It was Independence day here today, so I took the opportunity to visit the Independence Garden and sketch for a while.
So a few years back I was at the main branch of a local art supply change while they were getting rid of a large amount of inventory by slashing down its prices. I was there to stock up on art supplies, and most of the sale inventory consisted of poorly made knock-off pens and no-name novelty print pencils, so I skipped the sale baskets and made a beeline for the tills. As I was standing in line my eye caught a small basket in the corner of the nearest sale table. It looked like it was full of Faber-Castell 9000 pencils offered at a 10th of the price of a Faber-Castell 9000. I left the line and went to investigate.
Now my go to pencil for sketching is the Faber-Castell 9000, and although they are excellent pencils, they are not cheap, and I use to go through quite a lot of them. Here I was offered a pencil that looked like a Faber-Castell 9000, was made by Faber-Castell, at a “practically free” price. I couldn’t test them, as they were all unsharpened, but I dug in and grabbed a few of the weird assortment of harnessed on offer: 2B, HB and 4H.
They were Faber-Castell Regent 1250 pencils made in Brazil, and what little I could find about them was people saying that they don’t compare to 9000s. I of course planned to add them into my rotation, which is why I almost immediately lost them. This happens quite often with pencils in my house, since my cat loves to steal them and play with them, so I usually hide the good ones and let him play with ones that I care less about. The result is that when it comes time to looking for a certain pencil I only have a vague idea about the various areas it can be in.
Now that I’ve found them, to the review:
The Faber-Castell Regent 1250 are Brazilian made pencils that look like twins of the Faber-Castell 9000, minus the grey band on the tip. They don’t seem to be widely available outside Brazil, which is both frustrating and understandable. The Regent 1250 poses a risk to the 9000 sales: it’s a much cheaper counterpart that offers graphite performance that’s on par with the 9000. Artists aren’t usually swimming in money, and if FC made the 1250 widely available my guess is that their 9000 sales would take a significant hit.
The Regent 1250’s body is where is where it falls short of the 9000, though I sincerely believe that not enough to justify the reviews that it has gotten so far. The 1250 is cheap and offered in Brazil because it’s made of abundant cheap Brazilian wood. The result is a pencil with a woodcase that doesn’t sharpen as nicely or easily as a 9000, and that has a somewhat rougher finish when it comes to the lacquering.
The wood is not terrible, and it doesn’t chip and break in large chunks. You just have to put a little more elbow grease when sharpening with a sharpener. If you sharpen with a knife you probably won’t feel the difference at all. The lacquer isn’t pretty: you can see pits and bumps in it, though they are not deep enough for you to actually feel them. The wood on the pencil isn’t consistent in its looks or particularly attractive.
These pencils only look premium from a distance. Up close they look battered and bruised. However, these are meant to be artist tools not museum pieces, and what’s most important about them is their graphite. Everything else has to be good enough, and so far it’s been good enough.
I doubt that if I saw two sketches, one made with 9000s and one made with 1250s, that I could tell the two apart. The graphite looks and behaves practically the same, both in drawing and erasing.
It’s so tempting to look down at these pencils as cheap trash, but look what you can create with them:
The graphite is smooth, the pencils hold a point for a long, long time, and they’re a joy to use, especially since I don’t have to feel so precious about them.
If anything I wish I could have purchased a wider range of Regent 1250, but seeing how they work I doubt that FC would ever widely offer them outside Brazil, as they would cannibalize the sales of their 9000.
It’s frustrating knowing that a company has the ability to offer a good product for artists at a non-premium price and chooses not to. I understand the market forces at play, but I still find them annoying. And to all those who had a chance to use a 1250 and looked down on it: don’t judge a pencil by its lacquer.
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.
If you stumble upon one of these Retro 51 Acrylic Tornado pens, snap them up. They’re gorgeous, and life is too short to carry an ugly pen.
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.
