Urban Sketchers Tel Aviv: Dubnov Garden

We haven’t had an Urban Sketchers sketchwalk in Tel Aviv since June due to Covid-19. We met today and drew, socially distanced and with masks, for three hours in Dubnov garden, which is not far from Rabin Square and is just behind the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

The first drawing, focusing on the strange rock sunken sculpture in the middle of the garden, was drawn on a Stillman and Birn Pocket Alpha, with a TWSBI ECO 1.1 stub filled with Rohrer and Klingner Emma SketchINK and Schminke watercolours.

The second drawing is a panorama of the architecture near the park, and it was drawn on a Moleskine Large Watercolour notebook, with the same materials and the drawing above.

My drawing challenge has allowed me to streamline my process and bring in much fewer art supplies to the sketchwalk without feeling that I’m missing out. It was also the first time I brought my Walkit sketchbag to a sketchcrawl and it worked very well. I’ll write a review of it later on, once I’ve finalized the kit I put in it.

Urban Sketchers Tel Aviv: Dubnov Garden

Diamine Aurora Borealis Ink

Diamine Aurora Borealis fountain pen ink was created by Diamine in collaboration with the /r/fountainpens reddit community, who chose the colour. I love teal inks, but at first I thought that I had enough inks that are close enough in colour to skip this one. I have no recollection of how it landed in my basket during my last Cult Pens purchase 🙂

Beautifully designed label.

I don’t normally spend much time on the packaging, but Diamine’s 30ml plastic bottles are deep and wide enough to allow for filling even chunky pens, and their (relatively new) label design is splendid. This bottle is unique in that it has another label, crediting the /r/fountainpens community with selecting the ink colour:

Aurora Borealis is a dark teal with some red sheening, and a good amount of shading for such a saturated ink. It also dries surprising fast for such a saturated ink (although I wouldn’t call it a fast drying ink).

Swab on a col-o-ring card.

You can see a bit of the red sheen here, on the top of the “A” in aurora:

I a few inks that are in the region fo Diamine Aurora Borealis, but not many of them are swabbed. I will say that the ink is dark enough to be fine for office use, and that is still shows plenty of interest and character:

I tried it also on Paperblanks paper, and on Rhodia paper. In both cases the ink dried darker than it looked when I was writing with it, although the photos picked up less colour than it originally had. The best colour reproduction is in the final photos of Tomoe River Paper, further below. It is worth pointing out though that if you have a wet nib, you’re going to see darker results than you’d expect from the swabs.

Paperblanks

In any case Aurora Borealis came out much darker than it appears on Goulet Pens site, for instance, although not as dark as it appears here:

Rhodia

I gave the ink a spin on some (old) Tomoe River paper, and “opened” it up with some water and a fine brush. As is the case with most Diamine inks, Aurora Borealis isn’t waterproof or water resistant, and doesn’t market itself as such. It is, however, a lot of fun to draw with:

You can see red sheening on the happy little dormouse’s nose, as well as on the flowers. You can also see the shading in the flowers:

This is the best sample of all the properties of this ink: the relatively dark colour, the shading, and the slightly red sheen:

Diamine Aurora Borealis is fun dark teal ink that will likely appeal to anyone who likes teal/turquoise inks. It’s inexpensive and unassuming, and so you can take an interesting ink for a spin without spending Sailor or Iroshizuku money.

Diamine Aurora Borealis Ink

Cult Pens Iridescink by Diamine: Diamine Robert

When Cult Pens and Diamine came out with their first two “Iridescink” shimmering inks together they turned to the fountain pen community to name them, jokingly suggesting Robert and Maureen as possible names. The fountain pen community duly said “challenge accepted” and voted that the inks be called “Robert” and “Maureen”. I thought that this was a charming anecdote until I actually purchased three of the now four Cult Pens/Diamine Iridescink inks and realized that I with names like Robert, Maureen and Christine I would never be able to tell which ink is which.

This, of course, is a minor problem for an otherwise solid addition to the world of fountain pen inks. These inks are super sheening and generally well behaved, with a good solid base colour and an interesting sheen hue on top of it.

Robert, a purple ink with a green sheen (I will forever have to consult a guide when trying to remember which ink is called what), is one of the most attractive inks in the bunch. It features a reddish purple somewhat reminiscent of Diamine Amaranth, and a gorgeous green gold sheen.

On Rhodia paper with a Lamy fine nib you can see the green sheen on almost every downstroke. It’s also well featured in the swap I took in my Col-o-ring.

For the biggest sheen effect, of course there’s nothing like tomoe river paper. Here’s a quick sketch that I did on a Kanso Sasshi tomoe river booklet. As you can see the ink isn’t waterproof or water resistant (not that Cult Pens or Diamine claim that it is), and you can barely see the base colour in most places because of the heavy green sheen.

