One of the best Christmas presents I used to get (when I was under the age of 10, that is, and leaving the Chocolate Orange out of the equation) was a massive pack of felt tip pens. Simple, cheap, perfect. I can't remember how many were in there but it was a LOT: every shade from the palest blue to the richest red with everything in between. That's what it seemed like anyway. So when Stuart Edmundson came to visit us armed with a box of Winsor & Newton's markers, it was (almost) like Christmas morning again; albeit in a meeting room on an east Devon industrial estate rather than a seventies semi in Northamptonshire.
Stuart is an artist who's a bit of a fan of Winsor & Newton and came along to show us why - despite the fact that he's primarily a painter - he likes their markers so much.
In the box under his arm were packs of ProMarkers and Brushmarkers. Both contain alcohol-based ink and both are dual-tipped. So what's the difference between them (apart from their names)? Well, the ProMarker has a fine bullet tip at one end - perfect for creating outlines, cross-hatching and adding detail - and a wide chisel tip at the other - great for going a bit mad with the colouring-in! The clue's in the name where the Brushmarker is concerned, as while one end is the ever-useful chisel-tip the other is a generously-proportioned brush, which acts just like a paint brush!
According to Stuart, these pens are particularly popular with fashion designers, architects and animators and once we'd had a go with them, we could see why. Not that any of us are budding Yves Saint Laurents, Frank Lloyd Wrights or Disneys but the ability to make bold, positive strokes and fill in large areas with colour made us feel that (maybe!) we were more creative than we'd originally thought. Whereas, professionals use the fine bullet tip on the ProMarker to create a figure (in the case of fashion design) or the outline of a building, and then the chisel or brush tip to add swathes of colour, in our case we had rather a lot of fun drawing... well, just drawing actually; as if we were two years old and in the midst of creative abandonment. It was strangely liberating just making blobs and circles and swirls, though Louise and Helen did actually create some lovely lettering using the Brushmarker and you can see Amy's artwork in the form of the banner for the 20th March issue of Penorama. It's a strange thing but if you find yourself with a slim-barrelled, delicate whip of a pen in your fingers, you're more likely to write slowly, neatly and precisely but if you have a substantial chunk of a marker in your fist instead - like the ProMarkers and Brushmarkers - you're more inclined to be a little more - shall we say - uninhibited.
What Stuart likes about these markers is that they - as he put it - 'dry flat'. We all adopted serious expressions and nodded knowledgeably not really knowing what he meant, until Amanda decided to take one for the team and admit our ignorance. It turns out that 'drying flat' means that when the colour is first laid down it may look a bit streaky, but once it's dry there are no lines AT ALL. Not one. Just a perfectly uniform block of solid colour, which looks very professional. He also likes the fact that even if you really go to town and put down lots of layers, there's no bobbling effect; no build-up of pigment which could make your artwork look like an old woolly jumper.
They're also mixable: you can use a blender pen when the ink is still wet to merge two colours. Or if you let a colour dry, you can go over it with another colour to add contrast and there'll be no bleeding. The marker tip might get a bit mucky but it's quick and easy to clean by just making a few strokes on a blank sheet of paper.
Overall, they got the thumbs-up from us. Trying stuff out is one thing - it's one of the perks of working for a stationery retailer, especially one as keen as we are on customer education - but it's so much more revealing when you have an expert in the mix: in this case, Stuart, and we're very grateful to him for trotting over to our little corner of Devon to visit. Have a look at his website to read a bit more about him.
18 March 2019