What Pen Do You Use?
If you watch Kim Jung Gi’s YouTube channels, you can sometimes hear the exasperation in his voice when yet another person asks what pen he uses.
I still take it as a compliment when someone asks me which pen I used. I mean, it is an insult; it implies that yes, my drawing is nice, but surely that’s because of the pen!
But it means they like my drawing and thank you, I will take that compliment. People haven’t asked me often what pen I use, but when they do, I secretly glow inside. I think it’s super-cool. They like the drawing!
What They Mean When They Ask
On a side note, when people like your drawing, they will not tell you that because they assume you already know.
When they think your drawing needs work, they might tell you they like your drawing and mean it as a form of encouragement.
When they say, “nice drawing,” what they mean is that they feel that your art still needs work.
But when they ask “what pen do you use?” what they mean is that they do like your art—and they want to know what pen magically created it.
Because it’s the pen that created it, of course, and not the skills you honed by practicing thousands of hours.
It’s the pen, of course!
Artists Asking The Wrong Question
If a drawing is good, it is not so because of the pen! I think Kim Jung Gi even changes up his pens often to show you that he can do this with any pen.
In general, experienced artists don’t like this question because it implies that you can draw well if you just use the same pen.
The correct question should be, “how do you draw that well.”
To which the answer is, “I practiced a lot, with any pen I had at my disposal.”
The pen or brush you use indeed influences the result and the quality of the result. I am currently drawing with the “Pentel Brush Sign Pen Artist.” It’s a hyper-thin brush that allows you to put down very thin lines, and at the same time, you can vary line thickness quite a bit.
Why They Ask
I often draw with fine point pens or pencils, but this brush pen is quickly becoming my favorite pen. It’s portable. It’s not that expensive. It’s great!
It lays down beautiful lines. It just does.
And that is often why people want to know what pen you used: they love the line quality they see in your drawing!
And I get it!
If I am honest, I also often think, “I wish I knew what pen that artist drew this with!”
You see—and admire—the beautiful line quality you see in their work, and you want to know how to replicate that in your work.
What Artists Should Do Instead
The trick is to find the pen or pencil you enjoy drawing with and to then draw a lot with it.
You will discover the types of marks that the pens or pencils easily make and that look really great.
But you can create different effects with different pens and brushes.
The pen or brush you use does matter for finished pieces, but if you find yourself asking, “what pen do you use?” then the answer is, most probably, “I practice drawing a lot with any pen I have at my disposal.”
I imagine that it is the same with other crafts.
When you are at a good restaurant, and the meal is delicious, would you ask them which pans they used?
Good quality pans matter, but surely, the cook could perform magic with any pan you gave them.
When a musician has a fantastic performance on stage, do you ask what guitar or piano they used?
The musical instrument surely matters; you get better sound from a higher quality musical instrument, of course, but it sounds well because the musician trained and practiced many hours a day for many years.
The musician could probably still get a decent tune from a lesser quality instrument.
Yes, for cooks, when cooking at a restaurant, having the best pans matters.
Yes, for musicians, having the very best quality musical instrument matters when performing on stage.
And for the cook to practice well, they probably need to practice with good pans.
And for the musician to practice well, they probably need to practice on high-quality instruments, or even on the instruments they intend to use at a performance.
What Matters When Making Art
It starts with practicing for many thousands of hours.
Having the best possible pan does not automatically make you a great cook.
Having the most expensive musical instrument does not automatically make you a virtuoso musician.
Having Kim Jung Gi’s pen does not make you good at creating art.
A lot of practice does.
You do not need a Stradivarius to practice a violin. You do not need a Steinway grand piano to practice playing piano. It would’n hurt, but you don’t need it for practice.
The instrument you end up using for the final production does matter and you probably do need to practice with the high-quality instrument you will perform with eventually.
Still, for the many, many hours you practice before that, it’s about the practice, and any reasonable quality instrument suffices if it allows you to put in the hours.
This is also true for pens and drawing. If you want to draw as well as Kim Jung Gi, you need to practice more. You don’t need his pen.
Grab three different pens or pencils you have available to you and one sheet of paper. Make twelve squares on the page with sides that are one to two inches. You can do this by making long rectangles and then dividing these up into smaller squares.
Then fill these smaller rectangles with textures using the pens and pencils you have.
Notice how the different pens and the different pencils are naturally more suited to creating different types of texture effects.
Experiment a bit! See what each pen naturally allows you to do, which effects they can easily create.
Try to come up with really cool-looking textures. You will find that different pens and pencils are naturally suited to making different kinds of textures. These are the effects you can then install into your drawings when using these pens or pencils.
Ergojosh has an interesting take on it . (Please ignore his male-gaze drawing, he has an interesting point!) He is saying that you should make your questions more specific: what pen or brush do you use for inking comics? What pen do you use for sketching outside? His claim is that if a question is too general, too broad, a pro will not know what to do with it.
I have a drawing exercise here where the textures exercise is explained.
I have a YouTube video here that explains it also.
Next article: Artists! Please! Do NOT Follow-For-Follow!
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