Tag Archives: sketching

Review: Sennelier Aqua-Mini 8 Half Pan Set

The 8 color half pan travel watercolor set from Sennelier is a fantastic deal on on great watercolors. Getting 8 half pans for less than $20 is a steal, so this set is well worth the asking price, with a few caveats and work you’ll have to do to make the set useable.

The colors included are fantastic and useful for just about any urban sketching adventure. Unlike less well planned sets, this one includes the ever useful Payne’s Grey rather than black. The other colors are: primary yellow, French vermillion, cinereous blue, French ultramarine, pthalo green light, sap green, burnt umber. These colors have their limits. Obviously there is no cool or true red, so there is no mixing a decent purple, but overall it is a very useful set of colors.

First the big issue is that the tin and insert that the colors are packed in is not quite useless but really not great. The insert is made of flimsy white plastic that I cannot imagine would stand up to much use. It’s not bad, and it might last the life of the pans, it’s just not all that useful. Using the colors in it means the plastic moves around quite a bit. Annoying.
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To fix this issue I moved my half pans from the flimsy insert to Schminke empty half pans**. Useful.

The tin the set is housed in also has a few issues. First the lid has that cute little viewing window, which makes the lid, normally used to mix paints on, useless for that task. You could go about painting it or cutting a piece of Yupo to fit*. But that is way more work than it is worth and it won’t sit flat for mixing, so color ends up under the Yupo. . The next issue is that the tin is about ¼ inch deeper than most mint tins. This makes fitting a brush in a little more work.

I abandoned the tin and placed my pans of color into a new tin. I’m using a Thayer’s lozenge tin- it’s square, fits my hand well, and is just deep enough to hold the pans well. I use a little ball of plastic tack to hold each pan in place. It works well, and allows me to pick and chose what colors I’d like to include in my tin for that outing.

Sennelier watercolors are a great choice for someone looking for good watercolors that wet easily. Some people dislike them and others love them. I’m a fan of them for their good colors, relative affordability, frequent sales, and amazing rewetting; simply touching a wet brush to the pan results in a decent load of color.

For roughly $18, getting 8 half pans is a steal.

Oh, it comes with a tiny little joke of a brush. It holds a point well but it would really only be useful for working on something smaller than an ATC or ACEO. The handle is far too short to be useful. If you can figure out a useful way of extending it, let me know in the comments.

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Review: Loew Cornell Simply Art Fine Tip Marker 4 Pack

Loew Cornell Simply Art Fine Tip Marker $5.99/ 4 pack @ Joann's

 

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I was doing some comparison shopping for my upcoming class on pen and ink drawing and I stumbled upon the Loew Cornell Fine Tip 4 pack at Joann’s for $5.99. They claim to be water resistant and non- bleeding. One look at the package and you can tell they are clearly a knock off of Pigma Micron pen put out by Sakura. The short cap, metal clip, and cap post on the end of the pen gives it away.

 

 

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The markers are sold in a blister package with some claims and suggestions. The first claim is that they are water resistant. The second they won’t bleed. The back of the package suggests that you can use them with watercolors and other markers. I’ll get to these claims shortly.

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The pens have a matte black barrel that is comfortable to hold. The pen is very lightweight. The cap posts securely to the back end of the marker with a satisfying click. While writing with the marker I found the ridge where the nib section meets the barrel to be quite sharp and uncomfortable. I suspect that this will be the main reason I stop using these markers.

 

 

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While writing I found the fiber tip to be quite smooth on all pens but the largest, .08, and that nib was dry, as if it had dried out in it’s packaging or was out of ink. The sketching experience was not bad at all, the line was smooth and consistent for each tip. There is no line variation unless you switch pens. The ink is black but seems to gray out as it dries, leaving behind a dark gray line rather than a black line.

 

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An additional flaw is that the cap is the only part with a size designation and it’s easily missed so caps could easily be put on the wrong pen. The barrels are only marked with the Loew Cornell name.

