Ink,Feathers, Quills, Bamboo and Calligraphy pens

in art •  last year

Where it all began

I probably made my first quill when I was about 6 or 7. Whilst on a trip to Phillip Island with my family my sister and I found a large albatros feather. When we go back to where we were staying she showed me how it could be cut on an angle and turned into what she explained was called a quill. She told me people used to write with quills long ago before we had pens like we do today.
I couldn't wait to try it out. When we got home My sister grabbed out some paper and a bottle of ink and we started to play around with it. She was quite good at writing with it, I wanted to draw with it. I wasnt very good and probably far too young to have the dexterity and patience to get accustomed to it and quickly I gave up. Not realising a spark had been left inside me dormant waiting to be re awoken years later
Cover Title 1.jpg

Drawing made earlier this year with a small sea bird quill and chinese ink

Some time later

Around the ages of 14-15 I was in High school. I had a terrific boyfriend who was also very creative, he was a fantastic technical illustrator. He was very supportive of me wanting to be an artist some day. We loved each other and he was pretty nice to me. I had been working hard developing my figure drawing skills and I was trying hard to create my own style. I would obsessively scribble out pictures of faeries (one of my staples) When I say faeries they were not the delicate faeries you find illustrated in a children's book, no delicate wings with perfect proportions(not like tinkerbelle). I drew faerie warriors and pixies, with rough faces, weapons and ripped of wings sometimes no wings at all. If they had no wings this meant they had been lost in battle! I had a whole folklore devised for my fiery, feisty rough and tough ladies!

Pen sketch from high school probably in 1998, I wish I had more examples but this will have to do

My boyfriend noticed me kind of struggling with developing my style using pens, markers, pencils and crayons. He brought out a calligraphy pen with drawing nibs and bottle of black ink and suggested I try my fantastic, rouged beauties with pen and ink. Immediately and I mean right of the bat it started to work for me. It was like my fiery beauties were waiting inside the reservoir of the pen, poised and ready for me to release them onto the page!!

balck ink drawing fo first playing around.jpg

A very early black ink drawing, probably also done in 1998

I visited my sister and showed her how my style had been developing and I told her about how I had begun to experiment with pen and ink. She was impressed, she immediately left the room and returned with a big grin on her face holding a little cardboard box. She handed it over to me still smiling and said "I don't really use these these" In side was a set of beautiful small ink bottles I think 12 in total. They were such vibrant and beautiful colours.
With my newly found passion and bottles of ammunition I set to work creating all kinds of wonderful faerie creatures, forest spirits, nymphs and pixies.
(I look up to my even sister to this day especially for her artistic opinions of my work, she is a most fantastic illustrator and artist)
new ins age 16 faerie Collage.jpg

Some samples I was able to find of the beauties I started to create, probably 1999

mer faire 2.jpg

A 'mer faerie' or 'catfish faerie' drawn in 2000, my last year of high school

Drawing at university

I began my studies at university aged 17, when I interviewed I was offered to enrol in any disciple (not often offered at that time). Looking back perhaps I should have chosen drawing but I was enjoying sculpture at the time. Much to my delight all disciplines had to attend regular drawing classes including life drawing. Our drawing lecturer was a lovely french gentleman named Jacques. He Immediately singled me out noticing that I was in his words a "habitual drawer"
and had developed quite a unique style. Being our teacher it was his job to challenge us so we would continue to develop our artistic skills. One thing he did was make me spend a whole mornings session only drawing one thing, it could be just an ear, foot, eye, nose etc. this was to slow me down a bit and make me concentrate more on the details. The other thing he did was give me different instruments to draw with. I really enjoyed drawing with sticks of various lengths with either a brush or crayon tapped to the end. I began to experiment around with different things at home. At t around this time, my nieces found me a feather at the beach, I became reaquainted feather quills and I've pretty much always had them with me in any drawing class or studio I just love drawing with them.

life drawind uni.jpg

A life drawing from university, the model is sitting in front of a folding mirror with her back to the artists, probably 2002. I have very little examples of life drawing from that period

My time studying becomes painful and difficult to remember due to the extreme violence I was experiencing at home from my partner at the time. I still drew during that period and collected a few more feathers, In fact I have quite an extensive collection of my drawings from the time and I feel very lucky to still have them. On a positive note before I go on to discuss the quills I have now. Here are some brave beauties below, I drew them shortly before I escaped that horrible life.
I think they must have symbolised some hope to me at the time and I think it's such a gift to still have these pictures today.



