My New Toy: Pilot Falcon (Soft, Extra-Fine nib)

Have you ever had a dream for a long time and then, when the dream is realized, things aren’t what you dreamed them to be?  That’s just happened to me.  Ever since I started sketching I’ve dreamed of owning a Namiki Falcon.  Now I do, but now it’s called a Pilot Falcon.  So much for dreams (grin).

closed

This is not a review of the Falcon.  There are plenty of those, a very good one is by Brian Goulet of Goulet Pens but there are others on YouTube.  This is also not a post where I’m going to show you a lot of sketches I’ve done with this pen.  I’ve already shown you several here and here.  This is a more simple view of the pen – a sketcher’s view.  Most fountain pen reviews are about how it writes, not how it draws.

nibLet me start with why it’s taken so long for me to get one of these pens.  There are two reasons.  First is that it’s not an inexpensive pen.  The street price is $140-150USD.  Tack on some shipping and the investment is significant.  The second reason is that, until recently, you could not get this pen with an extra-fine nib.  The Pilot Falcon is a flex nib pen and I wanted a pen that would provide very thin lines as well as thicker, more ‘normal’ lines.  The extra-fine Falcon provides this.

Now, to that “sketcher’s view.”  People who evaluate pens for writing generally look at extra fine nibs and react with ‘it’s scratchy’, because their fine tips tend to be during the upstroke while writing cursively.  The Pilot Falcon is no different in regard.  BUT, this is not a problem when drawing as most of our strokes are either descending or lateral.

PenTestAnd, in the spirit of a ‘sketcher’s view’, here is a comparison of the lines you get from this pen compared to something you might know, the Sakura Micron 01 and 05.  This is why I’m thrilled with this pen.  This test was done with Platinum Carbon Black on Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper (cold-pressed).  It borders on being too bumpy for fine nib fountain pens.

A couple secondary things I like about this pen.  The first is that it’s a Pilot pen.  I own a bunch of Pilot pens and all are well-made and reliable.  The screw-on cap has the typical Pilot insert that helps keep the nib wet and evaporation down.  It posts well and the pen is very light and balanced when posted.  At this point I’ve done a dozen sketches with the pen and I like it very much.  Oh…one last thing.  Platinum Carbon Black ink doesn’t stick to the sides of the CON-50 converter in this pen, allowing me to see how much ink is left.  I mention this because the opposite is true with my TWSBI Mini, which is also filled with PCB.  It’s a  small thing but not insignificant.

posted

Pentel Kerry Mechanical Pencil: A Sketcher’s Review

If you hang out on Facebook sketching groups you get the impression that if  you use a pencil as a precursor to a pen drawing you will be struck down by the art gods, or at least chastised by them.  The fact that most of the great artists used them is not pertinent to the case made by Facebook artists.

But I use one… sometimes.  I enjoy being able to quickly sketch in some organizational lines, locating major objects, and their relative sizes.  It’s during this time that I actually think about what I’m seeing.  I evaluate angles.  I look at the relationship of one object to another.  Where do they intersect, how do three points on the drawing create a locating triangle, curve, or box.  These light marks help me to engage my brain.  Necessary?  The marks, maybe not.  The brain engagement, most certainly.

I use 2H lead for this so the lines are very light but they’re enough for me to ‘see’ whether I’ve got the proportions right, or at least close.  If necessary, and it generally isn’t, I’ll use a kneaded eraser after I’ve done the ink sketch to remove these guidelines.  I don’t carry a regular eraser as I don’t seem to need one.  If I did, I’d use it proudly.

Today, though, I’m not here to discuss technique but rather to talk about a truly wonderful mechanical pencil, the Pentel Kerry mechanical pencil.  This isn’t your average $3-5 mechanical pencil.  The Pentel Kerry is a high-dollar ($20) pencil.  You can get one, in a variety of colors, from Jet Pens, one of the best suppliers of pointy devices on the planet.

