Left: Test sketch with Slicci pen on Nideggen paper which has a laid pattern with a wavy chain. See notes below about this drawing. Click on the image for an enlargement. Later there is also a close up.
I like fine point pens and Tim at Wet Paint knows this. So the other day when I was in shopping he showed me the Slicci Pens from Pentel. They have three point sizes: 025, 03, and 04. I don't really understand what the numbers relate to (could it be millimeters, it seems smaller than that and I didn't ask), but I can tell you when you write with them they are fine, superfine, and microfine. I asked Tim what he would call this type of pen: "Is it a roller ball?" And Tim said, "I call it a needlepoint gel pen." When you work with the pen you'll find his description fits. There is a smoothness to the pen that many ultra fine points don't have. (Oh, and everyone at Wet Paint has decided to pronounce this "slick-ee.")
In my sketch of a very damaged and bruised red pear you can see that the layering and shading got a little away from me. (It was late!) And there are overlaps that frankly I didn't try to hide. You do have to watch the end of your stroke a little with this pen; I recommend really varying your line lengths in a consistent-inconsistent manner! (Rotating the pen in your hand between strokes wouldn't hurt either, to avoid any potential for blobs.) But as you will see when you look at the close up (not just the enlargement of this image, but the close up of the top of the image) you can make a mighty fine and delightful line with this pen.
Right: Close up of the pear top, showing the thin wispy fiber at the top of the stem. Click on the image for an enlargement. (You also get a really clear view of the texture of this paper and the lovely fibers it contains. The surface is pretty slick even with this texture. Dip pen loves this paper by the way.)
The stem was particularly fun to draw with this pen. My problem is that I kept going and going. I think that I would prefer using this pen for less densely filled sketches. (I like packing in the lines with a dip pen because I can get a lot of variety with certain nibs, with this pen I have to work hard to control the end of the stroke.)
The pen itself is very thin. At first I thought that this was a plus. While I can stretch an octave on the piano (years of Hannon exercises) I have rather small hands. The barrel of this pen (which of course is now misplaced since I want to measure it) is slightly shorter than many of my other pens and is about the thickness of a normal pencil barrell. What I found is that the pen was actually too small for me at first. I couldn't get it to balance well in my hand for my repetitive stroking; something that will require a little adjustment time.
The pen comes in a variety of colors, but frankly none of the colors except black and brown interest me. The other colors are rather garish and I imagine will appeal to people who like to draw hearts all over everything. I can't see any use for them in sketching, and I guess that's the point, this isn't really a pen for sketching, it's a pen for writing notes. Still I can't help myself. It has such a lovely point.
They sell for $3.95 each and not every color is available in every size. (I don't know if this is just because of what the distributor sent, or if it is a production decision; take it as a heads up.) I think that the 04, which I purchased in black is plenty fine for me. There will be people who will discern the differences between the smaller sizes and want them; they felt a little stiffer to me, perhaps a little scratchy because of the ultrafine sharpness.
I next spent some time sketching a cardinal from a friend's photo. (I could of course gone outside and found a Cardinal because it is Minnesota and we have them, but frankly yesterday was the coldest day of the year since last winter (8 degrees), and my body is not adjusted to the concept of cold weather sketching yet; just a few days ago it seems I was riding my bike with tights and a tee-shirt!)
So happily a friend has supplied me with a couple photos to sketch from (thank you Pam, Wendy's sister) which have excellent detail. I open them in Photoshop and sit back and sketch from the screen. It's sort of like sitting in a tree with the bird (which yes I have done on more than one occasion). That's how I worked on this test sketch.
At first I wasn't going to add any paint. The sketch was really quite lovely: detail where needed, around the face, and everything then fading away. But of course I had to push it and so I started adding the gouache. I had already tested this ink and knew it was NOT WATERPROOF OR RESISTANT. Sometimes it is fun to draw with watersoluble ink and let it bleed a little. You can get an interesting effect (or effects). And I have to say, for a pen that does bleed I like it quite well because even though it does bleed it retains a dark line.
Once I started adding gouache and playing with the dissolvability (is that a word? I like it) of the ink I really went to town working with more paint over the line. (Keep in mind that Nideggen, even though it's not a watercolor paper and is lightweight, will take a fair bit of working, and also keep in mind that wavy laid texture is going to meet you at each step of the way with additional challenges that you can either embrace with joy or be frustrated by. I recommend you go with joy.)
At callout "A" you'll see linework that has been partially dissolved and then painted over with thicker paint. This tends to disperse the original bleed and you end up with just a partially obscured line. You can use this to good effect for shading an area as I did at callout "B" where the bleeding of the ink darkened the shadow areas. Look closely at area "B," however, because what I really want you to see there is the way the tips of the cross hatched lines bled up, a function of the way the water was drying and that wavy laid texture pattern. You can do something with that if you plan.
At callout "C" you will see a light application of paint and be better able to judge the bleeding of the line, because it hasn't been covered over with more paint. This is also visible just above "C" on the rest of the bird's cheek. Right below the eye I have actually drawn some of the bleeding ink out into the red feathers for shading. Something I like to do when I am working with the Pentel Color Brush (which is watersoluble and non-archival but I like to play with it anyway).
In the black face feathers you can see the color of the paper popping through even the dense line work, again, something that is happening because of that wavy laid texture.
And finally just above "A" where black feathers meet red I have restated some of the black lines to make them crisp again after the thick red gouache hid and dissolved some of them.
So would I recommend this pen? Well I think for $4 you might want to try one if you like ultra fine points. HOWEVER, I have no information on whether the ink is archival or not. I would guess that it is not archival. And is it lightfast? I have made a test sheet and put it in the window, but let's face it, not only is it 8 degrees here we now have about half the daylight we had even a month ago. Add to that the cloudiness that is November and I'm afraid I won't be able to report on lightfast issues with this ink until the new year.
That time frame seems a little too long to wait to talk about this pen, in case there are folks out there who like dissolving ink and fine points. As people who draw with ball point office pens know, sometimes it's just fun to sketch with what's at hand, and enjoy the moment. There's a lot to enjoy with this petite pen.
Let me know if you try it and show me what you do with it.