So why did I say that Diamine Robert is “generally well behaved” and not just “well behaved”? Because if you leave it unused in a pen for a day or two you may find that you need to “prime” the pen for a bit to get it to start to write. Once it gets going the ink flows well, but this is the sort of behaviour that makes me wary of using this ink in vintage pens. Your milage may vary, as ink flow changes with altitude and weather, but for now this gorgeous ink is relegated to “just” my modern pens. That’s more than good enough for me.

Cult Pens Iridescink by Diamine: Diamine Robert

Diamine Earl Grey Review

Ever since I saw the first reviews of Diamine Earl Grey I have been fascinated by this ink, and only partly because I love, love, love tea. The colour seemed to have shading properties and tonal depths that were similar to the much coveted yet hard to obtain Sailor Studio 123. I had vowed to cut down on my ink purchases, but as I broke down and bought some Diamine Blue (i.e. Christmas) inks, I had to add a small bottle of Diamine Earl Grey to the cart.

Parker Vacumatic Major with an medium italic nib on a Rhodia No. 16 pad.

This ink is sheer magic. It is very legible (unlike many lighter grey inks), it shades like mad, and even on Rhodia paper you can see a bit of its tonal depth.

Shading on every single letter.

On Tomoe River paper the depth of its hidden tones really comes to light:

Drawn with the Parker Vacumatic and a W&N Series 7 #2 sable brush.

There’s blue, even slight hints of turquoise, green, yellow, shades of pink, and in the dark recesses hints of warm brown. It’s like the greys I often create on my watercolour palette: a mix of reds, greens and blues, with a dash of brown. The result is a rich, “living” grey that surprises you every time.

I’ll probably skip the Sailor 123 Studio Ink because the price plus shipping plus customs will make it painfully expensive. Now that I have Diamine Earl Grey I don’t feel like I’ve missed out.

Diamine Earl Grey Review

Vengeful Fortress Part 6: Dark Moon Rising

After a long, unplanned hiatus, I’m running my free-form illustrated adventure, Vengeful Fortress. See previous instalments here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5. Drawn on a Stillman and Birn Epsilon sketchbook (review in part 1), with Schminke watercolours, various fountain pen inks (see if you can guess which ones), and from this instalment, with Deleter Neopiko-Line-3 fineliners.

Vengeful Fortress Part 6: Dark Moon Rising

Parker Quink Blue Black Ink Review

Parker Quink Blue Black is far from a new ink on the market: it’s been produced and in use for decades. So why bother to write a review about it now?now

Because Covid-19 happened, and it’s turned shipping and shopping into a challenge, and so I have found myself seriously contemplating a “desert island” kind of question:

If the only ink you can buy is ink commonly found in brick and mortar shops, which ink should you buy?

The obvious answer for me is anything Waterman, but specifically Waterman Blue Black, now renamed to “Waterman Mysterious Blue”. But Parker Quink Blue Black is just as readily available, and just as cheaply priced (more or less), and also a workhorse, utilitarian ink that packs a few surprises. So why is it not my go to ink? I’ll get to that near the end, I promise.

Two swabs of the same ink: how are they so different?

I took two swabs and writing samples of the Parker Quink Blue Black, mainly because I thought that the first swab didn’t show off the correct colour of the ink. The left hand writing sample was done with a dip pen, and the swab was done with a brush. The right side was done with Henry Simpole’s Jasmin pen and a Conway Stewart medium nib, with the swab being done with a q-tip. The right hand sample is truer to the colour of the ink, although you can get a more teal/turquoise colour out of the ink in certain nibs (as is true with Waterman Mysterious Blue). This changeability is part of the charm of blue-black inks.

It’s also worth noting that Parker Quink Blue Black both shades and has a red sheen, so it’s far from a bog standard, boring ink. Here’s an ink that can be fun at the same time as it makes you look serious.

Comparison swabs.

Waterman Mysterious Blue leans a bit more into the teal/turquoise side of things, but it doesn’t sheen as much as Parker Quink Blue Black. Here’s the ink on Paperblanks paper (I snagged a fountain pen friendly Paperblanks a few years back and have been using it to test inks ever since):

You can see the shading particularly in my swirls.

There’s a red sheen even on the Paperblanks paper, in every spot where the ink pooled (so the bottom half of these letters for instance):

If you can’t see the red sheen, look at the sample below.

And here it is on Tomoe River paper, showing off shading and sheen. The photo came out a shade lighter than in reality, but that was the only way that I could show some of that sheen off.

Parker Quink Blue Black is neither waterproof or water resistant, just like Waterman Mysterious Blue. Yet it takes a bit more time and effort to clean the Parker ink out of pens than the Waterman’s (my gold standard for easy cleaning ink). It’s vintage pen safe, and an excellent staple ink, available practically everywhere that sells stationery or art supplies. In times where shipping prices have skyrocketed and many places no longer offer shipping to all destinations, it’s good to know that there are still good, cheap and widely available ink options out there.

