Category Archives: art and related

About a pencil

I went to a stationery shop in one of the retail parks the other day to buy a couple of gel pens which I had not found in the city centre. It’s a great shop; it just costs me a lot of money every time I go there. I’m swimming under Pilot G2 gel pens and because I have a collection of ball and fountain pens to write with that would be the envy of the average person on the street, I’m not tending to write with the Pilots so much. But I use their G-Tec Cs to draw with, when I can find them.

This is one of the things I loathe about myself. I can’t just use a Bic crystal like a million people on Instagram to do monochrome pictures. No, I like to chose a pen that is…difficult to get. TBH, if I had any sense I’d buy a box of black, brown, turquoise, red and violet off Cult Pens and then that’d be it. The problem is Cult Pens now has Sepia unipins and frankly about 150E worth of other stuff I didn’t know I wanted and now I have to have and I already did serious damage on Friday buying 4 gel pens and a pile of other stuff including some ore G2s.

When I lived in Ireland, there were issues around getting the kind of mechanical pencils I wanted. My favourite at the time were Uni Kuru Togas but you could not then get them in Ireland (just as I left, ArtnHobby discovered them  The net result is I tend to panic buy stuff that historically, I have found very difficult to get a short notice. Between Friday and yesterday I bought about 10 more mechanical pencils

Today I was actually drawing with pencils. I have a couple of personal sketchbook projects on the go, one on kraft paper, and one on white paper. They are in side stapled sketcbooks, That’s not really important.

I have a massive and overwhelming choice of pencils available to me. I wanted to draw here so I tend to favour the finer pencils to do that with. Most of the brands do 0.3 although I have not yet got my hands on a Kuru Toga 0.3mm mechanical pencil. But I have some Pentels, Pilots and Staedlers Argubly, I probably don’t need any Kuru Togos given how many Pilots and Pentels I have.

This isn’t a pencil review per se. This is more, just after I finished today’s drawing it occurred to me that the mechanical pencils were a bit chaotic The new ones I bought, I haven’t space to fit in the drawer and anyway, I wanted to set up some drawing kits. I’m drowning in drawing toolboxes but that’s another day’s story. I dragged out the drawer of pencils and sorted it according to size. I was a bit surprised by the outcome. Pencil size wise, I have 0.2, 0.3, 0.5, 0.7. After that I’ve a bunch of 2mms and what look like 4mms. Faber Castell have a couple of odd sizes as well.  But I have a frightening quantity of 0.5mm pencils, and the bulk of them are Uni pencils, either Kuru Togas or Shalakus. There is an array of others but I dared not count.

After that, I’m really kind of good on 0.3mms as well. What surprised me was that I didn’t have a whole lot of 0.7s. I tend (at the moment) not to buy 0.9s as they are probably a little too broad. I don’t own any for now and I’ve tended to manage to avoid buying any in the last few panic buy of pencils. After that, there aren’t a whole lot of 0.2mms and the ones that I have are all Pentel Orenz. I think, again, there is a Kuru Toga that narrow but like the 0.3s, I haven’t found them.

I sorted out two sets of pencils – a full set of Orenz from 0.2-0.7 and a set of Pentel P20s from 0.3-0.7. Then I sorted out some of the pencils I tended to want to use more often and instead of shunting them back to the drawer, I have them in a pencil cup.

If you asked me 2 years ago what was my favourite pencil, I’d have said Kuru Toga. Given the constraints I was working in, they were for a long time the narrowest pen I could find until I eventually tracked down a Faber Castell 0.35. I still love them and where I need a default pencil, like in my stationery drawer at work, or in my handbag, there  is usually a Kuru Toga there, or a Shalaku. For a long time I struggled to lay my hands on Pentel Graphgear 1000s – they are gorgeous pencils; I have them from 0.5-0.7 and I think there is only one 0.5 although there were two of the other sizes. Mostly I stopped buying 0.5s for the most part as I had loads of them. The pencils in my tool box are all Graphgears bar one Orenz 0.2.

