Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Product Review: Sailor Profit Fude De Mannen Pen

Top: Sailor DE Brush Stroke Style Calligraphy pen; bottom: Sailor Profit Fude De
Mannen fountain pen
When I was shopping at J-Subculture a few weeks ago, I discovered the Sailor Profit Fude De Mannen fountain pen which, based on its description, sounded similar to the Sailor DE Brush Stroke Style Calligraphy fountain pen that I have come to know and love very well the past year (see my recent review), although it looked quite different. The Profit is only a few dollars more than the very inexpensive Sailors I already have. Curious, I decided to spring for one and see how different it was, if at all.

Lo and behold, the dark blue Profit’s 55-degree nib is identical to the one on my other pens; they can even be interchanged. The only difference is that the Profit is designed to look more like a conventional fountain pen. It’s a standard 5 ¼-inch length, compared to the green “calligraphy” pen, which is a little longer and is supposed to look more like a brush (the longer length does give it a different balance that perhaps makes it perform more like a brush).
The Profit's 55-degree bent nib is identical to the calligraphy pen's nib.

Not surprisingly, for the $17 price (or about $23 from Amazon), the Profit looks and feels as plastic-y cheap as it is. (If I had that pen in my shirt pocket expecting to impress clients, they would have to stand at least 20 feet away not to see that it was made of cheesy plastic. Granted, the calligraphy pen is made of the same plastic and looks just as cheesy, but at less than $8 [$16.50 at JetPens.com], I’m not complaining.)

One significant difference is that the cap on the Profit posts securely, while the cap on the calligraphy pen does not. In fact, the calligraphy pen has a metallic trim ring near its end that has an annoying habit of coming off and getting stuck inside the posted cap. I’ve taken to putting a piece of tape over the trim ring (in the photo above, you can see the blue strip), which also keeps the cap securely posted. I don’t mind making minor fixes like this on such an inexpensive pen that gives me so much sketching bang for the buck, and if it’s worth it to have a pen that posts securely without such a fix, then I guess the Profit is worth springing for.

The bottom line is that I’m just as happy with the cheaper calligraphy pen, sloppy posting and all, because I’ve become accustomed to its longer length, which makes its balance pleasing in my hand (why one favors one pen over another is such a personal, idiosyncratic matter!). But now that I have the Profit, I’ll take advantage of the fact that it’s easily distinguishable from the multiple calligraphy pens I’ve started carrying and designate it as the one containing waterproof Platinum Carbon Black ink. (It has only been a few days, so the jury is still out, but so far, the Sailor calligraphy pen filled with Platinum Carbon is behaving exactly the same way as the ones filled with water-soluble inks.)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Things are Moving at Roosevelt Station (Sketch No. 5)

7/28/14 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Zig markers,
Pitt Artist Pen, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble
colored pencils, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
The last time I sketched the Sound Transit Light Rail Roosevelt Station construction site, I complained that I didn’t see much change. Today, a month later, I still didn’t recognize progress, but I definitely saw a lot of activity – so much so that I had difficulty sketching the big digger on the right, which was moving all over the place. But as I’ve learned when sketching at the zoo and geese at the park, if I wait just a little while, the animal is likely to return to the same pose repeatedly. And so it was with the bright yellow Cat.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Little Free Library in Maple Leaf

7/27/14 Platinum Carbon and other inks, Zig markers, Caran d'Ache
Museum water-soluble colored pencils, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
The first I ever heard of the Little Free Library program was from the Seattle Sketcher a couple of years ago. Then I saw that Kate Buike had started sketching all the libraries in her neck of the woods. Although I knew I could look online for the addresses of libraries in my neighborhood, I never got around to taking that step. Last week when I was walking home from Cloud City Coffee, I suddenly stopped short: A Little Free Library stands only a few blocks from my house.

On the corner of Northeast 88th Street and Eighth Avenue Northeast, this library is very carefully crafted with a glass-front door and painted purple and blue (no doubt to coordinate with the large hydrangea bush still in blossom behind it). After sketching it, I took a book and left a book, just like the plaque invited me to. The plaque also reads, “In loving memory of Steve Cunetta.”

I finally did look up libraries in my neighborhood, and I found at least one that is within walking distance. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


7/26/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Asa-gao, Fuyu-syogun, Take-Sumi and Tsuyu-kusa inks,
Zig markers, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils, Canson XL
140 lb. paper
Obon is an annual summer Buddhist festival to honor ancestors and loved ones who have died. It’s been a long, long time since I was a practicing Buddhist (if attending Sunday school in my elementary years could be called “practicing”), but I still go to the Obon festival regularly, mainly for the food and dancing.

Back in the day, my girlfriends and I would go to nightly practice sessions the week before Obon to learn the choreographed folk dances (also known as gossiping and giggling while we pretended not to notice the boys, who were pretending not to notice us). On the big day, my mom would dress me up in a traditional kimono, and I’d join people of all ages, dancing in the street until it got dark. Casual attire such as shorts and T-shirts was strictly forbidden. After all, it is a religious event at its core.

