Friday, October 9, 2015


10/9/15 ink, watercolor

It’s Day 9 of Inktober, and I’m having lots of fun using this challenge as an opportunity to experiment with my vast collection of pens and inks (more on that in a future post). But October, with all of our trees in full color now, is a difficult time for using ink only. (Maybe I should initiate changing it to Inkcember or Inkuary when there’s no color to be seen J.)

After spending the morning at Zoka Coffee inking fellow coffee drinkers, I drove home jonesin’ for some color. I could have pulled over on just about any street for a fix; this is the one I chose. The two aspens in front had already dropped as many leaves as they were still hanging onto.

And so begins in-car sketching season!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Counter-Couture Exhibit at BAM

10/8/15 ink, colored pencils
Those of us who are old enough remember the ‘60s from a variety of perspectives: Kennedy and his assassination, the Vietnam war, Woodstock. A large part of my visual memory is made of the colors and textures of the fashions then, and an exhibit at the Bellevue Arts Museum highlights that visual blast from the past: Counter-Couture – Fashioning Identity in the American Counterculture.

More than a nostalgia tour, the exhibit is about how fashions of the era reflected a rejection of conformity and consumerism and instead celebrated self-expression. Many of the garments in the show are what might be described as “hippie clothes” – lots of fringe and bellbottoms and flowers and, well, you know. Some famous outfits were also there, like those worn by Jim Hendrix and Wavy Gravy.

As a knitter and crocheter myself, I was particularly taken with the overly colorful crocheted garments. I wanted to sketch a number of them, but I settled on this one: A piece called Pioneer, which was commissioned by the wife of the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir. Actually a bedspread, it is described in the placard this way: “A cosmic explosion of colors and forms – vaguely suggestive of stars, planets and satellites – is depicted in a fluid rhythm of circular shapes, a metaphor for the infinite, endless cycle of the universe.” What a riot of color!

Of course, I was in a museum, so that meant I couldn’t use watercolors. All I can say is, I sure am glad I had my rainbow pencil! J See the exhibit if you can – it’s worth the drive across the lake.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


10/6/15 inks, watercolor, colored pencil, Zig marker

Our neighbors next door are getting a new roof. Betty came over last week to warn us of the forthcoming noise and mess, but instead of being dismayed, I was thrilled – what a sketch opportunity!

10/6/15 ink, colored pencil
After all the old shingles were torn off (unfortunately, I missed most of that), a truck appeared with a long conveyor belt attached to haul all the roofing material up. Sketching from the street, I finished the line work just in time – the truck put away its belt and drove off before I could get the color on.

Next I went upstairs to our bedroom window, which gave me a front-row seat of all the roofing action. These guys have to squat, crouch, kneel and pretzel themselves into the most uncomfortable positions, all the while taking care not to go tumbling down that sharp slant. I was somewhat reassured that they all wore harnesses, but my adrenalin was rushing the whole time I was watching.
10/6/15 inks, colored pencils

One thing about them I envy: their tool belts! Hanging right at arm level in such familiar positions that they can grab without looking, their tools are always right at hand. Imagine all the pens and pencils and paints I could fit in there. . . 

10/6/15 ink, colored pencil
10/6/15 ink, colored pencil

10/6/15 ink, colored pencil

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


10/5/15 inks
Following a lead from a Facebook friend, I drove north on Fifth Northeast up to Northeast 125th, looking for the couch she’d spotted. I’m not quite sure if this is the one she saw, as it was a couple blocks further north, but it was good enough for me: A comfy recliner chillin’ under a large shade tree.

It looked so comfy, in fact, that I started wondering if the chair wasn’t actually “free”; perhaps the owner had simply gone into the house to grab another beer. But facing Roosevelt Northeast, a major arterial, it seemed unlikely (unless the owner enjoys watching rush-hour traffic like a football game). I hope someone snaps up that recliner soon. Unlike the saggy, depressed-looking couches I sketched previously, this chair looked relaxed and happy.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Price is Right

10/3/15 ink, colored pencils, watercolor
On Friday afternoon a friend who knew about my Urban Couches series sent me a text with a photo attached: a couch she had spotted on the sidewalk. I couldn’t go sketch it just then, but I knew I had to hurry or it might be gone, so I went out as soon as I could on Saturday morning. Score!

While on my walk, I also saw a pile of siding with a “free” sign attached. I’ll leave that for another series, though.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Product Review: Pilot Parallel Pens

Pilot Parallel pens
Ever since that teaser post a couple weeks ago when I mentioned I had gotten a set of Pilot Parallel pens, I’ve been giving them a full-tilt trial. And what fun! They aren’t for everything, but I sure love them for some things.