I can’t answer the question “what is your favourite pencil” at the moment. Most of today’s drawing I did with Orenz pencils in various sizes – 0.2,0.3 and 0.5, and while it takes a lot to get used to the way the lead is hooded, I had a lot of fun with them. I only have 0.5mm Orenz though as I tended not to buy them because I have loads of them. Same is true for 0.7 although I have fewer 0.7s than I thought. But I like the Tombow Mono shaker too, it’s just, I don’t have a lot of them so I hate risk losing them and there’s nowhere to buy them locally so I tend to hoard the two I have.

I could put different lead weights in the pencils – I’m not short of lead either – but only some of the pencils have lead weight markers and I find with the Orenz pencils that I was using today that the weight broadly doesn’t matter when I am using the finer mechanical pencils – this is probably because I draw with fineliners a lot and it’s the width rather than the colour depth that I focus on.

I have wooden case pencils as well; a full set of Caran d’Ache Graphwoods, a near complete set of Mars Lumographs including the extra black and aquarelles, and I’ve a few other randomers from Faber Castell, Tombow and Uni Mitsubishi. One of the reasons I am not allowed go near Cultpens is that if I did, I’d buy a full set of both the Tombows and the Unis. They are gorgeous pencils to draw with. So are the Caran d’Ache pencils.

The tl;dr version of this is that Treasa has too many pencils.

Je t’aime

I’m a fan of the artwork of Pascal Campion on instagram, not necessarily because I like the basic techniques he uses, but because every single one of his pictures tells a story, and you can get a very strong feel for the story. I love it and while I haven’t done anything about it, I would, at some point, look at acquiring a print or two. I say the same about Iraville too. I will get this one when her shop is open again and if she makes it available.

Both are very different to the stuff I tend to do.

Anyway.

Today’s piece of work was a watercolour. I spent a lot of time thinking about this. In a way, I struggle with painting lately because I seem to need work space and I don’t always have it.

When I started painting I used to do it anywhere. Including bed. Watercolours in bed. Madness. I don’t do it any more, although that’s mostly because I don’t keep the art stuff by my bed any more. And I don’t use waterpens as often any more which means it’s a far riskier activity.

Anyway, here is today’s piece.

Watercolours

First the technical stuff – because I look for it so I assume other people probably will – I used Saunders Waterford rough white paper because it was the top of the pile of watercolour paper – and then for this version of it, I used Winsor & Newton Artists colours. The brushes are mainly an Escoda Number 8 and a Raphael Number 4. Not sure where I picked that up actually but it’s a nice size.

I did two versions of this and while it’s not so obvious in this version, I had a lot of trouble with the blue of the sea I used French Ultramarine which is a granulating colour and I struggle to control it. The first version, I used my beloved Sennelier paints. Second round I decided to have a go with the WNs. Neither was easier or so than the other and I seriously screwed up the sand above. So this painting will be redone at some point.

But it caused me to think about paints. I have a lot of watercolour media – the standard European paints, Japanese gouache, watercolour pencils, watercolour pastels. I will also buy an Inktense travel set whenever Derwent eventually start to sell them because their pencils are quite intense and travelsets tend to be easy to lug around.

When I started painting, I started with the Cotman sketch set. It’s a small set that has 12 Cotman pans in it. If you read any of the online watercolour forums, like wetcanvas, you’ll probably come across conversations about buying the best you can possibly buy. I’d temper that by saying buy either the Cotman sketchset or the Sennelier 8 pan travel kit. The Sketchbox in itself is incredibly usefully sized which is why I own two of them although the second one mainly has WN artist pans in it because you could not get the Cotman pans individually in Ireland when I started. I don’t know if you can yet. They were small and handy. They explained why I could paint at lunch hour (Sennelier) or in bed (Cotman box). After falling in love with the Sennelier set, I had to make a decision about a bigger paint box and it was down to WN, Sennelier or Schmincke. In all cases, I was going to buy a 48 pan set and I chose Sennelier. It’s a great box but it’s not conducive to painting in bed. Painting has become a bigger production than it used to be. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

