Monday 23 July 2007

his nibs (1)

T ime for another technical post, all about the pen nibs I've used. The degree of flexibility is the primary consideration. A very flexible nib that suited my purposes is the Hunt 103, seen on the left in the photo. Something about that little florette shaped vent hole enables the tines to spread wide for great flexibility. The more rigid Gillott 209 is next to it. I used that for back up, when I needed to get in closer and turn around in a narrower space. The one on the far right is the quite different 'crowquill' style. More on that next time.

Wikipedia: Thick and thin strokes can be achieved by varying the pressure the nib is pushed against the paper. A hard pressure causes the nib tines to widen allowing more ink to come in to contact with the paper, this results in a thick stroke. Light pressure causes the tines to narrow and even close creating very fine hairline strokes. These flexible quills and later steel nibs were what led to the styles of penmanship such as Copperplate and then Spencerian. However pointed nibs are not just used for the purpose of writing, pointed quills have been utilised by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci for sketching and pen drawing. Although any pointed steel nib can be used for drawing, nibs that resemble flexible nibs but are much more rigid have been produced for pen drawing.
Below are two portraits of the real (as opposed to our fictional version) William Gull I drew from photos, using the Hunt 103, for the From Hell scripts book way back in 1994. I was always very pleased with these, but whenever they were reproduced it was always too small to notice anything about the pen technique (click for larger). I once read that the great illustrator Charles Dana Gibson (left, greatly reduced) used great big flexible nibs as though they were paint brushes, and worked standing at an easel in a smock, with his art board upright. I tried to take some of Gibson's panache on board.

However it was usually difficult to carry that quality over into the small rectangular panels of the From Hell chapters themselves. Here's a good attempt from chapter 1:

For further investigation: a display of the Hunt nibs and the equivalent catalogue for Gillott

'I don't think bloggers read' -Friday July 20, 2007- The Guardian
Andrew Keen says the internet is populated by second-rate amateurs. He's written a book, The Cult of the Amateur, with the no-messing-about subtitle "How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy"
Until recently the Wikipedia entry for Andrew Keen informed readers that, in addition to coming from Golders Green, London, having an academic background and being an outspoken critic of Web 2.0, he was also "a child actor who found fame in a series of soup commercials". This isn't true; the sentence was inserted deliberately by the host of a Radio 3 show prior to an appearance by Keen, to show how easily the accuracy of Wikipedia can be undermined. This bit of factual vandalism remained for 12 days before it was removed - 11 days longer than an emendation from June 5, which replaced the entire first paragraph with the words "Andrew Keen IS a dumb motherfucker".

(link thanks to Mick Evans)

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Blogger spacedlaw said...

Ha, so that what they are called in English!
I learned to write with the French equivalent (a “plume Sergeant Major”) and although the technique was already antiquated at the time, it spurred a love that hasn't quite left me since then (of course, part of the fun back then was the daily ceremonial with the ink bottle, the filling of the ink wells in the morning and the potential mess that might – or not - ensue).
I still buy them every now and then and nicked my grandfather's collection (he was a court's clerk and as such had a huge amount of these - and a superb writing).

23 July 2007 at 00:29:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...


'his nibs' is also humorous slang for an imporatnt , or self-imporrtant gentleman.

"A] This is a mock title used to refer to a self-important man, especially one in authority. It is modelled after the pattern of references to the British aristocracy, such as his lordship. Most sources say something like “origin obscure”. It is first recorded in print about 1820, but is presumably older. There is some evidence that nibs is a variant form of nabs, and that both may have their origin in the ancient word neb, meaning a beak or nose, ... etc...

23 July 2007 at 02:42:00 GMT-5  
Blogger spacedlaw said...

Such an education, this blog is...
If you drop me a line with a mail address, I could send you a few of my grandfather's (steel) nibs.

23 July 2007 at 02:51:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never tried any of those pens for drawing; never know which to use to start learning.

Wish you a safe and pleasant trip tomorrow. I am somehow reminded about your story in Streetwise, about meeting Will Eisner at that conference.

23 July 2007 at 06:50:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The wikipedia thing amused me. On a similar note, I here provide a link to my school's page on wikipedia started by a few ex-students.

It's all a serious informative article until one reaches the section "Notable Alumni". Located in this section is the name of one "Ella Somerville Glover" who transferred to another school a few years ago. The occupation beside this 'notable' ex-student is listed as "mullet". Seeing as wikipedia offers as a definition for mullet "A person born in Arundel, West Sussex (due to the presence of the Mullet fish in the local river)" and that is neither notable nor applicable to Ella, I can only conclude this to be an act of vandalism (and "mullet" used only as an obscure insult). Albeit one that amused us for a good five minutes in the library.
We haven't thought to draw this vandalism to the attention of the article's creators, although I doubt they'd feel compelled to change it.
As for OUR planned act of vandalism on the article, we will change all of the school's information to that of Hogwarts and see how long it takes people to notice.

Incidentally, I don't know why Luke Carroll isn't listed in notable alumni, as he's certainly our most famous graduate.
For those of you who may not remember Luke, here is an article:

You've made St John's proud, Luke. We all aspire to your greatness.

23 July 2007 at 07:13:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

I remember that pair.
this is definitely a story I would have linked to if it were today's news. Everybody go have a look.
So my wee pal steph is a product of the same school. You should have mentioned this when i was talking about education a few days back.
well, you seem to be coming out of it all right anyhoo.

23 July 2007 at 07:19:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Johnny Walker said...

Re: Andrew Keen.

Gee, as I recall, advertisements used to tell us that "Guiness Is Good For You" and smoking with an asbestos filter was "safe". Call me an optimist, but people who believe what they read (whether it's on Wikipedia, in The Sun, or even The Guardian) are the ones at fault. People who actually note where they're reading something, and take that into account when deciding whether they believe it or not, are surely unaffected by the mass opinion injected into the internet via "Web 2.0"?

I admit that Wikipedia could have done with more 'elitism' and stricter rules on references, but as a social experiment, it's done fantastically well. Anyone who believes everything they read there without checking the sources is, of course, their own worse enemy.

Keen seems to think that because it's written down, everyone who's reading it must believe it's true, and as such, he must have an incredibly dim view of humanity... either that or he's just found a way to successfully publicise himself through negative public reaction.

23 July 2007 at 07:36:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


This Austrlaian news story was forwarded to me today. It lowers the tone somewhat and has absolutely nothing to do with today's post.,21985,22121401-5005961,00.html

It made me cringe somewhat.

Ben Smith

23 July 2007 at 10:12:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have personally seen odd tidbits I have placed on my website just to amuse myself, appear in Wikipedia as fact thus to dispersed throught the internet. I find it all quite amusing.

23 July 2007 at 16:37:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Kelly Kilmer said...

Safe travels, Eddie!
See you at Con!!

23 July 2007 at 20:28:00 GMT-5  
Blogger drjon said...

In other news, apparently Messrs Spiegelman, Moore and Clowes are to guest-star in a special episode of The Simpsons this year...

23 July 2007 at 21:10:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Hayley Campbell said...

We work and sleep.

We check his blog.


We work and sleep.

We work and sleep.

24 July 2007 at 04:21:00 GMT-5  

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