Kerry_Closed

Why buy an expensive mechanical pencil when there are so many cheap ones?  I could get all philosophical about this but, for me, it was to solve a problem.  In addition to enjoying my sketching more when I use quality tools, I am a street sketcher and that means I carry my pens clipped inside a bag.  This means that two things happen.  Sometimes the lead guard, that thin tube that sticks out of mechanical pencils, snags in the bag fabric.  It can poke into waterbrushes I have in the same pocket where I clip my pens/pencil.  I’ve even had one guard bend.

Kerry_Open

So, I went looking for a solution and found one.  The Pentel Kerry is a beauty.  It caps and posts just like a fountain pen and so the lead and its guard are covered.  When posted, there is a mechanism in the cap that advances the lead.  If you use a pencil’s eraser regularly, however, you may not like this pencil as it’s hard to get the cap off to use it.  Until writing this review and doing a detailed search, I just assumed it didn’t have an eraser but it’s there if you can grab the cap with very strong and pointy fingers, or your teeth, to expose the eraser.  Not only is there not much to grab but you have to work against the spring action associated with the lead advance mechanism.  As I don’t use it, that doesn’t bother me.

So, problem solved… my lead guard is now covered with its cap.  Beyond that, this pencil is just a joy to use and to behold.  Spending a bit more on a pencil gains more than improved function.  It just looks cool.  I do find the grip and balance to be comfortable which means that posting its metal cap makes it slightly tail-heavy, allowing for a light touch.  It can be bought for .5 or .7mm leads and in half a dozen colors.  I chose red as it’s easy to find in my bag as I don’t use any red fountain pens.

Is $20 too much to spend for a pencil?  I don’t think so, but then I don’t buy my coffee at Starbucks so maybe I have more money than some to spend on my art supplies (grin).

Kerry_Sketch

 

Hero 9296 Fountain Pen: A Review

A couple days ago I promised a review of the Hero 9296, a fountain pen I’ve purchased recently.  I bought it for two reasons.  First, my buddy Yvan started using one to do his quick sketches and while Yvan’s favorite pen is always the one he just acquired, he’s stuck with this one for a while.  The second reason is more important for anyone reading this – it’s CHEAP!   I bought it via eBay for $7.00, including the shipping.

Hero9296_4

Hero 9296 next to the ubiquitous Lamy Safari

I’d like to say that this pen has bumped my Pilot Preras and TWSBI Minis into the closet but that’s not the case.  I present it here for two reasons.  Did I mention that it’s CHEAP?  For the price of a couple lattes you can have a fine-writing (pun-intended) fountain pen.  The second reason is that this pen is a very thin, but normal length fountain pen, favored by those with smaller hands.  It has a metal body and silver trim.  If you like thin pens, this one is worth a look.

Hero9296_5

Hero 9296 compared to Micron 03 and Sharpie Fine Pen

I bought what Hero calls an “extra-fine” nib and I was surprised to find that though it’s an Asian company, the nib is more like a typical Asian “fine” nib.  This is not a knock against it, but the Pilot Penmanship XF produces a finer line.  This pen, at least with Noodler’s Lexington Gray is very similar to a Micron 03 in line width.  It writes wetter than my Pilot Preras and so Lex Gray looks darker from this pen than from my Preras.  I think most would find it quite respectable and usable for most sketching.  My Pilot Preras produce a bit finer line than this pen but I think most of that is due to the wetter line from the the Hero 9296.

Hero9296_2There are a couple things I don’t like about this pen but they may not bother others.  First is the nib/grip.  It is very shiny and, if you’re an outside sketcher like I am, this can be a problem on a sunny day.  The fact that the pen is hooded combines with the shine to create a pen where it’s hard to tell if/when the nib is oriented properly.  Anyone who has used a fountain pen knows that rotating the nib of the pen can greatly affect how or even if it will write.  Maybe you get used to it.

Hero9296_3The pen comes with a converter, which is normally a plus.  In this case the converter is different from more typical Hero converters in that it is 1) thinner, providing less capacity and 2) rather than a threaded plunger, it has a slide plunger that I find clumsy to operate.  I’m not sure why but the result is that you can’t get the converter more than 1/2 – 3/4 full, further reducing how much ink the pen holds.