I bought a WN 24 pan Artists kit in London about 2 years ago in a sale – we are talking a serious chop in price at a reputable art shop – and have occasionally considered passing it on to my niece who was using mainly Cotman paints at the time I’m sort of glad now I didn’t The kit is smaller, takes up less space than the Sennelier, and means decisions about colours are quicker. I think it’s part of growing as a painter that initially you want ALL TEH COLOURS and then you start thinking meh. So I am considering buying a Sennelier 24 pan set. I don’t live in Sennelier country but Schmincke country so yeah, that’s going to be an online thing again. There is also really the problem that I don’t necessarily want Sennelier to decide what colours I get, but for me to get an empty tin and a list of the colours I want. You could argue that really do I need a 24 pan set when I have a 48 pan set and why don’t I just get the empty box and blah blah blah. I don’t know yet. I mean, yes, there is the 24 WN set but I also have a 24 pan set of Schmincke Akademie watercolours – that’s their student range but I bought it because frankly, the tin was gorgeous. Rather superficial but there you have it.

So, basically, not sure yet. I’m still not ready to move over to the whole tube thing mostly because pans are easy to organise and tubes interfere with my need for order.

I’ve realised I sort of hoard stuff and this is obvious in that, you know, some people they spend their art life doing everything with a 2B pencil and an eraser. I have ooh, with me here in Luxembourg ca 7 paintboxes plus watercolour pencils plus watercolour crayons, I have several million different pencils, I have both uni Posca and Faber Castell markers I have pastel pencils. I have art tools. Arguably, you could say I wouldn’t notice another paintbox or more to the point, mainly I don’t need another one. I will go to the art store on the quays in Paris the next time and think deeply about it.

The second piece I did this weekend was a marker piece, or more mixed media. I used dry coloured pencils as well

IMG_20180317_152502

I wanted, at some stage, and still do sort of, to do the occasional comic. I already, somewhere, have a piece involving sheep acting as ramp agents in Galway Airport but I think it needs to be redone and lined properly. I also suspect they should probably done using the uni Poscas rather than the Faber Castells. But anyway, these are two sheep in the market for a country pad. It grew out of a conversation I had with some friends and the main reason I don’t develop them as characters is that there are some wellknown sheep characters around. Shaun the Sheep for example, and there’s a whole gamut of Irish tourism merchandise that is sheep focused. So if I were to do anything with it, I’d need to be thinking very carefully about it. I’ve looked at building a Surfing Annie character but the big issue with that is lacking the drawing skills.

When I was a photographer, I came to the conclusion that effectively, a massive change in the photography world coincided with my getting interested in it. Maybe it caused the interest, maybe not. I’ve never worked out. But just at the point where I wanted to do certain things, digital SLRs made it possible for me to do it without bankrupting myself.

I sometimes thing that there is an element of that with the drawing stuff. I struggled big time in the early days discovering I wanted stuff that I could not easily get. There are still things I find it difficult to get – I own 3 0.03mm Copic fineliners and blood will spill if anyone other than me touches them. Such fine tips are extremely difficult to find here. I used either Faber Castell or Uni Pin fineliners otherwise. I have bulk bought Uni Signo white gel pens in bulk because they could not be got in Ireland. One of the most useful pens in the world – a white gel pen – could not be bought at all. But over the time from where I started to when I left Ireland, I noticed it getting easier to get stuff. Some of the other stuff I only need to buy once – but the consumables, choice of paper. It could be very painful. But I love the Faber Castell Pitt pens now. It took me a while to get used to their brush tips and now they have softbrush tips in the greys and black range and I love them (and want them in the rest of the range. But the stuff I do, I probably couldn’t really do without them and 10 years ago, they weren’t really there and markers weren’t something that people lauded per se.

 

Paints and pens and self control

I went to the arts and crafts store in Trier yesterday. The shopping list consisted of two items – a 12 pan set of White Nights paints if they had them and an inch brush of some description that could handle water and water colour but which did not require a mortgage to pay for.

New #artsupplies #arthaul

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Broadly, this is what I came back. It was a bit more than I expected to be buying but there is an inch brush in there, and the White Nights.

One of my friends asked me during the week how many paints I had. He asked about pens too. I think he was brave.

