The Art of Impermanence

The Art of Impermanence

I’ve made no secret that I’ve been looking for new ways to use my fountain pens and inks. I am, and will always be, a writer, but I tend to find that there’s an upper limit to how much I will write by hand in a day. As a remote employee (aren’t we all these days?), I also do a fair amount of diagramming and scanning of my notebooks, much as I would use a whiteboard if I were in person, but there are only so many meetings.

So, I’ve been trying to doodle. I was not one of those kids who sat and doodled in the margins of his notebooks growing up, so it’s been a learned skill for me. I’m endlessly inspired by people like Leigh Reyes, Dandon, and Marie-Noëlle Wurm, but I could not quite figure out how to get my doodles to have the ethereal quality their works tend to have. Until I added water.

We in the fountain pen community talk a lot about the water-handling properties of ink. Is it waterproof? Water resistant? Pigmented? Iron gall? But where I’ve found great inspiration and excitement is in ink that have none of those properties. Touch a little water to ink, and that’s where magic can happen.

A selection of inks, and what a little water can do to them

As ink lifts off the page, it swirls and follows the flow of the water, and leaves behind all sorts of interesting shapes and colors. Component colors that had previously hidden in chromatography strips or paper towels suddenly show themselves front and center. And the paper! Paper crinkles and buckles, leaving behind what has to be one of the most satisfying feelings under hand in the world.

So maybe you want to try, and you’re thinking “which of my inks should I try?” The answer: whatever you have inked up. Greens, purples, and browns will have some of the most dramatic color changes, but anything is worth a shot. I just grabbed a selection of what I had inked for the image above, and circled some of the spots I thought were the most interesting.

I still have a lot to learn, and there are a ton of things I'm sure I'm doing "wrong", but during these crazy times, finding some beauty and new experiences is bringing me a lot of joy.