how long does it take to break in a fountain pen?

People sometimes ask me how long it takes to ‘break in” a new fountain pen.  This is normally a hard question to answer, since a lot of it depends on the pen. Softer nibs break in faster than harder ones, definitely, and flexible nibs faster than stiff ones. Large nibs tend to break in faster than small ones, at least in my experience, but that’s purely anecdotal. And then a lot of it depends on you– the pressure and torque of your own particular touch, how much you draw with it, and whether you write with it as well.  So I’m never able to answer that question with any kind of accuracy.

Until today.  I noticed while I was inking all the figure drawings for reader appreciation week that the Rotring Art Pen (EF nib, what we generally call a “scritchy-scratchy pen”) I was using was finally perfectly broken in.  It has been officially the New Pen for a while, but it’s no longer acting like one.  For once, I know exactly when I started using it.

I’d brought this particular pen into service on a whim, out of my stash of spares, for no particular reason other than I missed having a proper scritchy-scratchy pen in the Coffee Cups of Doom and Art Supplies.  And I wrote about it in the blog! A quick key word search discovered this post, from last December 12th, where I mentioned I’d started the new pen the day before.  Somewhere between the middle of a December and the end of the following August, that pen got broken in.  Since it’s a Coffee Cup of Doom (etc.) pen, I only use it for drawings of the day and some sketchbook work and very occasionally for writing if I happen to grab it first.

So a pen with a very small, fairly stiff steel nib, used most days of the week for drawing on inexpensive sketchbook paper, sometimes over pencil underdrawing, takes about 8 months to break in.  This is hardly definitive, but it is a data point, courtesy of this weird little blog.

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1008 posts– more reader appreciation drawings

It’s been audience appreciation week here on the old blog, since I was kind of surprised when the old blogging software told me I’d made a thousand posts.  I wouldn’t have made them if it wasn’t for you, dear readers, who come from all over the world to listen to me blathering on.  I hope you have been entertained, informed, amused, or annoyed enough to keep right on reading.  I plan to keep on making … stuff. All kinds of stuff.  Yeah, that’s what it is.

Anyway, I wanted to post pictures of all of you to say thank you, but that would be a bit of a logistical horror show.  So all week I have been drawing pictures of groups of widely various little characters in the hope that you will find someone to represent you.  And thank you.  Thank you very much.

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used vehicle sales in the coffee table notebook

Stormy weather prevents the post I planned for today, so it’s time to turn to the notebook for inspiration. I don’t know if you’ve met the house notebook, which normally lives on the coffee table so I can write in it while I watch TV.  I just started it this January, after spending the last 20 years or so keeping my house notes on yellow legal pads.  I don’t know why, but I just started wanting to have a big notebook again.  I found three or four big, handsome composition books with green and white marbled covers and green tape spines, filled with quad graph paper, for a buck apiece at a junk shop– one of those is filling the role admirably.  The pen that works best for this notebook, I’ve found, is the Sharpie Pen with a medium point– it really doesn’t bleed through the very thin paper.

Most of what’s in this notebook is world building stuff: the differences between a werewolf and a skinwalker and how living spaceships choose their pilots … all long drawn out semi-essays that would be boring to read and hard to follow without long drawn out explanations that would send you running, but I use it for the ordinary everyday stuff too:

  • In the parking lot across from the school
  • an Asian guy
  • is selling a 49cc scooter
  • to a Latino guy.

(It’s a 49cc scooter because if its engine was 50cc or larger, it would have to be licensed as a motorcycle and you’d need a permit to ride it.)

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the five secular saints of antelopia

Today was a day for photographing giraffe heads and eating tater tots,

and for a first encounter with the Five Secular Saints of Antelopia.

Stuffed antelopes are among my favorite photographic subjects, and these five seemed to be arranged purely for the pleasure of a photographer with an imagination: gazing gravely into the distance in all directions, they look iconic, like saints on an iconostasis, or perhaps the founders or patrons of a nation or institution.   These are just phone camera shots, tweaked a bit in post, but I had my big camera with me too, and I hope I can get something rather better from the dozen or so images I made with a serious lens.

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best of the drawing of the day, week 123: brushwork hexapod

drawingoftheday-week123-brushworkhexapodWhen you’ve been drawing a lot of group portraits of your audience as you imagine them and inking them for hours with the scritchy-scratchy pen, it’s fun to take up the drawing of the day sketchbook and one of the Pentel Colorbrushes and just let loose.  If its one of the Pentel Colorbrushes with the Japanese brush heads, so much the better.  I think this one is the Tsumi.

I don’t know who this guy is, but he is a hexapod.  A brushwork hexapod.  The Brushwork Hexapod would be a great name for a bookstore.  Or a coffee house.  Or a pub.  Or a weird little corner business in a shabby neighborhood that was a little bit of all three.  Artists and writers hang out there to  scam off the WiFi.  I like to go there for a redeye and a glass of wine and some shortbread dipped in dark chocolate and leaf through the old books of Japanese woodblock prints.

