Review by Tina Koyama
I have a few brush pens. (To understand what I mean by “a few,” see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 of my review series. And those are only the ones I’ve reviewed.) I tend to divide all brush pens into two categories – the ones with hair-like bristles and the ones without. The latter category of formed felt or nylon tips includes various sizes and degrees of firmness. The Pilot Shunpitsu Pocket Brush Pen with a soft tip ($4.90) belongs in the formed tip group, but I think it may be unique in one way: its length.
Looking through my formed-tip brush pens, I pulled out all that are made of the same type of soft, flexible material, and the Shunpitsu is the only one with a standard-size pen body. All the rest (some of which are double-sided) are about 2 ½ inches longer than a standard pen because they are designed to emulate traditional Asian calligraphy brushes. For artists and calligraphers trained to use traditional brushes, perhaps the longer brush pens feel more natural. For the type of sketching I do, however, I’ve often found the length inconvenient, especially when carrying them out and about. The Pilot Shunpitsu puts the same flexible tip in a compact body.
The Shunpitsu’s brush tip puts out a wide range of expressive thick and thin marks. The dye-based ink is not waterproof, but knowing that, I take advantage of its water-solubility (see sketch of hand below). JetPens’ description says that the specially formulated ink “dries to the touch in just one second,” which makes it ideal for a lefty like me. (I haven’t had problems with other brush pens smearing much, but that could be because I usually draw with them rather than write, so my hand’s not moving very quickly.) (Writing and scribbling samples made in Col-o-Ring “Oversize” book.)
Like memory foam, the Shunpitsu’s soft tip is very flexy but pops right back up when released.
In the sketch below (which was made with my right hand during a couple of weeks of non-dominant hand practice), I used a water brush to wash the water-soluble ink slightly for soft shading. (Sketch made in gray Stillman & Birn Nova sketchbook.)
A few days later, I pocketed the Shunpitsu and a Field Notes notebook to catch a quick sketch of a blossoming cherry tree during my daily walk. (The white ink used was a Sakura Gelly Roll.) The fine marks it can make work well on a small page, and the pen’s length is ideal for easy carrying. So no matter how many brush pens I have, I need this one, too.
Tina Koyama is an urban sketcher in Seattle. Her blog is Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, and you can follow her on Instagram as Miatagrrl.