These drawbacks aside, this is a good pen for not much money.  I’m going to fill mine with a washable ink (my pens are typically filled with waterproof inks) to give me another tool in the arsenal.

Hero9296_1

How To Get A Fine Nib Pilot Metropolitan

By most accounts, the Pilot Metropolitan is a pen that provides a lot of bang for the buck.  It writes smoothly, feels good in the hand, and it’s simply the best looking $15-20 pen I’ve seen.  It’s a metal-bodied pen which allows it to resemble a more expensive pen.

There’s one problem with it.  You can only buy it with a medium nib.  It’s unclear why as Pilot typically provides the fine and medium options for their pens and you can even get a stub italic Prera.

Metro above, 78G below

Metro above, 78G below

While the Pilot medium is finer than most European medium nibs, it’s not fine enough for my sketching needs.  It occurred to me that there might be a solution to this in the form of the Pilot 78G, which can be had via eBay for almost no money and it’s sold with fine, medium, or broad nibs.  And guess what?  These nibs are compatible with the Metropolitan feed, right down to the little indexing pin.  All you have to do is pull the 78G nib out and put it in the Metropolitan and, voila, a Metro with a fine nib.

Note the gold, 78G, fine nib

Note the gold, 78G, fine nib

So, why not just use the 78G?  There’s nothing wrong with the 78G that a better, heavier plastic wouldn’t cure.  But I can’t help shake the feeling that I’m using a really cheap pen when I’m using them.

Uniball Signo UM-151 For Sketching

I’m a fountain pen guy but I’m a sucker for a new pointy device regardless of type.  Pete Scully, a well-known urban sketcher swears by Uniball Signo UM-151 pens and uses them regularly.  I’ve never found any of the fine tip versions in the stores around here but I finally decided to order a couple from Jet Pens.

And I’m glad I did!!  I’m a fan of Pilot’s Hitec-C3 and C4 pens as they’ve got very fine points, don’t wear down like the nylon-tip pens, and they have replacable cartridges.  Unfortunately, they’re not waterproof so I can’t use them when I want to use watercolors with my pen/ink sketches.

SignoUM151

The Uniball Signo UM-151 pens, in .28 and .38 mm sizes solve that problem as their inks are pigment-based and thus are waterproof.  I bought mine in ‘brown-black’ as I wanted a dark brown pen and haven’t been able to find a brown/waterproof fountain pen ink that makes me happy.  I should say, up front, that I don’t understand Uniball’s tip dimensions except to say that the line width is less than the size of the tip, which is fine but it’s hard for me to report the actual line width for comparison to other pens.

Mitsubishi, manufacturers of Uniball pens says that their .7mm pens produce a .4mm line.  I couldn’t find a similar description of the .28 and .38mm pens.  What I can say is that the .28mm line is significantly finer than that from a Micron 005, which is claimed to be .20mm.  In any case, it’s fine…and when hatching a small sketch, it’s just dandy…or ‘peachy’ as my dad used to say.

I’ve only had the pens a couple days so I can’t say much about long-term performance except to say that the rollerball should hold up better than the fine nylon tip pens, which I find wear down annoying fast.  As replacement cartridges cost only $1.65 from Jet Pens, ink capacity isn’t much of a problem either.

2013-07-05SignoTestHere’s my first test drive of the pen.  I used the .28mm on this tiny Rhodia pad (3×4).  The pen doesn’t skip a beat.  Stippling works better than I expected from a ball-tip pen, though if you stipple a lot, you need to roll it occasionally on a piece of scrap if the ball goes dry.  Otherwise it’s a point-and-shoot device.

I was sitting on my porch, waiting to head out for a day of sketching in the country, and I used the Pilot Signo to draw this Impatiens flower in a Strathmore Series 400 “Drawing” sketchbook.  Notice that even with the pink, there’s not bleed from the brown-black ink.  Makes me very happy.

