Jim Woodring will perform with giant ink pen in Seattle, Jan. 9, 2011


Millions of people will flock to the Skinner Auditorium at the Gage Academy of Art in Seattle, WA to watch Jim Woodring use Nibbus Maximus, his giant pen.

Seattle cartoonist Jim Woodring, author Frank Comics and the acclaimed Weathercraft, has built a seven-foot-long pen-and-penholder, a giant version of the steel dip pen nib and wooden handle used by artists and calligraphers. The pen will make its debut in the Skinner Auditorium of Gage Academy of Art on Sunday, January 9 from 1pm to 4pm.

The nib is sixteen inches long and made of brass-pated, hand-engraved cold-rolled steel. The handle is lathe-turned poplar, painted with black lacquer. The ink is a specially formulated acrylic blend. A vase functions as an inkwell.

When this project was announced earlier this year it was met with heavy skepticism. Many felt a pen this size could not function because the relationship between scale and fluid dynamics. Woodring was convinced it could be done and the nib has performed well in tests with prototypes. This will be the first public demonstration of the finished product.

Woodring will be making large ink drawings (up to 4 x 6 feet) on a specially built drawing board and conversing with the audience as he works. Regulation pen-and-ink supplies will be on hand for interested audience members to use; members of Seattle's Friends of the Nib will provide instruction for beginners.

The Giant Pen was built with finds raised through United States Artists Special Projects, 2010. Free paper, pen and ink supplies provided by D

Nibbus Maximus
Sunday, January 9 · 1:00pm - 4:00pm
Location Skinner Auditorium, Gage Academy of Art
1501 10th Avenue East

More images after the jump.

raw holder.jpeg
pen in the studio small.jpeg



  1. What do I think? I think someone is overcompensating.

    Still — how many gallons of ink would you need to fill that reservoir?

  2. In a world with bigger weapons, faster cars and everything accelerating we need big pens, big drawings, big ideas. I love this, am happy arts funding is paying for this.


  3. This goes to prove that art knows no size limits. It comes in many shapes and forms. Your art is amazing. I can hear third grade teachers across the country groaning in unison at the thought of their students’ penmanship with your enormous ink pen. Beautiful art! http://www.ghg1.com

  4. Interesting spam, Judy Lee. How much do you get paid to write an on-topic blog comment and include a spam link at the end?

    1. I suspect it’s not just one comment either, because she has to post at least one valid no-spam comment first in order to create her account and get through the [human] moderation filter.

  5. The pen is mightier than the sword, mightier than some clubs, and can in fact double as a lethal spear should the occasion arise.

  6. But can it pound a 9″ spike through a board?

    In all seriousness, nice work Jim! Can’t wait to see the work you create with it. Thanks for including the back scratcher in the photo as a size-comparison.

  7. Good follow up. I remember watching his video asking people to fund this project. I am glad he got to actually do it!

  8. The Japanese artist Hokusai (AKA “The Old Man Mad About Drawing”) is said to have used an oversized brush resembling a broom to make giant drawings at a festival in Tokyo back in 1804. Or maybe it was an actual broom. I don’t know, I wasn’t around back then.

  9. what do i think?

    i think it’s great that jim made the cover for that soul coughing album back then, because youtube will suggest one of its songs to me after jims question.

    great nib, jim.


  10. GO JIM! I still remember the BB announcement and the unfortunate comment thread where so many alleged the implausibility of this enterprise.

    I only wish I could see it for myself.

    Bring it to Japan Mr. Woodring! You’ve got a huge fanbase here!!

    1. I am far too lazy to look up the old thread, but I think many of the skeptics just thought there was no way an even halfway normal “ink” would suffice. From the announcement (“specially formulated acrylic blend”), it appears that was correct.

  11. The Giant Pen had been tested in order to make sure it would work, but until yesterday- Jan 9, 2011- it had not drawn a picture. Seattle’s Gage Academy of Art generously agreed to host the Pen’s coming out party and about 400 people showed up to absorb the spectacle.

    A specially designed oversized drawing board was set up and fitted with penciled drawings on full sheets of Crescent board and one 40″ x 60″ sheet of museum board. The pen was introduced and shown around, then dunked into the ink and applied to the paper. It did not work. It would not draw a line.

    But immediately I realized the problem: the ink, which had just been mixed up a few minutes before and made according to an untried formula, was too thick. People had been advising me that the ink needed to be thicker than regular drawing ink to work in a large pen, but in fact the thick ink did not flow into the spaces between reservoir plates and clung in a thick, dripping layer to the outside. So mark that: for giant pens, ink as thick as usual.

    After the old standby ink (Golden liquid Carbon Black acrylic paint diluted 50/50 with water) was restored the pen performed admirably. I did not. I was as ham-fisted a tryo as this old world has ever seen. My first picture was a gloppy drooling mess. But the pen worked just fine! It made thick and thin lines, tilted lines, rolling lines. Sometimes the ink came out a little too gushingly, but that was avoidable by not overfilling, as with any pen, and my minding the angle.

    Actually there were two nibs working; the handsome engraved brass one and a homlier naked steel model, narrower at the point and with a smaller foot. Big as the drawings were, the brass nib’s 3/8″ line was too big, so mostly the finer nib was used. A couple dozen or so people stepped up to draw with it and they all seemed to enjoy the experience.

    Making terrible beginner’s drawings in front of a few hundred people was a strange experience, awful and magnificent. After the first half hour of plenty of ink but almost no finesse I began to get the hang of it; how to keep it tilted at the right angle, how to read the slight drag of the reservoir tip, how to judge the reservoir level by the inkflow. The lines became better-controlled and expressive in a planned way. It was engrossing. I wish I were drawing with it right now.

    My goal is to learn to make pictures worth looking at with this instrument, at which point another public performance might be in order. In the meantime, thank you from the depths of my being to all of you who supported this project.

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