16 August, 2010
Back in December of 2002, I wrote a post titled Ode to Pentel Brush Pen. It detailed my search for the ideal brush pen, an art tool that would enable me to work on my brush work as I was out and about. Out of all of the posts I’ve done for this sketch-blog, that one was by far the most popular, driving in the majority of traffic to this site, even to this day. While I definitely appreciate all of the traffic the post has generated, it should be noted that much of the content of that post is getting a bit out-of-date. To that end, I decided to write a sequel to that post to update some of the information about one of my favorite art tools.
What’s in a Name
First of all, there is an issue of nomenclature that I need to clarify. Since the time of the original post, the brush pen that I referred to as the “Pentel Brush Pen” has now become more commonly known as the “Pentel Pocket Brush Pen.” I am not sure when or how this happened, but I suspect it has something to do with how Pentel introduced their brush pen line into the United States.
At the original time of this post, it was difficult to find any Pentel Brush Pens here in the States. As the years went on, U.S. retailers like Dick Blick began carrying a product they referred to as the Pentel Color Brush Pen. While the Pentel Color Brush Pen had a very similar name to the Pentel Brush Pen, it was a somewhat different animal. First of all, as the name suggests, it was available in a number of colors other than black. Secondly, you had to squeeze the barrel to maintain the flow of ink to the brush. You can read my original thoughts on the Pentel Color Brush Pen here. It isn’t a bad pen, and it actually has one advantage over the Pentel Brush Pen — namely, better ink. Still, I have never really taken to these brush pens and I have seldom had the urge to pick one up over the years.
Fast forward to the present. At some point, I noticed that the Pentel Color Brush Pen was simply being called the Pentel Brush Pen. The brush pen that I waxed about in that earlier post was finally becoming much more readibly available here in the States, but it is now called the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen.
Confusing? You betcha. I apologize for any confusion (don’t blame me, blame Pentel). Anyhoo, just remember that when you read through my site (especially that earlier post) whenever I go on and on about the Pentel Brush Pen, I am really talking about the art tool that is being sold in the U.S. as the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen.
Come and Get ‘Em
As I mentioned earlier, the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen is not as difficult to find here in the States as they once were. I no longer have to put up with exchange rates and overseas shipping to indulge in my favorite brush pen. The big U.S. art retailer, Dick Blick now sells them. I also strongly recommend JetPens. Not only do they sell the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, they also sell a host of other cool brush pens (and pens of all kinds) they have imported from Japan and other places. Check ‘em out.
Avert Your Eyes
One of my biggest regrets about my original post is that I didn’t post better artwork to go along with it. The drawing I posted is a bit shaky, and if I had known how many eyeballs that post would get I probably would’ve never included it. Still, I am hesitant to take it down because this site is intended to be an online sketchbook of sorts, which means it includes the bad with the good. If you want to better examples of the brush pen in action, I recommend you check out some of the sketches in this link. Keep in mind I typically only use the Pentel Brush Pen for sketchbook type of work, so none of the drawings I post here using it are all that refined.
One of my biggest complaints with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen is with the ink — it just isn’t black enough for my tastes. Thanks to a suggestion in one of the comments, I have started filling old (and empty) ink cartridges with india ink. Despite some initial trepidation, it works like a charm! I haven’t noticed any clogging or other problems. It is a definite improvement over the ink that typically comes with the standard ink cartridges.
State of the Art (Tool)
So in the eight years since I wrote my original post, the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen has found a permanent place among my essential art tools. It is everything I wanted in a brush pen. When I’m out and about, it provides a simple, portable alternative to using a regular brush and ink. The Pentel Pocket Brush Pen is durable and maintains a nice shape for a long time. It can really take a beating.
The Pentel Pocket Brush Pen is not without its drawbacks, however. As good as it is, it just doesn’t compare to a real brush. The ink flow of the brush pen is adequate, but can’t keep up to really quick sketching. I have also had less than stellar results using the brush pen on toothier paper stocks. When I’ve worked on those kinds of stocks, I’ve needed to work really slowly to get acceptable results. On the flip side, I’ve gotten fantastic results whenever I use my brush pen with one of my Moleskine notebooks. The brush pen just glides over the surface of the Moleskine and makes it a real joy to use.
Another drawback of the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen is that it just doesn’t have the versatility of a real brush. With a sable brush, you can go messy, loading the brush up with too much ink and just slopping the stuff on paper. You can go for a dry brush look. You can dillute the ink to get a nice wash look. The Pentel can’t keep up in those regards.
With these drawbacks in mind, I still heartily endorse the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. While it will never replace an actual brush, it really doesn’t have to. It provides a quick, compact, no-fuss method of getting a brush-like experience when I’m away from my drawing table. Give one a try.