2013-07-06Flower

These pens come in a bunch of colors and after seeing a couple sketched by Pete where he used the dark green, I can’t wait to get my hands on one of those.  For myself, the .38mm is a better pen for sketching 5×8 or larger but the .28mm is a treat for details, hatching, and when you’re working small (eg – 3×5).

The best part of these pens is that they’re CHEAP!!!  From Jet Pens they’re only $2.50 and replacement cartridges only $1.65.  The bad news is that individual cartridges are only available in blue, black, red and, blue-black.  I’m hoping they make brown-black available ‘real soon.’

2013-07-07Apartment

Today I went out for an early morning walk along the river.  I sat down on a bench to watch a family of ducks and before you could say ‘fanatical sketcher’ I had my little Strathmore doodle book in hand and I was scribbling out this sketch with the Uniball UM-151-28 pen.  It’s about 3×5 in size and all I had was a small waterbrush to add color.  Given the small amount of time consumed on this quick sketch, I like the result and my new UM-151 pen.

Pilot HiTec V5 (05) Cartridge Pen

This pen, the Pilot HiTec V5 cartridge pen, showed up at our local pen store recently.  I’m a fountain pen guy and wouldn’t have even noticed it if not for the display right next to it that held Pilot fountain pen cartridges.  For those who like nylon/felt-tip pens for sketching, but who also would like access to the range of colors available to fountain pen folk, may want to give this pen a try.

PilotV5CartridgePen

It’s available with either a .5 mm or .7 mm tip.  I bought the .5 mm and its line does compare to a Sakura Micron 05.  The ink density and color is similar too but with one very large difference.  Pilot inks are not waterproof.  This can be good or bad depending on what you’re going to do with the pen.

It made no difference to me as I bought it with the thought of seeing if I could use it with other inks, specifically, Noodler’s Lexington Gray which is my main sketching ink.  I emptied the cartridge and used an ear syringe to pressure a bunch of water through the feed/point to clean out the ink contained within.  This is a slightly bigger job than it would be with a fountain pen as the feed on these pens seems to hold a lot more ink.  Nevertheless, it only took a minute of two.

I filled the cartridge with Lexington Gray and once attached to the pen I squeezed the heck out of the cartridge to pump ink into the feed/point.  This would be easier if one were to use a Con-50 converter, which has a plunger that would pressure ink into the pen.  Nevertheless, in another minute or so I had Lex Gray coming out of the pen.  Refilling, of course, is quick as I just pull the cartridge and use a pen syringe to refill it.

2013-04-27Trashcan

My concern was that the pen would dry/plug up so I waited to write this until I’d had the Lex Gray in the pen for a week or so.  While walking through a local park, I made this little sketch of one of my favorite subjects, a park trashcan.  Done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6),I was impressed by how the pen performed.

I paid $3 for mine so this pen isn’t a bank breaker and it does open up interesting possibilities for those who prefer felt-tip pens

 

TWSBI Mini: The Ideal Urban Sketching Pen?

I’m a fountain pen geek.  Not in the sense that I spend hundreds of dollars to fill out my collection of exotic pens or anything like that.  But pretty much everything I write or draw on paper is done with fountain pens.  Besides the fact that we’re burying our planet in disposable pens, fountain pens are economical, practical, and fun

When I started sketching I began using a Lamy Safari.  They’re reliable and Lamy’s extra-fine nib is reasonably fine.  The Platinum Preppy is a surprisingly good sketching pen, though their caps are fragile so I stopped relying upon them for my street sketching.

I discovered Pilot pens, first the 78G, a cheap pen that isn’t imported into North America.  Then I bought a Pilot Prera and shortly thereafter I bought another one.  I love Pilot Preras.  Because it’s an Asian company, Pilot’s fine nib pens are much finer than are European extra-fine nib pens and the Prera is very well made.

It’s also the ‘right’ length and weight when posted.  Some pens, the Lamy is a good example, become quite tail-heavy when posted.  Of course, you don’t have to post a pen but when I’m on the street the problem of where to put the cap so it doesn’t get lost becomes a problem.  So I like to post the pen when it’s in use.  There’s one big downside of the Prera.  Pilot’s piston converters have a very small capacity.

