True stories of a small flock of remarkable individuals -- and other critters.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Beautiful Lines: How to Make a Quill !

Long, long ago
before there were Sharpies,
folks wrote and drew with these.

I do love the line quality I get with my pen and inks, but I've been thinking that I would like to try drawing with a real quill.

Coincidentally, Lil'White and Jenny have been dropping feathers willy-nilly all over the yard. So I collected a few and brought them inside.
On each feather shaft, I first gave a hasty slash with an Exacto knife
and then made a little slice down the center of the tip.

Could it really be that easy?

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  

I went straight to the studio to give it a try.
 Lil'White's flimsy fluff feather was pretty useless as a tool.
But Jenny's sturdy wing feather
provided for some interesting mark-making,
scratches and spatters.

That afternoon, I found a turkey tail feather in the woods.
Jackpot!  Best quill yet!

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 

Basic and beautiful.
Here are some lines for your inspiration:
 Qur'an:  you don't even need to understand the language to appreciate these rhythmic lines.

Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes:  yes, his stories are entertaining. But his lines are astounding.

Saul Steinberg:  line and wit in perfect balance. --- you can see the original image here at the Library of Congress CartoonAmerica exhibit.

Experiment and enjoy!


  1. Thanks for sharing the feather quill experiment. I'll have to give it a try with one of the many feathers I have collected

  2. I have made quills before. What do you use as ink? I have made blueberry ink and gotten from a friend homemade nut ink.

    1. Julia --- Blueberry and nut inks? They sound delicious! I use basic Higgins or FW brand inks. I wonder if those natural inks would fade over time?

    2. Traditionally people used oak galls to make ink, and they lasted quite a long time (think illustrated manuscripts!)

  3. To make a quill that is going to hold up for a good bit of time it is helpful to harden it using hot sand. You can find good instructions by googling. Hefty wing and tail feathers are going to work the best.

    1. Great to see you back blogging again and sounding like your old wonderful self. I was just doing some Christmastime catching up with my cousin Tracy, and when she mentioned that her daughter is mad for chickens, I knew just the blogger I'd have to recommend. Merry Christmas to all the gang there, feathered and otherwise. ~ Cheryl Elliot : )

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