Fallink in love again

fallinkWhile visiting Bergamot Station, a collection of art galleries in Santa Monica, I happened into Hiromi, a lovely store full of exotic paper from around the world. The store blind-sided me — Jack and I really just wanted to see some art — so I wasn’t prepared to start properly drooling over Korean mulberry Hanjo, Bhutani Dekar, or handmade tissue from Berlin.
Rooting around the shop’s counter for a business card as a reminder for a future more leisurely and acquisitive visit, I came upon a basket of what seemed to be regular old rollerballs pens. But on closer inspection, these unassuming bits of white plastic revealed themselves to be superfine Kuretake Fudegokochi brush pens. Their tips weren’t brush shaped, more like a plasticky fiber tip, so I tried one out on a scrap of paper.
As the first line serpentined out onto the page, clouds parted, birds tweeted, the world became ashimmer in a golden glow. This pen was amazing, as flexible and responsive as a steel nib, capable of super thin lines, then big fat wet ones, and all the gradations in between. The lines were jet black, crisp when I wanted, mushy when I didn’t.
I was in love. Again.
My name is Danny and I am a pen Lothario, a promiscuous and fickle romantic. It’s high time to sit down and discuss my oat-sowing ways before I commit blindly to yet another drawing playmate.
Flash back. My first pen was a roller ball, the Uniball, a friendly and welcoming old stand-by. It’s cheap, widely available, waterproof and a sensible choice, the pen next door. But after a while, its dependable lines began to bug me. They had so little character and variation. And the way the hard ball tracked a groove into soft paper began to grate, high heels tap-tap-tapping on parquet.
Another fling: a superfine needle-nosed technical pen with a pointy backside and a cap that always got lost. I drew microscopically with this pen, favoring smaller and smaller sketchbooks, until I was tempted to draw entire landscapes on the head of a pin while peering through a loupe. It was a super-anal relationship — clearly not healthy.
In a stationery store in the Esposizione Universale Roma, where Mussolini built a grand expo to celebrate the triumph of fascism, I came upon my first Faber-Castell PITT artist pen. Despite the unseemly way in which we met, these pens have been loyal friends to me ever since and I have PITTs stuffed in every drawer and pocket. They are the old standbys, the ones I come back to when the latest fling lets me down. I am never quite ready to settle down with any of the PITT family. Not even the soft, warm embrace of the Big Brush Pen. Always a bridesmaid, alas.
Speaking of big-boned pens, I spend a crazy month or so this fall scrawling on cardboard with increasingly huger Sharpies, working my way up to the King Size and finally the Magnum. Wow. I was a little wild and out of control for a few weeks, going on pure instinct and I loved the abandon of these fist-filling chunks of inky permanence. They can’t be let near my sketchbooks, however, drooling and seeping through the pages like Rottweiler puppies.
Another pal let me down this fall. My Lamy Safaris have fallen out of favor; well, to be fair, the blame falls on the ink that runs through their veins. For some time, I had been blaming my steel-nibbed calligraphy pens for the smears and speckles that kept appearing on my finished drawings but finally realized that the real culprit was the Noodler’s Bulletproof black ink in the Lamys I draw with. Now this ink is amazingly good stuff, black, waterproof, and super-permanent when it’s thoroughly dry. And there, quite literally, is the rub. I work fast, I work messy and if the page isn’t 100% dry before I turn it — catastrophe. Supposedly, it dries in under a minute; I have waited far longer still with disastrous results. And when I am in a period of wild abandon, cavorting with Sharpie Magnums, I have no time for noodling with Noodler’s plodding pace. So my Lamy’s are at the back of the desk until my pulse slows once more.
Back to my new Japanese amor. It didn’t take me long to discover her flaw — the ink is not waterproof. With a moist brush, her lines turn into a pool of ink. However, if decades of marriage taught me anything, it’s that one must compromise to be happy. And so for now, I am willing to draw and only draw. No slatherings of Dr. Ph Martin’s, no limpid pools of Winsor Newton. Simple line drawings are fine for now. Especially when those lines are springy, expressive and full of life. They suggest color, even in black and white. As we head into the grays of winter, I will work within Kurtake’s limitations. But Spring is not far off and my heart may soon wander again. Just saying.

Addendum.  This is the specific pen I just fell in love with. You can find it also on JetPen.

21 thoughts on “Fallink in love again”

  1. Danny,
    I wish you wouldn’t kiss and tell….every time you mention some pen or ink or journal that you are in lust with, I too have to run out and buy it and try it…..Thanks, it was The Creative License that brought me to making art, so It is with great excitement that I follow all of your “reviews”…


  2. a great place to explore new pens is the Kinokinuya in Little Tokyo (Weller Court, 2nd Floor), they have a decent selection of different brush pens and some are water proof, some more “brushy”…one of the great things about the store is that they have samples to try of everything…also, closer to your neighborhood, there’s a stationery store in the Mitsuwa Market with lots of pens…if you go make sure you have lunch in the food court, it brings me all that way from Hancock Park…on a different note, when are you going to teach some classes locally?