Faerie warriors ready to fight, probably 2012

My current quill and organic pen collection and how I got them

About a year ago I completed my apprenticeship in horticulture working at the Melbourne zoo. Part of my daily routine working there included a morning pick up of rubbish and a general inspection of the gardens. I took a lot of great photos of birds and plants during these mornings and I found lots of feathers. I also often found feathers after completing garden work in an avian enclosures. I collected around 50 in total. The zoo had a huge supply of fresh bamboo and elephant grass to cut and make pens out of as well! So I have quite the collection now and have found them all to really different from each other and some that I have found like the pelican feathers are amongst the best quills I have ever used. I feel lucky to have such a great collection to experiment with.
So enough rambling lets look at some of my collection. I will give you some tips on what I have learned in my experiences using a some of these feathers and bamboos to draw with. I'll talk inks and paper at the end.
Please keep in mind this advice is just based on my personal experience

feathers one.jpg

  • Night heron feather- Measures 39 cm. I find the tips of these comfortable to draw with, The quill or tip is pretty soft to cut and holds a good amount of ink. They are big and draw quite fat lines when you apply pressure, and still draw thin lines when you are light handed. They split eventually but you can still draw with them or if you want to keep a finer line you can recut them as the quill part is pretty long.

  • I think this is from an albatros, I am not sure though- Measures 31 cm, I found this one at the beach in New Zealand not the zoo. I included it because I love how its quite big to hold but has a small quill. The end is supersoft and I have had it for 5 years and it hasn't split. Its really great for fine drawing. I have found most feathers from birds that live by the sea to be the most durable (I don't know why)

  • Swan Feather-Measures 40 cm, This is fantastic to draw wit, holds a lot of ink but it's hard and scratchy against the paper causing ink spatter if you use too much pressure. Because the quill is so hard it can be very difficult to cut, I have split many trying but it has a long quill so you can have few goes at cutting it, I used a box cutter (stanley knife) to cut this one where as I usually use very sharp pair of secateurs, but swan feathers are far too hard and brittle for this method.

  • Pelican Feather- Measures 38 cm, In my top two quills to use I love it! Super comfortable to hold, it holds a lot of ink. The quill has the perfect balance of soft and hard I have never had one of these feathers split or break. You can do fine light handed drawing and messy expressive mad man strokes spattering as much or a little as you want. It is the most versatile of all my feathers.
    faether Collage 2.jpg

  • Curassow Feather- Measures 30 cm, This feather is great for doing fine lines, but there not so great that its worth while trying to get your hands on one. They are a little bit brittle can split quickly and don't hold heaps of ink. If you live in areas where they are found (Eastern Mexico, through Central America to western Colombia and northwestern Ecuador.) Then they are still worth trying out.

  • Peacock Feather- Measuring 35cm, So you might be thinking that's not a peacock feather! well I do have a huge collection of tail feathers however they dont make fantastic drawing utensils. This is a body feather. I originally thought it was a ravens feather but was corrected by bird expert. It is the other feather in my top two. This is fantastic for writing as well as drawing, its quite precise and has a good balance of softness and hardness in the tip. I have had this one for a while and I use it frequently, I hasn't split. It doesn't hold as much ink as some of the much bigger quills but I find that it makes up for it in how smooth it is on the page and that it doesn't often spatter when you don't want it to or drop ink down too fast on the page.

The last two pictures are close of swan feathers that were from a swan whose wings had to be clipped short as she suffered from a condition called "angel wings" a condition where her wings had become twisted causing the feathers to grow up, after she would malt I would collect these and I have found them to be good to draw with despite being so short. I included a close up of the tips because I thought it might be interesting

e grass Collage.jpg

This is an elephant Grass pen (Pennisetum purpureum)

I cut one end on an angle and frayed the other end in to a stiff brush

Inks, paper and cleaning



So there are many kinds of inks out there you can try. Heres my quick run down on the few that I use.

  • Chinese Ink- This is cheap it cost me like $6 dollars Aus. It can gets thicker in the heat but you can just water it down a bit. It has a slightly glossy finish when it's applied undiluted and is also awesome to paint with.
  • Mystery Ink- THese were about$3 dollars Aus. I am pretty sure this is for refilling fountain pens but I can't read the chinese writing on the bottle so I cant be sure. I like this stuff, its thin but brightly coloured it doesnt have a gloss finish but it's works well. Ive used it for writing, painting as well as drawing.
  • Sumi drawing ink It's pretty much the same as the chinese ink I have. Its cheap about the same price, it handles the same way on paper. I included it because the special bottle it's in is designed for refilling brush pens which are also great fun. Also you might only be able to find either one or might be tempted to but both not knowing they are pretty much the same ink
  • Dervan Matisse- This stuff's pretty fantastic, its vibrant, very glossy, it handles well on many kinds of paper, and comes in heaps of colours including silver and gold. Its expensive this small bottle cost me $16 dollars Aus.It does last quite a while, but if you're on a tight budget (like me) it's something you have to accumulate slowly.
  • Windsor and Newton- This Ink handles quite similarly to the Dervan Matisse. It has shellack added to the ink making it incredibly shiny and is available in fantastic range of vibrant colours. It is super expensive though ranging from $18-23 dollars a bottle. It seems to last a while though I have had those two bottles for about two years.


