More on the Tachikawa Linemarker A.T. Fountain Pen

June 4, 2011

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110603TadLincoln Left: A quick sketch of Tad Lincoln with a "pancake" on his head (hey, I'm adjusting to my new glasses prescription and why is the hat shaped that way anyway!), from a Brady photo. Read below for more details.

I finally had a bit more time to sketch with the Tachikawa Linemarker A.T. fountain pen that I first mentioned here on May, 25, 2011.

In the samples shown today I'm working on Hahnemühle's Nostalgie, which is a smooth sketch paper. I love working on this paper with Pentel Pocket Brush Pens.

I found that over time, not just my glasses, but the pen was frustrating to use. It's stiffer than I would like in a pen if I'm going to do this type of work. And it shows in my sketch, where at times I just start scribbling.

Here's the thing, and I never fully realized this about myself until right this moment, but I'm a pen twirler. You can see what I mean in sketches like the one I did at the Bell Museum of the Borrowing Owl, or, also at the Bell, a sketch of a Gyrfalcon. I'm pretty happy twirling my good old Staedtler Pigment Liner on edge so that I can get thick and thin lines. Don't get me wrong. In a perfect world I would travel everywhere with a dip pen. But when you have a tendency to spill ink, that's not really possible, or rather advisable.

So while the world complains about the flex of their pen nibs I've sketched merrily along with my SPLs, safe and content in the knowledge that their ink is also waterproof and my watercolor washes, which are coming up in seconds, will be fine over the lines I just made.

Do I twirl when I use a dip pen? I use a dip pen in the studio a lot and frankly it isn't pretty what I do to the nibs. What I do know is that nothing I've ever tried is as flexible as a dip pen nib. They are the contortionists of the pen world.

So what I have to say about the Tachikawa Linemarker A.T. fountain pen has to be tempered by the knowledge that I'd really rather be drawing with a dip pen. (That's disclosure.)

Yes, I still believe they are less stiff than the Rotring sketch pens I've used. Is it a lot less stiff, nope, I wrote as much the first time. But there is something rough feeling for me about this pen, that upon longer use over a couple sketches on a variety of papers I find unsatisfying.

I couldn't locate my 05 so I had to work with my O3. I hadn't worked with it for several days. I found that it actually stopped flowing easily, i.e., I would be drawing along and then there would be no ink. I literally had to shake it and scribble elsewhere to get it to flow again.

I also found that when I would slip down on to the edge of the pen (the first step of twirling) I would lose the ability to make the mark I wanted.

Here's the thing—if you like to scribble or if you like to do repeated lines with the same pressure, going back and forth in opposite directions (which most dip pen nibs are not designed for) then you are probably going to love this pen. You will find a sweet spot and just ride it out.

I have to admit that in doing the sketch above I frequently would hit a sweet spot and then lose it just as quickly. I'd rather go back to dip pens. (Maybe I miss the ink on my fingers?)

Above: Detail of the Tad sketch, showing some extra line doodles with the 03.

To create thicker lines with the O3 over the course of the drawing I had to press harder than I would if I were twirling my SPL, or if I were using a dip pen. But I could get line variation as you see on the side. Not dramatic, but noticeable.

What I found frustrating about the pen on longer usage was the tendency to "dry out" and skip, and the inability to allow me to twirl even a little—any attempts at twirling resulted in broken lines like those seen in the bottom left of the detail image above.

But what is fun, as I pointed out above, is that you can scribble like crazy with no repercussions in regards to your nib.

Next, I'd like to say something about the question of waterproofness (is that a word?). This can best be said in the caption to the image below.

110603BradyManCollarDetail Left: another sketch on Nostalgie. A shows some of the broken lines I get if I try to twirl the pen. (My bad.) B shows a water wash over a dark area of ink. You can see that there is some bleeding of the ink from the line, but it is very minor. C shows watercolor that went to and touched thin lines around it and on no sides could you see any bleeding. D shows some minor bleeding at the base of the area where there is the most ink, but even the thick stroke at the top left of this area didn't bleed.