I’m not short of paints so you might wonder why I eventually capitulated when here in Luxembourg I have with me:

  • 48 pan Sennelier Artists Colours
  • 24 pan Winsor & Newton Artists colours
  • 24 pan Schmincke Akademie Student colours
  • 12 pan Van Gogh Student colours
  • some Schmincke Horadam Artists colours in a box put together by me
  • a 12 pan Gansai Tambi set
  • A 6 pan Kuretake Starry colours set
  • 2x Winsor & Newton travel boxes containing a mix of Cotman Student grade colours and WN Artist grade colours.

In the grand scheme of things, I don’t “need” paints as such. But I was intrigued by the White Nights paints. They provoke a certain amount of polarisation. There are arguments over how light fast they are, and there are people who love them, and people who really don’t think they are all that. I’ve found that I like a lot of stuff on instagram which comes from Russian artists and I wondered if by any chance Russian manufactured paints behave any differently to my western European and to a lesser extent, Japanese paints. The White Nights are not that expensive – depending on where you buy them, that is. I paid about 24E for mine and they are apparently Artist grade paints so that would put them in the zone of least expensive Artist grade paints

I’ve painted up a reference sheet and looking at it here beside me, I can say I like the neutral black which is opaque, the umber and light carmine too. The Emerald is very Viridian like, the Green is quite dark to black and opaque so that will need watering down in the future. All in all the set of colours looks to be reasonably useful. We will see how I get on when I start trying to paint roses with them.

There was nothing too exciting in the rest of the pile – some Pigma Micron brush pens as I tried them out in store and they seem fun. More for brush lettering than painting or colouring. I also added to the collection of Uni Signo pens – found a midnight blue which I did not know existed (but they even do refills for this – yay). I am now so well kitted out for Uni Signo it will take a while before I need any more. There were some water colour canvases which I hadn’t seen before but knew existed. I will probably put a van on one of them. We will see. I added another square block of watercolour paper and now I really need to figure out how best to store that as I have about 4 blocks on the go at any given time (different paper size, surface, blah really, 1st world problems.

The one other thing of note is I found a Zentangle set with a couple of white Gelly roll pens in it – these I cannot find individually at all and they are well spoken off for highlighting so, not being that expensive, I picked up that set and added to the collection of white pens.

So at the moment I cannot think of a single thing that I need other than to actually spend time doing art, painting and drawing. No more shopping in other words. Oh and stop hoarding paper – I have more than enough of it now.

More pens

I decided a while ago – after I bought a brand new Pelikan M205 which of course I didn’t need but had fallen in love with and well – that I didn’t want any more pens…So it was entirely a bad idea to go to the Antiquités and Brocante yesterday and in particular, I really should not have been looking at pens.

I didn’t buy all around me. Specifically I left a few Montblancs behind me – they were priced above my Gamble On an Old Fountainpen limit which is 25E per fountain pen. But I rifled through a box of pens that were 3E each or 2 for a fiver and surfaced with a Pelikan and a pretty but probably originally dirt cheap English pen. For 2.50 each though, they were worth the gamble. Both take cartridges and both are writing okay.

The other two pens were more of a gamble. They came together at the top of my Gamble on an Old Fountainpen limit and necessitated some serious research when I got home. The Waterman, which is the hall of mirrors-esque one on the left turns out to be a Lady Patricia dating from the 1980s. I give the date because Waterman produced a model with a similar name in the 1930s also. This definitely dates from the 1980s. It takes international cartridges although having spent some time with it yesterday, it really only takes Pelikan 4001 cartridges and they slide into the barrel with a little difficulty. I will see if the barrel needs to be cleaned if I can. But the pen has a beautiful broad nib and writes rather nicely. It’s a slight challenge for my hand because I have quite fine handwriting which I need to scale up a bit for wider nibs.

The last pen I knew to be a Parker when I picked it up. I’m not certain why I bought it. I’d see the words Vacumatic on it when I examined it and I decided a long time ago that any Parker 51 that I bought would have to have an Aerometric filling system as they don’t give any trouble, even in pens 60 years old. I have a Parker 51 from the end of the 1950s which although it was battered a bit when I bought it, I love to pieces because it is just such a joy to use.