I am not going to say a huge amount about paper as its pretty simple thicker is better and not too porous, smoother is better but if the surface is bordering on shiny it will be very difficult to draw on as the ink wont be absorbed by the paper quickly. You can use rough paper if it's thick like home made paper, watercolour paper and paper for oil pastels etc. Printer paper, butchers paper and other porous thin papers are not ideal. I like paper that's about 200gsm


messy Collage.jpg
You may think from my photos that I don't clean my quills them at all. Well you're right for the most part. I am pretty lazy I get caught up in the moment when I am creating an art piece and often make a huge mess that I don't clean up for days. I do keep a few special quills very clean and If you are using a high gloss ink you don't want it to build up and destroy the tip of your quill or calligraphy pens. (Keep in mind your quills will stain with a lot of use over time)

bamboo and calligraphyCollage.jpg

some bamboo pens, caligraphy pen and nibs ($14), a vintage pen gifted from my sister (works fantastically)
Bamboo and elephant grass I just clean with water and dry with a rag. Calligraphy pens and quills I use warm soapy water and rinse then dry of with a rag. Its really Important you dry the metal nibs for your calligraphy pens thoroughly or they will rust, some people oil them lightly in between use with a thin oil.

Quick tips for fine drawing

For the most part I prefer making scribbly rough manic messy drawings but I know not everyone is like that and I find doodling a fine pattern relaxing and rewarding. So here is
a few tips I've learned on the way, Take your time and wait for things to dry when you need to. Have a scrap piece of paper for testing on. Use the lid from a jar to dab off excess ink which can be used again when you only want to load a tiny bit more onto your pen or quill. I discovered if you get an empty take away drink cup and put a rock in the bottom its perfect for cleaning excess ink from your quill and a good holder if you need to put it down in the middle of a piece to go do something or you want to change what your drawing with. (you dont want to dump it down on the desk and go check your dinner and come back and it's leaked all over your work or your desk)
cup tinCollage.jpg

fine drawing blue.jpg

* This pattern was drawn with the a quill which I believe to be an albatross feather (picture and discussed above in the section on feathers)*

Final Notes

Firstly a shout out to @carlgnash who inspired this post with a question he asked on my tree spirit post and @Aaldi for his post "how to center images on your posts" (it's a great post and super easy to understand I looked at a few by others and I found them super confusing but his was straight forward.)

I also want to mention an online program I am using the free version of to do my collages, Its called BeFunky it's pretty good for collages and making memes but the free version is pretty limited, and I used Fire Alpaca for some resizing and fixing levels of my pics use it often on my mac it's a free photoshop alternative it's pretty versatile, there isnt a lot of freeware that's good on mac)

So this was super challenging and took me quite some time so I really hope you have enjoyed it, learned something new and found it interesting. I hope you get inspired to experiment on your own. I would like to hear if you have something different you like to draw with. Let me know what you think of this post below, I would love to know!
If there's anything I didn't cover that you want to know about just ask me in the comments.
Now to take a deep breath and push post!
Love each other and peace out

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I like the style


Hey!! Thank you for reading and taking the time leave a nice compliment.

Wow! I am so honored by the shout out! This was absolutely fascinating to me, never having drawn with either a quill pen or a grass pen. I do have a collection of feathers... hmmmmm...

You are really blowing me away here. Each section of this post could be a wonderful stand-alone post, but you have combined them to make a really fantastic whole. You are setting an almost impossibly high bar here, everyone else on Steemit better up their game! @pixelminx is here, yo! Get with the times and grab a quill brush y'all!!!

Much love - Carl


Hey! Thanks! I really spent a huge slab of time on this! Thanks for giving me the inspiration for the post. Thanks for the confidence boost to keep putting in the effort! I look forward to seeing some of your quill drawings 😜
love and peace

very nice art! thanks for usefull info! upvote and follow you!
feel free to visit my blog about my art and photos!


Hey thanks for reading and commenting I am really pleased that you liked it! I will check out your blog and follow too! ❤️



Hey! Ive just checked out your blog and I am now following, thanks for the re steem❤️ ❤️

Amazingggg!!! This is the first time I see this kind of Art using a quill pen or grass pen.
Very unique. This will certainly stood out among the other conventional ways of creating Arts. Thanks for sharing, this is worth a try!


Hey! thanks for reading and leaving a nice comment! I am so pleased you enjoyed it and found it to be unique! I hope I have inspired you to experiment with different drawing tools!