Stay safe and stay as much as possible at home.

Parker Quink Blue Black Ink Review

Vengeful Fortress Part 2: More Thoughts on Stillman and Birn Epsilon

You can find part 1 here. You can see that there is a slight bit of show through with the Stillman and Birn Epsilon, but at only 150 gsm that’s to be expected.

The show through is most pronounced in the area between the goblin’s sword and the text above him.

I decided to play a bit more with ink colours and wider nibs here, so that’s a Sailor medium stub nib and Diamine Inkvent Blue Edition Candy Cane ink for spells and effects:

There’s no show through for the ink, and though it may not seem that way, there was no spreading. Also, if you like granulating watercolour effects, the Stillman and Birn Epsilon paper seems to be a champ for that.

Vengeful Fortress Part 2: More Thoughts on Stillman and Birn Epsilon

PenBBS 456 Smog RM and Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-Syogun

I ordered the PenBBS 456 Vacuum Filling Smog 54 RM at the same time I ordered the PenBBS 500, because I was intrigued by the filling system, and I wanted a PenBBS 500 with the Smog design but there weren’t any available. I was expecting to like the PenBBS 500 more because from the pictures it seems to have a more classic design, but the PenBBS 456 is the perfect example of how pen pictures often misleading.

The 456 is a much sleeker pen than its chubby 500 counterpart. There’s also significantly less hardware on the 456, which makes it both lighter and better looking. Massive chrome details on fountain pens just seem to cheaper their look in my eyes. If the cap band had been about half the size then the 456’s design would be better, but as it is it’s not a pen that I’d be ashamed to carry, and it looks more expensive than it actually is.

The steel nib on this is a medium, and it writes at about a 0.7mm line, as described. The nib design itself is elegant and clever, with a calligraphy “M” designating its width. The nib itself is smooth with some feedback, and has little or no give.

I purposefully filled this pen only about a third of the way up once I realized what a massive ink capacity it has. The filling mechanism is somewhat elaborate, like all vacuum fillers, but it works, and unlike the end-cap on the PenBBS 500, the PenBBS 456’s end-cap doesn’t twist off unintentionally.

The smog material is really beautiful, and it’s a way to get some of that Visconti vacuum-filler, London Fog feel without breaking the bank. This pen proves that you don’t have to pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars to have a nice pen that you enjoy writing with.

Some more closeups on the overly large cap band (if only it had ended on the line below the “Shanghai”) and the lovely smog material. You can also see the filling mechanism clearly:

The material looks even better when the pen is filled up with ink, but I just wasn’t willing to dump out so much ink, and I knew that I would be forced to do that if I topped the pen up:

Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu Syogun was one of the first Pilot Iroshizuku inks that I splurged on. It shades beautifully, and is a lovely cool (i.e. bluish) grey that is utterly not waterproof, and so can be “stretched” and reworked as you can see in the small sketch that I did:

This was drawn on Tomoe River paper, but you’ll see shading on Rhodia and Clairefontaine paper as well. Of all the grey inks I own, this one is still my favourite. It’s dark enough to be readable (and appropriate for office use), and offers a lot of interest and drawing potential with its shading.

Like all pens that aren’t cartridge converters, cleaning this pen out will take a bit of effort, and vacuum filling pens are more difficult to clean out than piston fillers or lever fillers (only button fillers are worse IMHO). It just means that you’ll need to have patience when filling and cleaning this pen out, and that you probably shouldn’t put shimmering inks or inks that are difficult to clean out (or stain the pen body) in a pen like this. Then again, the pen costs $32, so if worst comes to worst, you haven’t ruined an expensive pen.

I wish that PenBBS would pick a naming convention that is easier to remember than the one it is currently using. But other than that and the not great cap band, for double the price the PenBBS would still be a great buy.

PenBBS 456 Smog RM and Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-Syogun

Diamine Inkvent Blue Edition

Diamine came out with the very successful Inkvent advent calendar last year, and now they are bringing out all of the inks in the calendar in a special “Blue Edition” box and bottle. Cult Pens had them first in stock, and had a nice 10% discount on them, so I decided to splurge on some ink bottles (after not buying any for years).

The Inkvent Blue Edition boxes evoke the beautiful design of the Inkvent calendar, which makes them great gift inks to give. Everything about the boxes, the labels and the bottles is of the highest quality, and is well thought out. These are pretty enough to keep on your desk, whether they are in their blue box or not.

The bottles themselves, of course, are the main design event. They are glass bottles with thick legs, and an ingenious design. They look gorgeous, but they’re also very practical. The cap is large enough to allow the widest nibs in, and the actual part of the bottle that holds the ink is built so that there won’t be any awkward corners that your pen can’t get into. The bottles are tall enough to allow for larger pens to be filled with ease.

