Interview: Pen-And-Ink Illustrator Rob Turpin

While we all love pens in their various incarnations, ultimately, they’re just the tools that channel the creativity of craftsmen, both artistic and practical.

Here at The Pen Vibe, we’re all about those craftsmen, the pens they use, and what they choose to do with them. So it’s always exciting for us when one chooses to share his story with our readers.

Today, it’s Rob Turpin, an illustrator known for his sci-fi and fantasy-inspired drawings done in pen and ink.

This is our interview with him.

Please tell us a little about you.

Originally from Yorkshire, but now living in the suburbs of southwest London, I trained and worked as a graphic designer before making the leap in to illustration. I’ve just completed my first book illustration project, and I’m working on another about robots.

Tell us a little about your work.

I’ve only been drawing again seriously for a couple of years, and really got back in to it when I decided to take on a year-long, daily-drawing challenge. For a year I drew a robot every day. It was quite a challenge, but a great way to get in to the habit of drawing again. My work is very much science fiction and fantasy based, with lots of robots and spaceships, and I also love drawing imaginary landscape and cityscapes. I like for there to be a story somewhere in my drawings for both myself, and the viewer to investigate.

Rob Turpin Image 5


What are some of your favorite pens and markers?

All my drawings are done in pen. I don’t do digital drawing at all. I like the feel and sound of a pen on paper too much. I use Staedtler Pigment Liners and Copic Multiliners for pretty much everything I do. I love the quality of line and the density of the black you get with these pens, and the control I have over line thickness is perfect for my detailed drawings. I also love Pentel Pocket Brush Pens. Much more expressive than a pigment liner, but give heaps of character to a line.

For colour work I use, almost exclusively, Copic Ciao Markers. Nothing else even comes close to the quality of colour you can put down with Copics in my opinion, and they come in an amazing range of tones.

Rob Turpin Image 12


How do you discover new pens and markers?

I’m a big fan of social media, it’s a great way to discover new artists, and to keep up to date with artists whose work I admire. Watching other people work, and seeing the materials they use is a great way to discover new pens, materials and techniques. Watching Jake Parker’s videos on YouTube was how I discovered the Pentel Pocket Brush – I just wish I could use it as well as Jake.

What factors do you consider when choosing pens?

I usually need a pen that gives me control and allows me to cram in lots and lots of detail – so pigment liners, technical pens etc are always an option for me. I also need a good solid black ink, so sometimes it’s a bit of trial and error to find a pen that suits.

Rob Turpin Image 7


Which one do you use most frequently?

I’d say it’s a tie between Staedtler Pigment Liners and Copic Multiliners, I use everything from a super fine 0.03 nib to a heavier 0.7. The variety of thicknesses lets me create real depth in my illustrations.

Which pens and markers do you recommend to others doing similar work? Do you recommend differently for beginners vs. more experienced?

Staedtler Pigment Liners are perfect for everyone, from a beginner to an expert. They’re reasonably priced, great dense black ink, and a really fine controllable line. They work great with markers or watercolours too.

Describe your perfect pen.

It would have to be perfectly balanced, and perhaps made of a natural material like bamboo or wood – so that it feels great in your fingers. It should have a beautifully pointed brush nib, that kept it’s shape regardless of how much it’s used, and the ink should be the blackest of blacks and 100% waterfast. If this exists I’ll have ten.

Rob Turpin Image 10


And just for fun, we asked Rob which pen he would take on a trek through the Himalayas to search for the elusive Yeti.

I’d take a Lamy Safari fountain pen – perfect for quick expressive sketches (when the blizzards ease up), and great for making notes – where I’ve seen footprints, directions, altitude references… I’d pair the Lamy pen with a Moleskine A5 sketchbook. A pretty perfect match.


You can learn more about Rob and his robot illustrations by visiting his blog,, or by following him on Twitter @thisnorthernboy and on Instagram at

We’d like to thank Rob very much for taking the time to answer our questions and share some samples of his exciting drawings.

Photo of author

Tony Bridges

As a seasoned journalist and freelance writer, I've spent over three decades telling stories and exploring the world through the written word. With a passion for writing instruments, I found my niche at The Pen Vibe, a blog that shares our collective fascination with pens, pencils, and other tools that have shaped the art of writing.

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