I headed out with a friend to sketch at the Coal Loader and Balls Head Point on the north side of Sydney. Usually when its a planned day of sketching I decide the night before what mediums to take. Sometimes it’s everything – inks, watercolours, inktense pencils, graphites etc. but I end up not using them all. This time I couldn’t decide so I used an old faithful – the blue biro.
It’s one of my favourite tools and probably one I’m most comfortable with as I used it quite a lot as a child. I may have mentioned before that having used permanent pens instead of pencils to draw with helped discipline my drawing skills throughout those early years. Not having that back up of being able to erase a mistake forced you to be more thoughtful with every line as well as more confident.
Biros are cheap, available to buy anywhere, durable and don’t need to be prepared, packed or pampered. They’re consistent in distribution of ink, they dry quickly and despite its hard point you can get so much tonal range and dimension as seen with all the different applications I used on the day. The blue pens also have such a unique finish that makes them more interesting than black ones too.
Some people like using gel pens but I don’t, at least not to draw with anyway. Its nature is to glide over the page smoothly and effortlessly, great for writing, but I like the traction you get with biros. They’re grittier and there’s more of an interaction with you and the pen, and the pen with the paper.
So give it a go, there’s probably one sitting right next to you. Take that doodle to the next level!
The Coal Loader in Waverton, Sydney, NSW was an industrial site used in the last century to transfer coal for large vessel use. Now it has been reinvented as a learning and display centre for domestic eco-sustainability, including a community veggie garden and chook run. Even more impressive is that way before any of this it was (or still is) a cultural and spiritual place for the local indigenous people, the Cammeraygal. Thankfully somewhere down the line an effort was made to preserve this amazing whale stone carving found at the Coal Loader that is thousands of years old.