I like calligraphy but I don’t always like getting out all the tools and paraphernalia, so I often doodle letter forms with pencil.  It’s the kind of exercise that really gets you thinking about the shapes and proportions contained in a letter.  Water-soluble graphite pencils such as the Viarco ArtGraf, Caran d’Ache Technalo or Faber-Castell Graphite Aquarelle can be fun in this regard; finish off with a square water brush (the kind that stores water in its barrel and is therefore mess-free and portable) and voilà!


9 thoughts on “Doodling

    1. Oh, it’s actually a handmade (!) notebook that was on offer at the Penhood pen show in Seoul several years ago. Penhooders have a variety of hobbies that they apply to the realm of stationery, such as quilting, leatherworking, and woodworking, and they will also sew and bind their own notebooks if they can’t find good paper in a format that they want. Crazy, eh? It says that this notebook was made with “The Naturals (Cotton) 110g/m2)” paper; I personally found it a bit rough for fountain pens because of the laid pattern, but it works wonderfully as a small doodling book.

      Oh, and you should be able to make much better use of the graphite technique than me – Viarco also sells graphite cubes and cakes of water-soluble graphite in tins, that you can dissolve with a wet brush to achieve a similar effect. It’s a bit like sumi ink but still different, as I understand (I haven’t actually had the chance to use the latter).


      1. The Penhood show sounds pretty amazing! The deeper I get into the stationery world, the more I learn about all kinds of tools that I never knew existed, like the graphites so you mentioned. It’s amazing how creative people can get with their hobbies! What a world! :)


      2. Yes, and I personally think the calligraphy scene is a good antidote to the pen world. In stationery you find yourself chasing an ever-increasing number of grail pens, not to mention inks and notebooks and other paraphernalia, all for a small increase in personal satisfaction; on the other hand most calligraphers I know dislike spending a lot of money on tools. Many prefer to make their own and experiment with inexpensive materials, but with them create things of astounding beauty. Some food for thought there :)


  1. Have you ever tried using the pencil sideways? You can perfectly emulate the behavior of a flex nib (meaning a beautiful line variation) by using the pencil this way. High-quality ones withstand the added pressure pretty well. Those with flimsy cores or splintering wood, break after a few letters, thou.

    One pencil that works pretty well in this regard is General’s Layout #555.


    1. You mean hold the pencil at a slight angle to the right? (If you’re right-handed, that is.) That’s an interesting idea, I will try it in the future. I’ve played with chiselled points, and of course the Japanese penmanship pencils can be used in the orthodox way too (creating line variation by pressure), but this other method didn’t occur to me. Thank you for the tip!


      1. Yes, you hold it like when you are lifting it up from a desk. You increase the angle and put slight pressure to make thin lines and then put the pencil almost flat to the paper so that the exposed lead (the side of it) comes in contact with the paper, hence creating broad lines. Much like when you use a Noodle nib, except, as far a I know, Noodles can’t go this wide.

        It’s better to use soft cores (2B, 3B, 4B) and the Japanese pencils seem perfectly suited to this since their cores use polymers, which increases the lead strenght.

        Gonna try to make a simple video showing you how.


      2. I think I get the idea. Not exactly like a flexible “wet noodle” kind of thing, but more like a ruling pen (also called a “cola pen” because calligraphers used to make them out of the tabs from Coke cans), right? (You can see one here, last picture) Holding the pen upright results in a thin line, and tilting it produces a thicker line. Interesting!


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