TWSBIClosedComparison

Top: Lamy Safari, Middle: TWSBI Mini, Bottom: Pilot Prera

Enter my newest pen acquisition, the TWSBI Mini.  Wow…what a pen.  I’m not going to do a regular pen review.  For that I encourage you to watch Brian Goulet’s great video review and comparison to its big brother, the TWSBI 540.  Instead, I want to talk about why I think the TWSBI Mini will become my favorite street sketching tool.

TWSBIOpenComparison

Top: Lamy Safari, Middle: TWSBI Mini, Bottom: Pilot Prera

Let’s Talk Prices

As I know many people use Lamy pens, or have had them recommended to them, maybe by me, I think I should say something about price.  The Lamy is cheaper than either the Prera or TWSBI.  All I’ll say is that the differences aren’t that great when you look at a pen as something you’re going to use every time you go sketching.  If you look at street prices (I’ll use Goulet Pen’s pricing as my example) you’ll find these numbers:

Lamy Safari with converter: $34.55
Pilot Prera demonstrator: $56.00
TWSBI Mini demonstrator: $55.00
 
So, for the price of a very few lattes, you can buy some of the features I’m going to talk about here and I’ll say no more about price.

Pilot Prera vs TWSBI Mini

I’ll begin by telling you that it’s not because it’s so much better at making lines.  Both the Pilot Prera F and TWSBI Mini EF produce very fine, consistent lines.  The TWSBI isn’t quite as fine as the Prera and writes wetter, thus producing a bit darker line, at least with the Noodler’s Lexington Gray that I use.  The TWSBI is, likewise, a bit finer than a Lamy EF pen.  Both are smooth sketching pens, though my Prera is smoother.  This, however, may be because I’ve been using the Prera for along time and nibs do improve with time.

2013-04-12-Prera(top)_TWSBI(bottom)

I quickly did these two small comparison sketches – the Prera F (top) and TWSBI Mini EF (bottom).  These sketches are about two inches wide.  The dividing line between them was done with a Lamy Safari EF for comparison. Both were done on Stillman & Birn Epsilon paper.  I think they reflect the line differences/similarities of the two pens.

What makes a good street pen?

There are pen features beyond what line it draws that are important to me as a street sketcher.  They are:

1) The pen must be absolutely reliable.
2) It must have a post-able cap.
3) It must not be tail-heavy when posted.
4) It must have a decent ink capacity.
5) The cap must seal well so the ink doesn’t evaporate.
6) I’ve got to be able to see how much ink is in it.
7) I simply have to ‘like’ it, whatever that means.

Let’s look at each of these things, by comparing the TWSBI Mini to the Pilot Prera.

Reliability (1)

My sketching pen has to write the first time, every time.  I don’t want to have to dip it in water to get it started, or draw a gazillion little circles, shake it, or anything else to get it to work.  I want to take the cap off and write.  My paper/ink/pen triad is Stillman & Birn paper, Noodler’s Lexington Gray, and Pilot Prera.  This combination meets that criterion.

So do my Lamy pens and the TWSBI.  I have many more pens that don’t meet this criterion and it’s by far the most important to me.  I hear people talk about how they ‘start’ their pens.  When I have a pen that needs ‘starting’, I get a different pen.  Putting the pen to paper should be sufficient.  Life’s too short.

Postable and not-tail heavy (2 & 3)

This is a bigger deal than it sounds if you’re a street sketcher.  If you can’t post a pen and you’re in a studio, you put the cap on the work table.  When you’re sitting on a stool in the middle of a sidewalk, what do you do with it?  I need a pen that posts well.

Both the Prera and Mini are short pens.  They are designed to be posted and be in balance when posted.  What puts the TWSBI Mini head and shoulders above the Prera in this regard is that the TWSBI posts by screwing it onto the back of the pen.  There’s no chance of it falling off.  It may be a small thing.  Some may not even like it.  But I’m downright giddy as a schoolgirl over this TWSBI feature.

