Desperate Sketchers Brave The Elements

Last Saturday was supposed to be the Bazar des ruelles in Limoilu which is always a fun event.  This is a part of the city that, when built, included alley ways behind the houses.  I think those went out of style with the invention of ‘suburbs’ but it affords a great opportunity for the people in this part of Limoilu as they organize a huge garage sale every year, with signs and balloons all over the place, that direct wanderers up and down the ruelles to the many garage sales.  There are also places that sell hot dogs and there are things for kids to do as well.  In short, it’s a city-wide party.

I was supposed to meet my buddy Yvan at 8AM and we did meet.  We stood under umbrellas as the rain came down and even we could figure out from the note on the signs saying “in case of rain, we’ll do it Sunday” that we were alone.  We turned it into a sketcher social event, spending several hours talking art, drinking coffee and playing with fountain pens.  We also planned to meet again the next morning.

2013-06-09WindowSunday began with me standing, same place, same umbrella, different rain.  Yvan showed up with his umbrella and we stood.  Then we headed to the coffee shop where the guy there told us that the event had been rescheduled for next week (Jun 15th).  So, after coffee, and quite desperate to draw SOMETHING, we headed downtown to the library, where we did quick sketches of umbrellas with feet through the library windows.  I did this small sketch of a window across the street.  Yvan’s sketches were wonderful.  Mine were…not so much.   Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6) and a Noodler’s Creaper as the pointy device.

 

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It finally stopped raining so we headed for the old city and set up under an awning where the calesh horses get to snack and wait for tourists willing to part with a lot of money for a ride.  This is a sketch of the Kent Gatehouse (not surprisingly it’s associated with the Kent Gate, the middle gate of three gates that let too many cars have access to the old city.  It felt soooooo good to sketch something outdoors, though it was still too cold for comfort and threatening rain.  Stillman & Birn Zeta (5.5×8.5) and a Pilot Prera/Lexington Gray combination.  By the time we finished I was cold enough to express an urgency for getting indoors and preferably at a place where I could drink something warm.

2013-06-09BuildingWe’d talked about the McDonalds in the old city and I’d told Yvan about its’ nice second floor view.  We headed there for some well-deserved warmth.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t get one of the ‘good’ seats until we were about to leave but  we grabbed them and quickly did sketches.  I did this building.  Yvan did something really nice.

 

We wandered around looking for something that turned our heads and we ended up sitting in a gravel parking lot for some apartments, looking up at this tower attached to an old building.  The sky spit rain on me on occasion which is why I left the sky blank.   Same S&B Zeta sketchbook; same Pilot Prera pen.

2013-06-09Tour

I mention Yvan a lot but I never show you his sketches.  Yvan sketched the same tower that I did, did a much better job and then, while he was bored and waiting for me to finish, he did this sketch of me finishing up my sketch.  Yvan is amazing and I’m lucky to call him friend.

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Such is life for a mid-June sketcher in Quebec City this year.  The prediction is for sunshine this weekend, though, so I’m really excited.  Maybe summer will be better than spring.

 

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

Here it…June and my street sketching spring is almost gone with not much to show for it.  We’re setting records for rainfall if, records are a consolation, but they don’t do much for my disposition.  I’ve got to figure out how to get my brain to be happy sketching indoors from pictures, I guess.

2013-05-28GableUntil I do that, these are the sorts of things I’ve been doing.  I hopped off the bus one day and did this tiny sketch.  When I look at it what I remember was the rush I got from actually doing a sketch outdoors.  I was only off the bus for 10-15 minutes but it was a precious 15 minutes.  Done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6) using a TWSBI Mini and Noodler’s Lexington Gray.

2013-05-311stAveRestaurantAnother day, I got to the bus stop just as my bus was pulling away.  I quickly did this little sketch of a somewhat ugly restaurant across the street.  This place has changed hands so many times I can’t remember all the restaurant names it’s announced proudly to a customer base that never came.  Not sure what kind of food they serve now.  I’m one of those who never went.  Same sketchbook but I was using a Noodler’s Creaper here.  Only had 10 minutes as I had to catch the next bus.

2013-06-03Ferry

I tried to have a sketching day with my friend Claudette.  It was raining but we climbed aboard the ferry that traverses the St. Lawrence.  It only takes 10 minutes to cross and crossings take place every half hour.  We made several circuits but, for me, it was not a great adventure.  The fog was so bad that you couldn’t see the buildings on either side of the St. Lawrence and for a while it rained so hard you couldn’t see much of anything.  Mostly I just looked out the windows and wished it would stop raining.  This sketch was done in an S&B Alpha (10×7) with the TWSBI Mini.  I sort of lost interest by the time I got to the vending machines (grin).

Will it EVER stop raining?