Strict traditions have since given way to a more inclusive attitude, and community residents of all religions join in the fun. T-shirts, baseball caps and jeans dance right alongside brightly colored kimonos. You can still get traditional cold soba noodles and shaved ice, but you can also get a pulled pork sandwich and a strawberry sundae.

Since we missed the Obon celebration last weekend at the Seattle temple where I used to dance, we made the trek south to Auburn this afternoon to join the festivities at the White River Buddhist Temple instead. After getting my fill of rice balls, noodles and shaved ice, I joined in the dancing with a sketchbook instead of my feet.

Friday, July 25, 2014

William the Poet

7/25/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Asa-gao ink, Canson XL
140 lb. paper
I’d seen him before at various farmers markets and other public places – the young poet who sits at a vintage typewriter, composing on the fly: “Your Poem, Your Price.” This afternoon at Phinney Farmers Market, he spotted me sketching him and then stopped typing, so I encouraged him to keep writing. He asked if I was drawing him, and when I said yes, he said he would write a poem about that experience. Here’s the poem, typed on a small piece of paper:

poem about being drawn

colors perform
rites beyond
the reach of words.
pen moves in
quick sylabols
producing pictures of
universal understanding.
thus carictature
is promoted
to king of
dictionary and
webster is
given a less
valued position
thus giving it a chance
to further
dissolve the either. (or ether)

Mary Lou and Sam’s House Boat

7/25/14 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
Summer is back on, and the Friday sketchers celebrated with a special treat: Sketching on and around the Lake Union house boat of Mary Lou and Sam, who generously opened their floating home to us.

Choosing my first subject was easy: I climbed all the way up to the rooftop deck (stepping very carefully on that last spiral staircase!) to sketch Lake Union with the Aurora Bridge and Gas Works Park in the background.

7/25/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Asa-Gao ink, Pitt Artist
Pen, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble pencils
The second sketch subject was harder to pinpoint. First I wandered around the three levels of their home, looking through all the many windows. Then I went outside and walked around all the surrounding docks, peeking at the views between the boats and marveling at the magical romance of living on the water. (Yes, we spotted the house boat from Sleepless in Seattle just a short distance away!) Suddenly I realized I had only about 15 minutes before the meeting time, so I quickly sketched a couple of boats in front of me.

It was hard to beat sketching from a house boat, but then Sam gave a few lingerers an even better treat: A ride around Lake Union on their Lear boat! He showed us how the top rises to reveal a roomy cabin (certainly roomy enough for more than the five sketchers who hopped in when he offered the ride) and then acts as sun shelter, so we could cruise the lake in comfort. I couldn’t resist sketching Captain Sam at the wheel of the Plug ‘n Play.

Thank you, Sam and Mary Lou, for opening your home to us, and thanks to Peggy for initiating the opportunity!

7/25/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Take-Sumi, Tsuyu-kusa and Fuyu-Syogun inks, Museum
water-soluble pencils

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Waterproof Dance with the Sailor

7/24/14 Platinum Carbon ink, Sailor pen, Van Gogh watercolor,
Stillman & Birn Delta sketchbook
Notice anything different about this sketch? (Other than the sad fact that I’m sketching a still life in the middle of summer; it’s been raining since I got back from L.A. on Tuesday, a rude homecoming after all that sunshine, both in L.A. and here at home during the past several weeks.) Although it’s probably not obvious, I did the initial line drawing using my usual waterproof Platinum Carbon Black ink – but with a Sailor variable-line-width pen.

Although I’ve been dancing happily with the Sailor using water-soluble inks for well over a year, I haven’t ever seriously considered using it with waterproof ink. For one thing, I only draw with waterproof ink when I intend to paint the sketch with watercolor, and when I paint, I tend to want a consistent, neutral line that doesn’t call attention to itself. Another reason is that the Sailor’s plumbing and nib seem to be slightly more sensitive than my other favorites, the consistently smooth-flowing Pilot Metropolitan and Pilot Prera, so I’m wary that it might clog with waterproof ink.

Needing a kick in the head on this rainy, dreary day, I suddenly decided to challenge those assumptions: Who says I need a consistent, neutral line just because I’m going to paint a sketch? And why do I assume that the Sailor’s innards are more delicate? It has always flowed as smoothly as the Pilots . . . maybe I’m babying it too much.

Without further hesitation, I filled a Sailor up with Platinum Carbon. Any potential to clog will take a few weeks of use to test (stay tuned). But even with this one sketch, I already felt my sketching hand kickin’ up its heels (uh, disregard that contorted mixed metaphor) with the Sailor. I can’t explain it, and it may not be apparent at all in my actual line work, but the Sailor makes me draw differently – a little looser, a little more organic, a little more like the pen and hand are one unit. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Not bad for a pen that costs 16-and-a-half bucks (or less than half that when I buy it from J-Subculture, a recently discovered site where I can also get my favorite Kuretake waterbrushes for significantly less than Blick or JetPens).
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