Larger ink drawings
So I began my new adventure with the Stillman and Birn Episilon 5.5 X 8.5 inch hardbound sketchbook. I couldn't carry it in my pocket, but I could still carry it in my shoulder bag.
I teach English at a junior high and high school in Tokyo, and my sketchbooks have been popular with many of the students. They were particularly impressed with all the text I wrote in the previous sketchbook, although they couldn't read it -- and it wasn't written for their sake anyway.
So with this new sketchbook I decided to continue adding text, this time writing simple English sentences for the amusement of the students (and also to justify drawing in this sketchbook at work).
This turned out to be a big hit, and the students laughed when they read the sentences, not so much because the English was particularly hilarious, but because they were so happy that they could actually read it.
Now, when students see me with the familiar black book in my hand, they ask me to show them my latest drawings. So I make sure to have the book with me as often as possible.
I get more joy out of drawing now as a teacher than I ever did when I was a professional graphic artist working in an office all day.
I used a bottle of Pilot drafting ink (which I can find anywhere in Tokyo) and some dip pens, a vintage Soennecken 1355EF nib I mentioned on the previous page which is similar to a G pen nib and a Japanese Maru Pen nib
which is basically a crow quill nib. I also used my very fine Japanese brush which is similar to a Winsor & Newton number 2 Sable Brush.
I also added a very valuable tool that has made a big difference in my ability to draw fine detail, especially tight hatching: a pair of non-prescription high power reading glasses! I stumbled across some "cheater" reading glasses at the local 100 yen shop (the Japanese equivalent to a dollar store) which are marked +5.00 which apparently means diopters and not simply magnification because 5X magification would be way too strong for drawing. Suddenly my drawing became more accurate. But the glasses look terrible (like something one would buy in a 100 yen shop) so I found a nice pair on the web more in line with my personal tastes. Vanity, I know, but now I'm not embarrassed when drawing in public, such as the school library. My ability to draw details has improved so much that I don't want to attempt it unless I'm wearing these glasses.
I also got some Speedball C6 Nibs for the English text, and tried a few test sentences in Italic cursive, but the students couldn't read it, so I settled on simple printing which still looks better with a calligraphy nib.
In the interest of speed (I don't want to deal with a half finished sketchbook when the new Stillman and Birn soft cover sketchbooks become available) I started drawing only one or two figures per page, and made them larger to nearly fill the page.
I soon discovered that my nightly sketches of subway passengers could not keep up the pace with the ink drawings, so as I have done before, I turned to my collection of notebooks filled with previous sketches for reference. Some of these poses have appeared in earlier sketches on this web site, now in a considerably larger version in this larger sketchbook.
Not only do my students enjoy seeing the drawings, but some have asked me if I could draw them as well. I very much prefer drawing students who will happily sit for me rather than fidgety elusive strangers on a subway!
The drawings on this page took more time than my normal sketches because they are actually carefully rendered drawings (but I will not change the name of this part of my web site to Sketchbook and Drawings).
When you look at an ink drawing you might assume that all those hatched lines were drawn rapidly zip zip zip, but for me to get the lines so close together that the space between the lines is the same if not narrower than the lines themselves, I have to slow way down and draw them at a snail's pace.
And the amazing thing is when I do this, particularly when I draw with a brush, that I lose track of time, and am no longer affected by hunger or drowsiness -- even in the middle of the afternoon when normally my biggest struggle would be trying to stay awake!
Some people have observed that my recent drawings remind them of block prints. Of course, as I think I've mentioned before, this is no accident. I have always loved the appearance of block prints, especially the works of Katsushika Hokusai and Albrecht Durer.
One of the artists who had a big influence on my art was illustrator and engraver Fritz Eichenberg who illustrated many classic works. He also did illustrations for the Catholic Worker although he himself was a Quaker. I actually met him in the 1980's when I was a student at Malone College (originally a Bible school started by Quakers which is now Malone University) when he was in town to attend an exhibition of his work. He encouraged me as a young Christian artist and gave me a signed poster of his work.
When I discovered that my recent drawings seemed to reflect that influence, I ordered a book about Fritz Eichenberg called Works Of Mercy and have been greatly inspired by it.
