definitely seem worth the extra trouble because these are just so lively.

  2. Sheryl Cash permalink
    March 3, 2015 9:12 AM

    Your last paragraph took me by surprise and made me laugh. I hadn’t found any of your post tedious, never once thought “bla bla”! I like the expressive lines of your dip pen too.

  3. March 3, 2015 9:24 AM

    I come for the tedious blah blah about little bottles of unspilled ink jejeje
    Sketching on location would be a nightmare without those tricks! Thanks for sharing!

  4. March 3, 2015 9:37 AM

    You are very cool for sharing your process. Definitely fascinating!

  5. March 3, 2015 9:48 AM

    All good unless another sketcher standing nearby backs up into you and sends the bottle flying. Knowing the way we work, that could end up being me.

  6. amats123 permalink
    March 3, 2015 10:11 AM

    Beautiful as usual! I love seeing your work and watching you create.
    Wow. They allow you to draw there with ink?? I recently opened a copy of Artists Magazine to find your book excerpt. Congrats!!
    You are braver than I with that ink bottle ;)

  7. March 3, 2015 11:19 AM

    I have a friend who shoves her mini-bottle (the sample ink bottles from Goulet) into a kneaded eraser. It “sticks” to whatever surface and holds the bottle snuggly!

  8. March 3, 2015 11:25 AM


  9. March 3, 2015 12:36 PM

    Not bla bla at all! You just answered the big question I’ve been weighing about using dip pens. I bought the Nalgene bottles and now know how to try it out. Thanks so much.

  10. March 3, 2015 1:48 PM

    Wonderful sketches as always. I have never used ink with a dip pen on location – have actually never considered doing so – but I did use to use it at life drawing classes. Messy spillages did happen. I wish, therefore, I had thought to decant the ink into smaller bottles as you have done.

  11. Phyllis Helland permalink
    March 4, 2015 1:18 AM

    I’ve been mystified about using loose ink on location, and you’ve just demystified it for me. Thank you! I, too, love those flexible nibs.

  12. March 4, 2015 7:24 AM

    Gorgeous work! Personally, I love helpful hints. :-)

  13. Noel R. permalink
    March 4, 2015 9:35 AM

    I’m definitely interested in how you hold your bottle! Also in how you use your dips pens. I’ve tried all sorts of methods, from dipping straight in to applying with a brush to the nib, and have yet to find a method that yields result I like. But your drawings look great! I love that color of brown ink.

  14. March 4, 2015 10:23 AM

    Have you had a chance to check out the Desiderata fountain pens yet? They use G nibs for flexy writing/drawing. I’d be interested in your opinion of them!

  15. March 4, 2015 10:35 AM

    Reblogged this on .splkblzkchhlv..

  16. March 18, 2015 5:38 PM

    Totally digging these figures.

  17. September 26, 2015 12:58 PM

    Found your blog. This drawing is so fantastic. Wonderful! And I get the tiny bottle thing now. Looks like it will work just fine. Wonderful, expressive lines, Marc.

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