    1. Thanks for the tip, KBK! As for classes, well, my focus right now is on the exciting online teaching venture I described last week. We’ll see how that goes from virtual to physical in the months ahead.


  3. Danny, the Kuretake brush pens are, indeed, more then sufficient to win one’s heart. Their native ink, however, does leave something to be desired. You didn’t say which Kuretake pen you have, though. I own a Kuretake #33 for which you can buy a converter and stuff any ink you want into it. Personally, I’m using Platinum Carbon Black which is very permanent.

    Cheers — Larry


    1. Thanks for the suggestions. Larry. However, the Kurtake pen I have is a Fudegokochi LS4-10. and is disposable. I don’t want another brush pen like my Pentel with an actual brush. This is much more hypbrid-pen like. Is that what the #33 is like?

      Addendum. This is the specific pen I just fell in love with. You can find it also on JetPen.


      1. What’s your expereience with the Pentel Brush pen, Danny? I think the pocket brush with permanent ink is absolutely great, and I use it all the time. I like the PITT pens too, but the tip wears quite quickly, and they are not as versatile as the Pentel one.

        What is the biggest difference between this pen you described and the Pentel?


  4. Loved this post Danny. I’ve been wanting to have a trist with a fountain pen for some time now. I recently won one in a raffle. Alas, it was a leaky (expletive) I’ve been disheartened in my search. My eyes now wander searches through ebay to find a dependable one. I’ve picked the brains of artists I’ve seen use them, still afraid to put my toe in the ink. 😉 So when I saw this post I though aahhh! Something not quite a fountain pen but maybe… So I consulted the oracle (google). What I found there has, like you say, “…started (me) drooling like Rottweiler puppies. (paraphrased) This wonderful find of yours has another pen. I found a Kuretake No. 13 Fountain Brush Pen! It takes cartridges, but it can be refillable! There is an adapter available. Now… to save my pennies.
    Your posts inspire me. Thanks for taking the time to write with so much enthusiasm.


  5. Great post Danny! My husband found the joy of JetPen about a year ago. He’s been working his way through various different brush pens, disposable, reusuable, converters, and recently purchased a sable tipped brush pen that he’s having a serious affair with.


  6. Danny,

    A water-soluble brush pen makes a great portable sketching tool when paired with a water brush. Use the wet brush to make washes of grey ink by brushing over your lines where you want to see toned shadows and such. Much fun.

    That said, Jet Pens carries quite a few “fude” brush pens with waterproof black ink. My two favorites are the Zebra super fine (blue barrel, gold characters) and Tombow fine (blue barrel, white characters). Both are near the top of the Jet Pens index page for brush pens, and there are many more with different tip sizes and hardness.

    Noodler’s black has never worked for me. I don’t know if it’s my pens or paper, but it has never dried waterproof. I’ve been using Platinum Carbon Black for years now. It dries near instantly on most papers, and never smears when re-wet.


      1. Yup. I use it all the time in my fountain pens, both vintage and modern. Every month or so, I’ll rinse out the pen before I refill it, to wash out whatever ink may have dried a bit inside the pen. But I haven’t had problems with skipping in my pens.


  7. Loved your post!!!!

    I too have an affinity for pens… but for writing, not drawing. If interested you can read about the day my pen ran out of ink at:

    Now that I am drawing more (thanks to your constant nudging), once a month I pick a pen topic I want to conquer and go crazy. For example, last month was dubbed ‘White Ink Pen’ month. I purchased every pen I could find within my budget with white ink and experimented all month. FUN! Next month I think I’ll work with brush pens. Hey… it’s the only way to learn!

    Happy New Year!


  8. Oh, Danny, the club we belong to is very large!!! I know that lots of people who consider themselves “normal” consider those of us who can wax poetic over a pen or a bottle of ink as having deep mental problems….but they are the “strange” ones!!!, LOL! If the world spent more on pens and inks and papers there would be no wars!!!!
    But you did send this pen fanatic right off to Jet Pens!!! Right now they have a lovely bundle of brush pens in a holiday bundle for $22! I’ve had my eye on ordering it…so away I went and ordered the bundle and also the one you got, too!!!! Spending my Christmas gift money!!! BTW the ones that are NOT waterproof are great to come back over certain areas with a waterbrushes and and some shading!


  9. Adore Jet pens, they are on the equivalent of speed dial for online ordering, and love my kuratakes for drawing only. But yes, the carbon black ink is a dream come true in terms of fast drying and waterproof. And Deleter ink 3 is available at jet pens and awesome also, for dipping only I think. Have fun!


  10. Back to the start… the colored UniBall Vision Elite writes over dried paint and into wet watercolor. It will smudge/blur slightly if you drop water on it while wet, but dries perfectly permanent. It writes over almost anything. The black-tinted colors are lovely…you can see more here http://saltworkstudio.com/2013/04/29/a-great-mixed-media-pen-uni-ball-vision-elite/#more-2604
    It also writes in planes and upside down. Suz


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