You'll all remember my constant refrain, "It's Not Waterproof until It's Waterproof." On all of the papers that I tried this pen, it showed a fair degree of waterproofness (if I weren't late for an appointment I'd go look that word up).

You will have to experiment with the papers that you like most to use.

I'll continue using these pens at my desk, for a while longer, to see if I warm up to them more. They have positive characteristics and some negative ones, based on how I draw. I know that for other folks these might very well be their dream pen. If you want the convenience of a fountain pen that has some flex and has pre-filled cartridges that carry ink you can wash over with watercolor, this might be just the pen for you. Keep it simple. You won't know for sure until you try one out. (If you twirl, I'd say stay with what you're using.)

    • Zoe
    • June 4, 2011

    I found this whole idea of twirling more than worthy of exploration. Perhaps it explains, to some degree your dislike of the Lamy Safari, and preference for the Preppy (a round body and a totally different grip).

    I have so many pens that I am loathe to even consider this one, and my Noodler piston flex is enroute to me now.

    But I had to write with a few pens after reading your post to see if I twist, or twirl, and indeed I do.

    And with all this testing I discovered another pen, modestly priced but more than the Preppy. It also has a roundish body and an indent at the upper portion with a modest grip indentation. It was unmarked so it took me awhile to figure out it is a Pilot Penmanship, cost $7.50 and carries both cartridges or a Pilot universal converter (aka con) [these are life-savers for fountain pen users because they work in many different fountain pens].

    I also realize that I have one Preppy, with cartridges, and that the converter for it as well as several other pens is the Platinum converter, $7.50 at Jet Pens and as you mentioned available at Wet Paint.

    Now that I realize how much I twist and twirl, I will be paying more attention to this habit and possible skips or trips of my pens.

    Thanks, Roz, for always a good post.

    • LizzieBo
    • June 4, 2011

    Reason number five I think it would be wonderful if you wrote a book – Points get lost! Although with some people’s blogs, one (I) can go back and read them pretty much from the beginning because although they may span several years, the person only writes a couple times a month, with yours, you (thankfully) post almost everyday, if not everyday in large stretches, so it is HARD to go back and read ALL of them. And the links are so interesting and make it easy to digress. And then I find whole blocks of topics that, since I don’t know watercolor or gouache or art for that matter, didn’t know I should search for …. so…. I think it would be wonderful if you wrote a book. Even if your book ended up being about dip pens. Which I would read because i’m sure it would be fascinating.

  1. Reply

    Lizziebo, this is so funny! Though I would love to write a book about dip pens as well! I could just fill it with digressions about other things.

    • LizzieBo
    • June 5, 2011

    For someone who is just beginning, do you have a suggestion for a limited watercolor palette? I looked at the Handprint website, but his approach seems different than yours, and Jeanne Dobie uses color names, not pigments (and I’m not sure what brand she’s discussing – maybe I missed it). I have seen your limited Gouache posting and the acrylic list from Strathmore for acylic. But I wanted to try mixing with just watercolor. Do you have a handout posted from some class some time? See how useful a book would be?

  2. Reply

    Lizzie, I think Dobie’s book would be a good place for you to start. Or Nita Leland’s (see my page on color theory books).

    I recommend people start with a warm and an cool of each primary and that ends up looking something like
    *Azo Yellow
    *Cadmium Yellow
    *Cadmium Red
    *Quin. Rose
    *Ultramarine Blue
    *Phthalocyanine Blue
    (If you do go this way I would recommend that you use Phthalocyanine Blue Red Shade, Daniel Smith actually has a lovely one; I just prefer the mixes I get with it, but again your eye might be different.)

    That’s a fairly standard palette. Then of course if you want to not use cadmiums you can substitute another red and another yellow.

