Ink Wash Sketches

Inspired by Gabi Campanario I’ve taken some waterbrushes and filled them with diluted shellac based ink from Sennelier. At first I only had Burnt Sienna ink that I bought years ago from Cornelissen and Son (one of my favourite art supply shops in London), but I purchased a bottle of Prussian Blue and Cobalt Blue to add to it. The bottles have pipettes which make using them to fill a waterbrush convenient, unless the brush has a valve on the body, in which case you’ll need to dip it inside the bottle, and you’ll have issues filling it fully.

Here are some sketches done with the Burnt Sienna. The first one was done with a fountain pen and a single waterbrush filled with pretty diluted Burnt Sienna and was drawn on a Stillman and Birn Pocket Alpha. This was when I discovered that the ink dried lighter than I thought, and that layering it on this paper isn’t really an option. I didn’t get enough of a gradient, and it didn’t take long for the paper to start to disintegrate from the ink. Note also that the ink dries fast, and getting perfect washes with a waterbrush is practically impossible, even in such a small format. But I liked the result enough to experiment with it some more.

First try with ink in a waterbrush.

I then filled another waterbrush with a much less diluted Burn Sienna and water solution. Here’s the same Stillman and Birn Pocket notebook but a sketch with a little more gradient because I used two different ink/water ratios. I like the result better, especially on the trunk.

Second try, more contrast.

Then I got the Sennelier Prussian Blue that I ordered, and I filled two brushes with it, one diluted with water at about a 50/50 ratio, and another practically undiluted. I had enough of the Alpha paper, so I switched to 300 gsm cold press watercolour paper from Clairefontaine. Here’s the sketch, done with a Staedtler 0.1 pigment liner (I didn’t want the lines to distract from the wash):

Sketch done with Staedtler pigment liner of a fisherman in the sea.

And here is the result with the ink washes applied:

Result with ink wash.

I used the dark blue for the shadows on the rocks, and this time I could actually work with the ink (due to the quality of the paper) and blend between the Burnt Sienna and the Prussian Blue.

I loved this result enough to give these ink washes more tries. I will say that there have been some issues with them so far:

  • Many of my waterbrushes (most of my Pentel ones) didn’t allow the ink to flow to the brush bristles.
  • Some of my brushes leaked, and so I won’t be carrying them around in my bag without a ziploc bag to protect my bag contents from them.
  • The Cobalt Blue ink that I bought contains copper. It came with a warning label, and I’m not going to use it before I make sure I have a leak proof brush for it.
  • The behaviour of the ink is entirely dependent on the quality of the paper, more than any medium I’ve used before (including watercolour).
  • Waterbrush bristles deteriorate pretty quickly, and make fine detail work and brush control more difficult.

All that being said, I enjoyed using them enough in my sketches to continue using them for a while, and I recommend giving shellac (calligraphy) ink in a waterbrush a spin.

PS – these inks are NOT FOUNTAIN PEN FRIENDLY!
If you put them in your fountain pen they will ruin it.

Staedtler Pigment Liner Review

I somehow managed to not review my favourite pigment/fine liner, despite it being one of the sketching tools that I use the most. While I know that the pigment liner from Sakura is more popular is stationery blogger circles, and Copic is thought to be the elite offering (it sure is in terms of price), Staedler’s pigment liners have been my go to pigment liners since I was a teenager, and they have always been the ones I compare all others to.

Pigment liner set bought at Cass Art in London

All pigment liners are expensive to purchase here, and Staedler is no different, which means that I always stock up on them when I go to Cass Art in London. This 6 pen set is always on sale, and you get a useful selection of pen widths. However, if you are just starting out, don’t buy a set – buy a 0.3 and a 0.5 and if you want to splurge add the 0.1 and the 0.8.

The full set: Calligraphy, 0.8, 0.5, 0.3, 0.1, 0.05

Whether you use Staedler pigment liners or ones from another brand (Sakura, Faber Castell, Copic, Uni-ball, etc), the 0.3 or 0.5 will likely be your base, bread and butter pen. I generally use the 0.3, unless I’m feeling shaky, I’m in a hurry and want to churn out sketches/illustrations, or I want to go for a dramatic effect, in which case I go for the 0.5 or the 0.8. The 0.1 is a pen that I use for the opposite effect – when I plan to use watercolour or an ink wash and I want the colour or wash to take precedent. The 0.05 is a pen that I used to use when I was younger and drew comics (it’s excellent for fine details), but I hardly ever reach for it now, unless it’s to work in small format with a colour wash of some sort following. It’s a fragile pen, so if you tend to lean on your pens, this one is not for you. How can you tell if you put a lot of pressure on your pens? Write a page with a gel ink pen and check the back of the page. Does it feel like braille lettering? Does your wrist hurt? Then you’re putting to much pressure to use this pen without ruining the tip, and you may have issues with the 0.1 tip as well. I used to write like that and it took some practice for me to be able to use these ultra fine tipped pens.