It’s National Pencil Day and I decided to celebrate. Last year I picked up some vintage pencils in a stall in Spitalfields market in London, and they’ve been languishing unloved in their box ever since. The truth is I felt that they were too pretty to sharpen and use, which is both understandable (I mean look at them!) and silly. Pencils are meant to be sharpened, period.
So I broke out the “Corgie” (à Paris) 907 pencils, which are natural pencils coated with a thick layer of lacquer that makes them both shiny and satisfying to hold. The French appear to be more restrained in their choice of imprint fonts, but they go all wild when it comes to the wrappers around the pencils. Behold, creativity let loose:
Here’s the imprint (it’s hard to photograph, as the lacquer gets in the way. There are basically two fonts in use, and a very charming bugle logo. The Corgié à Paris factory was active from 1923 to around 1986 (thanks Brand Name Pencils) and if I’d have to venture a guess I think that these are from the ’60s, but it’s really hard to tell.
The grain on these pencils is fantastic. Just look at that:
Unlike some vintage pencils whose wood has dried out and become brittle with time, the Corgie 907s sharpen like a charm. They’re not very nice smelling (they just smell old), but there’s nothing to complain too much about.
These are No. 0 pencils, which makes them about 2B-4B, depending on the manufacturer. They’re soft and dark, and a joy to draw with, although they don’t hold a tip for very long. The graphite does smudge, but it doesn’t crumble, and there’s a good amount of feedback while using them. Here they are with some Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer watercolour pencils in use:
Go sharpen a pencil, and have some fun drawing or writing a little something for yourself.
Happy National Pencil Day!
Drawn with Staedtler fineliners, Copic Sketch markers and Faber-Castell PITT brush pens. The actresses from the wonderful play “The Mystery of the Lost City Guardian (of Doom)”.
Tel Aviv port farmers’ market offers too much choice.
The one day a year when there are no cars driving around.
Leuchtturm1917 sketchbook, Kuretake Zig Mangaka pens, Deleter Neopiko-Line-3 pens, Caran d’Ache Pablo coloured pencils, Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer coloured pencils.
Since I work in watercolour which is notoriously not great for correcting and changing your mind mid painting, when there’s a face that I know that I’ll want to explore I usually create a “construction” sketch which I transfer to paper several times. I can then paint the portrait in different tones, or focus on a certain aspect that interests me, or take it to really wild places without spending too much time on the technicalities of the preliminary sketch.
I start the “construction” sketch on newsprint paper. It’s much more detailed and “searching” than it needs to be, but that doesn’t matter much. Ultimately only the lines that will help me construct the face and note where the major light and dark transitions are will remain. I draw this with a Faber Castell 9000 2B or 3B pencil that’s sharpened with a pocket knife to allow me to use it without having to pause for sharpening. Newsprint paper is pretty transparent and also generally too fragile for regular erasers, so I use a kneaded eraser to lift off unnecessary lines, or simply ignore them.
Once I’m done with that, I flip the page to the other side and scribble on it with a Faber Castell 9000 6B or Palomino Blackwing MMX. These are again sharpened with a pocket knife, and the point is to get as much coverage as possible. If I’m doing a lot of transfers then I might have to repeat this process, adding more graphite to the back of the sketch.
I then transfer the most important lines in my sketch on to a piece of watercolour paper. This is done by placing the newsprint paper with the sketch over the watercolour paper and going over the lines in the sketch with a 2H pencil (I use a Faber Castell 9000 2H, but this isn’t that important). The pencil needs to be a hard pencil for the lines to transfer to the paper below, but it can’t be too hard or too sharp or it will rip the newsprint paper. It’s also important to put just enough pressure when you’re tracing so the graphite on the underside of the sketch transfers to the paper, but not too much to bruise the watercolour paper. Using a 300 gsm watercolour paper helps protect it, but it’s mostly a matter of practice. When you’re done you get something like this:
The lines are pretty faint, which is great when working with watercolour, because they don’t distract too much from the figure once you start working.
I created about five watercolour portraits of Dame Judi Dench from this sketch so far, and there’s a good chance that I’ll go explore her some more in the future.