Wednesday, July 7, 2010

R. Crumb’s supplies

R. Crumb has just explained that he uses crow-quill pens for drawing: “An old steel-point nib, that’s what I use to draw with — for my artwork, I have to use antique, archaic tools.”

What kind of paper do you use, what kind of pen and ink?

Well, I use the old Strathmore vellum surface paper, which is the best paper you can get in the Western world for ink line drawing. It has a good, hard surface. I have it mailed from the New York Central Art Supply in New York. For a while I was using this old Strathmore paper from fifty years ago that some guy sent me, it had bad comic art on one side, hacked-out comic work from 1959, 1960, but the paper is superior to anything you can get now. It just holds the ink better. I ran out of that and now I use this new stuff that’s not quite as good.

And how about the ink?

I use Pelikan black drawing ink, and the crow-quill pen nibs. And you stick them in a handle. They’re all getting harder to find, all these antique art instruments. The companies that have made them are dying off one by one. But I got lucky. One day about six or seven years ago, my daughter, Sophie, bought a box of old pen points at a flea market in France. She found a box of about a hundred drawing pen points, and they’re the best ones I’ve ever used. They last and last, everything about them is fine, the point, the tensile quality, even the metal, the glass. The metal was just better, back then. I’ve still got maybe fifty of those. I think they’ll probably last me the rest of my life.
On notebooks and sketchbooks:
I lived out my youth on paper, basically. I am a bookmaker. I see blank books, I want to fill them — notebooks, sketchbooks, blank pages.

From “The Art of Comics,” an interview with Ted Widmer, in the Summer 2010 Paris Review.
Related posts
Proust’s supplies
Stephen Sondheim on pencils, paper

comments: 8

Geo-B said...

For an etching I'm going to do of Samuel Johnson, I was doing research yesterday on the kinds of pens he might have used and came across this quote from the Encyclopedia Britannica of 1823, noted in Wikipedia:

"In order to harden a quill that is soft, thrust the barrel into hot ashes, stirring it till it is soft; then taking it out, press it almost flat upon your knees with the back of a penknife, and afterwards reduce it to a roundness with your fingers. If you have a number to harden, set water and alum over the fire; and while it is boiling put in a handful of quills, the barrels only, for a minute, and then lay them by."

Though quill pens are still used (for some calligraphy), almost no one would be familiar with the above process, but linguistically it still exists in the word "penknife."

[And for the record, as a teacher of undergraduates, I hasten to add that when I say I was doing research it did amount to more than simply looking on Wikipedia.]

Michael Leddy said...

I believe you, George.

I’ve tried quills and dip pens (crow-quill points and such), and for better or worse, they hold no charm for me. Like you, I write the modern way, with a fountain pen. : )

Unknown said...

Keep on Truckin', dudes.

Michael Leddy said...

Crumb’s source: “Truckin’ My Blues Away.”

Unknown said...

Love it! Thanks, Michael. How did you know this?

Michael Leddy said...

I’m just a blues fan of very long standing.

Robert Szymanski said...

I have Robert's comics and I like to know how or what pen he uses to make a thin line into a bold and thicker line...or an even wider line

Michael Leddy said...

My guess is that he’d be using a nib with some flex. If you look at samples from the past of handwriting in ink, you can often see marked differences in the thickness of the line on upstrokes (thinner) and downstrokes (thicker). I think Zwigoff’s documentary shows R. using a dip pen. I remember mostly the Rapidograph.