Line samples on a Moleskine pocket sketchpad.

So, why do I love the Staedtler pigment liner so much?

  • It puts down a consistent, black line. This seems obvious, but I’ve tried more than one pigment liner that puts down a dark grey or washed out black line and it’s always disappointing.
  • It’s a rock solid pen that won’t dry out, and has a robust tip. I’ve had terrible luck with Faber Castel and other makers where a capped (mind you, capped) pigment liner stopped writing reliably after a month or two. This has never happened with my Staedler’s, and I’ve had some for years.
  • The pen body. This is what makes the Staedler’s the best of the best in my personal opinion.
The Staedtler pigment liner’s pen body.

So, what makes the Staedler pen body so great? It’s a whole lot of small things that just add up. It’s light weight but doesn’t feel flimsy, and it has a matte finish with a subtle lined texture all around, so its easy to grip. It’s also a bit wider than many of its competitors, and unlike many of them, it has the pen width clearly marked on both the pen body and the pen cap. It also doesn’t have any sharp edges, which you’d think would be an obvious in pen design, but sadly isn’t. Finally, it caps and posts and uncaps with a solid click, and without having to apply a lot of pressure. You know the pen is capped and the pen is uncapped when you need it. And if you so care to uncap it with one hand, you can.

Here’s the 0.1 Staedtler in action. There’s a photo of the sketch I made after applying an ink wash (Sennelier Burn Sienna India Ink diluted in water and applied with a brush pen), and one of the same sketch after I applied blue watercolour.

Staedtler 0.1 pigment liner, and ink wash.
Staedtler pigment liner 0.1, ink wash and watercolour.

During a private tour of Nazareth last year (a present from my wonderful family in between chemo treatments), I met the guide’s young boy. His father told me that he wanted to be a clothing designer when he grew up, so I broke out my sketching kit and gave him every Staedler pigment liner that I had on me. His eyes lit up once his father explained what these pens were. If you have a budding artist, designer, sketcher, doodler in your life and you’re wondering which gift to give them, two or three Staedler pigment liners will always be welcome.

Soccer Players

A quick fountain pen sketch with my vintage Waterman 52 fountain pen and Waterman Havana Brown ink (now called absolute brown) on a Stillman and Birn pocket Alpha.

Weekly Update: It’s been a while

It’s been a while since the last update, and since I’ve been travelling there also haven’t been many posts lately. I plan to get back to a regular posting schedule next week, but first, an update.

Health

As the weather changed, and as I had to travel, my neuropathy has seen ups and downs. It was absolutely terrible on the plane, but it’s much better now. At this point my pain level hovers around a 2-3, and that’s something that I’ve learned to live with. I’ve been able to get back to drawing, I’ve started building Legos again (something that I picked up as a meditational/self-soothing hobby during my hospitalisation and really helped me while I could still build them), and I’ve had no trouble typing lately.

Watercolour pencil sketch of the lookout over the separate beach in Tel Aviv.

Reading

I’ve been on a murder mystery roll lately, mostly because April was a travel month. I’ve read three early Agatha Christie mysteries, after not picking up one of her books for years, and I rediscovered how entertaining and insightful she could be. I’m currently steaming through the latest “Rivers of London” book, “Amongst Our Weapons” by Ben Aaronovitch (so far it’s been a very enjoyable read), and I have a Miss Marple mystery (“A Murder is Announced”) before I return to more serious and lengthy reading.