    I don’t like this standard palette because I don’t like Phthalocyanine blue at all. But it’s a great starting place for most people, and people do some really great things with Phthalocyanine blue. It might be just the blue that appeals to you.

    That’s the thing with color, you have to start somewhere and work out what works for you. So I think you are going to have to go back to one of the books you own or have read, and follow the author’s advice and exercises to begin to see how the colors suggested by that book work. If it’s a good book, as the ones on my list are, then you’ll become familiar with what the colors do, how they appeal to you and work (or don’t work for you) and you’ll develop a sense of what direction you want to go.

    My gouache palette is the same as listed in my Strathmore class. It can be found by using the blog search engine and looking for “gouache palette.” However, it won’t do you much good if you aren’t working with the colors in a daily schedule, in an organized fashion, learning what they can do.

    As to what brand Dobie uses I couldn’t say. I think when she wrote the book she was using Winsor & Newton. Shortly after that she was featured repeatedly in the Daniel Smith catalog as having a “set” of selected colors that she loved. You might want to check with Daniel Smith and see if they can still recommend what those were for you.

    Handprint is an excellent site and if you go to this link on it
    read the material and at the end of a long explanation you will find his recommended limited palette.

    Take those names and compare the pigment names to the pigment names and pigment numbers you find on the tubes of paint in the store. It will take a little time as you work your way through, but you’ll find someone to help you with the brand that you select.
    Actually I just clicked on the pigment names in his list and they link to another page where he has it all set out for you, as on this yellow page.

    It really couldn’t be simpler to do your homework before you go into the store.

    But whatever palette you decide on you’re going to have to work with them, and that brings us back to a book, as I mentioned earlier. So pull one out, buy some paints, work the book, and all the while realized that those aren’t the last paints you’ll be buying. After you learn what they do you’ll be in a position to know which direction you want to go. That’s what everyone starting out has to do—good news: it’s great fun.

    • LizzieBo
    • June 5, 2011

    Thank you so much. I have been looking through Jeanne Dobie’s book, but it seems to assume a level of skill that I’m not even close to having. However, I get a hint what she’s talking about and am finding it fascinating. I also got a hold of Nita Leland’s book and that seems more accessible to me. She gives some very basic beginning exercises which I want to start with. I’m afraid I’m very much afflicted with the “save the good stuff” mentality. My mother, who was a quilter, died with much of her “favorite” fabric on a shelf, so I should know better (now I have it). So the plan is to get some decent paint and try it out. (I’m not quite done with my Crayola’s yet, however) Thanks for your advice.

  3. Reply

    LizzieBo, I’m glad you’re going to give Leland’s book a try. I’m sorry to hear that your mom died with her favorite fabrics on the shelf—but I hope you will use it as a lesson to learn from and not delay any of your creative pursuits.

    First thing you must do, if you’re going to get into watercolor is get over the idea that learning and using paint is the same as wasting paint. It isn’t.

    Second. Toss the Crayola paints. You won’t learn anything with them. The only thing you learn from CRAP PAINT is sorrow and regret that you spent any time with them! Really.

    Crayola paints just aren’t artist quality paints and because of that they have poorer grade component parts.

    All the fancy mixing in the world isn’t going to help you with them.

    Sure, some artists make fabulous paintings with them, often on a dare, sometimes out of necessity.

    But they work 3,000 times harder than people with even moderately better paints.

    What you are mixing together when you mix Crayola is nothing like what you’ll mix and the results you’ll get when you use any artist brand: Daniel Smith, M. Graham, Schmincke (pans or tubes), Sennelier for example.

    Your time is worth more than all the paint and paper you can “waste.” Please go out and buy 6 tubes of artist paint if you’re going to start on this journey. It doesn’t begin until you crack open those “real” tubes.

  4. Reply

    For those like me who live far away from Roz’s favorite art shop, Jetpens just started stocking these Tachikawas. I’m excited to try them!

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