My brother’s cat was not amused when he tried to take his laptop back from her.
Sketched with a non-photo blue Pilot Color Eno 0.7 mechanical pencil and inked with a Pentel GFKP Sepia, Uni pin 0.5 sepia fineliner and Zig Mangaka 0.8 fineliner (for the writing) on an Artcoe Frisk Sketch Book. Could have done it all with one pen and no underdrawing but I’m experimenting with my setup at the moment.
The Retro 51 Blue Acrylic is the last Retro 51 that I have yet to review as part of my Retro 51 challenge (minus the Retro 51 Flower and Retro 51 Coffee which are quarantined in my office). I bought this pen years ago in the Latin Quarter in Paris, in a little store on Boulevard Saint-Michel. The store had a few Retro 51 tornados in their dusty window display, and after some hemming and hawing I went in and asked about the pens. The proprietor had no idea what I wanted to buy from, but after some pointing he brought out his Retro 51 tray. The moment I saw this pen, I knew that I had to have it:
The Retro 51 Blue Acrylic features chatoyant acrylic swirls in blue and navy, and it’s somewhat transparent, which means that you can see glints of the metal refill tube below the material. Like the Pelikan M800 Ocean Swirl there’s a dark side to the material, and a light side.
The hardware is chrome, and so very bright. This works well with the overall colour scheme. The acrylic body does pick up lint in a way that Retro 51’s metal-bodied pens do not. I’m not sure this would make for a good pocket carry pen because of that.
Weight wise it doesn’t feel significantly lighter than Retro 51’s metal-bodied pens. If that’s you’re draw to this pen, then you’ll be disappointed. But how can you be disappointed in a pen that looks like this?
The finial features a dark navy blue, almost black, disc. I kind of wish that Retro 51 had made the finial out of the swirly acrylic material, but I guess that would have hiked up the price significantly.
I changed out the refill for my favourite Ohto FlashDry refill, mostly because the old refill dried out. I used to use the semi-dried out old Schmidt refill for sketching, as it was pretty perfect for that.
The above drawing was drawn with the Retro 51 Blue Acrylic and the Ohto FlashDry 0.5 gel ink refill, plus some Faber-Castell PITT brush pens. My parents’ cats have ideas about my dad’s laptop that don’t coincide with his.
The quarantine distracted me from reviewing the two final Retro 51 pens that I have on hand (the Coffee and Flower edition are regrettable locked away at work), and the first of these two is the original Retro 51 Pen Addict limited edition tornado.
The Pen Addict Retro 51 was the first pen that Brad Dowdy had made for his shop, and it embodies both the Pen Addict aesthetic and the Retro 51 motto: “Life is too short to carry an ugly pen”.
This is not an ugly pen. Orange isn’t my favourite colour, but it totally works on this pen, both because of the specific metallic orange hue used here, and because of the dark hardware. The Pen Addict Retro 51 just glows:
It also is a numbered edition (I have number 77) and has one of the best Retro 51 top discs/finials: the Pen Addict logo.
This is one of the few Retro 51s that I own that still have the Schmidt refill installed. I’m not a fan of this refill, but there are times when I’m looking for big, bold lines and it just fits the spot. This is the first time I used it for drawing:
The Retro 51 Pen Addict original limited edition is still a great, classic Retro 51 tornado design. It’s no longer offered for sale on the Pen Addict shop, but if you find it reasonably priced on the secondary market, it’s totally worth buying.
I’m in the process of testing out a set of Uni-ball Pin fineliners and I thought that I’d share a few test runs with the pens. The linework is done with the Ubi-ball Pin fineliners (0.1, 0.3 and 0.5 in black and grey) and the rest is with Deleter Neopiko-Line-3 pens (2.0 and a brush pen) and Faber-Castell Pitt brush pens.
My parents’ cats are very expressive and fun to draw. The cat above is super mellow, and the cat below is gorgeous but not happy to see you.
The Retro 51 System is what piqued my interest in Retro’s Tornado rollerballs again. It is such a handsome, well designed pen. There are surprisingly few black Retro 51 limited/open numbered editions, which is in some ways not surprising. The company’s aesthetic leans towards the colourful or the metallic, not so much the “dark/stealth/tactical” side of the pen world.
I haven’t reviewed the Retro 51 System so far because it was such a huge hit when it came out, there were half a dozen reviews of it practically from day one. What did I have to add to the conversation? Plus, there was some confusion after the first 300 pens ran out and Mike Dudek put up another 300 pens for sale: people thought it was a very small limited edition, while it was always sold as a numbered, open edition. I didn’t want to take part in the drama, and I think that this pen is iconic enough to warrant discussion outside the hardcore Retro 51 collectors’ circles. Dudek and Retro 51 took a concept that could have been a “Smithsonian gift shop pen” idea, and turned it into a little work of art.
The Retro 51 System isn’t cheesy, though it certainly could have been. Retro do design cheesy pens at times (its part of their design aesthetic), and the solar system has been over-productized for the past 50 years. Yet there’s something about the care put into creating this pen, from the choice to put Pluto on the map but to the side, to the choice to leave the texture to the “dark matter” stripes and let the planet designs speak for themselves, that makes it a utilitarian work of art. This pen was clearly designed be people who love everything about space and the solar system, and also everything about pens. It doesn’t glow in the dark, because it doesn’t need to. It has a classic, classy look that will also wear well with time.
One of the favourite things about this pen is the finial/top disc: it’s clear orange, a representation of the sun. It glows bright against the black background of this pen’s hardware, and really makes the pen pop – to whoever is writing with it.
Around the time I got this pen the Uni-ball Jetstream SXR-600 (Parker style) refill started appearing on the market. I was looking for a replacement to the Schmidt refill, and I had yet to meet my favourite Ohto Flash Dry refill, so a Uni-ball refill that made Brad Dowdy happy seemed like a good one to try. The Uni-ball SXR Jetstream SXR-600 in 0.5 is a Jetstream hybrid gel-ballpoint refill, one that lays very thin, neat, relatively dark lines. It’s probably the best ballpoint refill that you can get these days, and it is waterproof, fade proof and resistant to all kinds of fraud. It is not, however, fully a gel ink refill, nor does it remotely feel one, despite what the marketing says. It’s a best-in-class ballpoint refill, which most people will want to buy in 0.7 I think, as the 0.5 refill lays down a really fine line. If you’re looking for a replacement refill for Retro 51s, something that’s less messy and lays down a clean, fine line, the Uni-ball Jetream SXR-600 is probably the pen for you.