Inspired by Gabi Campanario I’ve taken some waterbrushes and filled them with diluted shellac based ink from Sennelier. At first I only had Burnt Sienna ink that I bought years ago from Cornelissen and Son (one of my favourite art supply shops in London), but I purchased a bottle of Prussian Blue and Cobalt Blue to add to it. The bottles have pipettes which make using them to fill a waterbrush convenient, unless the brush has a valve on the body, in which case you’ll need to dip it inside the bottle, and you’ll have issues filling it fully.
Here are some sketches done with the Burnt Sienna. The first one was done with a fountain pen and a single waterbrush filled with pretty diluted Burnt Sienna and was drawn on a Stillman and Birn Pocket Alpha. This was when I discovered that the ink dried lighter than I thought, and that layering it on this paper isn’t really an option. I didn’t get enough of a gradient, and it didn’t take long for the paper to start to disintegrate from the ink. Note also that the ink dries fast, and getting perfect washes with a waterbrush is practically impossible, even in such a small format. But I liked the result enough to experiment with it some more.
I then filled another waterbrush with a much less diluted Burn Sienna and water solution. Here’s the same Stillman and Birn Pocket notebook but a sketch with a little more gradient because I used two different ink/water ratios. I like the result better, especially on the trunk.
Then I got the Sennelier Prussian Blue that I ordered, and I filled two brushes with it, one diluted with water at about a 50/50 ratio, and another practically undiluted. I had enough of the Alpha paper, so I switched to 300 gsm cold press watercolour paper from Clairefontaine. Here’s the sketch, done with a Staedtler 0.1 pigment liner (I didn’t want the lines to distract from the wash):
And here is the result with the ink washes applied:
I used the dark blue for the shadows on the rocks, and this time I could actually work with the ink (due to the quality of the paper) and blend between the Burnt Sienna and the Prussian Blue.
I loved this result enough to give these ink washes more tries. I will say that there have been some issues with them so far:
- Many of my waterbrushes (most of my Pentel ones) didn’t allow the ink to flow to the brush bristles.
- Some of my brushes leaked, and so I won’t be carrying them around in my bag without a ziploc bag to protect my bag contents from them.
- The Cobalt Blue ink that I bought contains copper. It came with a warning label, and I’m not going to use it before I make sure I have a leak proof brush for it.
- The behaviour of the ink is entirely dependent on the quality of the paper, more than any medium I’ve used before (including watercolour).
- Waterbrush bristles deteriorate pretty quickly, and make fine detail work and brush control more difficult.
All that being said, I enjoyed using them enough in my sketches to continue using them for a while, and I recommend giving shellac (calligraphy) ink in a waterbrush a spin.
PS – these inks are NOT FOUNTAIN PEN FRIENDLY!
If you put them in your fountain pen they will ruin it.