Searching for the perfect pen


I don’t think I have THAT high expectations for the pens in my life. I want something reliable, easy to hold, that uses waterproof ink, that’s refillable and (I suppose here is my problem) has a certain something that makes me want to pick it up, hold it, use it, dare I say love it…yes, love it.

I’ve come quite recently to drawing. A health problem has meant I’ve finally admitted that it’s time to stop making large, energetic paintings. Now I make small drawings of the things around me and I like it. I’d like it more if I could find just the right pen. I’ve spent far more on pens than on my fat cat’s not insubstantial food bill these last few months. I have piles of them. None have been quite right.

I started by just going into every art shop and stationers that crossed my path, picking up pens I liked the look of, scribbling quickly on the tiny pads provided for such purposes and then heading to the till. Soon however I discovered lots of what I bought either wasn’t waterproof, ran out quickly or became blocked. None really inspired any deeper emotions in me.

I decided to become more systematic. I searched the web for advice. On the wonderful Danny Gregory’s blog ( I found my first mention of Rotring. He sings the praises of the Rapidoliner. Still ignorant I thought one Rotring would be much like another and so when I couldn’t
find any Rapidoliners anywhere I ordered a bunch of Rapidographs – refillable, waterproof ink, plenty of different nib sizes and nice to look at and hold. I began to wonder if I could fall in love. Often I would pick up one, try to make a mark, only to find the pen was blocked. I felt just a touch betrayed.

Next a Rotring Art Pen. Lovely to look at and hold but again with an unreliable ink flow and doesn’t really like having waterproof ink in it.

Next – joy of joys – I found a few Rapidoliners on eBay. I bought all I could find. Love began to stir. Reliable ink flow. Fabulous to hold. Waterproof ink. What more could I want? NOT the fact that Rotring have discontinued the pen – suddenly it became clear why I couldn’t find them anywhere but on eBay. Ho hum.

So my search continues. I have a glimmer of hope. At the weekend I returned to my obsessive scouring of local art shops and was sold a Staedtler Mars Professional. We aren’t well enough acquainted to be in love yet but who knows what the future holds. Refills seem widely available (perhaps I should buy in bulk), the waterproof ink flows well, it has a nice feel in my hand, and it’s silver finish is reminiscent of my beloved Powerbook. Hmm…

Michael Nobbs is an artist, blogger and part-time ME/CFS sufferer living on the west coast of Wales. You can read his illustrated blog at

Image and words © Michael Nobbs, 2004. All rights Reserved.