A photo of fountain pens in a roll up case, with a sheet of graph paper that says the words mark making part 16 fountain pens
Drawing,  Intuitive Art

Mark Making Part 16: Fountain Pens

Yay, the mark making project continues! Fountain pens are a medium I used to think was more for literary types rather than visual artists. I’m not sure where I picked up that idea, but after reading different artist’s sketch journals and following various urban sketchers, I’ve found they are a popular sketching tool. The lines have a unique quality, compared to felt tip fineliners and other pens. And the fact that the ink blends with water can be an asset!

Maybe part of my notion that they were too fancy for me was that the first pen I stumbled upon where an artist recommended drawing with it, (and this would have been way back in a DeviantArt post somewhere ten years ago or whatever) it was like a $200 pen. I didn’t realize there are lots of super affordable pens (okay – links incoming to be helpful, but like, hahaha, no they are not affiliate links or anything like that ^_^) – like the Preppy fountain pens ($4.50) or Pilot Varsity fountain pen ($3). Granted, the Pilot Varsity aren’t refillable, but the ink is still water soulable and they feel like a fountain pen.

My two Lamys weren’t too bad at $37. And the light green one was on sale at Barnes and Noble so I remember getting it for slightly less (like two years ago, so don’t quite remember how much…). And, of course, there is my new Kaweco that I got in the mail this month! That was $24. So all my pens still don’t add up to that $200 pen that scared me away from trying them way back when. (I am pretty sure that was a Lamy 2000 pen) And with the Lamys I have, the cartridge converters make it very easy use inks of whatever fountain pen ink colors I’d like. Right now I’m really liking the Diamine Oxblood I bought from Goulet Pens a while back.

Fountain pen inks are always water soluble, so they don’t ruin the pen. It was nice to see that my pens were easy to clean out after a year of not using. The Preppy and Varsity ones were fine and hadn’t dried up. The Lamys did need to have their nibs flushed, but after trial and error (and watching YouTube videos), I was able to clean them easily enough and refill them with ink. The pen that was the most clogged was the Pilot Parallel pen, but it had sat the longest without being used, so that was fair. It just took an overnight soak in a jar of water for it to be fine. And then I loaded a bright red cartridge in it! ^_^

Drawing of bare tree branches, with three fountain pens and two water brushes on the side of the paper
Fountain pen ink + water brush = portable and versatile sketching kit!
A doodle of curving lines around gemlike circles. Wing shapes protrude in some parts. Thin scribble lines and dots fill the background.
The Varsity and Preppy pens, plus a fine nib Tachikawa Comic Nib Fountain Pen
An abstract drawing of waving shapes connected by diagonal lines. Draw with Copic drawing pens and colored with markers and colored pencils.
Copic drawing pens
A sheet of graph paper with red calligraphy marks on it. A Pilot Parallel pen sits on top of the paper.
Pilot Parallel pen marks
A photo of a fabric pen case, rolled and tied closed
A photo of a fabric pen case, rolled up and with multiple fountain pens in the case

The rollup pen case pictured was one I sewed last summer, based on this YouTube tutorial. The fabric was ordered online from JoAnne Fabrics. It’s handy for carrying around, but I keep all my extra cartridges in a plastic Art Bin case that the pens also fit in to.

The last two pens I used were a Tachikawa Comic Nib Fountain Pen (School G Model Nib) and two Copic drawing pens, one in black and one in sepia. The School G nib pen is finicky in what paper it will draw well on – it does not like the Canson XL mixed media or anything with tooth. It does like Bristol and marker paper. ^_^ I used it on the fine lines and dots of the second drawing’s background.

The Copic pens don’t have refillable cartridges, but have a tip similar to other fountain pens. They are also “Copic Proof” – i.e. water proof. After drawing waving and straight lines with them (the third drawing above), I filled in the shapes with Copic and Prismacolor markers to see if they would bleed, and they did not. I did let the ink dry over night before trying, so perhaps not a perfect test. The ink takes a little while to dry, which I learned from erasing the pencil lines on my recent Copic practice piece and smudging wet ink. Ah well, lesson learned to be patient and erase only after the ink is for sure dry.

I’d gotten into sketching with my turquoise Lamy back in Oct 2019 as a travel kit (the Lamy with blue ink, plus the black Preppy 03 and a water brush), taking it camping. My camping trip of fall 2019, in the “before times”, seems forever and a day ago. I never even shared my two drawings from that trip, since I’d paused on updating in here around September of that year. Maybe I will close by sharing them now.

A photo of a woman holding a cup of coffee with a sketchbook on her lap. The darwing is of the firepit and percolator in front of her.

(Can we appreciate how my cup from 2019 was ah…very applicable to the year ahead of this photo… T_T)

Sketchbook page with a fountain pen drawing of a camp site with a picnic table and fire pit.

Ah, I miss camping. I miss it being warm enough to hike comfortably. I’m hoping all this indoor sketching will translate into lots of plein air pieces with spring and summer.

‘Til next time. <3

Listening to: Lothlorien, Enya
Current mood: thoughtful

I'm an illustrator and web developer honing my skills and learning all I can about drawing, painting, and storytelling through visual art.