A Master of Pen and Ink

By Jeremy Meltingtallow

Dik Browne loved to draw. Here is a self-caricature he drew of himself at work, surrounded by his characters.DikCaricature

Cartoonists are frequently asked what kinds of tools they use. Dik’s favorite pen point was a Gillott #170 and his preferred ink was Higgins. Here is a Sunday page from 1980 that features some of his finest rendering.

Hi and Lois Sunday page, August 31, 1980. Hi and Lois Sunday page, August 31, 1980.

“Work has never been a big deal with me,” he claimed in an interview. “It’s fun and I love it and I do it about as well as I do anything – a whole lot better than I play golf. It’s sort of my form of crocheting.”

When Dik began illustrating Hi and Lois in 1954, he developed a style that was clean and round, closely reflecting the warm, tight-knit family theme of the feature. His talent for fine pen-and-ink detail was most evident in the beautiful outdoor scenes like the one above.

When he created Hagar the Horrible in 1973, the strip demanded a cruder, bolder approach. He aged his ink to a gunky consistency to get a rough-hewn line. This was more of his signature style.

“Your lines should not look too slick,” he explained. “They should look like a human being drew them.” Dik is remembered by his peers as the “cartoonists’ cartoonist.” His lines seemed to flow effortlessly from his pen. He was a natural.

– Brian Walker