Archive for the ‘Drawing tools’ Category

Bic Cristal – surprisingly great

Sunday, February 18th, 2018


On a whim, a while back, I bought myself three Bic Cristal pens, you know, those classic cheap no-good ballpoints that´s been around forever. I bought one black, one blue and one red. And I started drawing with them.And wow! These things are pretty fantastic drawing tools!

They´ll give you super soft hardly visible values, and strong, bold colour, depending on how much pressure you put on the ball point. The ink flows surprisingly well, and it´s easy to make nice transitions between light and dark.


I have been plaing around with using the three colours together, or one or two together with my usual fountain pens with black ink, putting one colour in the foreground and another in the background, to make a clear distiction between the two. I was a bit surprised how well it works to use bright red as a background colour in the top drawing!

These drawings are from the last meetup of 2017 with Stockholm Urban Sketchers. We had lunch and listened to super cool music with South Station Stompers at a bar called Lilla Wien at Södermalm in Stockholm. Such a great environment to draw in, we stayed for hours! :)

Top drawing: 19 x 25 cm, Pilot Falcon with black DeAtramentis document ink and Bic Cristal ball point, bottom drawing: 19,5 x 16 cm, same drawing tools, only different Bic colour. Both on Stillman & Birn alpha series sketchbook pages.

Century pens in Chicago

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

Ed Hamilton, Century pens, Chicago

I have to add one more thing about the Chicago trip in the summer of 2017. I had heard beforehand of Century pens in Chicago, so of course had to visit. I have never really been to a store completely devoted to fountain pens before, so this was a real treat.

Ed Hamilton is such a nice guy to chat with, and a neverending source of knowledge about fountain pens and inks. I had a great time hanging out in his store for a while, and of course, the visit added a pen to my collection – yet another Pilot Falcon.


I´m almost embarrassed to confess that I own three of these (they are not too cheap – although less expensive anywhere else than in Stockholm). Two of them are customized for extra flex, while this one, from Chicago, is the original semi-flex pen. The customized ones are lovely to draw with, but very sensitive with their flexibility, one cup of coffee too much and my lines are squiggly for hours!

I love drawing with the Pilot Falcons, they suit me so well. The resin barrel is lightweight and rather small, which I love, and the Soft Fine nib gives a very fine line. (Though I wouldn´t mind trying a Medium out too…). They´re real workhorses, I have never had any trouble with ink flow in these pens, even though I´m not an avid pen cleaner.

If you are into fountain pens, and plan to visit Chicago, DO give Century pens a visit. It is such an inspiring place, and a good chance to get some serious fountain pen talk off your chest! :)

Drawing with silverpoint

Sunday, March 19th, 2017


A few weeks ago, a student of mine wanted to know what silverpoint was, the tool he had read that da Vinci used for drawing, back in the day before pencils. I was curious too, and read up on the subject online. I was able to find some jewellery silver thread in a drawer at home, and as if I had planned it, it fit perfectly into an old 0.7 mechanical pencil.

You get better results if you prime the paper with something like gesso or white gouache, and since gouache was what I had, I painted some onto a piece of watercolour paper. And lo and behold – it works! The thin thread is a bit scratchy to draw with, a thicker one would probably be smoother, but still, I was able to draw with this unlikely tool!

The only problem now is the lack of contrast in this technique. They say the lines will darken, with the oxidization of the metal that will occur over time. Not sure I have the patience to wait for that…

The tiny companion

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017


I have always had a hard time working in small sketchbooks. Not so much because of the size, but because I haven´t found any decent sketchbooks to use. I have tried Moleskines – good for ink, but not for watercolours, I have tried to bind my own – good paper, but my own binding tends to be a little too chunky for small books. And then I´ve tried a number of others, with crappy paper, or the books don´t open flat, or the binding falls apart, or…

In September, the good people at Stillman & Birn sent me some samples of their new softcover sketchbooks, and I started out trying the small portrait format book, 8,9 x 14 cm. And I have to say, after using it for a while, that these small books are perfect! The paper is my usual favorite alpha series paper, with the right balance (for me) of tooth and watercolour durability, and the covers, although they are soft, are flexible but still really sturdy and strong. The book opens flat in spite of it´s small size, and is easy to hold and use, even standing up (which I always have a hard time with, using larger size books). I really like the rounded corners too.


