These Fancy Technical Pens

“The Mouse Of Amanita” (wip)

The holidays aren’t over yet. We have one more festive day to celebrate before we start a new and hopefully a much better year but in the meantime I hope everyone had a pleasant as possible Christmas. This year, to my surprise, Santa brought me a new technical pen for Christmas. When I got it I was excited yet a bit hesitant. You see, I have a history with technical pens and it’s not good. My first experience with these finicky things came by way of a set of Koh-I-Noor pens. Initially they were great for creating amazing stipple drawings. I loved how I could get more uniformed dots and I liked how the ink had a bit of a glossy finish when it dried. Besides being my first set of technical pens, Koh-I-Noor holds a special place in my heart for being the pens I used to create one of my most memorable drawings, “Kneeling Man” (shown below), which was based off of the cover of Dynamic Anatomy by Burne Hogarth.

“Kneeling Man” – this is from a time in my life when I had the patience of a saint and no distractions.

Outside of that the set was a nightmare when it came to maintenance and cleaning. If you didn’t use them frequently and keep them clean, the ink would harden, making them difficult to use and clean. This was something I wasn’t particularly good at keeping up with. Within two years my pens were pretty much unusable due to unuse and my lack of maintenance skills. After that experience a decade passed before I ventured out into the world of technical pens again and tried the Rotring Rapidiograph. This pen was different from the Koh-I-Noor in that instead of having a reservoir for ink that needed to be filled manually with a billion parts to clean, it had a small cartridge of ink that you simply inserted into the barrel, shake it a few times and voila, you’re ready to start drawing. This was great. Less mess and parts to clean when refilling ink. And for a while I loved my Rapidiograph but the wonderfulness didn’t last long. Instead of having issues with maintenance and cleaning, I had issues with ink flow and the needle in the nib. I ended up having to buy another Rapidiograph only to have the same problem and mind you, these aren’t cheap pens. Depending on where you get them from and what size you get, you’re looking at spending $25-$35 per pen. So if you’re not fortunate enough to be one of those artists who is raking in the dough from their work, having to fork out $30 every time a pen malfunctions for some odd or unknown reason becomes frustrating and costly.

After spending $75 total on two Rotring Radiographs then turned out to be faulty, I said to hell with it and started searching for drawing tools more feasible to my bank account. That’s when I discovered Pigma Microns and have been using them ever since. For $13 I can get six pens in a set (that’s about $2 per pen). They have felt tips and are filled with archival pigmented ink. I have no worries about leaking ink, malfunctioning nibs or inconsistent ink flow. Over time though the felt nib wears down and the pen eventually runs out requiring the need for a new one but at $2 per pop it doesn’t feel no where near the expense as the more fancy technical pens out there. But because of that you do get this sense of feeling less professional especially when you see more of the big named ink slingers using pens like Rotring while noticing that the so called amateurs and “kiddies” are using Microns. Funny how perception can effect how you feel about your own work which is why you need to be careful as to how much attention you give to what other artists are doing.
So here I am once again trying out a Rotring. This time it’s a Isograph rather than a Rapidiograph. The difference is that the Isograph uses a reservoir instead of a cartridge which means I have a little bit of clean up to do when I have the refill it. And unlike the Microns, which I don’t have to worry about ink hardening or inconsistent flow from lack of use, I’m going have to be mindful of how I store this Isograph and make sure I use it frequently in order to avoid ink flow issues. In order words, this damn pen in high maintenance. šŸ˜’ But hey, on the good side, I didn’t pay for it and so far, when drawing the ink is more richly black, maybe a little too black. Anyhoo, I will still be using my Microns along side my new Rotring. Maybe, as they say, “Third times a charm”, since this is my third time on this merry go round. Maybe this time I’ll become a believer or at the least, this Rotring will become a valuable asset to my arsenal of art suppliesā€¦or not. If this thing crashes and burns on me I’m not going to mourn the loss but simply toss it in the trash and no longer give any thought to these fancy technical pens.

When My Pen Dries Out

 

Nothing is more nerve wrecking then being in the middle of a drawing and having your pen dry out. Granted, the pens that I use, Sakura Microns, are relatively inexpensive and possible to find at a local craft store or online from Amazon, yet having to get out and go get more or wait a day or two for it to come in the mail, can slow down progress. Typically I buy six at a time so that I’m not buy pens too often. But every once in blue moon I get a dud; a pen that’s practically dried out when I get it or it dries out much quicker than usually.Ā  Instead of tossing it out I got to wondering if there’s a way to refill these things. One of my pens was sacrificed to my curiosity but luckily with some permanent ink on hand that I used for stamping and a pair of needle nose pliers, I found a way to refill my micron pens and it only takes just a few drops of ink to get the pen working again. Below is a brief video clip on how I do it. If you have some microns of your own that you haven’t thrown out yet, you can try this for yourself. You’ll need:

  1. a dried out micron pen
  2. a pair of needle nose pliers
  3. some permanent black ink, which is what microns take. I used Archival Permanent and Waterproof ink from Ranger Ink or you can get in from Amazon.
  4. a steady hand to gently pull the nib from the pen barrel.

I have yet to try this with colored ink so I don’t know how it would turn out but I suspect that things wouldn’t be any different. If anyone tries it I would be interested to know. Anyhoo, check out the brief video below on how I refill my micron pens.

 

Pen Graveyard

I have this red cup sitting on my drawing table that, well, for lack of a better term, serves as a “graveyard” for my pens that have lost their use. I have this difficulty in letting my creative instruments go, hoping that maybe they may serve some unique purpose at some later date. This is even so when it comes to my more disposal pens like the Microns, which luckily have been a bit useful in their nearly dried out state. I’ve discovered that as they reach their bitter end they release less ink which allows me to stipple in a much finer gray tone where needed, especially one my smaller drawings like the ACEOs. This is more difficult to achieve when the pens are fairly new. But unlike my felt tip Microns that can still give me some use as they breathe their last breath, once my technical pens take a dive that’s it. Needles break or get bent, parts leak or clog to the point of no return. For all the beauty in artistry they provide, technical pens are a bit pricey and high maintenance. My Rotring alone cost me $40. Replacing and/or fixing any issues can cost you at least half, if not as much, as what you paid for the pen itself. Hence my reason switching to something more economical. But I still hold on to them. I still love the feel of them in my hand and the certain air of professionalism they present. Maybe one day I’ll spring for a new one and put more dedication into its upkeep. If you love precise like myself, technical pens are quite lovely to draw with but keep in mind they do require a bit of care to maintain.