Tuesday, July 7, 2020

A Sketcher’s Worst Nightmare

3/28/19 Rainier Tower
(Shown in this post are sketches I've made with
Faber-Castell Pitt Big Brush Artists Pens, which I
just learned have been discontinued.)

Imagine this: sketcher’s all-time favorite art material – the one they have used every day for years, discovering its unique qualities, working out its quirks, learning its idiosyncrasies, developing techniques and effects with – has been discontinued by the manufacturer! The worst nightmare ever! (Don’t worry, it’s not mine; if it were, I wouldn’t be writing this  I would be heavily sedated.)

Although I have used Faber-Castell Pitt Big Brush Artist Pens off and on for years, especially for tonal work, it’s been a while since I bought any (except for the white one, which I remember using on my last viaduct sketch before it was demolished). I was unaware until a few days ago that they had been discontinued a while back (only the Big Brush size; the standard brush size is still available). I learned about it when Don Colley, who is well known for his stunning drawings with these pens, mentioned it on Instagram. In demos I’ve attended and workshops I’ve taken, I’ve seen Don do amazing things with these pens and his own fingers as tools – techniques he has been developing and refining for years. It takes a long time to master any medium, even markers like Pitt pens (which are not unique in the art supply world but are the best of their type). When he said his favorite pens had been discontinued, I felt his pain like a stab in my own heart!

6/21/18 Maple Leaf neighborhood
If I heard that Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelles were being discontinued, I know what I’d do as soon as I recovered from passing out: I’d hoard a lifetime supply! (Never mind that I may already have that in my “normal” stash now.)

Roz Stendahl, a fount of art-practice wisdom, always advises her followers not to get too attached to any one particular supplier, paper, paint, whatever. Companies go out of business; they change a production method or location (Prismacolor, I’m looking at you), and the quality declines; a sketchbook paper changes (Moleskine users go on and on about this one); a product line is discontinued. It happens. She advocates neither hoarding in the event of such crisis nor basing one’s entire art practice around a specific art material or tool. Instead, she encourages us to be flexible and experiment with a variety of products so that we can happily continue making art with whatever materials we have.

Pitt Big Brush Pens are no more.

She’s right, of course. If I somehow found myself on Gilligan’s Island without my Museum Aquarelles or even my Supracolors (talk about a nightmare!), I would draw with sticks in the sand or smear seagull poop onto coconut shells. Forced to be innovative, I might even develop stunning techniques with these new media and tools.

Still, we’re all creatures of habit. Familiar products are comforting and predictable. Seeking and identifying our “favorites” must be an instinctive behavior of human animals (right up there with collecting pencils). I have never, ever met a sketcher who said they were indifferent about their art materials!

How, then, does a pragmatic sketcher balance the impulse to hoard with the wisdom of being flexible and experimental? I don’t know, but I’m going to keep stashing away extra Museum Aquarelles, just in case. And in the meantime, I’ll occasionally bring out other materials I haven’t used in a while to reacquaint myself with them. And of course, I’ll continue to try new things, because you never know when you’ll discover your next favorite art material.

Carry on.

My preciousssss.


  1. I feel Don's pain. I'm very protective of the Pitt Big Brush markers I have left. I've created so many different types of works from fine art, illustration, posters, cards, interior and fashion design, manga and graphic novel panels. I'd give up all of my regular Pitt Pens for a few more full sets of Big Brush Pens.

    1. In case you don't know this, F-C has replaced the Big Brush Pens with Dual Markers, which have the same big brush tip on one end and a finer one on the other. I haven't seen them in retail stores yet, but Don showed them quite a while ago. They are shown on F-C's site: https://www.faber-castell.com/products/art-and-graphic/pitt-artist-pen-dual-marker


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