Ink Capacity (4)

This is the Prera’s achilles heel and a fantastic feature of the TWSBI pens.  Pilot’s piston converter holds somewhere around half a milliliter of ink.  The TWSBI holds more than twice that much.  I find myself filling my Preras all the time and have even taken to carrying extra ink with me.  I’m going to enjoy not having to fuss over the TWSBI as often because of its larger ink capacity.

Cap Seals Well (5)

This is a big deal for me.  If the cap doesn’t seal well, you get evaporation.  If you get evaporation you not only lose ink volume, you increase ink concentration, affecting consistency of the pen.  I have no hard data to prove it but I think there is some evaporation from my Preras.  It’s also the case that a cap that doesn’t seal opens up the possibility of ink drying in the feed/nib and having the ‘start’ the pen as discussed above.

TWSBICapSeals

The TWSBI pens are truly amazing pieces of engineering.  While the Prera cap seal depends upon a friction fit between plastic and metal pieces coming together, and is better than most fountain pens, TWSBI truly addresses the problem with a first-class solution.  They provide two rubber seals and as you screw the cap on (a better seal by itself), these seals produce a two independent seal barriers between the nib/feed and the outside world.  This feature alone is enough to give high marks to the TWSBI in my view.

 Seeing Ink Supply

When it comes to buying pens I’m like a fish watching lures go by.  I’m attracted to the bright colors.  Just like the fish, I’ve learned that’s a mistake.  The best pens for sketching are clear.  You can see how much ink you’ve got.  This is particularly true of a piston-fill pen.  Though it’s a bit of a nuisance, I can unscrew my Lamy and look at the reservoir (that dumb little window is a completely failed experiment in my view).  While you can take the TWSBI apart completely (a great feature by the way), you don’t do that when it’s half-full of ink and you don’t do it while you’re sitting in a park somewhere.  I’ve come to love clear-body, or ‘demonstrator’ fountain pens.  I do find the bright red button on the end of the TWSBI cap to be attractive, though (grin).

Gotta Like It

What’s the point of sketching if you can’t like the tools you’re using.  If you  like your tools, you’ll use them more often and probably get a better result.  Both the Pilot Prera and TWSBI Mini are superb-writing pens that feel good in the hand.  I also like the looks of them.

2013-04-09building

A small building sketched on Stillman & Birn Zeta paper (5×8), using the TWSBI Mini and Noodler’s Lexington Gray.

In the end, we all have to chose our own tools.  There is no one-size fits all.  I hope that by highlighting the TWSBI Mini, and why I feel it is a superb street sketching tool for me that you’ll gain some insight into your own choices while being introduced to this great sketching pen.

 

Lamy Safari vs Pilot Metropolitan for Sketching

Since I posted my review of the Pilot Metropolitan and talked about its use in recent posts, I’ve had several people ask me questions that all relate to the same thing: how does it compare to the Lamy Safari?  I make no claims to doing exhaustive reviews of pens but I thought it might help some if I talked a bit about how I see the differences.  Obviously I can’t do that objectively; every word of such a discussion is steeped with personal opinion.  But maybe I can isolate some concepts and let you evaluate my biased analysis.

Esthetics and Feel

Metro-Safari-closedWhile esthetics and feel are mostly personal parameters, it is safe to say that the Metropolitan is a cleaner, more traditional design.  Some people complain about the triangular nature of the grip on the Lamy and while that’s not a problem for me, the Metropolitan grip is smooth and round.  Both pens are quite tail heavy when posted and both long enough to write with comfortably without posting.

The Safari offers more color choices, and availability of colors changes regularly.  Lamy is about to release a flourescent yellow version which has me saying “WHAT are they thinking?” but some might like it.  The Metropolitan comes in black, silver and gold, with some subtle trim choices.

The Lamy can be converted from cartridges using Lamy’s Z26 converter while the Pilot pen uses the CON-50.  In my opinion, The Z26 is a bit nicer but as I fill all my pens using a pen syringe it doesn’t really matter to me.  Any tube in a storm, to muck up a metaphor.

