While we look forward to the lovely people who bring our bacon butties on a Monday morning, most visitors to Cult Pens tend to be couriers, the Royal Mail, lorries containing vast rolls of bubble-wrap or lost people with pick-ups looking for Jewson. So we were more than happy last Tuesday to welcome Christina from Kuretake, who dropped in with her box of scrummy art stuff to give us a demonstration of just what everything can do.
Kuretake takes its art and craft pens extremely seriously. Many of their employees are talented artists and crafters, and have a real enthusiasm for what they supply. This was certainly true in Christina's case. She joined the ranks of Kuretake after gaining a degree in Illustration, and now revels in the fact that she can use her skills to promote Kuretake's enormous range of drawing pens, brush pens, markers and watercolours.
Once we'd found a table big enough for us all to sit around, tasked Herbie with answering the phones, and plied Christina with a cup of tea, we were introduced to the first of her offerings - the Zig Millennium Drawing Pen.
This is available in eight colours and a great range of tip sizes, from 005 to 08. The ink is lightfast, so your artworks will last for eternity, and you can lay one colour over another without smudging. The fine tips are fantastic for intricate detail, and you can blend them to some extent by touching the tip of a pen to the tip of another colour. You can then draw or colour with the temporarily-changed tip and watch the original colour gradually blend back in. Then all you need to do is use some tissue paper (or kitchen roll, which was what we had) to dab away the extra colour and clean the tip.
Next up were the ever-popular Clean Color Real Brush Pens. These have so many uses that I'm going to have to resort to a list:
They come in a huge range of colours
The ink is a water-based dye, so they blend easily
They're a great alternative to watercolour paints, particularly as they don't take long to dry
Be aware that they're not lightfast, so don't hang any creations near a window!
Ideal for adult colouring because the brush tips allow for fine detail as well as filling in large spaces
You can blend in a number of ways (oh no, a sub-list…)
Touch the tips as you would with the Millennium
Apply the colour, then use a water brush to blend out
Touch a water brush to the tip and watch as the colour gets stronger the more you draw
Use acetate film as a palette to mix primary colours and create a full range
Use a clear Wink of Stella (we'll come to them) over the top to lend a bit of shimmer
Christina gave us a bit of background on Kuretake Japan's amazing quality control system for these pens. Each tip is scrupulously inspected. If it falls below their high standards they put it to one side and a group of eagle-eyed employees armed with tweezers carefully tease the tips into shape.
Then we had relative newcomers to Cult Pens: the Suitto Crafters. The reason they're called 'Suitto' remains a mystery, but they're best used on glass and shrink plastic as they contain alcohol-based dye ink. They come in four tip sizes: brush, calligraphy, medium and fine, and eight colours. There are also a couple of eraser pens in the range (one brush, one bullet tip), which can be used to erase parts of an artwork in order to create patterns (or tidy up something that's gone a bit wrong!) You can also use them on paper and card, but the eraser pens won't then work.
Next up were the beautiful jewel-like Gansai Tambi watercolour paints. And you don't even need to wield a paintbrush to use them, as water brushes are an ideal alternative: easy to fill, easy to clean and easy to use.
These paints are really versatile. Apply thickly, with just a bit of water, and you will end up with a glossy finish. Apply less generously and the effect is more of a traditional matt. Using both techniques on a painting - as Christina demonstrated with one of her own works - is incredibly effective. They're best used with good quality watercolour paper (minimum 180gsm), but they can also be used with stamps. Each colour pan is removable, so if you're painting on the go and don't want to carry too much, you can take just the primary colours plus the cover, which doubles as a palette, and mix whatever colours you want. They're also lightfast, which is handy!
Christina then brought out some brush pens for us to try. The Japanese Brush Pens are available with either pigment ink (indicated by a pink barrel), or water-based dye ink (indicated by a navy barrel). We experimented with them using pre-printed lettering templates (felt a bit like being in Miss Flower's class in first year infants) and were quite surprised by the difference between the inks. The Zig Brushables proved to have quite a different, firmer feel to them. These are dual-tipped pens with one end laying down a fully pigmented shade of colour, and the other end delivering a 50% tint of the same colour. So, because there are 24 colours available, you actually get 48 shades to play with! They were great for adding little bits of detail, because one shade sits quite happily on top of another, without smudging or running.
And then came the aforementioned Wink of Stella. An unusual name for a pen, but entirely apt, because it lends a 'wink' (in other words, a small bit) of 'stella' (or starshine) to a piece of work. These come in 16 colours and the effect is subtle but very pleasing. If you want to extend the colour palette, simply use Clean Colors, for example, with their huge range of shades, and then use the clear Wink of Stella over the top.
Last but not least were the Kurecolor Fine and Brush pens. A Manga session then ensued, with all of us striving (with the help of templates) to produce something worthy of a Japanese animated cartoon. The Fine and Brush pens are dual-tipped, as you might gather from the name, and come in a massive range of colours, the sort of selection that could quite easily bring on some sort of stress-related condition. Christina, obviously mindful of our mental states, had brought along a limited selection. The ink is alcohol-based, which means that while the colour effect is very bold and vivid, blending takes a bit of practice! The blending pen helps though.
And that was it! Stomachs were starting to rumble but luckily sandwiches in the staffroom were a-calling. Our creative impulses were now well and truly fired up, and the next few days will probably see a sharp increase in staff purchases of certain products… Cult Pens would like to extend a massive thank you to Christina for making the three-hour journey to come and see us, and to Kuretake for making such a pleasurable morning possible.