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Saturday, February 19, 2011

fountain pens

Ruling nib in my dip pen with sketch and bottle of ink.
The question, "what kind of pens and inks do you like to use?" Pen and ink is never more flexible in line quality than with an old fashioned pen that has to be dipped in a well of ink. The nibs vary for different uses, I like a flexible nib that holds lots of ink like the "ruling nib" seen here. Dipping it in the ink and varying the pressure which gives a bold line, a fine line, or move from one to the other in the same stroke. Still that isn't be best option for drawing around town on sketch crawls.
For sketching on the go, I have been using a pen made by a German company called Rotring since I first discovered it in a small office/art supply store in Cambridge MA on a visit in 1987. The Rotring artists pen was great for sketching, writing letters and journaling. Over the years I had and lost several. Eventually I found a converter cartridge that allowed me to use my own inks in the pen and it saved money instead of buying the disposable plastic cartridges that Rotring sells. I believe using a fountain pen is green; why use a disposable pen or a plastic ink cartridge that ends up in the trash? Any artist can use the same fountain pen for years and have a choice of various inks while reducing your carbon foot print!
1. Niji water brush
2. Pen & Ink sketch pen
3. Rotring artist sketch pen
4. converter cartridge

My new Pen & Ink sketch pen has a iridium tip and is a copy of the type of fountain pens used by artists and writers a couple generations back in the 1940's and 50's. I  have been using this pen to sketch now for a good a year and am pretty happy with it's fine tip which is flexible yet strong. Any pen nib can bend too far under pressure, rendering them useless but the iridium is very strong. The cartridge converter is a simple device, it has a screw plunger that turns to refill or empty the cartridge. I leave mine in the pen and draw the ink up through it's nib into the cartridge. The Japanese Niji "water brush" seen in this photo is a great tool for water and brush on the go. It holds water in the blue reservoir and with a simple squeeze on the barrel pushes water into the brush to use on cake water colors or to make  ink washes if you draw with water soluble inks.
Still life at home 

Sketching at NGA lecture


  1. Thank you for this article, I will try to find a rotring! Alina

  2. You can also refill an empty cartridge with a syringe.