Holiday Weekend Sketching

Last Friday was a crazy day, with trying to fit X hours of work into fewer than X hours of available time.  But I was desperate enough to get it done cuz Saturday was the beginning of three days of good weather and SKETCHING!!!!

2013-05-18MaisonGominSaturday I hopped a bus for the other side of town as I’d convinced my buddy Yvan that we ‘needed’ to sketch Maison Gomin.  This is a castle-like building that used to be a woman’s prison.  It’s now a funeral/crematorium place that drips money inside.  Seems there’s a lot of money in dead people.  Anyway, this sketch represents one end of the building.  The dragon sits on top of the other end, guarding the princess.  It was done in my Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) sketchbook.  I used a TWSBI Mini and Platinum Carbon Black.

2013-05-19MoulinDesJesuites_siteSunday morning Yvan and I headed the the north part of the city and we sketched an old mill (17th Century) built and operated by Jesuits.  It’s now a historical landmark.

It was done in the same sketchbook with the same pen.  It suffers a bit from a change of heart on my part.  When I laid out the sketch I thought I’d let the end of the smaller building run off the page to the right.  But later I decided I wanted the end of it in the sketch and thought I could do that by simply shortening it.  I did that but the proportions of the building made it look odd, but then most of my sketches are odd so I guess it fits.

2013-05-19CadranSundialAs we were packing up I decided to do this quick sketch of a sundial which is unlike any I’d seen before.  It’s a tiny sketch, done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6).  I used Lexington Gray in a Noodler’s Creaper to draw it.   Color was quickly applied by waterbrushes filled with very, very dilute ink.

Monday I was going to stay home and work but I got the itch to sketch some more and so I wandered downtown.  I realized that I had never sketched the Musee de la Civilisation, where I spent the winter sketching.  So I took the opportunity and did this sketch of the left end of the museum complex.  Back to the S&B Alpha (10×7) for this one and the TWSBI Mini, though I switched to Noodler’s Lexington Gray for ink.  I prefer the dark gray lines to the stark black of Platinum Carbon Black.

2013-05-20Musee

All and all, it was a great weekend, with good weather, good company, and a great time sketching.  I’m still thinking about it as this week it’s been raining almost constantly 🙁

A Bit of Urban Sketching

Just as spring had sprung and it was starting to be warm enough to sketch outdoors, yours truly decided it was time to get sick.  I spent more than a week feeling pretty bad, made all the worse by coming home one day to find water dripping from our first-floor ceiling.  I still have a hole in the ceiling to fix but the pipes are holding water again.

2013-04-27BeauportHouseBWBefore getting sick, though, I did get out with my buddy Yvan and we rode our bikes on an adventure into Beauport, a suburb of Quebec City.  We sketched this house, which I liked very much.  I used my Pilot Prera for this one.  Same Noodler’s Lexington Gray I normally use.

I did stop in the old city one day as I was returning from French school and I made this sketch in a Stillman & Birn Zeta (5.5×8.5) sketchbook, using a TWSBI Mini and Noodler’s Lexington Gray.

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And so, as the weekend approached, and my energy had come back, I was chomping at the bit to go sketching.  Mother Nature had other ideas and it rained all day Saturday.  Yvan and I went sketching anyway.  We headed to the Musee de la Civilisation and while it’s between major exhibitions, it was at least warm and dry and we figured we could find something to sketch there.

2013-05-11CaberetLeChatWhat we found was a small exhibit of architectural models of classic structures that were part of old Paris.  I chose to sketch Cabaret Le Chat, one of the popular hot spots on the north side of Paris.  The model was about 15″ high and fairly well-done, though the building to the right of it lacked any detail, which is how I drew it.  Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook and TWSBI Mini fountain pen.  I had switched up the ink and was using Platinum Carbon Black.

When we finished there it was still raining and we decided that we should board the ferry that goes between Quebec City and Levis, across the St. Lawrence River.  The ferry has a nice, cozy passenger area with big windows and we figured we could sketch from there.  We hadn’t included the heavy mist/fog in our calculations as you could hardly see the other side of the river, only a few hundred yards away.

2013-05-11LevisStoreSo, we just rode across, got off, and decided to sketch out the windows of the ferry building, catching the next boat (30 minutes) for our return.  I still have problems sketching while holding a sketchbook in one hand, pen in the other.  I generally perch my sketchbook on my knee or on a table if one is available.  I also have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time so maybe it’s just too much for my brain to hold one item (sketchbook) still while moving another (pen) around.  This sketch suffers from a case of the wobbles and the fact that I was working quicker than my normal glacial pace.  I did this it in a small Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6) with the same TWSBI Mini and Platinum Carbon Black.  Color comes from some quick swipes with Faber-Castell watercolor pencils.

I went sketching.  It was a wet day, but a good day.

