Tagged: fountain pens

Mid March snow storm that was quite captivating. Stayed indoors glued to my living room window mesmerized by the beauty. At times the curtains of snow were so intense all but the 7-Eleven building in the foreground disappeared into the white out. Temperatures had been in the seventies just days before. This building has been a bit of an eyesore, especially since the canopy of a large Elm that sprawled across my apartment windows was lost when the diseased tree was cut down, documented in an earlier post here at Butt Nekkid Doodles. Even when the temperatures slid down into the skin tingling single digits, I love living in the North for the varied displays of Nature’s seasons. This was drawn in a Tomoe River Paper sketchbook with fountain pens, a Pelikan M215 and a Faber-Castell Basic Black Leather, both filled with Platinum Carbon Ink, and a range of Gray Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Brush Pens, including the Big Brush White.

What an evening of music! Went to the Pick-Staiger Concert Hall on Northwestern’s campus to hear the Contemporary Music Ensemble perform music by Steve Reich with Mr. Reich performing in the first piece, Clapping Music, accompanied by Co-director Alan Pierson and members of the ensemble. Also performed, City Life, and the trance inducing Music for 18 Musicians. Perfect to draw along with.


Back working in a Seven Seas Tomoe River Paper sketchbook. Brought along the usual suspects, a couple fountain pens gassed up with Platinum Carbon ink, and the full range of greys by Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens.

While in Vancouver BC, I set about town with filmmaker Ryan Mund and his wee GoPro. Gear used in this video: a Moleskine landscape format watercolour sketchbook, Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Brush Pens, and a Faber-Castell Basic Black Leather fountain pen, Platinum Carbon ink.

Bronze Angel

Vancouver was quite resplendent in my five sun dazzled days. Down by the dock near Gastown is the Bronze Angel memorial to the Canadian rail workers who served and lost their lives in World Wars I and II. On the other side of Gastown, exhausted and struggling souls are scattered along Hastings Ave for a number of blocks.

Upon leaving the city by train, minutes out of Pacific Central Station, I saw the man below, beside the tracks and on the edge of brambles, wrapped in a blanket, a bike in the brush beside him. Can’t know for sure his circumstances, but far too many are in conditions to the extreme of those garnering immense wealth and comfort truly way beyond need and security.

Man in brambles

At this point, I can’t be swayed by an argument that would put the fault of the downtrodden, indigent, and failing souls upon their own shoulders. The imbalances of the day are so out of whack, that the system as a whole appears to me to be staggering from pathology.

Some wait and wish for a spirit of supernatural dimension to lift us up. Others wish for a spirited whisking away of the inconveniences about them.

To a spirited awakening for us all.

both drawn using Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Brush Pens in various nib sizes and grays, plus the Basic Black Leather fountain pen with Platinum Carbon ink. Top drawing in a Tomoe River Paper sketchbook. Bottom drawing in an unlined Rhodia sketchbook.


Ah, the marvels of cachet. Above you see my Pelikan M215 lying across a page wherein I used the delightful little fellow. Always concerned that I may loose the beauty while traveling here and there, that worry has increased dramatically. Why? Because this little guy was bought about four years ago for $90. At that time the pen was going for $110 and shortly thereafter the price rose to $140. It writes and draws very nicely, a feature I’ve found to be a hallmark of the Pelikan line. I was also smitten with it’s suave looks comfortable feel, and the minimal rise above the clip so that it clung deep in the pocket with barely much sticking out that made me feel more secure about having it at the ready rather than tucked away in a pen case or backpack. While it didn’t have the heft and girth of the M800s or M600s, it was comfortable in the hand with enough length should I want to use it unposted and not too long nor top heavy when I used it posted giving me the extra length when I chose to cradle it further back on the barrel. Hence..

.Unposted Posted

Now as stated above, this pen is a very good performer and a much valued member of my arsenal of drawing implements. When those not accustomed to using fountain pens and finer writing tools hear that I’m drawing with a pen that costs $100-$200 dollars their eyebrows either spring up or furrow as they wonder why I would use such an expensive pen. The questions that follow ask if it has expensive materials, gold maybe, or some hi-tech substance from the aerospace industry. And they can and sometimes do contain valuable materials, such as gold, or palladium, or sterling silver, ebony and other expensive woods, petrified wood and woolly mammoth bone. Seriously. Some have jade, are handmade, might be turned on a lathe, carved or lacquered by some revered for their old world craftsmanship. One beautiful example has a barrel of braided horse hair and it has to be seen and felt to be truly appreciated. And their prices reflect those qualities, you can drift above $400 easily enough and if you’re flush and feeling ostentatious, why not open the wallet and make it rain baby?! There’s $2,000, $4,000, and $10,000 pens out there sure to bring on the back slapping at your board meetings.

