It is so easy now to obsess exponentially. When I was a holey-shirted kid drawing on the backs of cigarette cartons, I had no DIY boards on Pinterest to help me figure out the proportions of the human body, or forums where I could consult experienced illustrators with kindness and a little time to spare. When a grandaunt gave me a yellowed Speedball instruction book, I copied the Gothic letters the way a kid with a ballpoint would, outlining the parts of the letters and shading inside them. That there were stroke instructions that needed to be followed escaped me. Perhaps I was spared the obsession then, only to have it rebound on me in my dotage like a vengeful tsunami.
It matters from where the obsession springs. Mine has always been about the result, and only lately about the instrument. I have been writing and drawing since I can remember. When I went to work in my first advertising agency, one of my tiny thrills was filling out the requisition form for a new pen, usually a Pilot DR Drawing Pen. Getting a 0.1mm was like winning the office supplies lottery. It was great for pretend copy blocks, cross-hatching and doodling comics about life in advertising. An Artline FinelinerÂ could be obtained, with some haggling.Â Â Art directors hoarded Yoken markers and got pissed off at the writers for making off with the blacks and grays.
When I could afford to buy my own pens and stuff multiple pen cases with them, I hoarded Pilot G-Tec C-4s, then C-3s. Now I see Jetpens has C-.25 and I want one. That pen, however, is a Sharpie compared to the Uniball Signo Bit 0.18, “the world’s thinnest gel pen,” which I also want. No wonder almost all of my fountain pens have extra fine or fine nibs. It seems I am after a particular result – control, detail, the tenderness of a hairline.
So, you want to embark on a fountain pen obsession. The question that most needs asking is, where does this desire come from? For many of us, the answer arrives in stages of enlightenment, through trial, error, more error, and sometimes way more error than is financially sensible. The answer is a long journey on a winding road, and the only way to see what’s next is to round the bend and uncap the pen.