As for the Tournament of Books challenge, I made my way through Sally Rooney’s “Beautiful World, Where Are You?” And found it even more insufferable than “Normal People”. I couldn’t stand the characters, the slow and stilted writing, the self importance of everyone involved, and how little plot there was to make up for all the rest.
Anne Garréta’s “In Concrete” wasn’t great, but I’m not sure that it isn’t a matter of a lot of meaning and innuendo being lost in translation, despite the valiant efforts of the translator. It was at least an interesting book with interesting characters – a sort of female, French take on Tristram Shandy.
The Echo Wife” by Sarah Gailey was a fascinating near future science fiction novel that is worth reading even if you don’t like science fiction. It has a lot to say about what makes us who we are, and how cycles of abuse are created and can be broken.
I’ve started reading Gary Shteyngart’s “Our Country Friends” but I moved to lighter reading while I was traveling. It’s the next book in the challenge that I intend to finish.

Currently Inked

I cleaned out all of my fountain pens before my trip, apart from my Schon Design pocket 6, and two Lamy Safaris filled with De Atramentis Document ink. I bough a few fountain pens, a bit of ink, and a whole host of notebook and art supplies during my trip and I’m planning to break them out and give them a try and review a few during the coming weeks. Meanwhile I still have one Lamy Safari inked up for my sketches, the Schon Design pocket 6 fountain pen which I’m about to write dry, and a newly inked Kaweco Collection Iridescent Pearl. I wasn’t planning on buying it, but I saw it at “Present and Correct” and couldn’t resist. As I bought a few tins of J. Herbin ink cartridges while I was in Paris, I popped an Eclat de Saphir cartridge into this pen.

Other

In other news I quit my job of the past 13 years this week, and I’m starting a new job next month. It was a difficult decision to make, and one that took me a while, but I truly believe that this change will be for the better.

Have a great week!

#OneWeek100People: Day 8

Decided to get some colour in today, by hook or by crook, and so there’s some watercolour, as well as some work with waterproof and non-waterproof fountain pen inks.

As a bonus for being so patient with my slow progress, you get a process video for one of today’s sketches 🙂

Our Old Friend Joe

We had our weekly zoom call with our old family friend, Joe. I did my best to sketch him while we talked. It was slow, hard work and came out only so-so, mainly because my neuropathy is really bad lately (which is also why there’s been a dearth of posts). Still, I’m glad that I tried.

Sketch of our old friend, Joe.

Drawn with a Lamy LX Palladium, fine nib, filled with Diamine Harmony (an Inkvent 2021 ink).

Writing done with a PenBBS 535 Year of the Ox, RF nib, filled with Pilot Iroshizuku Ina-Ho.

The sketchbook is a Stillman and Birn Alpha 5.5’’ x 8.5’’.

Diamine Inkvent 2021: Summary

What a fun and wild ride was Diamine’s 2021 Inkvent calendar. It was tough posting a review of an ink every day for the past 25 days, in particular since my hands weren’t my best friends during many of those days (and even now) because of chemo induced neuropathy.
When comparing the 2019 Inkvent calendar to the 2021 version, I personally like the 2021 version much more. There are more inks that I could see myself regularly using, the inks were more interesting, and there was a better spread of colours.
Here’s a look at the Col-o-Ring swatches of all 25 inks in the Inkvent 2021 calendar, grouped more or less by hue:

A lot of blue for a red calendar.

Blue and blue green dominate this calendar, although there’s a good selection of pinks and purples. There are fewer brown inks this year, which I don’t think will disappoint many people, particularly since the two brown inks that have been included (Winter Spice and Brandy Snap) are interesting and unique.

I expect Diamine to issue full bottles of these samples, like they did with their Diamine Blue edition. These are the inks that I’ll likely be buying once that edition comes out:

Diamine Ash, Harmony, Night Shade, Thunderbolt, Yuletide, Black Ivy, Brandy Snap

I like shading inks more than shimmering or sheening ones, and all these inks have interesting shading properties or a unique shade that I happen to like and not have in my ink collection. Will I be buying 7 new bottles of ink? Maybe, but probably not. I have over 25 fountain pens filled with ink now (the most that I’ve ever had), so my plan is to write them dry and see after a few weeks of use which ones stick and which ones don’t.

An added bonus to the decision to ink up a pen for each sample is that I’ve inked many pens that I haven’t used in months or years. It’s been a lot of fun playing with the Sailor Cross Emperor nib again, or remembering why I liked this pen or the other. If you’re looking for a way to cheer yourself up, allow me to recommend pulling out a few pens that you haven’t used in a while and jotting something down with them or just doodling. I’m pretty sure it will make you smile.

Diamine Inkvent 2021 Day 25

Caveat: this year’s Inkvent appears to have elusive ink colours. I suggest reading my description of the inks and not going by the photos alone, and comparing my results with those of other reviewers. 

