What Do I Use to Sketch With My Fountain Pen Inks?

As I started to accumulate bottles of fountain pen ink, it made sense for me to see if I could sketch with these inks. I started out using my Pilot Falcon and really enjoyed using the <SE> or Soft Extra Fine Nib as it could produce some extremely fine lines, tiny dots, and clever crosshatchings. That pen was fun to use, but I needed a pen that could cover larger areas with a few passes.

Pilot Falcon with <SE> Soft Extra Fine nib (14k/585 gold nib with rhodium plating). The nib itself is a work of art.

I started looking at TWSBIs. A friend of mine “M”, introduced me to her TWSBI GOs. Cool looking stubby pens. Lightweight with a spring-like plunger to fill with ink. Easy to clean. Just pump the plunger into a container of water and pump until the water runs out clear. The TWSBI GOs shown below are all Stub 1.1 nibs

Here are my travel pens. Three Pentel water brushes in different brush widths, several TWSBI GOs filled with different colored inks, and my favorite travel writing companion…Pilot Custom 823 in Amber with a Fine (14kt/585 gold) nib

As I was filling my TWSBIs I could see a problem developing. Which ink is in which pen? I had some Avery #5408 round labels that I used on my sample vials. Perfect. Another reuse for my labels. You can see in the above picture how I labeled each pen. Yes. They are all filled with Robert Oster Signature inks including my Pilot filled with Tokyo Blue Denim.

Here’s a few of my artwork from earlier this year:

Naturally, I had to draw a few of my fountain pens! Robert Oster inks: Thunderstorm, African Gold, Violet Crush, Whisper Red, Sydney Darling Harbour, and Bass Straight
Who doesn’t like blueberries? More Robert Oster ink colors: Tokyo Blue Denim, Jade, Eucalyptus Leaf, and Thunderstorm
A bottle of wine. Not the winery I worked at, but practiced sketching bottles of wine. Robert Oster inks: Thunderstorm, Blue Black, African Gold. Franklin-Christoph ink: Black Cherry

Basically, I draw with my fountain pens. For darker areas, I draw a few lines together. I take my Pentel water brush and lightly apply/paint over the lines. I let the ink do it’s own thing on my paper. I only need one swipe with my brush and not overwork the area too much. Really dark areas I leave the ink alone. I let my paper be the highlights. So no ink or water in the highlights. You can see this in my blueberry picture above.

To make the objects more grounded (not floating on the paper), I used the object’s color(s) and a bit of Thunderstorm. One or two swipes with the water brush and I let the colors mingle together. Let the colors do their thing.

One thing to note about water brushes. Water remains on the bristle. There are times when I do not want too much water on my image/object. I will take my brush and run it over a paper towel once or twice and then apply my brush on the object.

I will mention that drawing with pen & ink and applying water washes to the image takes some practice and patience. I have had many fun mistakes and surprises appear and learned to just go with it.

What’s the best part of this fun adventure? I get to use up my fountain pen inks and enjoy the colors.

Today’s Tip: Avery #5408 round labels – used for labeling the sample ink vials and for labeling pens.

Three Apples on Two Papers

I have taken a break from pastel painting.  Now that we have transitioned from summer and working our way towards the fall season, I have noticed I have shorter blocks of free time on my hands.  For now, I don’t want to deal with the setup and clean up while working with pastels.

I am back to working with pencils.  As in colored pencils.  I know I posted somewhere my treasured Prismacolor Colored Pencil set.  If not, here it is again:


When I received this set a few months ago, it came in a long box and the set was quite heavy.  I was surprised to see two trays side by side and then three layers deep.  I guess that it the only way to package 150 colored pencils…safely.  It’s a gorgeous set of colors!  Don’t you agree?

From this set of 150 colors, I’ve managed to pull out several colors I thought I would frequently use.  Do you know how hard that is?  Over a few weeks of use, I have added more colors to my collection.  There are a few that I have removed.

My colored pencil collection is kept in my Color It zip around case that I found on the Internet:


My case holds 72 pencils in their designated elastic slots.  It can hold more…about a dozen more.  I’ve placed them loosely in the backside of the case.


As I have been drawing and experimenting with different types of papers, I’ve noticed the different results I’m getting with my artwork.  My favorite brand of paper to use is Canson.  If you look at my paper/pad stash, you will find 60% is made up of Canson, 20% is Strathmore, and 20% is other (experimenting with other brands).  My favorite paper weight is 90+ lb.  The heavier paper withstands lots of erasing (which I seldom have to do), but holds up to the many layers of color or graphite I apply.

Here’s an apple trio I drew in my small Canson Mix Media (5.5″x8.5″) sketchbook:


You can see a bit of the details from the paper showing through.  In this artwork, I’ve added several layers of colored pencils.  Some areas with a heavy hand.  This “mix media” paper has a bit of texture or tooth to it.

I decided to do another drawing, but using a different type of paper.  Here’s my drawing using Canson Bristol (9″x12″/smooth side) paper:


You can clearly see a difference in the outcome of my artwork.  My lines appear smoother.  Again, I have worked in layers of colors mostly with a light hand.  This is still a work in progress as I’m experimenting with coloring in shadows correctly.  Which I still have to do.

