Archival at Last... The Quest for the Archival Drawing Pen / by Melissa Carmon

Every Good Artist Pen Should Be Archival

Every Good Artist Pen Should Be Archival

Every good artist pen should be archival.  

 

...And most of them are.  But most of them have flat tips infamous for skipping out when drawing with any kind of rapid motion.   In fact, some are difficult to even write with, since the tip must be kept almost perpendicular to the paper in order for the ink to flow.  My husband, Jonathan, particularly bemoans this quality of the average art pen, and unfortunately, I have a lot of them.  

My favorite pen to write or draw with is a Pilot V5: these pens sing on the curves, they whip and sail and catch both the gestures as well as the slow, detailed lines that one might make when writing or drawing.  I have heard this is due to the patented tungsten rollerball tip... a tip that doesn't quite have an direct equivalent in the world of refillable fine pens. However, V5s and V7s are nowhere near as archival as I'd like them to be.  This has lead to a quest for a drawing pen that satisfies both the pen requirements (ability to do gesture as well as detail) and ink requirements (lightfastness and ph balance) that I think should be in place for making art.   Here are some of my notes about the journey that lead to modifying my v5 pens-- and how to do it, which will be the subject of my next post.  

 

Some of the many pens I've tried in search of a gesture-friendly, all-purpose art pen

Some of the many pens I've tried in search of a gesture-friendly, all-purpose art pen

 

Below is drawing I made with a Pilot v5  (this was featured at the recent Art In Bloom Show).  If you look closely you'll see a mixture of fast, gesture-like lines underlying the more solid, descriptive lines:

Melissa_Carmon_Myers_Art_Drawing_Metamorphosis.png

Over the last year, I have at times returned to use the Pilot v5, since fast, thin, gesture lines are sometimes important to my work. In the same breath, I was a bit reticent though, since I knew the ink was not archival.  My search for the right art pen lead me to a consultation with a pen specialist, Marie, from Sign with Prestige.  While the consultation did not lead to a fancier refillable pen, it did introduce me to a whole world of amazing inks.

Noodler's is an American company committed to producing high-quality, innovative inks.  Lately, I have been experimenting with a "Bulletproof black" ink called Heart of Darkness. 

Noodler's is an American company committed to producing high-quality, innovative inks.  Lately, I have been experimenting with a "Bulletproof black" ink called Heart of Darkness. 

 

Not knowing much about the world of prestige pens, it was news to me that certain inks are only suitable for dip pens (think traditional nib pen calligraphy) while others can safely be used in fountain pens.  Marie introduced me to the Noodler's line, an American company committed to creating interesting, experimental ink formulations.  Noodler's also makes pens, but while I really enjoyed the line quality of the Noodler's pen I bought, I still missed my skinny, Pilot v5. 

Below is a sketch of a moonsnail shell made with Noodler's ink and the Noodler's pen.  

A Sketch Showing the Structure of a Moonsnail Shell That I Made Using Noodler's Pen and Ink

A Sketch Showing the Structure of a Moonsnail Shell That I Made Using Noodler's Pen and Ink

 

In the end, I discovered how to retrofit a pilot v5 with archival ink-- solving both my pen and ink requirements.  I will cover the "how-to" in the next post, but in short, the amendment made to the v5 involves taking the top part of the pen off with pliers and inserting new ink with an ink dropper.  This is fast and easy (so far as the newly replaced pen insert doesn't leak "bulletproof" ink on things), and opens up the magic of the v5 to a whole world of alternative inks

 

 

A note of caution: it is certainly likely that the modified pen will be more prone to leak (leakage has always been a lurking possibility with the normal Pilot v5 and v7 --as anyone who has taken them on an airplane is likely to have already found out).  So, if you try it, I recommend keeping an eye on your pen (for instance, I wouldn't put my modified--or unmodified--v5 on my vintage couch), but for me, the risk of some of it spilling at some point is a small price to pay for an affordable and awesome archival ink option.