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Rotring Art Pen EF Review

posted Apr 30, 2015, 2:37 PM by Juan Jose Garcia-Ripoll   [ updated May 1, 2015, 12:47 AM ]
I have an objective of doing at least one sketch a day, let it be an exercise from Pen & Ink Techniques, a copy of one of Alphonso Dunn's examples, or something more free and arty. So far it has not been such a struggle. Quite on the contrary, it proves a nice motivation to wake up earlier and go sit at my favourite coffee place with the morning espresso, a sketch book and a pen of choice. Some days I even manage two!
Sketch with Rotring Art Pen
Sketch of a tree with Rotring Art Pen
In working out these daily exercises, I have come to realize the importance of having the right tools. Drawing with ink we have very little expression tools: ink and lines. You may fill regions with ink or with patterns, and a good control of these patterns is essential to provide sensations of volume, texture, light and darkness. Thin pens are great for textures, thicker pens (and perhaps a waterbrush) for shawdows and filling, etc, etc. However, many of those possibilities are not if the underlying medium or the tool fails. Examples of this:
  • A faulty pen, such as the Tachikawa I mentioned, can be scratchy, breaking your lines.
  • The pen may be too dry, or not start, or skip, in which case your patterns will really look bad: you are unable to produce continuous lines, parallel lines, etc.
  • The pen may be too wet, leaving too much ink which darkens or burns the drawing, or leaving blobs of ink that spoil your work.
  • The paper may be too rough, producing unsharp lines.
  • A too rough paper, or a paper that is too satinated, may produce skipping.
  • ...
I am finding all of these problems, none of which is really exclusive of fountain pens but also show up with ballpens, and I am learning a lot in the process. In particular right now I have settled for these little notebooks from Tiger. The notebook is cheap, just 1 euro, and it so so small that it also becomes very discrete. Small sketches are also less intimidating and help me feel more at ease when in the street.. Finally, the paper is buttery smooth, making the pen start accurately, but dries fast and takes a lot of ink, which is great for the drawings above.
Tiger notebook with Rotring Art Pen

I am trying both the Tachikawa School G and the Rotring Art Pen in this notebook. The Rotring is a drawing and writing foutain pen that apparently has been discontinued but which is still sold by many online shops, including Amazon. The ArtPen is a long, but very well balanced pen, made of plastic with a steel nib. It is sold in many nib sizes, and the EF in mine means Extra-Fine nib, referring to refers to the very thin line quality that it can produce. The nib is very solid and rigid, but produces a great variety o flines depending on pressure, inclination and speed of your drawing.

Rotring Art Pen
On the hand, the pen feels more like a brush than like a pen. It is terribly smooth, with a uniform and consistent flow of ink almost before touching the paper. The Rotring Ink is quite special, very dark and very thick, and sometimes this hinders the ink flow, forcing us to restart the pen by pressing harder or writing elsewhere. The intensity of the ink may feel intimidating, because strokes are harder to correct and shadows and hatchings are also harder to produce accurately, but I feel this is just a matter of practice and not a limitation of the pen itself. In any case, and just for the fun of it, I have order some other inks and a piston converter to test lighter colors, closer to graphite, to better compare the performance of the pen with the Tachikawa School G.

From an earlier review and from the sketches above you may see the thinness and expressivenes of the lines that the Rotring ArtPen produces.
Review of lines of the Rotring Art Pen

Rotring Ink can be washed
The ink, while thick and dark, is still water-based and can be used for very nice shade effects: using a small brush with very little water, you can spread the ink of a stroke in all directions. Depending on the amount of water and how far you spread the ink, you may vary the intensity of the resulting gray color -- which in the Rotring Ink has a nice reddish tone.

Conclusion

I love this pen very much. I bought it before the Japanese pen and I have been using it longer. It was thus my first drawing pen and the one that moved me into sketching, after I had long drooled over blogs and videos. The pen is not without faults. Either the ink or the nib tend to fail on me at times, specially on unforgiving papers with too much tooth, or too greasy, in which the pen skips. Restarting it by drawing elsewhere solves the problem. Further tests with other inks should reveal the actual cause of this.

On the other hand, while the pen does not produce hair-thin lines, they are thin enough even for very small notebooks (1/2 A5 shown above), allowing for lots of detail, specially when you turn the pen upside down and work with its finer side. The pen is also rather affordable and promises to take well other thick inks, such as permanent inks, though I have not tried this yet.

Please comment or provide feedback at the Fountain Pen Network post which I started on this topic.