Saturday, 1 November 2014

I was a secret inker

Quink Cocktail

Quink was the stuff that started it. Loaded daily into cheap leaky fountain pens and put to good use scratching out copies of Rembrandts and Michelangelo’s in the back of school exercise books. Or more officially used to provide illustrations to History essays. Drawings that, in my case displayed far more care and attention than the audaciously brief, grammatically nonsensical essay’s they adorned.

Schoolboy Scribe

One Art foundation course, two degrees and thirty years of practicing commercial art later and I’m still Quinking, although the fountain pen has now been replaced by the more professional dip pen & Indian ink. It would be misleading though, to describe my illustration career as a continuous flow of black ink onto white paper. There have been great blocks of grey along the way, in the shape of frequent and ongoing affairs with paint and many therapeutic interludes with coloured crayons.

Mad About Rose Madder

In fact, for five years I produced illustrations for newspapers using only chalk & conte crayon, followed by ten years of using paint and at least another decade working exclusively with coloured pencil. All this time I was harbouring a dark, jet black secret. My working drawings, known in the trade as roughs were all done in ink! and secretly I liked them far more than the finished paint or pastel artworks they preceded.


After many years of keeping my addiction hidden I felt it was time to go public. Paint, pastel and crayon were great to work with but ink was surely the life blood of the graphic arts. It was spontaneous, responsive and instantly expressive while also being very precise. Ink, for me represented freedom and just like drink, ink helped you think! The time had come to be honest and admit I had a serious quink problem. 

The Signaturist

A particular commission presented itself and despite feeling nervous, all went well and my first pen & ink drawings were published. It was a great relief and although progress was slow at first, pen, ink & wash eventually became my mainstream illustration media and hopefully proof that not all addictions are bad for you. 

written to accompany "A Life Long Addiction to Ink" 


  1. I'm glad you have that addiction. We, the readers, benefit from it!

    And I thought of you the other day---I ordered watercolor pencils for the first time in my life. I am having a lot of trouble with watercolor paints--my mind works backwards (darks to lights, which doesn't work in watercolors) Your beautiful work inspires me to keep trying. Though my artwork is "cringe-worthy", I LOVE drawing and painting in the wee hours of the morning.

    Keep showing your work! It might just inspire more people to try, just as it has me.

    1. Its really nice to know that I've inspired you and even better to hear that you are enjoying your work. Thats almost the most important part. I've had some big problems with watercolour in the past, basically because it requires two qualities I am rather lacking in - patience & decisiveness. I'd be happy to give you any advice I can if you wanted to email me (address on my website, some photos of your pictures.

  2. I love this insight into your development as an artist, thank you!

  3. glad you like it VP. It was written to accompany a piece about my illustration work that will hopefully be published on (not sure when) but it is basically a bit of self indulgent nostalgia, something I'm also unfortunately addicted to.