The weather in Tokyo today prompted some thought about which inks in my library might convey a sense of the wet, gray and wintry conditions coloring the city streets from early morning. I left home in a gentle misty rain that both obscured and revealed the cityscape in an interesting way. There was no fog, yet there was a sense of fog in how the rain and early morning light masked and filtered the view of streets and buildings, and how the cloudiness brought out shapes and lines that seem like different shapes on fair weather days. In an opposite mood, the four fountain pens in my bag were filled with a quartet of colors that mocked this somber aspect with their gaudy redness and juicy greens. Only the Pelikan Souverän 600 was inked with a shade that came close to matching the rain slick streets. And so I began to mentally flip through my color chart of inks trying to imagine what among those colors would be the right accent for a day like this one. There are blacks aplenty, but they all seemed too black, too dark, and too quick to add unwanted weight. I needed something with moderate darkness and comfortable shadow. It didn’t take long to hit upon a trio of grays that I sensed are just right for characterizing a cold and rainy day in the big city.
And who but Pilot with their Iroshizuku series, along with the marvelous De Atramentis could capture the mood any better? The samples shown here are, from the top down, Kiri-same and Fuyu-syogun in the Iroshizuku family, and Charles Dickens from Dr Jansen at De Atramentis. The swatches in the photograph were done with a small calligraphy brush, and the sentence samples with an old and battered Stypen long out of production. As for the ink, I have found it difficult to match another ink with the consistently fine quality of Pilot and Iroshizuku. However, the De Atramentis ink is never easily topped, and in my experience has proven to be consistently a world class ink. Just so happens, of the twenty-one different De Atramentis inks in my collection, the Charles Dickens ink is by far my overall favorite.
I offer a toast to these gray brothers and their potential to heighten atmosphere.