To make a balanced review, I´d like to say that there is at least one thing that I´m not too crazy about with this little book, but I really can´t think of anything. I´ve been keeping this little fellow in my bags since September (when I´m not drawing in it, obviously), which means it´s been squeezed, scraped, bruised and bent, over and over again, but it´s still holding up fine (see photo below).

Also, it´s getting thinner and thinner, because I´m doing something to it that I´ve never done before: I always draw on whole spreads, i.e. where the spread consists of the same sheet of paper, and then cut them out (I know, so terrible, right?). I´m thinking I´m going to frame these little guys somehow, once I´ve used up the book. We´ll see where that ends up. More spreads coming up in the next posts!



Both drawings: 17,8 x 14 cm, fude nib fountain pen with black De Atramentis document ink, and watercolours, on Stillman & Birn alpha series sketchbook paper.

Vodka and watercolours

Saturday, January 25th, 2014


I have read about it here and there on the internet, and wanted to try it, but never got around to it until now – painting watercolours with vodka in low temperatures. I have been trying out all sorts of different tools for winter sketching outdoors, because the watercolours never dry and even tend to freeze up on the page. But while coloured pencils and PITT artist brush pens and whatnot work fine, they all feel like a bleak replacement for watercolours.


So today I took the plunge and went out to try this at Barnhusbron in Stockholm. I passed by Systembolaget on the way and bought a small bottle of the cheapest vodka I could find (must have looked a bit desperate). I filled up a waterbrush with 50/50 water and vodka at a parking lot (very desperate indeed), and painted away as usual. And lo and behold – it works! The colours didn´t freeze on the page, and they dried incredibly fast, at least to a state where you can close the book without smudging the opposite page. Fantastic!

I was a bit worried that the vodka might smell very badly, or that the alcohol would make the colours go through the paper, but no such thing happened. I could detect faintly, by smelling, which of my two waterbrushes I had vodka in, but no smell whatsoever from the sketchbook page afterwards. The sky in my sketch got a funny, almost granulated look, and the paint felt a tiny little bit thicker than usual, but still runny and smooth to work with.

This simplifies my winter sketching gear a bit. A pencil (because fineliners freeze after a little while), a waterbrush or two filled with vodka and water, and a small box of watercolours. Neat.


21,5 x 14,5 cm, pencil and watercolours with vodka and water, on Stillman & Birn alpha series sketchbook.

The tiny micro little folding stool

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013


I have had some questions from people about my little folding stool, both online and in real life, so I thought I´d write a post on it.

I don´t like standing up when I´m drawing, I want to sit down so I can lay the sketchbook on my lap, to get a sturdy support for the drawing. I want to sit close to the ground for two reasons: 1) I want to reach my paints and water and stuff that I keep on the ground, without having to bend down or lean over to the sides, and 2) I like it when my knees are a little bit above the seat level, so the sketchbook has a comfortable angle to my eyes. It´s like sitting at a leaning drawing board, and gives me a good working pose.

This particular folding stool was a quick solution to the fact that my old one (which was slightly bigger) broke from old age and heavy use in Barcelona in July. I searched online and found this on, and since it was cheap, small and can carry up to 90 kg, I figured it would probably work. And it does. It is not perfect, but it´s ok.

I don´t think that this stool is for everyone, because as I said in my previous post, it is ridiculously small. Microscopic. I added some usual pens in the photo for comparison.

Some measurements – US citizens will have to do their own maths. ;)   The seat height is about 18 cm. The fabric of the seat is 19 x 18 cm, and my butt is ever so slightly bigger than that, so it´s not super comfy to sit on for a longer period of time, but it works for me. When folded, the metal parts measure 23,5 x 25 cm, and the thickness of the whole chair is then less than 3 cm, so it will fit into almost any bag. It is very lightweight, haven´t checked exactly how much it weighs, but it is considerably lighter than my current Stillman & Birn portrait format sketchbook. It doesn´t really add any weight to the bag.