So I took the Parker with the Waterman and brought it home to examine it. It looks to be one of the entry level Vacumatics, and there’s a marking on the side of the pen which strongly indicates that it was manufactured in 1935. Its filling system aligns with a production date of pre 1937 as does the brand marking on the pen. So the pen is around 82 years old and is by some distance the oldest pen I own.

Other research says the ink filling internals have to be serviced as they have a habit of cracking and breaking.  I toyed with selling it on on eBay but made the emotionally unwise decision to try and write with it by dipping the nib into a bottle of Parker Quink black. And I fell in love.

I own a lot of pens and deep down, up to today I would have said that of all of them, my favourite to write with was my Parker 51. This is even better. Sufficiently better that it’s going to break my heart to send it to the UK for a service.

The down side of these older pens is that I tend to be very conservative about what ink goes in them. There are horror stories about modern inks destroying the insides of older pens. For this reason, the only ink that goes into my Parker 51 is black Parker ink and when this Vacumatic come back from hospital, it took will only get Parker ink although I might get a bottle of blue ink for it. This is one of the reasons I retain all my modern pens – I expect them to take pretty much any ink I put into them. I have one pre1993 Pelikan which I expect to take Pelikan on the ground that I expect a manufacturer to provide ink that doesn’t damage its own pens which gives a little more leeway. But the two Parkers…they will not be getting radical modern inks in them.

November Urban Sketching

November 5 was a cold, cold day in Luxembourg. This I know because I went urban sketching. ONe of the key contributors to “why did you go out drawing” question was we were around Limpertsberg, about 200m from chez Treasa to be honest. So I couldn’t “not” go. It’s not like I had any excuses.

We spent 90 minutes in the graveyard which as befits a graveyard with the graves of some fairly wealthy people, has some very attractive grave sculptures. I’ve seen a fair few of them. I was drawn to something different though because I knew there was some kind of a monument at the far end of the graveyard that I hadn’t been able to find out what it was. So I walked to it.

It’s one of two major monuments (that I found) in the graveyard. It is a memorial to members of the Resistance in Luxembourg during the second world war. There are two primary features; a plain cross with no adornment. Before you reach the cross, to your right there is a sculpture. I didn’t see a name for it but as I was describing it to someone later, it’s like a supplicant with their hands bound behind their back. It is a very modern piece of sculpture, totally at odds with the ornamental angels and virgins which litter some of the other graves. At its base someone had placed a white rose.

I didn’t have a particularly successful day drawing and painting. For one thing, it was so freezing cold and damp, I just couldn’t get paint to dry and wrecked the ink drawing of the cross with undried paint from the entirely separate piece I did of the statue. I drew a section of a wall which I assume is set aside for ashes.

And then I went for a walk and found the second monument, which I hadn’t known existed. It is where the tomb of the unknown Luxembourg Legionary lies, and it is more specifically, a monument in memory of the men of France who died on Luxembourg soil during the period 1915-1918. All of the named soldiers on it had died in the last quarter of 1914, One of them had come from Ajaccio in Corsica and one of them from Douarnenez in the west of Brittany. It seemed an awful long way to come to die for the folly of greater men.

I must buy all the things!!!!!

Someone posted a craft link to my Facebook feed the other day on how doing craft stuff and buying craft stuff were two separate hobbies. I totally understand this.

Yesterday, I bought some mechanical pencils. When I lived in Ireland, basically, if you wanted a mechanical pencil, it was a 0.5mm or a 0.7mm you got. And the choice in the cheap price range was a bit pathetic. This is why I tended to bulk buy mechanical pencils when I was out foreign. They had pretty pencils. They had good pencils like Uni Kuru Togas and Uni Shalakus. They were pretty, and they came in a nice range of colours and as 0.5s went, they tended to stay fairly pointy.

When I started drawing I realised that I needed something slightly finer again to deal with fur. I drew mice.

And evil looking kittens.

And I struggled to find anything finer, like that really nice 0.3 the guy on the Youtube video was using. I tore Dublin apart looking either for a clutch pencil that was nice and long (duh) or a 0.3. I eventually found a 0.35mm Faber Castell. For a long time, that was the only 0.3 pencil I had. I bought some class of a Japanese one in Delfonics in Paris once for a friend who liked particularly lethal stationery and spent months afterwards regretting not buying two.

