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Leaving a mark
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Leaving a mark

Posted 30.04.2019
By Gabor Gallov

I love when a child has a black and white outline drawing put in front of them by a waiter, accompanied by a few crayons in a cup. They will without the slightest hesitation position themselves upright, snatch up a crayon, and begin immediately colouring in the blank forms. There is a sense of purpose on their face as if ‘this exercise must now be completed by me’.  ‘It is my responsibility and duty that the clown receive orange hair, and he must receive this immediately and it is to be with a certain degree of vehemence’.

Looking at my favourite fountain pens gives me a sense of duty and purpose and urge to express something on paper. The fountain pen, in this digitised day and age is a maintainer of haptic experience. Whilst I adore my California designed technological instruments, with my fountain pen something is getting physically deposited, transferred, something is wearing, it may not even last for ever, it is wet during its application and has to ‘cure’. Writing, or drawing with a fountain pen relies on capillary action, the paper ‘pulling’ the ink towards itself, drinking it in as soon it comes into the lightest contact with the nib which gingerly contains the ink within its slightly spread tines backed up by supply in the feed and ultimately the cartridge or converter. The line can be intensified by slight pressure on the nib which spreads the tines and allows more ink to spill onto the page. There is feedback to the hand in the form of friction between the nib and the coarseness of the paper.

Infinite shades and colours of inks are available, some of which have more or less viscosity that defines smoothness or coarseness. Deciding on ink is like deciding on wine. Some are even known to mix their own signature colour. I must admit that I do. One can watch the ink as it dries after each cursive letter or line drawn changing hue as it settles.

Nibs can also be selected according to softness, firmness and be further adjusted by its owner endlessly, tuned like a musical instrument. In the end the defining pleasurable factor is the overall design of the pen and its components working together.

I have several dear fountain pens but perhaps my favourite is, as perhaps with many architects, the Lamy Safari. A simple yet distinctive design by Wolfgang Fabian, a renowned German industrial designer.

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The nerdy specifics:

The Safari has a certain triangular formed grip or section that guides one to hold it just the right way and which does not require the writer to glance at the nib to ascertain its correct orientation. It is a light pen perfectly weighted and balanced for my hand and drawing technique whether the cap is posted or not. It’s nib is easy to replace with other nib sizes, materials and types making it infinitely variable. The cap can be pulled off and replaced quickly with the most satisfying click rather than the classic screw on and off cap. The pen is manufactured from the same hard yet warm plastic as Lego and in considered colours. There is a view window which allows one to see how much ink is left. The clip is useful and very distinctive. The pen is also reliable, consistent and very durable.

This pen nurtures, and communicates clearly one’s particular style of writing or drawing which is very enjoyable as it appears on paper. It deposits one’s urges with the most fabulous haptic experience.

 

This post forms part of our series on The Architecture Drawing Prize: an open drawing competition curated by Make, WAF and Sir John Soane’s Museum to highlight the importance of drawing in architecture.