Although generally employed for watercolor drawing, Whatman’s “cold-pressed” paper has some advantages as a pen surface. Slightly roughish in texture, it gives an interesting broken line, which is at times desirable.
A peculiar paper which has considerable vogue, especially in France and England, is what is known as “clay-board.” Its surface is composed of China clay, grained in various ways, the top of the grain being marked with fine black lines which give a gray tone to the paper, darker or lighter according to the character of the pattern. This tone provides the middle-tint for the drawing. By lightly scraping with a sharp penknife or scratcher, before or after the pen work is done, a more delicate gray tone may be obtained, while vigorous scraping will produce an absolute white. With the pen work added, it will be seen that a good many values are possible; and, if the drawing be not reduced more than one-third, it will print excellently. The grain, running as it does in straight lines, offers a good deal of obstruction to the pen, however, so that a really good line is impossible.
Thin letter-paper is sometimes recommended for pen and ink work, chiefly on account of its transparency, which obviates the necessity of re-drawing after a preliminary sketch has been worked up in pencil. Over the pencil study a sheet of the letter-paper is placed on which the final drawing may be made with much deliberation. Bond paper, however, possesses the similar advantage of transparency besides affording a better texture for the pen.
[Side note: The Individual Line]
The first requirement of a good pen technique is a good Individual Line, a line of feeling and quality. It is usually a surprise to the beginner to be made aware that the individual line is a thing of consequence,—a surprise due, without doubt, to the apparently careless methods of some successful illustrators. It is to be borne in mind, however, that some illustrators are successful in spite of their technique rather than because of it; and also that the apparently free and easy manner of some admirable technicians is in reality very much studied, very deliberate, and not at all to be confounded with the unsophisticated scribbling of the beginner. The student is apt to find it just about as easy to draw like Mr. Pennell as to write like Mr. Kipling. The best way to acquire such a superb freedom is to be very, very careful and painstaking. To appreciate how beautiful the individual line may be one has but to observe the rich, decorative stroke of Howard Pyle, Fig. 66, or that of Mucha, Fig. 65, the tender outline of Boutet de Monvel, the telling, masterly sweep of Gibson, or the short, crisp line of Vierge or Rico. Compared with any of these the line of the beginner will be either feeble and tentative, or harsh, wiry, and coarse.