Friday, June 10, 2016

A Puppy and a Cupola (and Uni Jetstream Review)

6/10/16 inks, colored pencils, toned Strathmore paper
Once again the Friday sketchers lucked out on weather, which was supposed to be wet and windy this morning but turned out sunny. Driving to the upper Queen Anne neighborhood, I thought about all the many choices of fun things to sketch, including at least a couple of old churches. I chose the one with the nice cupola, the Queen Anne Baptist Church. The bright sunlight helped bring out all of its crisp shadows.

Suzanne was nearby sketching the same church, so before she finished, I pulled out my yellow Field Notes and a four-color ballpoint pen. Why ballpoint? Last Friday was National Doughnut Day, and today is – you guessed it – National Ballpoint Pen Day! (The holiday actually has a historic basis: On this day in 1943, Laszlo and Gyorgy Biro, Hungarian brothers, patented their innovative writing instrument that was once considered a luxury product.)

6/10/16 ballpoint
The last sketch, also in ballpoint, is one I had been wanting to get for a while – the bronze sculpture of a puppy and his ball in the plaza next to Trader Joe’s. (Named Boomer, the sculpture was made by Georgia Gerber, the same artist who made the Pike Place Market’s Rachel the Pig.) I started with the puppy, thinking that the woman chatting on her phone would soon get off the ball and leave. When I realized she had plenty to say, I put her in.

My ballpoint hatching skills leave much to be desired, but I’m not giving up on it. The smooth, oily ink (the Biros’ original design was based on printmakers’ ink, I just learned) is a very strange yet interesting medium. I could have done the sketch in half the time if I’d used my usual fountain pen washed with a quick swipe of the waterbrush, but after all, today isn’t National Fountain Pen and Waterbrush Day (which I’m sure is coming; I know Fountain Pen Day is in November).

6/10/16 ballpoint, colored pencil

Uni Jetstream Mini Review

As long as I’m talking about ballpoints, I have to mention the one I’ve been using the past several months: a Uni Jetstream 4 & 1. Ever since I read The Art of Ballpoint, I’ve been trying to practice hatching with ballpoint (though not as often as I should if I want to improve). I started by using the throwaway Bic stick pens I’m always taking from hotel rooms. I hate the sour smell some of those inks have, though, and I wanted more ink colors. For a brief time I used a Bic four-color pen because it was nostalgic from my childhood, but the cheesy color-choosing mechanism annoyed me.

It didn’t take long to fall down the Google hole of the vast world of “multi pens” – ballpoint and other types of pens that deliver two, three, four and more ink colors in one pen. I tried the Pilot Dr. Grip too, which uses refills that are very similar to the Uni Jetstream’s. In both pens, the odorless inks flow more smoothly and with no blobbing or skipping compared to the basic Bic. I prefer the Uni Jetstream to the Dr. Grip for its better-designed mechanism. They both come with a 0.5mm mechanical pencil, too. 

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