The nib has a unique design: two parallel plates with a straight-across, slightly serrated edge. JetPens describes the purpose of this design as follows: “This allows it to distribute ink more evenly than conventional metal italic nibs while also being crisper and far more durable than a felt-tipped calligraphy pen.” The feed is also slightly different from conventional fountain pens. After installing a cartridge or converter (it takes Pilot’s standard of both), you can’t simply let gravity or capillary action pull ink toward the nib as you can with other fountain pens. You have to give the cartridge a squeeze or twist the converter a bit to push ink between those parallel plates. (It takes quite a push – the puny converter is half empty by the time the ink is flowing.)

The Parallel comes in four sizes
ranging from 1.5mm to 6mm.

Apparently the parallel plates also require additional maintenance compared to most fountain pens. A small piece of thin plastic is included with the pen, which enables “flossing” between the plates. I haven’t experienced any problems so far, but according to the instructions that came with the pens, paper fibers can get caught in there and clog it up. In addition, a special cleaning bulb is included to flush water thoroughly through the nib (I use a syringe as I do with all my fountain pens, and it works just as well).

I’m having the most fun with the largest 6mm size because of its extreme width, but it’s probably the least versatile. I found it easier to sketch men’s angular features with it rather than the softer lines in women’s faces. On the other hand, it is terrific for sketching trees of all kinds.

The smallest 1.5mm size is the most versatile; I use it to sketch people, trees, chickens, whatever. It reminds me of the Franklin-Christoph music nib that I also love, and its nib is about the same size.

The 6mm nib on its flat side.
The corner of the 6mm nib writes like
a conventional fine-point fountain pen.
However, there is one important difference between all of my music nibs and the Parallels of any size: Both nib types can make a wide stroke when held with the flat edge against the paper and a medium stroke when that edge is pulled in the perpendicular direction; that’s probably true of all italic or stub nibs. The key difference with the Parallel, though, is that you can also use the corner of the nib – which will draw or write just like a conventional round nib (comparable to Pilot’s F nib, such as a Metropolitan or Petit1). That’s because ink flows between the whole width of the nib’s plates, not just a single center point as on music nibs. I doubt the Parallel nib was intended to be used on the corner, so perhaps I’ll eventually trash it (I’ll let you know if that happens!). I wouldn’t say drawing with the corner is particularly smooth, but it isn’t intolerably scratchy, either (I’ve certainly used worse). But what I like is that by being able to use the corner as well as the edges that are supposed to be used, my 6mm Parallel makes the widest range of lines in a single pen – bar none. I can make bold chisel marks and make conventional lines, too. After my months-long Epic Search to find the grail of variable-line-width fountain pens, this is an interesting and unexpected turn of events. J

9/24/15 Private Reserve Velvet Black ink, Pilot
Parallel 1.5mm
Is the Parallel a new grail? Certainly not. For one thing, its dang cap will not post! Arrgghhh! This is one of my biggest fountain pen peeves: If a cap doesn’t post, I am bound to lose it eventually, and without a cap, a fountain pen is useless. For another, that range of variable lines is really three distinct points – small, medium, large – and not a gradation like my Sailor fude.

I think the Parallel might be more than a novelty, though. It encourages me to sketch loosely and quickly, which is almost always a good thing. It’s also made by Pilot, and I’ve been continually impressed by the overall quality of its pens at any price point. Ask me in six months or a year whether I’m still using the Parallel, and that will be the real answer. But in the meantime, I’m having tons of fun.

9/25/15 Parallel 1.5mm
9/25/15 Sailor Tokiwa-matsu ink, Parallel 6mm 

9/18/15 Diamine Autumn Oak ink,
Parallel 2.4mm, colored pencil
9/19/15 Parallel 1.5mm

9/20/15 Parallel 1.5mm, watercolor
9/24/15 Parallel 6mm and 2.4mm
9/18/15 Parallel 6mm and 2.4mm

9/25/15 Parallel 1.5mm
9/20/15 Parallel 1.5mm, colored pencils

9/20/15 Parallel 6mm

10/2/15 Parallels 6mm, 2.4mm, 1.5mm

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Mail Truck Instead of a Couch

10/2/15 inks
The problem with my Urban Couches series is that I have to be quick once a couch is spotted. On our way to an appointment yesterday morning, we saw a couch in our neighborhood, but I didn’t have time to sketch it just then. I went back in the afternoon, and apparently that “free” price tag was too good a deal to pass up.

But that didn’t stop me from a sketch. Less than a block away, I spotted a mail truck, which I’ve always wanted to sketch, parked behind a traffic circle maple that is just starting to turn. And wouldn’t you know it – I just happened to have pens with both green and orange inks! (And you wonder why I carry so many pens.) An Inktober score.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...