You are very much welcome :)
This will definitely inspire artists like me to think outside the box, not limiting ourselves to the conventional ways. Thanks for the inspiration


My pleasure! Thank you again for the lovely response!

When i open your post i can't blink my eyes till end it's really a stunning work and it's more then i say .Waw amazing


Hey! Thank you for reading and leaving such a sweet comment. I am so pleased you found it interesting and enjoyed my work :-)

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Nice work!


Hey! Thanks for reading!! I am glad you enjoyed my work :-)

Love it - what a Fantastic idea to create a 'Warrior' concept for your fiery, fairy women !

Absolutely stoked from yr post ! I just bought some Nibs that I've not tried out yet ♦♦ Now feel inspired to do so.

And I'm glad u mentioned the site '' for #collage work . Will today go & look at, as I am CURIOUS. So.. what type of collages do u like to Do -- i.e, what materials do u ENJOY USING ??

I Love collages. I have been using the art guide "DRAWING From the Right Side of the Brain".

Gives me exercises where I have 2 get quite detailed (1 is #Drawing my hand) -- Fun so far; another exercise was an upside-down man... All this to force one t/b in the 'Right frame of Mind' to draw & sketch

Thanks for a fine & UPLIFTING Post, eh... Calligraphy pens are a present my mom got for me years ago. Never really got into using the pens, though; now am feeling more inspired to use them ☻☻


Hey! Fantastic book, my mum learned to draw from that book, it is full of fantastic exercises and techniques. I am so glad that I inspired you to have a go with calligraphy pens, just remember to be patient with them they take a little bit of getting used to,. It's a good idea to find some scrap paper for scribbling and experimenting with them before you attempt your first masterpiece :-) I am sure you will love drawing with them once you get your mojo.

I use the college site (BeFunky) for presenting my photos in groups like I did with the inks and feathers. But I do love making collage as well, though its not something I have done recently, the materials I use are quite extensive perhaps I could make a post on collage work? I love mixed media. I would love to hear about what you like to create with, and will be stopping by and following your blog.
Anyway I am super stoked that you found my post UPLIFTING and Inspiring. I am interested in seeing some of your pen drawings!

I actually feel really boring now because I typically just use Pilot G2 pens of various thicknesses for my pen and ink art. It is not every day I feel boring, but even a bright candle pales next to the sun <3


Awww shucks, you're so sweet ❤️ Pilot pens are pretty awesome too.

Wow, you're on a role with incredible post! It was very interesting to see the the styles, and how different examples of drawings that you had kept. Also, I have never actual heard of someone having a quill collection before. It was very unique to see how you provided pics for the quills, and actually told us what types of feathers they were.
The drawings are fantastic, especially liked the ones circa 1999.
Thanks for sharing!


Hey! Thanks so much for reading and leaving such a thoughtful comment!

I really love that you found it interesting and unique. Great that you thought the information about the feathers interesting too. I really am quite attached to my collection of older drawings , I was a little unsure if people would like them so it's very pleasing they have been well received so far.

Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.
Keep it up dear.


HI! Those are beautiful words and very true. Thank you so kindly for reading and leaving such nice feedback.

Thanks for sharing, I love the quill style. I use the sumi ink for tattooing. It’s definitely possible to incorporated some of these tools into Handpoke tattooing. Wonderful art, keep creating!


Hi! thanks for reading and leaving an interesting and friendly comment!!! I will have to look into Handpoke tattooing I think I have heard of it but I am not sure. I will check out your posts :-))

Wow! Good artwork by using a quill. I loved it.


Hey! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment! I am really pleased you liked my drawings!


They are really beautiful, I have never come across such a beautiful artwork done by just using quills. :)


Thank you so much for the lovely compliment!! XX


You're most welcome dear. :)

hay, found you from the @steemitbc rap post.
welcome to steemit. Might see you over the the steemitbc server one day soon


Hey there! Thanks for reading and taking time to comment! Interesting to know how you came across this post I will have to check it out. :-)

Awesome post friend.
I like your all content because your content type and quality is so good.
best of luck go ahead friend.


Hey! thank you for reading and leaving such a lovely comment, I really appreciate it!

Your post encouraged me to continue practicing. I have some memories of my childhood in which I did a lot of drawings, but from now I hope I can reawake all of that. I'll try not to give up.


Really? Wow that is so cool! I am really glad my post made you feel that way. I cant wait to see some of your work when you're feeling confident enough to share! :-)) Thank you for taking the time to check out my post and I really appreciate the great feedback!


I submitted a drawing for a nude drawing contest held be @yoganarchista. It is not a great drawing but helped me to improve my drawing:


I just checked it out and left a comment and vote, it looks great!