We’re talking about 0.05mm here but the other problem with this is the lack of replacement leads.

Which brings us to yesterday. I discovered another stationery shop in Luxembourg a few weeks ago and yesterday, I got to go and Check It Out. It didn’t have Uni Kuru Togas (pity) but it did have a few Pentel Orenz in various sizes. I have coveted a Pentel Orenz for ages. I actually owned one (having picked it up in Delfonics in Paris a few weeks’ ago) but they had them in a lot of different sizes and colours. And they had other Pentels that I didn’t see too often. I’ve a bundle of Pentels in the mechanical pencil role but they are 0.5s and 0.7s.

You know, when you start drawing they keep telling you to, you know keep trying stuff till you find what you like. I have a lot of pencils both wood case and mechanical and clutch. I’m finding that I like different pencils for different things.

Anyway, my little eyes lit up, and I bought 2x 0.2s and 2x 0.3s. I was strong on the 0.7 and 0.5 front, even to the extent of not buying a 0.5 Pentel Graphgear which I sort of thought I didn’t have but rationalised it on the grounds that I had about 4 Kuru Togas and 5 Shalakus, all 0.5. And that wasn’t including all the other 0.7s (hello Faber Castell and Caran d’Ache). There’s a moratorium on a number of stationery items at the moment although it’s possible if they were selling Kuru Togas in anything other than a 0.5 I’d have capitulated.

Today then, I needed to find homes for these new pencils, the joy of my life, which which I would be drawing fur till the cows came home, metaphorically. I have seen no cows since I left Ireland. As part of that job I also did a census of boxes of mechanical pencil leads. I took the opportunity to tidy out the pencil section of my tool box (this means I didn’t deal with the fineliners) as well. From this experience I learned that I have a lot of 0.3mm mechanical pencils. Now, the one that was in my handbag pencil case has been causing trouble but because it was one of 3 Staedler Mars I’m not entirely sure whether it’s the same one that came out of my handbag pencil case (it’s a small case to impose discipline), these new ones which I got yesterday and the infamous Faber Castell 0.35 which I bought a few years ago from the only shop in Dublin which did, at the time, sell something that fine.

As a result of this exercise – I deliberately did not take any photographs, I have discovered that

  • the reason my tool box wouldn’t close was because it had LOADs of pencils in it. It’s still pushing it tightness wise but it looks less uck than it did this morning
  • I have enough pencil lead to open my own shop but surprisingly enough, the lead I am least well supplied in is 0.7 of any graphite grade. I have more 0.3, and 0.2 than I have of 0.7. I think this is linked to panic buying. IF you know every shop will have some variety of 0.7 then you don’t panic about it. Given that historically I’ve found it impossible to get either 0.3 and smaller pencils and associated lead, I clearly binge bought it any time I saw it.
  • My desk is nice when it’s tidy.
  • I also have a lot of international ink cartridges, colour blue (they were in the same drawer as the pencil lead supplies). I have no idea what to do with them; I have plenty of fountain pens, this is true, and many of them even take international cartridges (I have loads of Lamys too). But I really have no idea how I accumulated so many blue cartridges because I do not buy them. I’m pretty certain I did not ship them from Ireland. And while you tend to get a cartridge or two when you buy a cheap fountain pen (like 10E worth of neon colour plastic things), I still seem to have an order of magnitude more blue cartridges than can be reasonably explained by the number of dirt cheap plastic school kid fountain pens I have acquired in the last year.
  • If I had any guts I’d do something about the fineliner supply in my tool box but to be honest, I think one of the key issues there is the inability to differentiate between the “live” fineliner and the “spare fineliner because the wretched things go dry at the most inopportune times”.

Anyway, courtesy of this morning’s work, my pencil lead selection is currently tidy, and there is a moratorium on buying any pencil lead at all. Whatever I have, I need to work through and this includes the random colour lead I seem to have acquired as well. No more. Although, no wait, I am allowed get graphite when I run out of that. But we’re talking about an event sometime in the long term here.

I’m getting good at actively not buying any more cheap plastic fountain pens (I dread finding out about the colours of next year’s special edition Lamys). This at least is not adding to the orgy of blue ink in one of my stationery drawers.

