If you follow my ramblings, you know that I love my Rotring Art Pen for working in my sketchbook… except for one thing: the ink refills you have to use for the pen aren’t water-fast, so you can’t sketch with the Rotring and then go over your drawing with sepia wash or watercolor. On the advice of a couple of folks, I bought a “piston converter” for the Rotring so that I could load it with non-cartridge waterproof ink. The results, though, were mixed; India ink just isn’t made to work in a fountain pen.
What I’ve always been after is my “holy grail” sketching pen: a pen that has the feel of a Rotring, but uses water-fast ink. I’ve bought a few pens that purported to be exactly that, but until recently all the pens I’d tried didn’t really make the cut. Recently, though, I saw this post at the ComicTools blog (a blog you really should be following if you draw comics, by the way) that mentioned a “carbon desk fountain pen” that cartoonist Sarah Glidden had recently purchased. Her review is here on her blog. Her portable set-up is pretty much the same as mine–Penel Aquapen for sepia wash over ink line art drawn with a sketching pen–so I decided to give the carbon pen a try. I ordered one from the always-great Jetpens.com, along with some refills.
So, here are some of the sketchbook results I got once I’d received the pen and had given it a whirl:
(Random drawings of things from a recent Vanity Fair – carbon pen and sepia wash & Sharpie.)
(A quick sketch of Ron Paul – carbon pen and sepia wash & Pentel brush pen.)
(Sketchbook page of doodles – carbon pen with watercolors.)
(Quick sketch of Raphael Saadiq – carbon pen and sepia wash & Pentel brush pen.)
It feels quite similar to a Rotring and it performed beautifully–for the most part–when wet media was applied to drawings afterwards. The only time I really got the pen to flub-up a bit was with that watercolor page above. In that heavily-crosshatched image of the guy in the hood, I went in with watercolor almost immediately after drawing him and you can see that a little bit of the black ink bled into the color. Other than that, though, I think I’m a convert. I’m betting if I’d have waited a minute or two before applying the watercolor the ink would have been completely dry.
The verdict? Well, I’ve hardly touched my Rotring since getting the carbon pen, so yeah, I guess I’ll call my “holy grail of sketching pens” a done deal.