Here’s my portable sketch book that I mentioned I used for quick sketches or experiments:


For my final drawings, I use my Bristol paper.  This is an old pad I’m trying to use up:


This Bristol paper is my favorite to draw on.  It has two sides, one is smooth and the other has texture or tooth.  I call it my all purpose paper.  If I don’t like my initial drawing I can turn it over and start again or reuse it for another drawing.  Cool, huh?

My Favorite Pastel Book

Taking art classes was a big help in getting my art mojo back.  It came back in a big way.  I added new art medium to my expanding art supply collection.  I found new favorites and confirmed non-favorites.

So I’m now in a lull with knowledge and can’t spend all my waking hours on the Internet.  What do I do?

I found a really good pastel book:


Can I say it’s beautifully written?  It is.  It’s also very informative.  It has good explanations and wonderful samples of the painting processes and techniques.  There’s a variety of subjects it tackles and presents the steps to completing a painting.

This is a book you don’t want to rush through.  Right now, I’m studying Light and Shadows (pages 54-57) and will more than likely re-reading this section for the next several days.

I’m also taking notes from this book.  I have a notebook that I keep for tips and tricks that I uncover as well as the best art medium, best papers, and techniques.

This book “All About Techniques in Pastel” is a definite keeper and I am glad I bought it in hardback format as I will be keeping it next to my easel.

Now, if I can just find a good one on oil painting….

I Bought a Lyre Easel!

It’s sometimes hard to sit in a chair with a drawing board on my lap and draw.  After a few minutes of sitting, the slouching, hunching of shoulders, and then leaning forward over my artwork, is not good for my posture and back.  I have been looking for a new easel.  Mostly to use while I draw.  I already have a nice Mabef H-frame easel that my hubby purchased for me a few years ago when I was painting with water-miscible oils.  My H-frame easel is HEAVY.  Right now, it sits in the corner of a room and let’s just say it will stay there.  

I looked online to see what was available and for less than $100.  I know, you get what you paid for and for that amount I assumed I could get something decent that would stay upright and not fall over.  Unlike the $20 A-frame I purchased from ACMoore recently that collapses when I just look at it.  No worries.  I’ll figure out how to rig something up.  Maybe small sandbags.  Hahaha!

I was torn between the H-frame and A-frame models.  I wanted something that I could fold flat in an instant, be able to sit in front of comfortably, small enough to stand in a corner or near a window, and light enough so I can move/carry it to another location in the house or outside.  I saw several models online, but I could not decide.  I’m more of a touchy/feeling type of person.

I took a field trip to my local art supply store and was able to see and touch several models.  There were several different styles along with different prices ranges.  I played with them, shook them, and moved them around in the store.  The H-frame models are still a bit bulky and heavy, but they are STURDY.  Some of the A-frames were quite fragile especially the ones with the tripod-style skinny legs.  No, that would not work for me as I already have the ACMoore special.   I then came across an A-frame called Lyre (pronounced like “liar”).  I had the sales person give me a quick show and tell and I immediately fell in love with it.  After I paid $87 including tax, I was out the door with it.  In a box of course.  To be put together.

It’s an “inclinable” lyre easel.  I can adjust the easel to my comfort level whether I’m sitting down in a chair or standing.  Here’s a picture from the box:


When I finally had some time,  I pulled all the pieces out of the box.  I made a point of taking a picture of how the screws were identified according to the instructions.  Check this out.  Look at how the manufacturer made it so easy:  


Yes, there was a zip lock bag for each type of screw or part with a letter on the bag.  The instruction shows the wood parts and the associated bag letter in each step.

I was really impressed how quickly I managed to put my easel together even though at first glance the instructions looked a bit intimidating.  The labels on the bag were extremely helpful.  The only issue I had was to make sure I had the wood pieces facing in the correct direction.  The diagram was a bit hard to decipher.  Initially, I turned the screws for a few rounds (not tighten) to make sure I had the wood pieces placed together correctly.  Once all the pieces were held together, I quickly tightened all the screws.  The included phillips and flathead screw drivers was a huge plus (see the orange and red handles in the picture above).  This was definitely worth the $87 I spent.  

Welcome my new addition to my art family:


This Lyre easel weighs only 13 lbs.  It’s a short model compared to it’s more expensive and taller versions.  I do not have any plans on painting huge artwork on this easel.  That’s what my H-frame easel is for.  I love the adjustable bottom shelf.  I just pull on the metal loop underneath the shelf and slide it up and down and release it when it’s at the right height for me. 


One reason this easel stood out from the other A-frame types was the thick broad legs it has.  It hardly slides around on my wood floor, but I plan on using the “rug grippers” or anti-skid mats under the legs.  This style of easel is well made and rugged.  All the pieces matched and joined together perfectly.  Screw holes matched up where they were supposed to.

If you are looking for small and lightweight (~13 lbs) easel.  This is the one to get.  If you have a small area or space in a corner of a room, this easel is perfect for smaller spaces.

Here’s a link to the different types of easels available and their uses:  https://www.art-is-fun.com/types-of-easels.  This is a great site to figure out what type of easel will work with your needs and price ranges.