My most recent sketching tool is a Sailor fude foutain pen. It's got a bent nib, which you can see in the top right photo, and it makes a beautifully variable line from thin to thick. These pens are very affordable and come in two different angles, 40 degrees (navy) and 55 degrees (green). The 40 feels more natural, but if I'm standing outside and holding it, I struggle to get the thicker line going when I need it. I just ordered the 55 to play with, and it feels a lot fatter. You can see my first effort with it in the 6.17.2020 aerial view of Mr. Darcy, my main companion and muse. I think it will give me a wider, richer line, but it's going to take some practice.
Both pens are super lightweight, which I love, and you can get a converter to use bottled ink instead of their dedicated cartridges. I love a broad range of colored inks, so I got a converter for both of mine. I wish they had more colors for the pen bodies to help me keep pens with different inks separate (I love the Lamy fountain pens for variety, and they are also on the low price range for fountain pens.)
At the moment, I've got black in both. I'm doing a series of really quick dog walk sketches in the forest where I take Mr. Darcy daily, and I'm not stopping to mess with color. It's been a spring and summer of staying home and really noticing the details around me (2020, for those finding this page later), and I've been walking early and carrying my sketchbook daily. I've seen owls and turtles and rabbits to sketch, along with the varied flora of the forest. I dug out an ugly but functional butt pack I "won" (there were generous swag handouts) in a kayak race years ago, and it's not too hot and big enough to hold my small 5.5" square Handbook sketchpad, a pen or two, my cellphone, and a few dog necessities. These sketches have been feeding two different larger projects I've been working on this spring.
I've added a whole batch of these black and white sketches at the bottom of my Quarantine Journal page. Just scroll down past the color to find them.
The first larger project I started (larger physically in the 8" square watercolor Handbook) is my Quarantine Journal. As the world closed down, I found myself anxious and unable to focus well on my normal printmaking work, which is pretty meticulous. Sketching and bright colors seemed to be the order of the day, so I started a regular journal of my daily stay-at-home life. Since I'm lucky enough to have Overton Park and the Old Forest a few blocks away, the journal also featured my finds there. I started it with a Pigma 1 marker because I wanted boldness and a pen that would be water fast with the paints I was adding after drawing.
The marker tip isn't as versatile as the Sailor pen, though, and I switched over to the new fude soon after I got it, putting in Noodler's waterproof ink. It's not an ink you want to put in a really nice fountain pen, since the waterproof ones tend to gum up a bit more if you neglect them, but Sailor's ridiculously low price point makes it a perfect pen to play with that way. And I'm using it daily at the moment, so it doesn't have a chance to set. Here's one of the newer pages using the Sailor.
Lately all the forest sketching has got me started on a new project. A couple of years ago I planned out a tree ABC book, but I never got it to feel right. This year, I broadened the focus from only trees to the forest at large, while simultaneously narrowing it from North America to my specific forest here in Memphis. This is feeling really right, and I'm humming along with it, doing research on my morning walks and more finished pages, still using the Sailor with watercolor, once I get home.
With the weather so great, I've been working almost exclusively on my back porch as well as eating all my meals out there. I can hear the birds and feel the breeze, and it doesn't have wifi that reaches, so I've been able to work without the pull of facebook. Things will get hotter soon, but for a staying at home spring, using this space has been very happy and rich for me. You can see the stack of old sketchbooks I've been mining for previous years of forest sketches as well as using the new ones. It's a place that has always informed and inspired my work, and a project highlighting its beauty feels right.
For more about the watercolors I use, see my page on my watercolor palette.
All images © Martha Kelly -- All Rights Reserved