Picking a Pen to Suit Your PaperOctober 1, 2018
I write about picking your art tools and media to suit your paper (canvas, etc.) a lot on the blog.
Lately I’ve been working in one of the journals I bound in #2017BigBind that I made with the OLD Gutenberg paper. (This is the Gutenberg paper made before 2017, before the cancelation of the paper and the subsequent reboot of the paper at the end of 2017. The new paper of this name doesn’t match the earlier paper I’m using, so I stipulate “old.”)
I love the old Gutenberg for a number of reasons, but one of the reasons it is really fun to work on is that its slightly pebbly texture is great with pens of all types—giving an interesting line texture. This is especially true of pens like the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen FB and the Faber-Castell Calligraphy pen (not used in today’s sketches) when they are running out of ink. You get some lines that look almost like graphite in tone and texture.
I’ve included the close up view of this sketch so that you see the fiber flecks in the paper, as well as the texture. The paper has a creamy color.
When you purchase a new paper I encourage you to try all your favorite pens first thing on that paper. Make lines, dashes, hatching—all the marks you typically make with a given pen. You might find that working with a pen on a new paper opens a new set of options for your use of that pen because of how they work together.
This summer, because I was deciding on which type of paper and which size journal to take the to Minnesota State Fair, I had another journal in use at the same time as the one filled with old Gutenberg paper.
This second journal was filled with Arches Text Wove (now called Velin in the US). It’s a light weight paper weighing in at 120 gsm. However it comes in large sheets (19.5 x 25.5 inches) is 100 percent cotton and acid free, and it folds and tears down nicely for binding. Despite its light weight it is a tough sheet that takes wet media and mixed media. I love working in journals I make with this paper because I can make a journal with lots of pages but still have a thin book to carry around with me.
In the third image today you can see that same pen, the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen FB, at work on the Arches Text Wove (Velin). This time the pen is even more dried out and that of course effects the line quality. But the most noticeable effect is the influence of the pebbly texture of the paper when you use this pen.
Of course I like to use wet media on my pages, and as I just wrote, Arches Text Wove (Velin) is great for wet and mixed media. I use it for watercolor, gouache, water-soluble wax pastels, Montana Acrylic Markers, and the Art Graf water-soluble graphite and carbon black. (The OLD Gutenberg is good for all those media as well, however, I do not know if their new paper is as the samples sent were too small to test and looked and felt nothing like the original paper.)
I’ve included a scan of the same ink sketch with watercolor washes added on the Arches Text Wove (Velin).
Fun dry-brush results are possible on this paper because of the slight pebbly texture.
The final sketch for today is another Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen FB sketch on Arches Text Wove (Velin).
I also include a detail of the image (below) so that you can see the wonderfully fine strokes-dots you can make with the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen FB. It has a lovely flexible tip that really lasts through hours of sketching.
And when it starts to go dry, I recommend you keep the pen for doing your preliminary sketch work (capturing the gesture and general proportions of your subject) before you go in for detail work. This fine-tipped solid-fiber-tipped brush pen has become quickly become one of my favorite pen choices because the lines it makes are so variable.
Take some time today to think about the papers you use and the pens you use.
What effects can you get right now? What effects do you want to be able to get?
Are you working with a weak paper that pills when you wet it? Or lets paint and dye seep through it? If that’s the case, do yourself a favor and start using a better paper. You will find it easier to get lovely results and will be less frustrated.
Do you need water-resistance in your pen ink? I find the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen FB waterproof on most papers. (On some heavily sized watercolor papers it dries a little more slowly so you may experience a little bit of bleeding if you go directly in with your washes. I find this only happens rarely—I sketch quickly and go right in with my washes.)
Based on your answers to the questions above it might be time to explore some more paper and pen options?
If you don’t like to bind your own books check out the following commercially bound journals that love the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen FB (and the Faber-Castell Calligraphy Pen too).
The Hahnemühle Watercolor Sketchbook (That link takes you to part one of a three-part review; you can follow the blog navigation at the bottom of that post to the continuation.)
The time you spend testing out your pens on different papers will help you make choices about the way you want to work and the effects you want to achieve. It will make you not only more efficient (something that is useful when you are out and about sketching live subjects) it will make you less grumpy!
There are few experiences that dispel “grumpiness” as quickly as putting a favorite pen to a favorite paper.
Note: Both the papers used for sketching in today’s post are lighter weight than most watercolor papers. You may, depending on you water use, experience some buckling. I find this happens with Arches Text Wove (Velin). Buckling isn’t something that bothers me. You are still able to work on the next page (if you have bound the paper into a book). I think books with lightweight paper pages covered in wet media have a delightful texture to them, and a wonderful sound when you turn the pages. Someone’s hand has changed all these pages. Someone has lived in this book. If strong lightweight papers aren’t fun for you, keep looking—but the point is to look.