Back to natural hair brush pens
Although I don't need to use portable tools when drawing at a desk, I have found my natural weasel hair brush pens, both the Yume-Ginga (Dream Galaxy) brush pen with Kuretake sumi ink cartridges and the Platinum Weasel hair brush pen with Carbon Ink cartridges very useful because the weasel hair is so responsive like any dipping brush, but hassle-free.
Both pens make great lines, and I can't say that one is better than the other, except Platinum Carbon Ink is waterproof when it dries so you can paint over it with watercolor.
Kuretake ink isn't waterproof, but it's very black and goes on some papers with less "spidering" of lines than Carbon Ink. Apparently Kuretake Sumi ink is thicker or perhaps dryer than Platinum Carbon Ink, but this difference is not so apparent without a magnifying glass.
And I suspect Platinum's Carbon Ink for brush pens is also thicker and less spidery than their Carbon Ink for fountain pens which I use in this brush pen (totally confused now? See page 9 for my explanation).
One caution about Kuretake Sumi ink is that it can come up with erasing and become less black if you erase the underlying pencil lines too soon. The ink was originally intended for Japanese calligraphy whch does not have pencil underdrawings. The trick is to wait until the ink has really set, which happens some time after it has dried. I try to wait a day before erasing, and the lines stay nice and black. This is probably a good thing to keep in mind even with Carbon ink.
Also, I've found that on Stillman & Birn Epsilon paper, the Kuretake is slightly more smudge-proof than Carbon ink when it dries, which makes a big difference if you are drawing in a sketchbook because the ink doesn't transfer to the facing page. I found that some of my drawings in Carbon ink transfered ink from the thicker inked spots while the Kuretake ink drawings did not transfer at all.
I've also noticed that when I cover an ink or pencil sketch with watercolor paint, the underlying ink or pencil becomes "fixed" so it no longer rubs off or gets transfered to the facing page. I suppose plain water will also do the trick
By the way, on web videos I've noticed various attempts to pronounce the name Kuretake. It is properly pronounced KOO-REH-TAH-KEH with the R sounding more like an L because it's a Japanese word.
The drawings above were done with this Yume Ginga brush pen and Kuretake ink. It was nice to get a good drawing and not have to clean the pen or brush afterwards. And I noticed that drawings done entirely with a brush are smooth to the touch compared to the rough surface of pen drawings. Not a big deal, but I like that because people can't immediately tell if it is an original drawing or a printed image.
I like the way these turned out so much that I decided to draw more with my brush pens even though slim dip pens and brushes are easier to handle. Brush pens are actually easier to use in the long run because I don't have to mess with open bottles of ink (and potential ink spill disasters) or cleaning the pens or brushes when I'm done, so I can carry my tools and draw anywhere, not just at my own desk.
These days I love to draw in the school library surrounded by books and tall windows and curious students. Of course, when classes are in session, and I have an open period, the library is absolutely empty and silent, and I like that as well.
On days when I have no classes to teach, I can draw for hours at a time in such an atmosphere. In order to avoid back pain from bending over a table, I'm using a portable desk easel which also has a carrying handle and a drawer for my supplies. You can see it in the photo. I'm really spoiled by it, but I'm also hesitant to recommend it because mine came with a broken hinge and clasp, which I had to replace. This is sold by various vendors under various product names such as Marquis and Solana, but apparently they all come from the same manufacturer in China which, judging from the reviews at Amazon, has an appalling lack of quality control. I have a plywood board on mine which is covered with a piece of non-slip rug pad
so that small sketchbooks don't slide off.
Anyway, back to brush pens, they are such versatile tools! And since I've invested so many years in learning how to handle them, I want to keep using them. Practically any line I can draw with a pen, I can draw just as well if not better with a brush pen now (although sometimes it still takes a little more effort).
Here are a few more drawings done entirely with a Yume Ginga brush pen and Kuretake ink in the 8.5 X 5.5 Stillman & Birn Epsilon Sketchbook.
Here are a few done with the Platinum Weasel hair brush pen and Carbon ink
These were done with the brush pen and Carbon ink and then colored with watercolor.
I filled up that 8.5 X 5.5 inch Stillman & Birn Epsilon Sketchbook in two months, and since the new pocket size softcover sketchbooks were still not available, I continued my drawings in a Stillman & Birn 4 X 6 inch hardbound Alpha Sketchbook. I'll start a new web page for those sketches.