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Scott Bakal
Creation of a Line - Part 1
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I lost a dear friend a few weeks ago.  My Boston Electric Pencil Sharpener.  It seems that after just about 20 years, this well used sharpener of pencils bit the big one.  The motor just didn't have the 'oomph' to sharpen anymore when a pencil was inserted.

This new guy over on the left is a stop-gap until I research some new pencil sharpeners.  This one here is Staples brand equipment and if it weren't for the fact that it has an auto-shut-off when it thinks the pencil is sharpened and that it doesn't have what I feel is the proper weight it should to stay in place, it is not that bad of a sharpener.  The points are sharpened evenly and quite pointy.  What made me go for this one was the top-loader feature.  I kept pushing my 'ole Boston back nearly off the table every time I sharpened something and consequently had to tape the sucker down to the table.

If anyone has good recommendations on sharpeners, I'm all ears.
Part of my collection that runs across the top of my drafting table.
Weeks ago, while I was dealing with the failing sharpener, I thought to myself (as I often do) that maybe it would be cool to do some features on interesting pens and pencils that I like to use as some sort of informational blog thingy.

I was originally going to do this in one long-ass post but I use too many different types of materials and this post would be about 27 feet long.  Just with this post, I only touched upon 4 of the pens I use most often and no mention of pencils yet.  So maybe this will be a two or three part thing.  I hope I maintain the interest and have time to continue.

By no stretch of the imagination am I an authority of what defines 'good' and 'bad' pens or materials.  You're reading stuff from a guy who thinks the Ticonderoga #2 kicks the hell out of most fancy art pencils.  I can only write what I use regularly and maybe can tell you why I like them.  I am sure for every good thing I write about these sorts of things, someone can comment on how much it sucks.  Such is life.

If you'd like, comment on your experiences with this stuff if you'd like or make comments about some of your favorite pens.  I'm always willing try out new materials.
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PILOT P-500
Pilot P-500 - nib detail
Most people that know me well have seen me carry this guy around and talk about it with love and affection.  It's a nice general writing pen with a good point, and decent gel ink.  I also draw with this one a lot.  The ink has a tendency to roll out just a tiny bit heavy but that doesn't bother me.  It usually gives me a nice dark, black solid line and pretty easily manipulated with some water within a few minutes of drawing.  I use a water-brush-pen for that.
Pilot P-500 - cap detail
I've got about six packages of these pens in my desk because I go through a lot of ink with them.  I always have one in my pocket, one in my planner, one to write the grocery list in the kitchen, etc.  The problem is, that they are getting harder to find and I think the next step will be online ordering.  Staples used to carry them regularly, now it is hit and miss.

In my mind, when you talk to people about this pen and you show it to them, you must introduce it like a deep voiced TV game show host..."Here's the...PILOT P-500!"  It is also suitable to have background music in the vein of a chorus of voices rising high up into the hollows of a church as you say the name.
 
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PILOT G-TEC-C4
G-TEC-C4 - nib detail
Pilot G-TEC-C4 - Now this bad-boy I would recommend to buy if you are looking for a nice razor-sharp line.  The ink flows pretty well....I'd say a 7 on 10 scale.  I just recently picked these up to try them out and I am very happy I did.  They've allowed me to get more detail that some other pens just don't seem to come through with.  They come in a very nice fitted plastic storage case and the caps snap on and off in a very tight satisfying manner.
I decided to buy these in a multi-color pack to try them out but want to go back and check out what other variations of the product they have.  This is a pen and pen set that was certainly designed well to cater to those with discriminating quality standards.  Kudos to the industrial designers.  I am not sure this is a good day-to-day writing utensil because it is so sharp and creates a pretty thin line but I do think it fits the bill when it comes to drawing.

If you ever get the urge to stab someone with a writing utensil, I imagine this one will do the trick.  Very sharp.  I've ripped into paper and board by pressing a bit too hard.
G-TEC-C4 - packaging detail
First page of my new Moleskine #23 sketchbook. Line example for the G-TEC-4.
 
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PIGMA MICRON
I think this is one of those pens that if you are an artist and you don't own one yet...you should probably download a coupon and go to AC Moore and pick one of these up...or someone might give you a wedgie.

Archival ink, 005 razor points, comes in other sizes and varieties of colors...I've got piles of these and I destroy the nibs constantly.  The one pictured above is new.  I wear them down until I am drawing with the metal part of the nib.

The two colors I use the most with this brand is pink and black but pretty much have their full collection of colors to play with.  The pink and black are pretty solid colors and I like the way the ink flows.  Red isn't bad either but I usually use Prismacolor Red.
From sketchbook #18. Drawing on Long Island Railroad.
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FABER-CASTELL - Pitt Artist Pen

This is a pen that I only have a handful of.  I don't use it very often but thinking I may start to because I am beginning to do larger paintings for galleries and some illustration jobs and thin .005 lines just doesn't read well above 11x14" pieces especially when you scan them.  Their 'fine' nibs are about the size of the .05's in other brands.  I think I used the brushes more than anything this past year but far and few in between.  The ink flows well and don't have any complaints about performance.

I find myself using them more for quick figure/life drawing.  Nudes and Faber-Castell's are a nice match.  Nudes and anything are a nice match.

* Ironically, after I wrote this, I just finished a job using a brown fine point...the pen was flawless.
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PRISMACOLOR

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PIGMA MICRON
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PIGMA MICRON
This is a pen I use a lot.  Usually the 005's and the brushes.  Good color and I prefer Prismacolor's black, red and dark brown colors.

Out of all the pens, this one and Microns are the ones I go through the most.  I also should say that the Microns and Prismacolor sits on paint pretty well too.  I draw on paint quite a bit so I need to make sure this stuff works.  It also holds up to spray fix and varnish well.  You're taking risks if you brush varnish on a painting that has ink lines.  I don't like risks like that.  No, I don't.
Prismacolor Pen and Brush example. Sketchbook #21.
Dark brown ink example. Sketchbook #21.
As I close Part 1 of this thing, I started thinking to myself (again), and its pretty obvious, that our artistic lives really start and end with pens and pencils.  As a kid, the pencil changed my world.  Those Grade Z red pencils in the 70's that were the size of tree trunks help me become what I am.  Working with pens, took me further into the forest of creativity.  I especially like working with pens in the sketchbook because you can't take it back.  You have to own every line that you put down and accept it for better or worse.

I guess this and the next couple of posts are my nod and tip of the hat toward these tools.  I am not precious with them or anything and beat the hell out of most of my materials including brushes...I actually have friends who've banned me from using their brushes if I am visiting and get a last minute job in because their brushes end up looking like those fuzzy headed troll dolls.  Even so, I do care about what I use and try to find the best stuff that works for me.
Sketchbooks #21 and #22.
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Bakal is teaching at TutorMill, an online mentoring site for students of illustration!