As for the water resistance, they are, sort of. I found that a lot of the ink lifted with a fast brush over with water. Leaving behind a strong gray area in any spot that was damp. There was a LOT of bleeding that would discolor any watercolor wash applied over it. This also washed out the lines. I went over my test area with another brush load of water and worked the area with the brush, nothing that would be called a scrub, and with a soft brush. The thinnest lines lifted almost completely and black lines were left grayer than before. The gray that is left is a very nice color. Knowing that these create a wash like this is actually pretty useful, one could throw these into a sketch kit with a waterbrush and get some pretty nice sketches with a wide range of tones of gray.

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All in all these aren’t a bad value for $6 as long as you take the negatives into consideration- the grip itself, that one of the 4 pens I got wasn’t working properly, they are kinda water resistant, and that only the cap is marked for size. On the good side of things, you get 4 markers that write a lot like a Micron for a lot less, make wonderful washes, are all black and write pretty smoothly.

I’d recommend these for anyone who is interested in trying out this style of pen- very fine fiber tip. I don’t think these will sell you on the style though, they are too uncomfortable to write/sketch with for long periods of time…. Though a nail file might take the sharp edge off the grip area… Might try that, if I do I’ll let you know all about it. I want to suggest these for kids, but I don't want people to assume that I'm saying they are only for kids. I guess I'd say these are good for older kids- teenagers who are sketching for art class, or are writing or for someone who wants to test this style of pen out. you won't get the same performance as you would with a Micron but it's a good point to start.

 UPDATE: I have been using these in SOME of my cowboy sketches and I've found them far more comfortable to sketch with than I'd have expected. We're not talk ing 2 hour long drawing sessions, more like 15 to 20 minute drawing sessions. I amend my previous statement about them being uncomfortable to being mostly comfortable for sketching. Add to that the blending capability when water or ink is added really adds an other level of darks to my gray ink brush pen. I'll need to test it and see if it's lightfast before I suggest it for anything other than sketching.

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Review: Jinhao 602 Fountain Pen

Every now and then I get a surprise in the mail. Today I got a Jinhao 602 fountain pen, a gift from Christie. She suggest I review it, so I'm being dutiful and doing so.

Pulling the pen out of the envelope I found it in a black flocked case. It felt rather heavy for it's size. The black paint is smooth, the gold colored trim is nice, even if it's gold (I prefer silver.) the grip section is oddly trimmed in brushed steel. It doesn't match the rest of the pen, even if it is comfortable. The pen is very slim measuring about 3/8th of an inch in diameter. It looks good.

 

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The nib is steel but colored gold. It is hooded so only part of it can be seen. The nib is stiff, with no flex or bounce. It produces an even fine to medium line with good ink flow. It would be great for sketching. The nib offers a little feedback but it's not scratchy

 

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The downside is that the cap does not post well, as this is a small pen it would be more comfortable if it were posted.

Overall this would be a very good pen for sketching, priced a little more than $5 you won't be heartbroken if it dies or you lose it. I was surprised at how well the pen wrote, it was remarkably smooth for $5. (Not as smooth as the Serwex Special I reviewed earlier.) Not a bad deal, head over to eB@y and search for one.

Unposted length: 4.5 inches

Posted: 6 inches Capped 5.5 inches 

Less than 1/2 inch in diameter.

Cost: About $5.50 shipping included on eBay.

A good value for the money if you like thin pens with fine nibs.

Unlike the Serwex Special I reviewed a few weeks back, this is not a candidate for abusing with India inks. The hooded nib means getting the feed out of the grip for cleaning is nearly impossible. India ink will gunk up this pen and render it unusable in short order. 