The Diamine Inkvent calendar is an advent calendar with 24 tiny (12ml) bottles of fountain pen ink behind 24 doors, and a larger, 30ml, bottle of ink behind the 25th door. All the inks are limited edition, and, at the moment, only available through this calendar.

Day 25’s door.

Day 25’s ink, the 30ml bottle, is Diamine All the Best. It’s a deep red/burgundy ink with purple shimmer and a golden sheen.

Diamine All the Best.

Here’s a Col-o-Ring swab of Diamine All the Best. The colour fits with the red colour of the calendar, and the ink is festive, saturated, shimmery and shiny. Everything you’d expect from a Christmas ink.

Col-o-Ring swab.

I used a TWSBI Go with a 1.1 stub nib to test out Diamine All the Best, and I kind of regret the choice of pen, but more on that later.

TWSBI Go and Col-o-Ring swab.

I sketched a Christmas tree with presents and a hearth with stockings to test out this ink when the TWSBI GO decided to burp ink on the page and then lay down a ton of ink. You can see the mess on the hearth. My guess is that the feed needs reseating, but I can’t deal with it now with the state of my hands.

Diamine All the Best on Tomoe River paper.

You can see the sheen and some shimmer here:

This was drawn on a Kanso Sasshi 3.5” x 5.5” Tomoe River Paper notebook (the notebooks I have were bought in 2016, and so they contain the old Tomoe River paper).

Finally, I wrote a page in my Midori Journal:

As you can see, there was another unfortunate burp right at the start of the page. The nib also lay down a ton of ink, which is good for showing the properties of the ink, but it makes writing with it quite a risk.

Close up on some sheen and shimmer.

Diamine All the Best is the perfect ink to end the Inkvent 2021 Advent calendar. It fits the theme, fits the calendar colour, has a rich base colour and all the fun extra properties a fountain pen ink can have (shading, shimmering, sheen). If you’re looking for an ink to write Christmas cards with, Diamine All the Best is for you.
I’ll be writing a wrap-up post about the Inkvent 2021 experience and which inks I plan on purchasing. Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!

Diamine Inkvent 2021 Day 24

Caveat: this year’s Inkvent appears to have elusive ink colours. I suggest reading my description of the inks and not going by the photos alone, and comparing my results with those of other reviewers. 

The Diamine Inkvent calendar is an advent calendar with 24 tiny (12ml) bottles of fountain pen ink behind 24 doors, and a larger, 30ml, bottle of ink behind the 25th door. All the inks are limited edition, and, at the moment, only available through this calendar.

Day 24’s door.

Day 24’s ink is Diamine Yuletide. It’s a teal coloured ink that is supposed to be standard ink but has a lot of shading and a good amount of red sheen. I have no idea why it wasn’t marked as a sheening ink.

Diamine Yuletide.

A standard ink? No. Despite it being marked as such Diamine Yuletide sheens.

A standard ink? I don’t think so.

Here’s a Col-o-Ring swab of Diamine Yuletide. The base shade of this ink is lovely, with a ton of shading and some red sheen – it’s one of the more attractive Inkvent inks, and that’s saying a lot.

Col-o-Ring swab.

I used an original Visconti Van Gogh Ocean with a medium 14k gold nib to test Diamine Yuletide out. It took a while to prime the nib after filling it through the converted (the grip and nib section are too big to fill directly from the tiny sample bottle), which is why you can see evidence of hard starts on this Col-o-Ring card.

Visconti Van Gogh and Col-o-Ring swab.

I drew a snowy scene with fir trees, which is about as much as I can draw with my hands being in the state that they are. The shading with Diamine Yuletide is wonderful, and the red sheen comes out as almost a halo.

Diamine Yuletide on Tomoe River paper.

Sorry about the blurry photo, but it does capture the red sheen.

This was drawn on a Kanso Sasshi 3.5” x 5.5” Tomoe River Paper notebook (the notebooks I have were bought in 2016, and so they contain the old Tomoe River paper).

Finally, I wrote a page in my Midori Journal:

A close up on the shading. My camera is de-emphasizing the sheen for some reason, but it’s there, in almost every letter.

After the lackluster Diamine Wonderland it was nice to get an ink like Diamine Yuletide. The base teal shade is wonderful, the ink offers some lovely shading, and the red sheen is a nice added bonus. Diamine Yuletide is definitely a contender for the full bottle purchase later on.