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Nature Art: Brand New Pen

There's nothing like a new pen. I received the gift of this pen and bottle of blue ink for the holiday and I sat down on the floor to try them out while everyone else was still unwrapping gifts. I drew on the wrapping paper:


As a lefty, I avoid sketching pens. I can't keep my left hand from dragging through the wet ink and smearing it. And a calligraphy pen, with a slanted tip for lettering, is impossible for me to use because it releases a wave of ink for each letter. But this pen, with its tiny scratchy point, doesn't release much ink at once. It is magical! In the sketch below, I drew the view out my sister's  kitchen windows. I put the pen through its paces using every texture I could think of:


The new pen's fine point must be dipped regularly into the ink bottle, but the dipping became part of the rhythm of making my first drawings. I couldn't draw my regular way, with a mechanical pencil, erasing stray lines or just plain wrong ones; I had to be fearless. As I drew in my sketchbook I had to let shapes fall where they would; sometimes they lined up in awkward ways. More often, though, the fearlessness of continuing to draw no matter what resulted in a good drawing. I started the candles, below, on a page I had already used. I said to myself, "These tea lights might be hard to draw, so I will just try them out here..." I found I liked to draw on colored paper with a light texture.


Nature artists: Try a new pen for the New Year! Gel pens are also easy to find and travel with. Right now I'm trying out Sakura metallic gel pens that come in a package of 10. I feel the same fearlessness and fun when I look at the colors in the Sakura package: I have to make them work even if I wouldn't have chosen them myself. Drawing pens and gel pens are available online at dickblick.com and danielsmith.com. Michael's on the east coast and Flax in San Francisco are two bricks-and-mortar stores with a good selection of pens.

-- Sue Fierston paints and teaches just outside of Washington, D.C. in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. As a painter, she works in acrylics and watercolor and is in the middle of a series called "100 Flowers." As a teaching artist, she works with teachers to bring art into their classrooms in grades 4-8. Her posts focus on her nature-themed art collaborations. For a look at her paintings or more about her teaching, check out her website at suzannefierston.com.

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