Did I mention that they look stunning?

You can see the design of the legs and the ink reservoir here:

The bottles of shimmer ink (and shimmer and sheen ink) come with this handy little insert:

The bottles of sheen ink come with this insert:

This is more proof of the amount of thought that went into designing this edition. I don’t know if Diamine planned on issuing the Blue Edition ahead of time or only once it saw the success of its Inkvent calendar, but either way, this isn’t some hastily dashed out ink edition.

When it came to selecting the inks that I wanted to buy, I ended up surprising myself with my selection. I expected to buy the Solstice, but I ended up buying theBlue Peppermint instead. I love turquoise inks, and I don’t yet have one that shades and shimmers. I never thought that I’d buy Candy Cane, but not only did I buy it (I wanted something to brighten up my life a bit right now), but it’s the first ink that I used in the set.

Holly was also not an obvious choice, but it’s an interesting ink and I don’t have many green inks on hand.  Seasons Greetings was wild enough and unique enough for me to add it first to my cart. Nutcracker is here because I think that it will be a great (albeit not waterproof) drawing ink.

If money and space weren’t an issue, I’d probably add Solstice, Snow Storm, and Polar Glow to my shopping cart. Maybe I will, in the future. For now I’m tremendously happy with the Diamine Blue Edition inks that I bought, and if you’re looking for a small pick me up or an inexpensive gift for the pen addict in your life, I highly recommend these.

Diamine Inkvent Blue Edition

PenBBS 500 Summer and Sailor Sky High

After a long wait my PenBBS 500 Summer finally arrived earlier last month. The PenBBS 500 is a piston filler with a new and rather elaborate filling mechanism for the shockingly low price of $29.99. At that price it can’t be very good, right?

This pen is about the size and thickness of a Pelikan M800, but it’s much heavier than the M800.

While the PenBBS 500 is far from a perfect pen, it is much better than the price tag would have you believe. It’s a heavy pen, made with beautiful acrylic that is both partly translucent and chatoyant, with swirls in pearlescent white, turquoise and royal blue.

There is a lot of branding on this pen, which accounts for some of the choices to slap a lot of chrome on it. You can see the piston spring through the pen body. The “summer” acrylic is beautiful.

The hardware isn’t to my tasting, as there’s too much of it, and it ends up cheapening the pen’s look. The finial has a nice art deco look to it, but when it comes to its functional design it could use some improvement. To fill the pen you twist the small circle in the centre of the finial until it pops out and you can access the spring/piston mechanism to fill the pen. It’s not very convenient to twist open on the one hand, and on the other hand if you’re not careful you can accidentally twist it open while carrying it.

The pen body is stepped down towards the end, maybe so you can cap it? But who caps fountain pens, and why on earth would you want to do that with such a heavy cap?

I like the clip design, but the cap band and the top of the cap hardware are much too pronounce for my taste, and they add a weight to the pen. The pen itself is top heavy, but not the point where it’s uncomfortable or awkward to write with.

I’m not a fan of that big glob of chrome at the end. 

As the ink colour partially shows through this pen, I decided to use Sailor Sky High in it. I’ve had a bottle laying around since the days when Sailor discontinued it and I rushed out to buy some. That was a silly move, but in those days I didn’t know any better. There’s always going to be another ink, people. No point in chasing the discontinued ones only to have the reissued in a few years, or to discover that another brand as the same hue for a fraction of the price.

Sailor’s inks are fun to draw with, particularly with a water brush, as they are utterly non-waterproof, and yet remain true to colour when wet. As I’m staying at home I drew my “nasturtiums,” which I just learned were called Tropaeolums and come from South America originally. They are very easy to grow from seed and offer a lot of interest even when not in flower.

This PenBBS 500 Summer has a fine nib, which skews slightly wider than Japanese fine nibs, and closer to European ones. Sailor Sky High shades enough for it to show with this nib size, and on Tomoe River paper the shading is more pronounced and a red sheen appears.

Sailor Sky High on Canson paper.

On Tomoe River paper wherever the ink pools, there’s a red sheen, but if you write fast enough, you won’t see it, and the ink will skew lighter:

Sailor Sky High on Tomoe River paper.

The red sheen slightly appears on Rhodia and Canson paper, but not as much as on Tomoe River paper.

So, would I recommend the PenBBS 500 as a first piston filler for a newcomer to fountain pens? Probably not. It’s too finicky for that. But at such a low price and with such a good, workhorse nib this is the perfect pen for artists and users that want to experiment with various finicky or troublesome inks. Like the TWSBI GO, this is a pen that’s fun to use and your heart won’t break if you accidentally ruin it.

PenBBS 500 Summer and Sailor Sky High