I enjoyed returning to traditional tools to sketch this. I’d forgotten how much I missed the tactile feel of a nice mechanical pencil on good quality paper, and how conducive that feeling is in maintaining interest in the sketch. I can’t fault digital tools for the endless versatility they provide, but there’s something very rewarding about putting a thin tip of graphite or steel to paper and following through on the marks without the safety blanket of undo. It was even nicer to return to my watercolours, if only for a smaller- than- postcard sized thumbnail sketch.
I went off traditional tools for months after my beloved and favourite sketching fountain pen, the Nib Creaper, gave up the ghost. It honestly felt like my tool in a way that no other instrument has- it was flawed by every traditional measure of what makes a good fountain pen, but the very qualities that made it so quirky- variable flow, sensitive nib, light and cheap body- also made it a singularly good illustration tool. Since then, I’ve been experimenting with everything to find a substitute, with limited success. Dip pens, which I used to love so much, aren’t really doing the trick. Ballpoint pens come a little closer, perhaps- but it’s a very fine, 0.3mm mechanical pencil that comes the closest. It’s not the same, but the Pentel OrenznerO is a pleasant sketching experience in its own right. I developed something of a bias against 0.3mm pencils because of how much the lead snapped, but this one is specially engineered to protect against breakage, and so far it’s been working quite well. I can’t get the line variation that I got with the Nib Creaper, nor the boldness of an ink stroke, but I can (to some extent) work in the fine, measured hatching style that so resembles traditional copperplate illustrations.
It was after these (lacklustre) digital sketches that I decided to return to traditional tools. Trying to thumbnail to fill this page made my Apple pencil squeak across the glass, and I immediately remembered how much more satisfying paper texture is to work on. It seems switching up mediums is one of the best ways to keep moving and staying productive when something gets boring.