Hello Pen Addict readers! My name is Kalina and I’ll be contributing some reviews from here on out, focusing particularly on using materials for artistic purposes. As an Urban Sketcher I do a lot of quick sketches of my city and the people in it, and often don’t have much time or a convenient work space – this means I’m always on the lookout for exciting results in a convenient, no-fuss package, and it usually comes down to pens. Besides urban sketching I also draw comics. You can find more of my drawings & goings-on at geminica.com.
I’ll start off here by reviewing my current favorite brush pens – the Kuretake No. 8 Fountain Hair Brush Pen and No. 13 Fountain Hair Brush Pen. These pens are identical in the brush (besides the coloration of the metal band) though the bodies are quite different, with price points to match. The brown plastic No. 8 is significantly longer than the more expensive metal No. 13.
My initial reaction upon laying down a line with one of these pens was a bit of a drunken rush. Oh, the possibilities! With this pen, I can make magic! --of course, in reality, brushes in general take a lot of practice to learn to control and I've been working on that ever since, usually by way of the Kuretake and sometimes the Pentel Pocket Brush.
Top to bottom: Kuretake No. 13, Kuretake No. 8, and (for comparison) the popular Pentel Pocket Brush.
Speaking of the Pentel Pocket Brush – that’s a great pen. I’ve had mine for years and the tip is still flawless and producing a reliable, gorgeous line. However, I prefer the Kuretake for a couple of reasons.
This quick sketch in a Hand Book Artist Journal made use of the Kuretake's brush-like qualities.
The Kuretake is slightly more responsive than the Pentel Pocket Brush. That’s not always good – a responsive brush translates every little tremor of your hand onto the page, so it's more challenging to master. A stiffer brush can make a more predictable line which is handy for a lot of uses, and I know one great cartoonist that was lured in by the Kuretake only to end up back in the loving arms of the Pentel Pocket Brush before too long. I'd say when it comes to line quality, the Kuretake wins particularly when you want to work with the looser qualities of a brush, say for gesture drawings.
On a slightly toothy paper, this kind of brush tip results in interesting variations based not just on pressure but also the speed of your stroke. Below are some test strokes made on Aquabee Super Deluxe Sketchbook paper, which has some tooth to it.
The other reason for my Kuretake preference is that both the No. 8 and the No. 13 take a Platinum Converter. Pentel offers no converter for the Pentel Pocket Brush, so you’re stuck using the Pentel ink (which, to be fair, is good waterproof ink) or buying a syringe so you can refill the disposable cartridges. I like the convenience of being able to purchase converter cartridges, and the Platinum Converters are well made. My No. 13 brush pen is currently stocked with disposable Platinum Carbon cartridges (for ease of replacement on the road – and this is fantastic, extremely waterproof ink), and the No. 8 has a cartridge converter filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray which works very well in these pens. (The ink Kuretake provides with purchase is unfortunately not even slightly waterproof.) An example of this ink arrangement is below.
Two tones of ink, both in Kuretake brush pens, makes it possible to add midtones. (Canson Foundation Bristol paper with Platinum Carbon ink and Noodler's Lexington Gray ink)
Brush pens aren’t for everyone and they aren’t useful for every sketch, but if you want the sensitivity of a real brush for a low price along with the flexibility to choose your own inks, this pen fitted with a cartridge converter gets my vote.
This weeks' sketches of Victorians were inspired by photos in the excellent volume Fashion in Photographs: 1880-1900.