But this pen, the Pelikan M215 is not one of those. It is a mass produced pen that was meant to fill the realm between starter pens and the medium to more valuable while being dependable and stylish. The stainless steel nib helped keep it’s price down and if you really wanted to upgrade the nib it was very easy to replace it with one of a number of gold Pelikan nibs that would fit the M215.

Pelikan was a terrific company and had a price range that would bring in timid newbies and reward the hard core who demanded impressive looking and performing pens with tradition. They were not the haughty and, in this users’ opinion, much overpriced Mont Blancs that know nothing execs with lousy handwriting pull out to guarantee those present that nothing but the best will do for them.

Buuuut, the creep is on. Because Pelikan, like many corporations looking to maintain their profit margins despite a major hit on many products, and the finer writing tools in particular,  since the downturn in the economy 7 years ago, has turned to pushing their prices up. Want to know how things are going in the world of fine pen sales? Well the internet and e-Bay have taken their toll on the brick and mortar businesses, but sales of a discretionary nature, say fountain pens that costs $250 and up, are not the got-to-have by so many in the finance and tech industry that have been more guarded about their ducats and job security. Ask the former owner of one of Chicago’s 2 premier writing stores who threw in the towel after more than 20 years of business. And have a chat with the other fellows there in the Loop by the Board of Trade on how it’s going.

So, for a moment, let’s turn our attention to the real estate market. What’s moving as of late? Them old luxury condos and homes. Many are deciding to hold off on buying, and since the focus has been on those still having jobs in the tech, finance, and legal businesses, building affordable priced housing and ample rental units just hasn’t appealed to developers, who like catering to the winners of the day in the economic times of musical chairs. Thus, no surprise, rental rates are rising. At a rate faster than median income. Oh well…we’ve seen this before. Applied to college lately?

Back to our friends at Pelikan. Last year the price had risen to $190 MSRP. Deals could be had on line for $160, $140, or someone in Eastern Europe might dump a few on eBay for less than that, but the march was in full stride. How much does that M215 go for now? Well, I walked into Levenger’s in Macy’s the other day to see if by chance a sale might mean I could get a back up in the event my little banded black beauty gets stolen or goes missing. I have lost 3 pens and had another 3 stolen during my cross country travels.

Not only was their no sale, but the pen was now fetching a price tag of $225!!! WTF! Did they add gold to the nib? Nope. Perhaps because of glowing pen reviews by influential bloggers, the inherent qualities of a pen considered good for it’s price point over recent years, and/or encouraging sales, and a desire to take advantage of Mont Blanc’s heady lead, the captains at Pelikan’s ship have boldly pushed the pen’s price towards the wallet range of the economic winners. Compare the MSRP of another quality German fountain pen, Lamy’s Studio. Lamy L Studio

I own 2 of these beautiful pens that are swell writers, elegantly designed and being made of metal, have a serious presence in the hand. The blue one has a stainless steel nib and  a coating that prevents slippage and the platinum grey dude has a 14k gold nib. Price? The stainless steel nib lists between $99-$74, I picked mine up a few years back for around $65. The 14k pen list between $214-$199 with eBay prices dropping that to $174 and occasionally less than that. But that still begins less than the Pelikan and it has a 14k nib for the love of mercy. Is Pelikan experiencing a different rate of German inflation than Lamy?

You may also consider the TWSBI 580, seen below, a pen from Taiwan, the previous model TWSBI Diamond 540 was voted Pen Of The Year a few years back. TWSBI

I own the Diamond 540 and the 580 and the are terrific to draw with produce a fluid and strong line. They go for $50-$80, roughly the prices I purchased mine at.

There has been a marked rise in artists using fountain pens, witness the work on the websites that feature Urban Sketchers. Gee, maybe they’re all doing gangbusters in the recent market bounce and pen makers will now capitalize on that newly addicted crowd since they must be reaping the upswing in the economy with steady streams of sketches flying out the door in a tornado of sales.

I still hope to score one for backup by hauling one in off eBay should someone look to unload theirs around $100. In my mind, it is a choice pen for $100-$125 I’ll allow, but I will not go near the unjustifiable MSRP of $225. Ballocks to their price margin and Mont Blanc wanna be aspirations!

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