One more post on art materials, then I hope to get back to nature notes for awhile.
Varied thrush drawn from life through my front window using a fountain pen and Pelikan Fount India ink.
At the end of my last post I mentioned that discovering a world of fellow artists on the internet and that lead me to realizing I wanted to try sketching with a fountain pen. Cathy Johnson uses a fountain pen a lot and has posted some very informative help: http://www.sketching.cc/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1353. You can see a lot of her work on http://naturesketchers.blogspot.com/ or you can go to her www.flickr.com images.
I’ve long appreciated a good pen, but never thought of them as an art tool. I hadn’t even owned a fountain pen for years. I looked locally … one for over $100 and one much, much cheaper. I bought the inexpensive pen and promptly lost it! Hummmm ! This definitely isn’t about saving money. It is about finding a wonderful drawing tool.
On my next trip to ‘the big city’ I dared to buy a better pen, a Pelikan M200 with a fine nib. I lucked out with my first ink. Fortunately I bought it in an art store and they sold good stuff, Pelikan’s Fount India, an ink designed for fountain pens. That pen and ink has been a love affair from first stroke. For years I looked for a disposable pen with black ink that bled. I never found quite what I wanted, but here was a relatively fine line and the delicious ability to come back over my lines with a water brush or wet paint brush and make soft grays. Sometimes I come back in with water color. Either way, I find this pen and the Pelican Fount India a great tool. (Don’t let the name of that ink mislead you. This is not India ink! India ink contains shellac and is a sure invitation for a clogged up fountain pen. )
A very quick sketch using a fountain pen and Pelikan Fount India ink … and a water brush.
The new pen and Pelikan Fount India ink kept me happy for over a year …. Then I decided to explore some more. I was hoping to find a permanent black ink so I could have a choice between the soft grey tones or ink that stays put, a Sepia ink that bleeds, and a fine line.
I found the Goulet Pen Company -- http://www.gouletpens.com/ -- a web site that carries a wide range of pens and inks and even offers small samples for less than $2.00 per sample. I read somewhere that Noodler’s had an inexpensive fountain pen with a flexible point. I ordered the pen from Goulet’s and several ink samples. Frankly I was disappointed with the pen. After years of using a fine and flexible nib on a dip pen, this hardly has any flex. But one of the inks seems to be a real winner -- Platinum Carbon Black. Per ounce it is one of their more expensive inks, but when I think of how many Pigma Micron pens it will keep me from using up and throwing away, the ink is cheap.
Here is my array of black ink samples: Pelikan Fount India, Platinum Carbon Black, Noodler’s Bulletproof Black, and Private Reserve Invincible black. First I tested to see if I could erase fairly quickly without disturbing the line; and then I added a slosh of water to see if the ink bled. Pelican Fount India dries quickly, and gives the wash. Platinum Carbon Black dries quickly and become impervious to water. The Noodler’s took forever to dry and still bled the next day. The Private Reserve still bled the next day.
Brown inks: Noodlers Polar Brown, Diamine Saddle brown, Caran d’ ache, Noodler’s Kiowa Pecan, Winsor and Newton Peat Brown. I still haven’t found a brown ink I am happy with. The first four are all fountain pen inks but obviously not intended for adding a wash. Some of the components of their color bleeds farther than the rest, giving a weird glow. The Winsor and Newton didn’t have the subcolor, but it isn’t a fountain pen ink. I can use it in a dip pen only.
http://www.richardspens.com/ is a great source of information about pens and he has an extensive selection of pens. His Pelikan ‘fine’ point isn’t all that fine, but then I ordered xxF. Wonderful! When I want a skinny line I have it. I’m sure there are other pens that are equally wonderful. One thing I like about the Pelikan is I can change nibs … and I can do it without spilling much ink if I so desire.
This little piece in only six inches tall …. So you can tell the line is quite fine; and the nice juicy wash I flowed over the whole piece didn’t disturb the ink. Pelikan pen with an XXF nib and Platinum Carbon black ink plus watercolor.
I won’t know for two or three months if the Platinum Carbon Black holds up to a lot of sunlight on my windowsill, but I am optimistic. First the sun has to shine …… and that has been hard to come by lately.
One more comment before I end this. The paper one works on is also a factor. I wasn’t able to find information about the sizing of sketchbook papers, but I found a chart about the sizing on a variety of watercolor papers. It said all watercolor paper is sized to some degree. It does vary what it is sized with. Without sizing the paint would soak in too much. Think about trying to do a wash on construction paper. I doubt it has much sizing. I don’t know enough about it, but I think ink tends to ride on the surface of heavily sized paper and takes longer to dry. I do know that the same test with the same ink behaved very differently on these three papers.
In each one of these samples I made a wet spot on the paper, then took my pen and scribbled back and forth until the wetness ‘grabbed’ the ink. All three were done with Noodler’s Polar Brown Ink. The Papers are from left to right: Strathmore 140# Cold Pressed – ‘lightly sized’; Aquabee Sketchbook – no information on sizing; Aquarius II –‘heavily sized’. …. Very different result.
If anyone knows of a good brown ink that doesn’t separate into different colors, please let me know.