Part 4: Summer 2011 to Summer 2017

Ink sketches in my Epsilon sketchbook


So I put the Moleskine away and took up my new Stillman & Birn Epsilon 6 in. x 8 in. wire bound sketchbook which was designed with ink drawings in mind.

sketchI was eager to try out this new sketchbook, so I started in the middle with the guy I had captured a few days earlier.

Then I added some poses from my old butterfly nets, which I had used before.

This was done entirely in brush and ink with my Kuretake Brush Pen with Platinum Carbon Ink.

It was nice to be able to draw a little bigger, but I also wanted a little space to anchor my hand, so I left generous white space around the drawing instead of filling the page to the edges as I did with the Moleskine.

With this move to a larger sketchbook, I abandoned my habit of keeping it in my back pocket as I had done with the pocket Moleskine, and started carrying this Epsilon sketchbook in my bag.

Since I'm making the ink drawings at my desk and not on a moving train now, there's no need to have quick access to this sketchbook during my daily commute.

And I love the freedom that goes with the larger size.

I'm still using my small spiral bound pocket sketchbook shown in the photo at the right (a.k.a. butterfly net) for quick on-the-spot sketches of commuters and choosing the best ones for the larger ink drawings.

I've always carried this little sketchbook in my back pocket as well, but during the winter months when I'm wearing a heavy coat on the crowded train, I have difficulty reaching back pulling the sketchbook out. So I transferred it to the outer pocket of my bag so I can whip it out quickly.

It worked out very well, and I may just keep this sketchbook in my bag pocket even when the weather warms up.

The ones that got away

Since I capture all my subjects on a moving train with unsuspecting commuters serving as models, there are certain inevitable problems.

Every two minutes or so the train stops at a new station and there's a good chance that my model will leave the train or rush to grab an open seat if he or she was originally standing, or be blocked by someone who has just gotten on the train (I find this the most frustrating if it was a promising pose and the model is still there).

So the vast majority of pages in the small spiral bound are unfinished scribbles. But that's a price I'm willing to pay to get those few great poses that last to the end of the sketch. Besides, these spiral bound pocket sketchbooks are really cheap, so I'm willing to take a chance! Even though there is not enough of the subject to copy into my larger Epsilon sketchbook, sometimes there's just enough to add color and make an interesting sketch.

Here are a few sketches in my most recent sketchbook of the ones that got away.

sketch sketch
sketch sketch
sketch sketch

I had accumulated enough completed sketches of school girls, so I dedicated the next page to them. I can't recall if I have ever assembled poses according to a common theme before.

sketch sketch
sketch sketch


This second page was done with both the Kuretake brush pen and my Platinum Carbon Pen for fine hatching.

I decided to try just the brush pen for the next sketch:


And here are a few of the poses I captured in my butterfly net for this page.

sketch sketch
sketch sketch

You can also see all my spiral bound "butterfly net" sketches on one page in one big collection.

Here are a few more sketches from the Epsilon sketchbook.





This Epsilon paper is wonderful, and the spiral bound format makes it easier to draw since I can have any page directly on the desk surface.

It is also easy to rip out pages if they don't turn out, or if I want to scan the better sketches perfectly flat in a scanner, which is very convenient. Did you notice that the last few sketches don't have any shadows or wires showing? I ripped them out of the sketchbook!

But that convenience can also be a problem, at least for me.

Although I continued to sketch people in loose pencil and watercolor in my pocket sketchbook, my motivation to create larger ink drawings from these had diminished. I forgot to take into account the high motivation attached to an ongoing project. In my way of thinking, this spiral bound sketchbook is simply a bundle of papers wired together and easily detached, rather than a solid book. It's not a treasure that increases in value with every new page.

In other words, I need a hardbound sketchbook project to keep my motivation high.

So my next sketches were in the hardbound sketchbook format. My Moleskine was practically filled, so I brought out a new one which I had bought some time ago, and which was still shrink-wrapped, and I also added a large Moleskine.