Metro-Safari-openThe Safari is a fatter pen which may make a difference for those with small hands.  The Metropolitan is made of brass while the Safari is plastic, though you can by Lamy’s All-Star if you want an aluminum pen.

One thing that might affect sketcher choices is that we like to turn our pens upside down to get a thinner line.  Doing this with the Safari completely changes the feel of the pen, but not at all for the Metro.

I own three Lamy pens and only on Metropolitan but the Pilot nib seems smoother on papers I use.

Operation/Internals

Safari can be bought with a variety of nibs and it’s easy to buy and replace nibs so you can have one pen and swap out the nibs if you like.  Metropolitans come in only medium, though from what I can see, Pilot also sells a Cocoon pen that seems identical to the Metropolitan but it’s available with a fine nib at more than twice the price of the Metropolitan.  I don’t know why.

A quick word about nibs is in order.  Lamy is a European manufacturer and uses a European sizing scale for its nibs.  Pilot is an Asian company and uses an Asian scale.  For any particular nib ‘name’ (eg – F), the Asian system will be finer than the European system.  When comparing my XF Safari nibs to the M nib of the Metropolitan, I find that the Metropolitan M lays down a line just a tiny bit THINNER than my Safari XF pens.  That said, my Lamys have been used a lot while the Metropolitan is fairly new.  The Metropolitan is very near that of a Sakura Micron 02 if you’re familiar with those.

It’s a small thing but I find Lamy pens to be a bit more ‘sloppy’ when filling them by dipping into an ink bottle.  They must be plunged deeper than Pilot pens.  As I don’t do this at all I simply avoid the problem.

Misc

Lastly, the Pilot Metropolitan ($20) is cheaper than the Lamy Safari ($25).  Thos prices are from Goulet Pens.  Converters for them are about the same price.  Safari has ubiquitous support; it’s every seller’s ‘beginner pen’.  While Pilot pens are readily available, the sheer numbers of Lamy users gives ‘support’ to the Lamy pen.

If you have any questions about either of these pens, or any pen for that matter, I’d be happy to discuss it with you.  I was a pen junky long before I became a sketcher.  You can also see how these pens write (in the nib nook) and even buy them at Goulet Pens.

Conclusion

In the end, choosing a pen comes down to a bunch of personal preferences.  For myself, I use a Pilot Prera (F) as my every day sketching pen.  I like its fine line, smooth and flawless operation, and I like the fact that I can post the pen and, being short, the balance works out ‘just right.’  This is a bonus to me as a street sketcher as I don’t have to worry about losing the cap.

But lately the Pilot Metropolitan has become my pen of choice for quick-sketching people, something I’m doing a lot of lately because it’s so cold outside.  Its slightly thicker line works better for this purpose and the fact that it’s inexpensive makes it a happy replacement for my Lamys, which remain in my arsenal but, by comparison, they’ve lost a bit of their charm for me.  Well, except for my lime green Lamy which is the greatest color ever (grin).

 

Strathmore Series 400 “Toned Gray” sketchbooks

I’ve posted a couple examples of sketches I’ve done on Strathmore’s Series 400 gray drawing paper and it’s spawned a couple of questions about the sketchbook in particular but also the paper itself.  I’m really new to the paper and I’m not a paper guru, but I thought it might be useful for me to discuss my limited experience with these products.

Series400DrawingStrathmore’s Series 400 Drawing sketchbooks have been around for a very long time and most commonly found in various sizes of spiral-bound books with “Drawing” on the cover.  According to Strathmore they are and “ideal surface for any dry media, suitable for pen and ink.”  I’m not a pastel guy but I don’t think this paper would be useful for that medium but for pencil and pen and ink, it’s an excellent, inexpensive paper.  It may lack a bit in ‘tooth’ for those wanting to do detailed pencil sketches.