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1004 posts (reader appreciation week continues)

A thousand posts and a post here on this little blog, and all due to our lovely, lovely audience.  I have drawn some more pictures of you  to say thank you.  Here’s hoping you can see yourself in there somewhere.

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the shadow of the toadfrog

IMG_20140825_210112This little guy was hanging around on the back wall of our house last night, being extremely hard to photograph.   The harsh light from the floods and the tiny sensor of the New Phone Camera are not well matched, and by the time I checked my shots and came back with the Monster and my 35mm Macro Limited (the right tools for the job) he was gone.

We call him the toadfrog, because we do not know if he is a toad or a frog. I’m sure he and his relatives are all around us all the time, but we never see them because they look exactly like bits of grey green lichen with little pink feet.

Thanks for the brief public appearance,  little toadfrog.

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six turning, four burning– the biggest photobomb ever

Imagine the scene: it’s Sunday evening and you are sitting peacefully in your own living room, doodling in your sketchbook while you watch this week’s episode of The Great Food Truck Race.  (This is a completely pointless Food Network program featuring teams of would-be food truck owners competing in various challenges with the goal of winning their very own own food truck.  For some reason I wouldn’t want to probe too deeply, it is a great favorite at our house.)  The episode was recorded on the DVR earlier in the evening, and you are zapping the commercials.  As you come out of the last long break, prepared to hear the results and discover who will be driving home this week without their food truck, your big screen is suddenly filled … with a B-36.B-36 and food trucks from facebook-straightenedandcroppedYup.  There’s the Peacemaker herself, right there behind the row of colorful food trucks.  This episode was filmed on the streets of Tucson, Arizona, and the producers decided for some amazingly weird reason to shoot the reveal at the nearby Pima Air and Space Museum, home to one of the four (or five) surviving B-36s. Because nothing spells success in street sales of yummy fried foods than large obsolete bomber aircraft.

You can see from the shot above, which must have been taken on somebody’s phone camera during filming, that the Big Guy made a pretty impressive backdrop to the exciting events. The teams are standing to the right and the camera is out of shot in that direction.  It was very annoying to others in the room when I kept pointing at the B-36 every time it appeared on camera, which was pretty much in every shot that wasn’t a closeup.  But hey. There’s a B-36.  On the Food Network.  Pretty awesome.

But apparently the Pima B-36 is quite used to visits from food related vehicles:B-36 and weinermobile(Both images come from the Pima Air and Space Museum.  The first is from their Facebook page, although I straightened and cropped it myself, and the second is from one of the Museum’s Pinterest boards.  Pinterest. What a weird thing.)

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1001 posts

It was only after yesterday’s “Food News” went up that the software that underpins this blog (and which I usually do my best to ignore unless it is doing something weird or stupid) informed me that I had, all unknowing, posted my thousandth post.  This event is certainly deserving of at least a mild celebration, even if logic delays it for a day.   A thousand posts and a post, here on “a cartoonist in Kekionga”, and it’s all because of you, O wonderful readers, whose views and links and comments keep things going when I feel like I might be howling in the mirror.

I’d post pictures of every one of you if I had them and you said it was OK.  But instead, I’ll be drawing a whole crowd of characters this week, to represent my audience, and I hope each of  you can find yourself in one of them, and count it as a personal thank you.  (I’ll be posting them in batches all week.)

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food news

Two items of food news from the Files of the New Phone Camera.  First, there was a sale at the Local Chain Grocery Store this week.  The values are astounding! Everyone is talking about it.  Look at those big, big, savings!IMG_20140823_160850(1)I don’t know how they can stay in business for long if they keep offering discounts like this.  Particularly if they are baking the French bread twice, which has got to add to the overhead. Doesn’t do the bread a lot of good either.  (Seriously, what this town needs is a decent bakery.  There’s one new place that calls itself a bakery, but when you go in it’s all doughnuts and cookies and tarts and cakes.  That is not a bakery, people, that is a pastry shop.  A very decent pastry shop– my plain cake doughnut was absolutely perfect– but still.  Not a bakery.)

Second, I have succeeded in photographing the new dessert at the Chinese buffet.  According to a little girl who was casing out the dessert table before she filled up on those tedious proteins and vegetables, this item is called a “chocolate waffle”.  That’s a plenty good enough name, and it’s pretty much exactly what it looks like: a sort of semi-stale waffle, somehow still vaguely crispy, covered with a waxy dark chocolatey coating.IMG_20140823_160030Quite  tasty, but hard to shoot. The secret is a touch of exposure compensation to bring out the details in the dark brown surface.

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