As you can see, I used color on these first pages. But I still think black and white is a better idea for the ink drawings because it sets them apart completely from the pencil and watercolor sketches on which they are based, and gives me a chance to focus on the fascinating qualities of ink alone.

sketchBy the way, this larger Moleskine is the same one that I had abandoned a few years ago after drawing the Edo Castle scene plus a few other sketches. I carefully cut out the first signature and taped the book back together for a fresh start.

For ink drawings, the Moleskine paper is good, but not as good as Stillman and Birn Epsilon paper. Fortunately, I have a hardbound 5.5 X 8.5 inch Epsilon sketchbook on my shelf which hasn't been used yet. Maybe its time has finally arrived.

My new brush pen

Natural hair brush pens are better than the synthetic hair type because the natural brush tip is more responsive and does what you want it to. But I have always used synthetic hair brush pens for my ink and watercolor drawings because natural hair bristles clog up and go dry with Platinum Carbon ink.

Not long ago I discovered that Platinum has accomplished the impossible with their own weasel hair brush pen. It's the CF-5000 Natural Weasel Hair Brush Pen.


The brush tip is slightly longer than my other brush pens, and the taper is more subtle so it is easier to produce consistently thin hatch lines again and again with no surprises.

tipThe barrel is slightly more slim than my other brush pens which means I can get slightly better line control.

And the natural hair bristles are more responsive than synthetic hair bristles.

The cap on this brush pen is a click-on type (not a screw-on type) and is apparently air-tight. After a few months of drawing with this brush pen I haven't noticed any drying of the brush when it was capped between drawing sessions.

Platinum makes two types of Carbon ink; one for brush pens, and one for fountain pens. This brush pen came with an ink cartridge that contained Platinum Carbon ink for brush pens.

The ink for brush pens has a gold imprint in Japanese that identifies it as brush pen carbon ink. The ink for fountain pens has a silver imprint that just says "CARBON INK" in English.two inks

The Carbon Ink for brush pens is extremely black and has a matt finish, but I found it to be a little smudgy and chalky until it totally dried a few hours later.

But this brush worked very well with Carbon Ink for fountain pens which is not chalky or smudgy at all, and dries very quickly. This is truly an amazing brush pen!

For me, this is the ultimate brush pen for drawing, especially ink and watercolor sketches!

New fountain pens, too

I also discovered that Platinum had redesigned one of their flagship model fountain pens to accomodate Carbon ink!

They took their 3776 fountain pen and gave it a new nib and ink feed. They also added a new feature to the screw-on cap which makes it air-tight after you screw it on. They renamed it the Platinum "#3776 CENTURY.

century 3776 pens.

I got a black one with an extra fine nib and a translucent wine colored one (a.k.a. Bourgogne) with an ultra extra fine nib. The ultra extra fine makes a line very similar to the Platinum Carbon Pen's super fine nib, and is the best choice for fine hatching. The extra fine nib is my personal choice for general use, especially writing in my journal.

Platinum clearly states that these pens were specially designed to be used safely with pigment inks, and Carbon ink is a pigment ink. The pens even came with Carbon ink cartridges, so there is no doubt that they expect people to use this ink in these pens.

I inserted the Carbon Ink Cartridges and have used these pens for drawing and writing, and after several weeks, I've had no trouble at all! So now I can carry a beautiful fountain pen with a Carbon Ink cartridge in my shirt pocket, and have any nib type I like.

How does the 3776 Century compare with the Carbon Pen?

Technically, I did not need another Carbon ink pen since I have a small collection of long desk-type Platinum Carbon Pens, that work great, are nicely balanced, and are a joy to draw with. I keep one in a pen stand on my desk at work, and use it whenever I'm in the office.

carbon pen

But I don't sit at my desk all day, and long desk pens are hard to carry in the pocket (several of mine have been sawed down to various lengths in my attempt to overcome that problem), and it was inevitable that I would get these 3776 Century pens soon after I became aware of their existence. Being a fountain pen fan, I have always liked the classic fountain pen design with its clip and standard cigar-shape.

As far as function is concerned, there is no difference between the 3776 Century and the desk-type Carbon pen. They are both great pens for Carbon ink.

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