India Ink

higgins inkIndia Ink is perhaps the oldest medium for writing, printing and drawing.  It is a simple black ink made from soot (or lampblack) mixed with one or more binding agents such as glue, shellac or gelatin.  It was made in China thousands of years before the birth of Christ in the form of solid sticks that were moistened with water before using.  It may have become known as India Ink because it was imported to Europe via the West Indies or because it was widely used in India for recording important documents.  In the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was the most popular ink for writing and printing in the West but was gradually replaced by more modern inks.   These days, those with Younger Eyes may not even have heard of India Ink unless they are an artist or microbiologist.  The ink is still used to prepare microscope slides, for drawing, especially cartoons and line drawings, and for calligraphy.

If you wander into your local Aaron Brothers store, you will find a variety of drawing pens with hard tips that are excellent for line drawings, but I still prefer the Speedball pens with interchangeable nibs. speedballThere’s something romantic about using an old-fashioned pen that you dip in the familiar dropper-topped Higgins India Ink bottle.  Besides, with a larger nib, I can use calligraphic effects in my drawings.  Usually, start with a free form watercolor wash, then use the India Ink to add detail, as I did in this drawing (done as Muri and I were sitting around the pool in Maui).


Once in a great while, I do everything in ink as I did in this drawing for a Christmas card some years back.


The thing about working with India Ink is that it teaches patience and attentiveness since a mistake usually spells the end for a drawing.   I can certainly use more of both.

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4 Comments on “India Ink”

  1. Bud, these drawings are absolutely fabulous!!!

    Sadly, the only thing I ever used India Ink for was to give myself a tattoo. Stupid teenage years.

  2. cherperz Says:

    Love your drawings. Especially the one for the Christmas card.
    This is the difference between a person with artistic talent and a hack. I would never use anything but a pencil to draw with as I would have to erase things. It has nothing to do with patience…more to do with ability..well actually lack of ability.

    I find that amazing that you did those with ink.

    • oldereyes Says:

      There are dozens of failed drawings for every good one. I had to learn to work carefully but not fearfully by treating almost every one as an experiment, only deciding at the end of it was a piece to show.

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