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).

Updated 8/18/14: Its been three weeks since I started using Platinum Carbon Black in the Sailor Profit (which has an identical nib as the Sailor calligraphy pen), and it has behaved as well as my Sailor calligraphy pen does with water-soluble inks: smooth-flowing, no clogging, no false starts. Im convinced that Ive been overly protective by using only water-soluble inks with my Sailors -- they can take anything. Im not sure I'm going to keep using the Profit, though -- the longer calligraphy pen has a better balance in my hand and just feels more comfortable.


  1. Gorgeous sketch, Tina. For what it's worth, I've been using a Hero bent-nib pen with PCB and the only problem I've found is that if I don't use it constantly, the nib tip dries up, requiring a quick dip in water and it's back to working form. I think it's just that the bent tip sticks out beyond the feed further than traditional nibs.

    Cheers --- Larry

    1. Thanks for the tip, Larry -- I'll be watching out for the nib to see how long I can leave it idle.

  2. Lovely still life sketch of the flowers in the vase. I'll be following along to see how the nib does with the other ink. Hope the sun comes out tomorrow.


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