I need to spend more time drawing. I did a dragon for Inktober the other day but I seem to lack the time to actually do anything major, any painting lately. I also started designing this year’s Christmas card – I’d apologise but the Christmas card designs tend to need to be done several times. I don’t have any of my large format watercolour paper with me so it gutted me this morning to do this, but I bought some. I have about 150 sheets of the stuff in Ireland. That aside, I think one of the key reasons I don’t draw much is that my desk suffers from Flat Surface Law Syndrome, the one that says No Flat Surface Remains Uncluttered for more than 5 seconds.

For weeks I’ve considered that a good solution to the lack of desk space would be buying more desk space but really, I think what I need are more shelves. It frustrates me that I can’t keep my home desk tidy when my work desk looks immaculate. I think it’s because my electricity bill does not travel to my work place. Things wind up on my desk though because there is no home for them.

There was a time I used to buy books and CDs. They did, in all fairness, take up more space.

Sennelier, on the quays in Paris

Not too far from the Louvre is an art supply shop I have been angling to get to for years and yesterday, I managed it.

The shop is called Sennelier and it looks like time has not really changed it in a century or more. I got there yesterday and I fell in love.

I wanted to go there because I paint mostly with Sennelier paints, and also, I just wanted to see it. Absolutely everyone who has been there has said it is exceptional.

It is.

I finally found some Strathmore 400 books in there, and some of the new Canson Heritage water paper. Upstairs, they had a section pretty much dedicated to drawing pens and brushes. I did serious damage there and could have done more if I hadn’t exerted a little discipline over it.

It is unquestionably the best art shop I have ever been in. I will be going back when I next need stuff.

Let’s go exploring

About 4 years ago, I was prepping to leave a job which I had been doing for a  *long* time. It still represents well more than half of my working life.

Anyway, one of the last things that I did was write a note to my soon to be ex-colleagues thanking them for their friendship and cooperation over the course of the previous N years and I closed it off with a comment a long the lines of

In the meantime, I leave you with the words of the greatest philosopher, Calvin, of all time, on his final public appearance.

 “It’s a magical world, Hobbes ol’ buddy….Let’s go exploring”

 (citation: The Complete Calvin & Hobbes, Bill Watterson, the final Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, 31 December 1995)

The comic strip is all over the web.

Anyway, one of the things which stunned me at the time was it taught me that there were people who had never heard of Calvin and Hobbes. I could not believe this. I mean, it had already been a shock to realise there were people working in IT who had never heard of xkcd.com but Calvin and Hobbes? Are you kidding me?

I was reminded of this because a recently acquired skill which might have been kind of useful when I was at school and totally unpopular, and considered weird because I liked Jean-Michel Jarre whom no one had heard of (which means they didn’t pay attention in French class) has suddenly seen me drawing cartoon characters. I’ve done the Pink Panther, the Roadrunner, Yogi Bear. Every once in a while I pop up and have a go at another childhood memory – I suppose it is revealing that I have no interest whatsoever in trying to do any of the Frozen girls. Amongst the characters that I have done are both Calvin AND Hobbes. And people seem to want them.

I find myself exploring anyway, a place which was not on the schedule at all 4 years ago but you know it’s been fun. And I learned to draw along the way.

Getting away from it all

Don’t be fooled. This is about art supplies. If you are not interested in art supplies, look away now.

But first

 


I draw.

This is a piece done in a Moleskine sketchbook with black India ink, unipin fineliners and Faber-Castell pitt pen for the bit of colour. It’s one of a planned series, which I had trouble figuring out how to realise until I found someone else using black India ink to create jetblack night skies. I could not get water colours to do this, and it was tedious and not very pretty trying to do this with black brush pens. It didn’t work on black paper. So that’s the mystery solved and now, there’s another in the pipeline as soon as I stop prevaricating about it. After that, who knows what I will fill the sketchbook with.

