A Journal, A Mop, And Lots Of Color


Who can resist brilliant color?

The samples were made with an Isabey 6234 Petit Gris #0 Quill Mop. (Thank you, Leigh!) It is a natural hair brush that holds a significant amount of liquid, putting any synthetic brush to shame. How does this relate to using watercolor in your journal?

A fountain pen or a brush pen with fountain pen ink writes and draws without pause. Just let those thoughts or doodles flow. Any fountain pen will do, but the Platinum #3776 Music Nib is my current favorite along with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. Both are outstanding for swirls and loops and creating other enjoyable doodles. But I like to switch colors frequently and a brush with paint is better at this.

Winsor & Newton Scarlet Lake Watercolor

Watercolor is lovely, but brushes only hold so much liquid, especially small brushes that are made of synthetic hair. Natural hair holds a greater amount of paint so you can draw much longer without interruption. That’s a big advantage for doodles that have long lines like those calligraphic ones pictured. The disadvantage is that natural hair brushes can deposit too much paint. A light touch produces the thinnest line though a sharp point is essential, too.

So here is how it works with most brushes. Good quality synthetic will be stiffer and offer better control, but will hold less liquid. Good quality natural hair brushes like sable, kolinsky, and squirrel, will hold more paint, but are soft and require a more delicate touch.

Watercolor Brushes And My Journal

For a synthetic, the da Vinci Cosmotop Spin offers lots of control and is well made. Miller’s Golden Fleece is good even in larger sizes. Both have relatively sharp points, a must for a round brush. Simply Simmons is another line of brushes if budget is a consideration. It’s a step below the other two for quality, but not bad for the getting acquainted stage. When you move to better brushes, protect them by using the lesser quality ones to transfer and mix paint on your palette. That will save a lot of wear and tear on the pricey ones and play to the strength of the lesser ones.

The natural hair brushes used in my journal are from Daniel Smith, da Vinci, and Isabey. With a light touch, I can get a lot of line work from a sharp, round #5.

The Isabey Quill Mop is a different story. The amount of paint it will hold is amazing, but the line can be rather wide. Use less liquid and gently shape the nib to a point with your fingers for a finer line. It’s a beautiful brush that is best appreciated after getting handy with a more easily controlled watercolor brush.

If you like to paint with ink, a synthetic brush might be best since it will soak up less liquid and achieve better control. Do decant the ink and toss when finished. Pouring it back into the bottle risks contamination, but when your fountain pen will no longer fill from that bottle, a brush is a good way to use the last dregs.

Whether your choice is pen or brush, purchase a journal suited to mixed media or line drawing like the Stillman & Birn Epsilon Sketchbook in the photo. Even if you use brush pens, heavier paper will support your work better than paper designed for pens alone. If you happen to create something worth preserving, it will be on good quality paper that will last. Your heirs will thank you, posthumously of course.



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