In 2009 I wrote to Ronald Searle to ask him about his work methods and what tools he used. A letter and a couple of pieces of board with ink doodles by Ronald arrived in the post a week or so later. The letter is dated 26th of August 2009 and in it he had this to say:
"Enclosed you will find some sample 'Atom' nibs. These, unless I'm mistaken, are the 'old' and best version. The manufacturers cheapened them down a few years ago and they are unusable. I did get some through the Internet (the old ones) but the problem is, you have to try them to find out if you have a winner! I've used them for my drawing board work since the 60s. (they are French and are basically school 'mapping' pens). The Mont Blanc Meisterstück, of which I accumulated about ten during our annual visit to Berlin, I used more or less for on the spot work as they cover a lot of ground before needing refilling. Actually I think the whole secret of drawing is looking and then interpreting. Looking what is in front of you, or what is in your head. (I never put my pen to paper until I see a clear image in my head and forget the pen, which is only a technicality anyway.) If one simply draws without adding yourself - your own vision - to the subject, the results are inevitably clichés and empty. This is all done at a million miles a second as the subject passes through the eye and around the brain to come down to the fingers. But individuality is attached on the way! Which is the marvel. Sorry to bore you with this."
I used to think that there must be some kind of special nib or pen that made it possible for him to create such amazing work. But the Atome school mapping pen is a very simple plastic stick with a tiny nib, nothing special at all. I tried it and didn't like it all that much.
Truth is, you have to find your own preferred nib when it comes to working in ink. The same goes for the paper. Go find your own favorites, that's part of the fun.
|Some of the nibs I have tried out|
I love what Ronald had to say about individuality, your own vision,the marvel of drawing and that the pen is only a technicality. Most artists know this but tend to forget about it only too often, me included.