Ode to the dip pen

May 10, 2018

Ode to the dip pen

Do you have that too, that you are really, very fond of something? I do! My love for dip pens started when I was still very young. I was only six years old, when my bff and I would draw with dip pens and ink. We had the best of times and drew like our lives depended on it! The thing I remember best of those peaceful afternoons, were the marble motives on the wooden handle of my dip pen, and as a finishing touch, that beautiful and inspiring metal nib, with all its elegance and grace.

Besides the lovely feeling of dipping and re-dipping my pen in the ink, I also really love the drawing itself. It’s a purely meditative moment, that inspires me time and time again; the slowly-but-surely adding to my paintings, stroke after stroke and point after point. I love the mindfulness of the process, the switching of nibs for different types of strokes, the careful dipping into the ink, in order to prevent a spill… Every aspect of this ancient technique breathes peace, presence and being in the moment.

Ode aan de kroontjespen

What started purely for the love of the dip pen, has slowly grown into something deeper, a conviction, an idealism. All around me, I see brush pens, fine liners and marker pens arise. And although I clearly see their function, and also own some myself, I started noticing that all that plastic just makes me feel uneasy, especially when the pens cannot be refilled.

Don’t misunderstand me, when I go on a trip and bring some painting supplies, I also choose my practical plastic pen, instead of bringing my whole collection of ink bottles, and risking an Indian ink spill in the middle of my train ride :S But at home… there I choose my good ol’ trusted friends: my dip pen and ink! Made out of wood, with a metal nib, this has been a sustainable keeper for ages. And those ink bottles? Those are made out of glass, and easy to recycle! And as for beauty, don’t you think all those ink bottles are eye candy? (and the cat too of course :D)

Tekenen met kroontjespen en inkt

That’s all nice and pink-bubble-y, you may think, but what about the money? Well, we Dutch folks tend to be known for our frugality (stinginess sounds so harsh :D) And as a math and physics geek, I couldn’t let this opportunity pass to calculate the cost. Let’s break it down:

Let’s Calculate

WARNING!  You are about to read some *die-hard* math. If that’s not really your thing, just skip this part and jump right to the conclusion 😉

Let’s do the math:

A bottle of India ink of 30 ml’s (1 fl oz) usually costs less than 4 dollars. If you neglect the first investment for a dip pen, which usually starts from 2 to 3 dollars, you only pay 13.3 cents per ml of ink (or 40 cents for 0.1 fl oz).

Now if we have a plastic pen with a 6 mm tip, and when we assume that the ink compartment is a cilinder with a length of 10 cm length, then we are talking about a volume of (surface circle X length cilinder) = (pi X 0.3 cm X 0.3 cm) X 10 cm = 2,83 cubic cm = 2,83 ml (0.1 fl oz).


CONTINUE READING HERE | So a plastic pen contains about 3 ml of ink (0.1 fl oz), for which you usually pay around 1.50 dollars or more. When you compare this to the price for India ink, that would be only 40 cents for 3 ml’s (0.1 fl oz). This means that a plastic pen is more than 3 times as expensive as a dip pen and ink! (And buying India ink in bulk makes it even cheaper!)

OK, that’s great, Elma, but what if I want to use coloured ink, isn’t that more expensive? Yes, that’s true. But… a bottle of coloured ink from one of the well-known brands usually costs less than 7 dollars for 30 ml’s (0.1 fl oz) (and then you have truly beautiful ink of great quality!) So that makes the price per ml 23.3 cents, and the price for 3 ml’s (0.1 fl oz) 70 cents. So using coloured ink is still twice as inexpensive as a plastic pen!

Sustainable doesn’t have to mean expensive

I don’t know about you guys, but the stingy (no, wait, frugal :D) Dutch gal in me gets really excited over this! And the sustainable artist in me even more! Because this shows that sustainable doesn’t have to mean expensive! And if we would incorporate the environmental impact of all that plastic into the cost of a plastic pen, we would all be in for a surprise! All those seas and oceans that are stuffed with plastic; fish, animals, and even we ourselves, who daily consume microplastics through our food and drinking water; this world has a serious (and expensive!) problem…

So let’s act, be radical… buy a dip pen! 😀 (a little self-depreciation never hurt anyone, right?) And if you really can’t work around a plastic pen, make sure you recycle it when it runs out of ink. This way we keep our oceans clean, and together build a better and healthier planet!

Ode aan de kroontjespen


Thanks for visiting my blog! My name is Elma Hogeboom and I am a sustainable artist. On my blog you can find several articles about my thoughts on sustainable art, tips & tricks etc. If you want to get an impression of my work, you can watch the youtube video below, or connect with me on social media!

Let’s keep in touch!