Newsflash: Weather Responds To Blog Post

Last Thursday I wrote a blog post titled “Waiting for Spring.”  I moaned and groaned that in spite of spring being a month old, it was still too cold to sketch outdoors.

Well guess what happened?  On Friday our temperatures increased significantly.  We had sun…LOTS of sun.  Even the wind died down.  So I tucked my sketchbook under my arm and headed out for a weekend of sketching.  It was wonderful.

2013-04-26RueRemparts_onsite

Here’s the first sketch I did.  I was out with my buddy Yvan and we’d previously talked about sketching on Rue de la Remparts, which skirts the upper portion of our ‘old’ (founded in 1608) city.  So, our first stop was there.  I did this sketch in a Stillman & Birn 7×10 Alpha spiral sketchbook.  Though I really dislike spiral-bound for storage, I love it for this larger format because I can fold the book back on itself , making it manageable while the book rests on my knees.  I used a TWSBI Mini filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray.

While “warm” by comparison to the previous day, it was still cool and we both ran out of body heat about the same time.  So, I snapped the photo above and we headed for something warm to drink.  I applied some color later and this was the result.

2013-04-26RueRemparts

I suppose some might suggest that the weather changing had nothing to do with my blog post – that it was only a coincidence.   I’ll continue to believe otherwise… I think.

Waiting for Spring

I feel like one of the guys in Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot.  Every day they show up to meet with Godot.  Every day he doesn’t come.  He never does.  I’m beginning to think spring in Quebec is like Godot as while it’s officially been spring for a month, we’ve yet to see anything resembling spring.

I thought I’d share a few sketches I’ve done while waiting for a decent sketching day.  First, here are the last two sketches I did of the Nigeria exhibit at the Musee de la Civilisation.  Both were done in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon (5.5×8.5) sketchbook.

2013-04-17Nigeria

Lexington Gray in TWSBI mini. Watercolor pencils.

2013-04-21Nigeria

Lexington Gray in Noodler’s Creaper. Waterbrush with a few drops of Noodler’s Polar Brown in it.

This next sketch was my attempt to defy the elements.  I went out one morning because it was all the way up to 4C and it wasn’t windy.  As I sketched it got windy.  Then it started raining lightly.  I was driven from the street by hail and thought I was going to freeze to death (grin).  Done in a Stillman & Birn Zeta (5.5×8.5) sketchbook with a TWSBI mini filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray.

2013-04-20StJeanSt

Lastly, I took my new Wahl-Eversharp Symphony 913 pen for a test drive.  This is an old 14k gold flex nib pen and while it’s old technology, the nib is wonderful.  I was playing with ‘quick-sketching’ some buildings.  That term is relative and as I’m a slow sketcher, what I mean by this is that I only spent about 20 minutes doing this sketch on S&B Epsilon paper.  Watercolors applied in my typical, inept fashion.  I’ve got to devote some time to learning watercolors.

2013-04-25RearRueStPaul

Book Review: Freehand Sketching: An Introduction

“While perspective is a handy device to construct imagined spaces, it is not useful, and possibly detrimental, to sketching existing environments.” — Paul Laseau

A while ago, in a Facebook group, Liz Steel posted the quote above.  To be completely honest I can’t remember what the thread was that it was in reference to but she said that Paul Laseau’s book, Freehand Sketching: An Introduction, was one of her favorites.

2013-04-24LaseauFreehandSketching

I listen closely when Liz speaks but in this case her words were overshadowed by the Paul Laseau quote.  Every book on drawing is filled with ‘explanations’ on how to do proper perspective, complete with mind-boggling graphics with lines going in all directions, vanishing points, etc.  I’ve often joked that I’m afraid to read a book on perspective for fear that I’ll get too confused to do my building sketches.

I’ve long felt the sentiment that Paul Laseau’s comment is true and, for myself, I never do all that perspective “stuff” beyond noticing where my “horizon line” (eye line) is when I do a sketch.  So, I just had to buy Freehand Sketching to see why Paul Laseau’s view was so different from the art world’s descriptions of structure drawing.

I did buy it and, if you’re a location sketcher, I highly recommend you put aside your traditional drawing books and read this one – a couple times.  You’ll be the better for it.  In a mere 112 pages, Laseau will first convince you that drawing ‘existing environments’ is different from making stuff up in a studio environment and he teaches, in simple terms, how to see and organize a scene than most modern approaches to drawing ever will.

Why?  What could he say that others do not?  Well, not much, really.  Mostly he leaves out a lot of stuff that you don’t need to worry about if you’ve got the thing you’re trying to draw right in front of you.

