When I first landed in America, everything was overwhelming and new and deluxe. Even a 29¢ pen had the power to impress me mightily.
A sacred memory from the Holy Land. Another heart-wrenching chapter in my endless journey towards manhood.
Another gripping episode about my early years. Abused, ignored, mistreated. Me. And my writing tools.
There’s a line running through my life — a line drawn by a handful of different pens. I will trace that line in a series of short films to be released episodically, starting today. I hope you enjoy “My Life in Pens”.
It’s the middle of the week and it’s January and it’s ludicrously cold in New York, so I need to comfort myself with a new pen or three. Know the feeling?
I am an unapologetic LAMY enthusiast. I have several different Safaris and I recommend them highly for anyone who wants an inexpensive fountain pen with a nice springy nib. I have a couple of charcoal ones, a blue one, even one in hot pink all outfitted with converters so I can use my own ink, ideally waterproof. They’re the bomb. Now it’s time to try out some other family members.
This is a LAMY Balloon. My first love in pens was the Uniball Vision which is also a rollerball like the Balloon, though a lot more utilitarian in appearance. The Uniball is a little scratchy and dresses in drab grey whereas the Balloon wears a transparent lime sheath that feels child-like and has a cartoony pocket clip. It makes a slightly thicker line than the Uni but there’s variability; I can pull back on it to make a lighter and narrower line or bear down for a thick and somehow softer mark. It’s not a ballpoint feeling but much smoother and glidier. I am using a blue refill in mine and the color is at the green end of blue. At this point, I doubt I’ll use the Ballon for serious drawing. It feels more of a pen for writing (it’s lovely for jotting notes) or for doodling — the gliding line makes me just want to fill my margins with monsters — but it’s not either controlled enough or interesting enough to make me inspired to draw.
This is a LAMY nexx M. It is a lovely, modern looking fountain pen. It’s available in five different nib types, from extra-fine to broad and there’s a left-handed nib too. My nib is fine — which is fine. A tad scratchy but flexible enough to take me from a delicate line almost to a medium. The pen is light (pseudo metal with a stainless steel nib) and quite thick-barreled but the best feature is the soft, non-slip rubber grip so you can keep going and going — without getting that dreaded fountain pen claw cramp that narrower, harder pens can cause. It is intelligently designed so you can easily know which way is up. (Nothing worse than a fountain pen that somehow resolves so the nib is upside down when you bear down and it jitters across the page). The Safari has a similar contour design but I like the rubber cover of the nexx M. It’s not as functional- and tough-looking as the Safari, a bit more junior executive, but a good pen for about $25 and fun to draw with.
This is the Lamy Joy. It’s my favorite of the new recruits. First off, it’s a calligraphy pen which may seem a weird choice for drawing but I like the expressive quality italic nibs make. Pull down and they’re broad, slide and they’re thin. And curved lines swoop from fat to thin and everything in between. My Joy came in a sleek metal box with three different nibs (1.1.,1.5 and 1.9) in it so there’s lot of room for experimentation. I also love its shape. The end of the pen is long and narrow, almost like a dip pen. I had a Rotring Art Pen that had a similar shaft — but the cap would just fall off the narrow end so I was always losing it. The Joy has a tough clip just like the Safari and the cap snaps tightly right on the end of the pen. It was made by designers who really think about how people use pens. It might even improve my handwriting. Oh, joy.
Did you see the LAMY pen giveaway on the Sketchbook Skool blog? Check it out.
The old cliché of the teenager spending hours talking on the phone has been replaced with a new cliché: The teenager spending hours talking with her thumbs.
The positive aspect of this development: we all write a lot more than we used to, typing endless texts and emails to communicate on virtually every subject. We write a lot but not necessarily well. We have to rely on ALL CAPS and exclamation marks and acronyms (LOL! OMG!) and emoticons 🙂 to overcome the deficiencies in our vocabularies.
All this writing is really typing. The keyboard has replaced the pen and apparently for good. Virtually every one of the United States has recently changed the core curriculum for their schools eliminating a cursive learning requirement. They’ve replaced it with a mandate for keyboard proficiency.
Now, malcontents have been bemoaning the decline of handwriting since the invention of the typewriter 150 years ago. Most offer iffy arguments — Doctors with bad handwriting kill patients with illegible prescriptions. F’real? Others say we are losing the ability to read crucial old documents, that kids who can’t write cursive can’t decipher it either and they’ll never be able to read the Bill of Rights, Democracy will wither, and we’ll all go to heck in an illegible handbasket. Whatevs.
I have always had messy writing and I’m also a fairly poor typist, so I can go either way on this (nonexistent) debate. But I have thought of a more compelling reason for the young ‘uns to brush up on their penmanship.
Most of the entertainment loved by tweens and teens these days is dystopian. The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, and endless variations on how tsunamis, asteroids, aliens, bird flu, Benedict Cumberbatch and/or werewolves will soon take over the world. When this happens (and it could be any day now), down goes the electrical grid and the Internet — and with them the power of the keyboard.
A whole generation of people who don’t know how to use ham radios or morse code will also not be able to legibly write signs warning that there are seriously zillions of zombies coming down this road or not to drink the brown water or kiss a chicken or leave home without a hatchet. People will stand around trying to work out what the signs mean and meanwhile, vampires will emerge for the caves or zombies will come out of the trailer park … and the writing will be on the wall.
It’s high time The Calligraphers Lobby® and The Penmens’ Guild™ started infiltrating Hollywood and embedding scenes in movies in which brave young men and women write gorgeous Palmer Method graffiti that save their pals from the monster invasion. Neatly lettered, perfectly grammatical signs could well be the salvation of humankind.
Think about it. Maybe write your Representative a letter.
(I had some other important ideas on this subject but unfortunately I wrote them down on an envelope and now can’t read a word of it. 😦 )
P.S. PL: Happy 616!!
As I flip through my last few journals, I see that I am more and more drawn to drawing faces. Maybe that’s just a function of winter — when the weather is warm I can go out and plunk down on the sidewalk somewhere and draw landscapes, buildings, dogs being curbed. When the weather is inhospitable, I sit at my dining table and after I’ve drawn every object in the room, I flip through magazines and start drawing faces.
I tend to draw a lot of self-portraits — not become I am so fabulously handsome but because my face is always handy, right there, wrapped around my eyes. I’ve done hundreds, none of them even remotely alike. This winter, fiddling with my computer, I started taking distorted pictures of myself with my laptop’s built-in camera, then distorting them further with dip pens and brushes and sumi ink.
They’re part of my effort to do more than just draw exactly what I see but to add some feeling to the exercise. Of course, it’s impossible for me not to inject some subjectivity into any drawing. That’s enhanced when I keep it loose and free, the flaws enhancing my point of view. But I find that when I start with something that’s unfamiliar, like the bulges and twists the computer puts into my face, I tend to pay more careful attention, take nothing for granted, create something that looks like a photo in the degree of detail; and yet feel free to push the lines further and add more sweeping grotesqueries.
I’m done with series for now as the sun has come out and my park beckons