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Review: Fountain Pen Revolution Pen

I stumbled upon Fountain Pen Revolution while searching for a place to find a couple of inexpensive fountain pens made in India. The FPR is a site dedicated to the sale of such pens. At the time I found his site I also found that he was running a special I took him up on his offer and scored a fountain pen for $2.50. The special is no longer running but his prices are pretty reasonable. There are pens on his site for $6 plus $3 shipping. Not bad especially when you consider the review I'm going to give on this $2.50 pen.

The pen I was sent was a gray Serwex Special 101. It reminds me of the Noodler's Nikita Nib Creeper pen. Ever since I got my first Noodler's pen I sniff my new pens, I know weird, but not. The Serwex has a slightly different odor like engine grease and garage, or what plastic toys smelled like in the early 80's,* somewhat pleasant. Unlike the Noodler's which I likened to dog crap and diesel fuel. Along the side of the clear barrel is a gold foil imprint of the company name and product name. The cap has 2 cap bands which are silver. The clip is also silver and seems to be pressed steel. The jewel, which holds the clip to the cap is black. The gray cap itself is slightly mottled with a few streaks of darker gray here and there. The barrel is tapered and has what I call a cigar shape, though small.

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Not the sexiest pen I've ever seen but looks serviceable and good knock around pen.

Taking off the cap I'm greeted by a fine gold nib with a design and the words "iridium nib" pressed into it. There is no breather hole in the nib. The nib reminds me of the Noodler's Nib Creeper nibs.** I unscrewed the section from the barrel and found a few mould edges at the end, I scraped these off with an exacto, for fear they'd come loose with use. After rinsing the barrel and nib off I loaded it up with ink. For a smaller pen it holds an impressive 3+ml of ink. I loaded 2.5ml in it with a TON of room to spare.

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I loaded mine up, eye dropper style, with my sample of Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun. Yes, I put the most expensive ink I own into a $2.50 pen. Why? I'm addicted to gray inks right now and I had a nearly full sample of this ink and wanted to use it. Plus, for the first time ever I had an ink that matched the color of the pen. Gray ink in a gray pen.

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I then proceeded to write out 2 full pages in my Exacompta journal. At first it was slightly scratchy, the feel of writing with this pen matched the feel of writing with a Noodler's Nib Creeper.The nib writes with a true fine and is rock hard, no bounce, no flex; it is friction fit into the section. It writes relatively wet and started up with a quick shake downward. I did notice that when I had some ink on the nib it seemed to blob there. After I cleaned the ink off it no longer creeped to that one spot.

At the end of the 2nd page of writing I noticed that the nib was much smoother than when I started. The flow of ink was perfect for me, slightly on the wet side (6/10) and the nib itself was smoother, and gliding over the paper. Given I was using a premium ink this was to be expected and I wonder what will happen when I put a less premium ink in it. All in all this is most likely to end up as my new gray ink sketching pen and will have a permanent spot in my drawing stable.

Given my love of cheap pens I'm going to have to say I like this pen, a lot. Yes it's cheap and will never perform as well as a $50 TWSBI 540 and it has one nib size available- fine and it's construction is okay. The real thing to think of here is how it performs, and in my opinion if you are looking for something like a Noodler's Nib Creeper or an inexpensive pen this is a good pen.

As an aside this pen is one you can COMPLETELY disassemble, meaning you can get at the innards to clean it… I have in the past abused fountain pens with India ink. This is a pen you could do that with as you can get at the feed and inside the section to scrub them with a toothbrush. Hmmm. Ideas.

The Serwex Special 101 is not in stock at FPR. They have a pen called the Serwex 77TR that looks identical to this pen EXCEPT that the clip and bands appear to be all "gold" plated. At $6 plus $3 shipping it's not a bad deal, especially if the pens write as well as this one does. You can check out the FPR on FaceBook as well. The way you order from FPR is to figure out what pens you want, make note of the name and color you want and send Kevin an email. He'll send you a total price. Then you paypal. Shipping is from India so it will take some time (3 weeks) to get to you, but the wait is worth it.

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