His introductory chapters include some traditional stuff about doing contour drawings, learning how to hatch, etc. and, for me, that part is mostly ho-hum.  But the heart of this book is contained in the middle sections titled Environment: Sketch Construction and Environment: Sketch Tone and Detail.   Here, Laseau shows you how to identify/organize/and lay out with a few lines, the basic shapes of a scene.  This stuff is gold for a street sketcher and demonstrates that no fancy geometry is required but rather it’s a simple matter of ‘seeing’ angles, locations, and edge dimensions.  Once he convinces you of the method, he provides several stepwise examples.

Once a scene is established, Laseau provides an approach to tone and detail and is also directed towards the location sketcher.  This perspective, to me, is important as most drawing books assume a studio atmosphere and an interest in spending hours developing drawings.  Laseau is an architect, who has spent 30 years teaching architect students to develop their sketching skills, who have different approaches and goals from the typical artist approach to such things and very useful, in my opinion, far more useful.  If you’d like to read more about this approach, Liz Steel has just provided some great insights into the mind of an architect.

On a personal note, Laseau’s book explained something else to me.  I’ve often wondered why the urban sketching world is so dominated by architects.  I’ve mostly dismissed it as simply a function of an architect’s interest in buildings but it’s much more than that.  It’s their training.  They’re taught to sketch.  They’re taught to maintain sketchbooks.  They’re taught to think in terms of sketches that can be ends in themselves…what urban sketchers do.

2013-04-24LaseauWatercolorSketching

When I bought Freehand Sketching I also bought Watercolor Sketching: An Introduction, Paul Laseau’s sequel.  This second book is more about watercolors than it is about constructing sketches, though there is some of that contained within its pages.  Very valuable information contained within but more a companion book to Freehand Sketching than a substitute for it.

Liz is right; Freehand Sketching is a good and potent book that any location sketcher can benefit from and well worth its small price.  It’s become one of my favorite books too.

Have You Ever Gone Sketch Floating?

Saturday was 39th Worldwide Sketchcrawl day and we held ours here in Quebec City.  Unlike most parts of the world we’re still cold this time of year.  In fact, we just got six inches of snow.  But we were fortunate to have anticipated an unfriendly weather and scheduled our sketchcrawl so that we could be inside or out and still have fun.

This is a model of the ferry boat we were on all day.

This is a model of the ferry boat we were on all day.

We all met at the ferry boat dock and then spent the day going back and forth across the St. Lawrence River (takes about 10 minutes) between Quebec City and Levis, the town on the other side.  There are actually two ferries and they change places from their respective sides of the St. Lawrence every 30 minutes.

Claudette, talking with one of the passengers

Claudette, talking with one of the passengers

And the situation couldn’t have been better for sketching.  It was too cold to go out onto the decks, at least for me, but inside the first-class passenger area it was warm and accommodating.  The area is complete with toilette facilities, drink and snack vending machines, and comfy chairs.  We were surrounded by large windows, complete with slightly sloped ‘shelves’ for us to rest our sketchbooks as we sketched outdoor scenes.  Both sides of the St. Lawrence present great views of interesting architecture and there were things nautical all around us.

Susanne, showing proper use of the window "studios" we were provided.

Susanne, showing proper use of the window “studios” we were provided.

The line up: Pierre, Celine, and Katherine

The line up: Pierre, Celine, and Catherine

Yvan, taking a break while talking with Peter.

Yvan, taking a break while talking with Jean-Marc.

We had ten people show up for the sketchcrawl and a lot of sketching got done.  The one sad thing, for me, is that some didn’t seem to ‘get’ the notion that group sketching is a social event that should include a sharing of sketches as well as conversations about them. Some left without even saying goodbye.  So, unfortunately, I don’t have the typical group-sketch photos and I don’t have sketches from other people to share.

ClaudetteSketches

Here’s a photo I took over Claudette’s shoulder.  The quality of her sketches is surpassed only by her bubbly personality.

2013-04-13TugBoatOf course, I do have my own sketches.  This first one is a small sketch I did as an experiment, which demonstrated that I didn’t know what I was doing (grin).  I tried to ‘draw’ the sketch using watercolors, adding some ink lines afterwards.  It was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6) sketchbook.  I have much to learn about using watercolors.

2013-04-13FromFerryI did two other sketches, one from the front and the other from the back of the boat.  Both were done with my new TWSBI Mini and Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.  I really enjoyed working in my new Stillman & Birn Zeta (5.5×8.5) sketchbook.  I hope these sketches reflect the cold, dreary day you see in the accompanying photo.DrearyDay2013-04-13FromFerry2

 

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.

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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.

 

White-Face, Nigeria Style

2013-04-05NigeriaSome of the Nigerian masks are coated with a kaolin clay, making them very white.  In places the clay has worn off and so some of the wood shows through, giving the masks an interesting texture/coloring.  I was only semi-successful in capturing that look in this mask.

Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook, Pilot Prera and Lamy Safari, both filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray.  Brown and black watercolor pencils provided some color but I really needed a cream pencil for this one.