The print on the seat fabric doesn´t seem to be a real brand name, I can´t find it through the usual search engines, and the product images at amazon do not show any print on the seat. I don´t really think needs more links, but if you copy this and paste it into their search bar, you´ll find the stool (along with some others): Folding Outdoor Camping Hiking Fishing Picnic Garden BBQ Stool.

Preparing for winter sketching

Friday, October 25th, 2013


Autumn is upon us, and my drawing materials are starting to give me some problems. The Platinum Carbon Black ink that I usually fill my fountain pens with, is hard to use when the temperature goes below 10°C or so. It takes forever to dry in low temperatures, and I keep laying my hand in it, smearing the lines. But this is easy to fix, I´ll just use waterproof fineliners instead when drawing outdoors. They don´t give me quite the same feeling as a fountain pen, but they are ok. I can live with them.

What is harder to take is the fact that the watercolours also take forever to dry in the cold. I love the versatility of watercolours, they give me the possibility to mix any colour I want, and if I let go of some control, I can get an enormous amount of variations and surprises from them. Plus they are very easy to carry with you. Now I am realising I have to find another solution for the coming winter.


I started experimenting last year with using large grayscale PITT Artist´s pens for drawing outdoors in the cold, because big tools are easier to hold with mittens on. But I must say I missed the colours after a while. I could just buy some coloured PITT pens, but I decided to go for these these Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth Magic coloured pencils instead. Very lightweight, and short, so they´re easy to fit into a pen case in the bag. They are a bit bigger than usual pencils, so should be ok to hold even with mittens. (I coloured the Eldorado at home, simply because I forgot to put the pencils in my bag when I headed out. Plus, my fingers were frozen by the time the ink drawing was done…)

But what I like most about these pencils is the fact that each coloured lead inside the pensils consists of several colours, sometimes tones of the same colour (for exampe light, middle and dark blue) and sometimes more varied mixes, such as the yellow-pink-red in the photo above. Drawing with them gives a little more variation and a little less control than the usual coloured pencils, and this suits me fine. You´ll be seeing some more of these on this blog during the cold season ahead of us.

Flying home

Friday, August 30th, 2013


I have had pencils with mixed colour leads in them before, but not this kind, where the colours are neatly placed next to each other. I found it in a bookshop in Barcelona, and used it for parts of this spread from El Prat and Frankfurt airports on my way home from the Urban sketchers symposium in July.


Exciting with a mixed colour pencil where you can almost control the change of colour by rotating the pencil while drawing.

27 x 21,5 cm, Black Pal mixed coloured pencil, various ink pens and watercolours on Stillman & Birn Alpha series sketchbook spread.

Playing around with a limited palette

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013


Right now I am experimenting with a limited 5-colour watercolour palette, consisting of Schmincke Cadmium Yellow Mittel, W&N Permanent Alizarin Crimson, W&N Ultramarine, W&N Burnt Sienna, and W&N Viridian. I read about it online somewhere (can´t remember where, if I did I´d give proper credit for it).

I have tried limited palettes before, and I seldom use more than five or six colours in the same painting/drawing, but for some reason this particular palette felt extra exciting to try – in spite of the Cadmium colour. I made a whole new plastic watercolour box for it, with only these colours in it, to make sure I don´t cheat with other colours. ; )

Did this trial mixing sheet, to see where this will take me, and I have to say I am pretty impressed with the range of colours I can get from these few.

27 x 21,5 cm, watercolours in Stillman & Birn Alpha Series sketchbook.

Sketching gear ideas

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013
Mini watercolour kit by Ed in Bath, UK

Mini watercolour kit by Ed in Bath, UK

Just a short post with no drawing for those of you who (like me) enjoy seeing the tools that other sketchers use:

Go check out Urban Sketcher Ed´s (Bath, UK) great pages about his sketching gear. Among other things, he has come up with some pretty nifty ideas for making really small watercolour kits like the one in the image here. I wouldn´t mind having one of those in my back pocket when I go sketching…

Follow the link below to his blog, and don´t forget to hover over “Sketching kit” in the main menu on his site, there is plenty more there! (And plenty of sketches on the main page too, of course.)

Mostly Drawing Sketching gear

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