Yesterday, Amazon coughed up a roll of fineliners, a box of charcoal sticks, and three calligraphy pens and I decided to road test them.
The fineliners are indeed fine, starting at 0.05 and graduating up to 0.8 but mysteriously excluding 0.7. There are two uncategorised brushes which seem the same size. I’ve not usually paid much attention to how implements work before so focusing on their handling, cornering, and tread (as it were) revealed some interesting observations. the tiniest finiest caused me to hold the pen quite firmly and make delicate, well-contained strokes. No exuberance there, it was like drawing with a pin. The larger the gauge though, the looser and more ‘look at me’ the strokes. Although I think the tiny ones also say look at me, in that way people with soft voices sometimes cause a noisy meeting to quiet down in order to listen.
Next came the charcoal and it was all going so well until I sprayed it with fixative. Problem? My fixative bottle was refusing to spray and I’d transferred some to a larger multi-purpose bottle which, when it came to it, delivered a flood. We won’t be doing that again. We’ll be washing out the nozzle properly on the actual one after each use. I’ve used charcoal before though and, while I’m a little averse to the feel of it on my fingers, the look of it on cartridge is attractively raw, especially if there are lumps and bumps in the paper. And there’s the possibility too of erasing or smoothing and blending areas to graduate light and shade. Before this sketch got swamped, there were some rather nice patterns made by running an electric eraser over the cat on the right. Juddery and staccato and well worth having another go at. The eraser is made by Derwent for anyone interested, and it’s like a cross between a very crude dental instrument and a mini road drill that you hold like a pencil.
Finally, the calligraphy pens. I approached these without a great deal of optimism because those of us who are lefties know from experience that many fountain type pens are geared to the right hander’s directional pressures and dynamics while we push or drag the thing across the page leaving a trail of blotches. Also my hand writing is terrible and has been for years.
The feel of it (there are three but I honestly can’t tell the difference – or couldn’t, having been awake at silly-o-clock in anticipation of an electrician coming to turn everything off and fiddle with fuses and earths) was one of huge constraint. As if the whole weight of the art were crushing my ability to make the pen(s) do what I wanted them to do, plus the realisation that this same weight was impeding my freedom to even imagine what I wanted them to do. I tried using my right hand. I’ve very little control over it but that might have been useful. I’m not sure it was but I’m going to have to get back to this.
Then there was the trauma. This is my little bag of drawing tricks and I wanted the pencil sharpener out of it so I turned it out over a dish of sharpies.
Along with a few pencils and other bits and bobs tumbled a little round ball of fluff or screwed up paper which I picked up to put in the waste basket. It began to unravel in my fingers, it grew legs and a fat body. By the time I’d dropped it in the sharpies it was a full blown False Widow spider, and the only reason I don’t need a new roof in my conservatory/studio is because I was totally knackered due to that early start.
Today, after a fully restorative night, I’m planning on taking another crack at this lot but without Freda the False Widow who, hopefully, has gone back under the table in there.
20/10/18 Edit: the calligraphy pens are indeed right handed and if I’d read the blurb properly I would have known that. Left handed ones are available so back to Amazon we go. We must be on each other’s Christmas card list by now.