Today’s subject is fineliners. I own quite a few, and I’m going to talk about them all now. Like I said, look away:

  • Unipin fineliners 0.05, 0.1, 0.3. In truth, I probably have some 0.2s in a box somewhere as well but the house move has made chaos of my art supply organisation.
  • Copic Multiliner SP 0.03
  • Faber-Castell Pitt Pens SF, F and S
  • Staedtler 0.3 and 0.1
  • Pigma Microns, 0.1, 0.2, 0.3
  • Dip pen with black India ink

Because I used to live in Ireland, and because in Ireland the choice tended to be limited and, initially, quite undependable, I have tended to buy lots of spares. I am swimming in fineliners. I have tried them all at this point. What follows are some comments.

Mostly, the easiest pens to get in Ireland are the unipins, followed by the Staedtlers. The F-Cs come in close. After that for the Copics, I only know of one reliable dealer in Dublin, and the Pigma Microns were starting to appear just as I left as part of the mandala and zentangle drawing trend. I don’t really want to say fashion because who knows how long it will last and whether it will be a gateway drug to other drawing. Most often I have seen the Pigma pens available as kits for zentangle drawing. However, I was motivated to get them because all over the web, they were announced as the best, and archival and brilliant. I’m not sure I agree.

The Copic Multiliner SP I only have in 0.03 and the main reason for that is, really, as far as I know, it is the only producer that produces a 0.03. It isn’t, as far as I know, available in Copic’s standard Multiliner range in black. So, basically, if you want a really fine fineliner, this is it. It’s a very decent fineliner whose primary downside is that a) it’s hard to get in my experience and b) it’s more expensive than all of the others. On the plus side, they are refillable.

The default available fineliner in Ireland, although currently unfound in either Luxembourg or Germany are the unipins, and to be honest, if someone told me I could only have one lot of branded fineliners, it would be a fight between this or the Pitt pens. The finest of the range is the 0.05 and if you follow Olivia Kemp on Instagram, you’ll know that she favours these plus rates their non-fadability higher than that of the Faber Castells. At any rate, the linework in the caravan above was done using the Unipins that I have with me here.

The Pigmas Microliners I had a yen to try because I thought the product design and appearance was very attractive, and while I still think it is, the fact remains that I’m less overwhelmed with the pens than I expected to be. I’m not seeing how they are spectacularly better than any of the other items I have tried. There’s one linked to my handbag sketchbook which will soon be due for release.

In Luxembourg, the most common fineliners as far as I can see are the Staedtlers followed by the Faber Castells. This probably has something to do with proximity to Germany. My view of the Staedtlers is somewhat nuanced. Basically, I like drawing with them. I like the way the lines appear although I’ve only drawn 0.1-0.3 lines with them (I don’t think I have seen a finer tip available but I am open to correction). My primary issue is that the tips wear out or bend faster than any of the others. But they are a beautiful looking pen, and I have a couple of them in the drawing tool box all the time.

In general, for lining drawings which will be later painted or coloured with Pitt brush pens, I tend to prefer the Pitt pens from Faber Castell, particularly their SF which I think is Super Fine (but who knows) which, owing to problems getting both it and its big brother brush in black, I have a shocking tendency to hoard. Again I have heard there can be issues with the ink fading (which surprises me as I understand it is India ink) for display pictures. Since most of what I do goes into books, this is not an issue for me.

Dip pens with black India ink are…something which I have seen a few artists recommend, particularly Mary Doodles on youtube. My experience is mixed. It provides a completely different drawing experience (scratch, scratch, scratch) but it also has a slightly three dimensional effect leaving a raised line which can, provided YOU WAIT UNTIL IT IS ABSOLUTELY DEFINITELY DRY, have quite a tactile experience. It takes ages to dry. Ages. And black India ink is a risky process to engage in as it is indelible I am hoping never to spill any.

In terms of my preference then, I’d tend to choose either the unipins or the Pitts first – and in fact, my painting kit has unipins and my marker kit has Pitts, and then after that, probably the Staedlers. I would not necessarily worry if I never bought another Pigma Micron but I seem to have loads of them anyway. And I would ensure I have a few of the Copic Micro SP 0.03s purely because they are the finest available. If Unipin started selling 0.03s, I probably wouldn’t worry about the Copics any more. Despite the fact that the Copics are refillable.

The dip pen, for me at least, is not really for general use. But you can do interesting things with it from time to time.