StrathmoreTonedGrayThe recent release of this type of paper in both gray and brown is an important event in the sketching world, I think, and even more so because Strathmore has wisely produced brown-covered sketchbooks containing these papers.  I nearly went off the rails the first time I saw one of these beautiful sketchbooks.  I get bored by the typical black covers and the matt-brown finish of these sketchbook covers speaks to me.

The binding looks good but I don’t have enough experience with it to speak further about it.  I should also add that I have no experience with the brown paper version so my comments are limited to the gray paper.

2013-01-08Seminaire38thSketchcrawl

Done with Pilot Prera and Prismacolor white pencil

But I’m getting ahead of myself as I first discovered this paper in a spiral-bound 9×12 sketchbook.  These come with finely perforated pages so you can remove the papers cleanly.  I did exactly that and use this paper as individual sheets.  I found it very nice for pencil sketching, though I admit to know almost nothing about pencil sketching.  What I can tell you is that my buddy Yvan is a long-time and certainly excellent pencil driver and he said that “it’s great for ‘sketching’ (in quotes because his sketches are framing quality) but for portrait work the paper lacks tooth.”  Those of you who understand this can do your own interpretation.  Me, I’m still trying to figure out how to do basic shading with pencils.  I’m a pen and ink guy and so I provide the ink sketch on the left, done with Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.

Series 400, done with Pilot Prera, Noodler's Lexington Gray ink

Series 400, done with Pilot Prera, Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink

My understanding is that the hardbound sketchbooks are available in 5.5×8.5″ and 8.5×11.5″ sizes.   As I was in the market for a pen-only sketchbook that I could dedicate to learning how to draw people, I bought the smaller size.  I admit that I much prefer drawing buildings, cars and even fire hydrants rather than sketch people but it’s winter and there are more people indoors than there are buildings, so what’s a sketcher to do?

My new Strathmore sketchbook has become my “people” sketchbook.  Its 128 pages of gray, 80lb paper works well with the pens I use regularly (i.e. fine nib fountain pens).  I did find that if I use a medium nib and lay down a significant amount of ink there is slight feathering with my typical sketching ink (Noodler’s Lexington Gray) but it wasn’t objectionable.

Series 400, done with Pilot G-TEC-C3 hybrid ink pen

Series 400, done with Pilot G-TEC-C3 hybrid ink pen

As I haven’t done much with the sketchbook yet I don’t have much to show in the way of examples so I’ll include the only two pages of my book that have ink on them.  The first is a set of scribbles I did of people parts.  There was no intention of anyone but me seeing this and no rhyme or reason to it so I apologize for its scattered nature.  The second sketch is my first attempt at sketching clothing folds with pen and ink.  Need to work on my darks a lot and proportions even more, but again, here it is.  This is a post about the paper, not this sketcher’s limited abilities (grin).  In any event, I hope this answers some of the questions about this paper and the new sketchbooks.

Oh…I should add, this paper contains too little sizing and is too light for use as a watercolor surface in my opinion.  I have done some experiments and I can get away with adding some shading using a Derwent Graphitone pencil and color with Faber-Castell watercolor pencils, moving both around with a small Sakura Koi waterbrush.  Trying to add a graded wash down the side of a building wall, however, is 1) very difficult as the paper is so absorptive and 2) the paper starts to pucker.  For myself, I’ll stick to my Stillman & Birn sketchbooks for all my color work.  They’re simply the best there is, though I wish I could buy them with brown covers.

Why Am I Such A Loyal Goulet Pens Customer?

I tell everyone who will listen how great Goulet Pens is as a company.  They’re great people.  They have a fantastic website with more info about pens than any other site.  They stock a huge array of inks, pens and papers.  And they ship everything at reasonable prices, wrapped as though they were sending it into a war zone.  What more could you ask for in a company.

But there’s another reason and you can see it here:

This video hit my inbox as part of the Goulet Pens newsletter and five minutes later I was in my shop, my Prera disassembled, and the ink cleaned out of the cap. I love my Preras but the one problem was with ink in the cap of my demonstrator. Problem gone. Thanks Brian… again.

Cheers — Larry