Posts Tagged ‘Chinese seal’


Fountain Pen Ink In An Unexpected Place


While digging through a box of crafting supplies, an out of place bit of folded paper caught my eye. Instead of tossing it, I opened it to discover ink writing samples from July 22, 2015. Only four of the inks have seen pens in recent memory but the seal is in a nearby drawer ready for action. It is a mood seal that translates as “grow flowers to invite butterflies”. Nice thought, eh?

Think of all that has happened in the past seven years. In our hobby alone, the number of new retailers and products has exploded. Admittedly, I cannot keep up but I can admire the gumption and innovation especially in the sheen, shimmer and shine of some of the new inks. Pens have become more colorful with nibs that were once specialty becoming readily available, fude (bent nib) and flex in particular.

Stipula Verde Muschiato and Saffron are fall colors, but it might be interesting to use them this summer to remind me that cooler temperatures will arrive eventually, even if that seems impossibly distant today.

Do you still use the same inks and pens you did in 2015? If not, are there any you might want to revisit?


Stillman & Birn Sketchbooks, Part 2


Stillman & Birn paper is great for watercolor but others have ably reviewed it for that use. Looking for a different slant to evaluating the journal, I decided to find out if it would stand up to the dense, black ink used for Asian calligraphy and painting.

Finding a simple way to paint in the Chinese style without the need for lots of space for large sheets and paraphernalia has long been on my list of things to do. A journal with paper that works decently with Asian ink would make painting easier as well as more fun. So over the weekend, I put aside writing and pulled out a small bottle of Japanese ink of the sort made for painting, a few small Chinese brushes, a Japanese flat dish suitable for swirling a brush in ink, a jar of water, and the Alpha Series Sketchbook.

Chinese Brush Painting Tools

Chinese Brush Painting Tools with a Stillman & Birn Alpha Sketchbook

First a little practice in the Epsilon Series Sketchbook and then it was time to put the Alpha Series paper to the test.

Stillman & Birn Epsilon Sketchbook brush and ink sample

Stillman & Birn Epsilon Sketchbook Chinese brush and ink sample

The paper size is small at 5.5 x 8.5″ compared to my previous attempts at Chinese brush painting but that is what makes the journal fit so well at my desk. The only drawback to the small size is that my seals have imprints that overwhelm the limited space. Seal placement is usually an afterthought for me but in future will need to be incorporated in the composition layout to fit in a small Sketchbook painting.

Chinese Seal  "Gifted Brush"

Chinese Seal “Gifted Brush”

Chinese Seal "Let the idea carry you"

Chinese Seal “Let the idea carry you”

Properly opened the book will lay flat enough to use facing pages as a single surface albeit with a fold line through the center. That means a painting can be as large as 8.5 x 11″ which will do for most subjects when the smaller size won’t do.

Chinese Brush Painting in Stillman & Birn Alpha Sketchbook

Chinese Brush Painting in Stillman & Birn Alpha Sketchbook

Paper for Chinese brush painting can be divided into two broad categories, one for floral painting and the other for landscapes. The fiber content and properties are different for each. Alpha Series paper resembles neither because it is designed for Western-style painting but it still provides a satisfactory surface for brush painting. It is thick, absorbent, and soaks up ink quickly. Dry-brush strokes are easy to achieve and incredibly fine details can be nothing short of amazing.

Stillman & Birn Alpha Sketchbook Trunk Detail

Stillman & Birn Alpha Sketchbook Trunk Detail

Stillman & Birn Alpha Sketchbook Rock Detail

Stillman & Birn Alpha Sketchbook Rock Detail

Stillman & Birn Alpha Sketchbook Grass Detail

Stillman & Birn Alpha Sketchbook Grass Detail

Calligraphy as well as subjects like orchids and plums will require a brush well-loaded to achieve supple lines. Diluted ink will appear gray but such a toned down look will have lots of subtle applications.

Alpha paper can take several layers of ink without buckling.  It had some very pale show-through on the reverse but no bleed-through even with thick ink.

My friend, artist Nan Rae, might be amused at the apostasy of using a journal, but I did pick up a brush and put ink to paper. That is to the good even if it won’t produce paintings to hang. When the journal is full, it will be like having my own book of paintings and won’t that be something unique to pass down to my children.

This foray into brush painting with its fragrant ink and happy little brushes will draw me back again and again. I know we are going to spend many hours together over the next few months making dozens of small paintings. My large brushes are jealous but patient. Someday they will get a turn, too.

For those keeping track, the brushes are a Happy Dot, Best Detail, Small Mountain Horse, and a Super Fine brush.

See also…

Stillman & Birn Sketchbooks, Part 1

Less Herger shows what an Alpha can do here and here.

Vivien Blackburn used gouache and water-soluble crayon in her Alpha.


‘Tis The Season To Simplify


Ready or not ’tis the season when multitasking heads into high gear. How can you fit fountain pens into such busy days?


If you have a number of pens, it is all too easy to fill more than you can use. Tame that urge when pens might remain idle for many days in a row. Fill two or three from your core rotation and add a few extras for color and nib variety. That should be enough inky joy for the bustle of the season. Well, at least I hope so since that’s exactly what I’m going to do when I finish the ink and paper tests on my desk.

No time for your pens?

Unlike most hobbies and interests, fountain pens are tools that fit into everyday life so take advantage of it. Any ink will do for lists and notes and your pens will appreciate the exercise.

J. Herbin 1670 Ink Sample  The bar shows the range of shades in the written sample.

J. Herbin 1670 Ink Sample. The bar shows the range of shades in the written sample.

If you don’t have time for doodles and drawings or long missives, make even mundane writing count with seasonal or holiday colored inks. A grocery list written in vivid red or pine tree green is so much more festive than one done in basic black.

Have a leftover silver gel pen from your pre-fountain pen days? Anyone can draw stars. Add a few silvery ones to that massive “To Do” list. Sparkle and shine are good this time of year.

Uni-ball Noble Metallic Gel Ink Pen Set from Jet Pens

Uni-ball Noble Metallic Gel Ink Pen Set from Jet Pens

Make it fun!

Whatever you do with your pens, make it fun. Cut up a sheet of quality paper or stationery and use your holiday colors to leave your family silly notes or reminders to yourself. Gift tags can be made the same way and it’s a great way to show you really thought about the recipient.

Make it personal.

A brief note, letter or card could be tucked into any gift but can be especially thoughtful in a book. Card stock works well for a personalized bookmark. Write something you might never say otherwise.

No card stock on hand? You can fold fine stationery over several times or accordion style to keep your words hidden except to the person intended. Want to make it even more unique? Punch a hole at the top and thread ribbon or soft string through with a few beads laced onto the ends.  Metal bits and bobs have the added charm of making soft, clinking sounds as they tap against each other. You’ve probably seen similar bookmarks at a bookstore or card shop, but a personalized one is so much better.

1930's Waterman's '301' Fountain Pen

1930's Waterman's '301' Fountain Pen

What’s next?

Now that you’ve survived December, it’s on to January. After the bare bones rotation of the holidays, go for a color explosion to counter the gray and stormy background of mid-winter. Anyone up for summery turquoise, shocking pink, or brilliant orange? What a perfect inky way to start the New Year right.

Retro 51 Scriptmaster 2 Clementine

Retro 51 Scriptmaster 2 Clementine

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