Fountain pen ink... rediscovering a forgotten medium


Do you remember using a fountain pen? Did you know fountain pen ink can be combined with bleach to stunning creative effect? Little recognised as a creative medium, fountain pen ink can be an accessible and surprising ingredient for creative expression. We talked to Nick Stewart, tutor and pen and ink artist, about his choice of medium…

Fountain pen ink art, illustration and lettering is starting to catch the imagination of an international audience. This artform involves a re-imagining of an already existing product originally intended for a now increasingly obsolete purpose (beautifully hand written notes or correspondence); we see that it’s possible to enhance and explore its potential for other uses within the visual arts. Taking risks and making mistakes is positively encouraged and serendipity plays a key role in the creation of unique and visually stunning imagery.

Creating landscapes with pen and ink
Serendipity and skill
Portraits with ink


Over the past 3 years I have been exploring ways to create ‘head turning’ lettering and illustration using fountain pen ink and bleach - fine honing this little-known process to unlock the unique natural behaviours and creative possibilities of these materials. 

Fountain pen inks are made up of dyes. When applied to kitchen paper towel the dyes are released and the colours spread outwards (chromatography) - imagine a drop of petrol on a wet tarmac surface. I have found a way of achieving and utilising this effect on watercolour paper. The chromatic process is very much serendipity led and the beauty of the final outcomes are invariably dictated by this. Because they are natural and non-contrived, the viewer is naturally drawn to them - like watching clouds or a sunset. The project also champions the concept of alchemy or in this case, creating a gold effect through subjecting fountain pen inks to the destructive behaviour of bleach. 

Exploring the colour palette
A student at a pen and ink workshop
Fountain pen ink portrait


So, why should you consider partaking in a fountain pen ink art workshop? These workshops can cater for all ages, from 9 years and upwards. There is a huge range of fountain pen ink colours and each ink is unique, and the artform encompasses handwriting, lettering, calligraphy, illustration, painting and abstract art. As it naturally encourages individuals to experiment and learn from making mistakes, pen and ink art helps individuals to start thinking ‘outside of the box’ to a huge range of stunning visual outcomes.

Find details of Nick Stewart’s workshops here or browse Pen & ink courses around the UK.

Abstract forms in ink art
Calligraphy meets art
Surprising visual effects


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