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How to make me happy UPDATE: find me some pens!

The truly wonderful Tombow Fudenosuke GCD-111
For the past few years, I’ve drawn almost everything with two particularly lovely Japanese marker pens, the Tombow ‘Fudenosuke’ GCD-111 and GCD-112. There’s one shop in New Zealand that sells the things, and I buy them in bulk. However, supplies are patchy, and for some time they’ve not had them at all. Hopefully, that’ll change, but it prompted me to put out a call to the all-knowing interweb, in case anyone can help.

Here is information about the pens on Tombow’s website (in English), and here is the GCD-111 on amazon.jp. Unfortunately, even amazon.jp won’t ship them outside Japan, which I assume is an indication that Tombow has all kinds of licensing arrangements for the rest of the world. Which would be fine, but neither their US or European online catalogues include these pens, and no online retailer that I’ve been able to find (outside of Japan) seems to stock them either. If I could read Japanese, I could probably order them from one of the many Japanese online retailers that google offered me – but I can’t.

So here’s the thing: if anyone out there knows an easier way to get them, please let me know. I’d be very grateful.

By the way, I was first alerted to these wonderful pens by Timothy Kidd, who also uses them, along with a number of other cartoonists and illustrators I’ve spoken to. They’re a truly wonderful pen: waterproof, dark, but most importantly they allow you to vary your line from a fine, sharp pen-like thing to an almost brush-like swish, while still enjoying all the convenience and ease of drawing with a marker-pen. They suit my own drawing hand perfectly. I’m quite sure they’d find an enthusiastic market outside Japan if only someone would try…

One last note of caution: Tombow make another (related) range of multi-coloured ‘brush pen’ markers (the ABT range), which are quite different, and – while probably perfect for some people’s purposes – are of no use to me. Just about every stationery store I try stocks these (or else the related WB-300TN Tombow Dual-tip brush pen, which is far cruder than the ones I use). If I sound bitter, it’s because many of my searches for the GCD-111 has ended with a store clerk triumphantly brandishing one of these dual-tip monstrosities as if it were the holy grail. It’s one of life’s great ironies that this crude dual-tip beast is available almost everywhere, while the far superior GCD pens – a true masterpiece of marker pen design – is rare as hen’s teeth.

Although, for all I know, maybe Tokyo has a Tombow GCD vending machine on every street corner…?

19 Responses to “How to make me happy UPDATE: find me some pens!”

  1. patty leidy says:

    hey Dylan, I will check with my local art store….they are pretty good at getting me stuff…
    I went thru this 2 years ago when my fave sumi brush pen was “changed”…
    sniff sniff…I feel for ya man!

  2. Tim says:

    Hey Dylan,
    I really feel for you- this happened to me too, only the one I favored- GCD-112- disappeared from that same store a couple of years earlier. Oh man- the torture of it- I still haven’t recovered…honestly-the greatest pen ever.Your “One last note of caution” -oh man…at last someone understands…If you hear anything, let me know. I pretend to love the Hunt 102 but really, there is only one pen for me…

  3. Dylan Horrocks says:

    French Art Shop promise they are trying to get the supply sorted out – so fingers crossed. Apparently they were getting them from a supplier in Australia, but it’s changed hands three times in the past couple of years, and so they’ve now gone direct to source, but are waiting for a response.

    But if that fails, hopefully some of the other leads beginning to emerge will prove fruitful!

    Will keep you informed.

  4. monocat says:

    hmmm – interesting… I assume these are a pseudo brushpen fine tip thing…?
    If that’s the case you might want to try something line this one from Zebra:
    http://cgi.ebay.com.au/Zebra-Japan-Chinese-Kanji-Calligraphy-Fude-Brush-Pen-SH_W0QQitemZ110314212670QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item110314212670
    which i think has reasonably colorfast ink*, but if you don’t mind water soluble ink, then this:
    http://www.jetpens.com/product_info.php/cPath/221_535/products_id/2481 (presently sold out)
    close up of nibs:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/monocat/2523840948/
    is a very pleasant pen to use

    *mail me & I’ll check

  5. Tia says:

    I feel for ya…I’m down to my last two, which were given to me as a gift from my professor when he went to Japan (he bought a barrelful, I believe, or he never would have even handed me any at all), and I’ve been searching in vain so far.

    I’ll let you know if I find a way.

  6. Dylan Horrocks says:

    There is progress being made, btw. Seems the Singapore Kinokuniya store has them; so maybe other branches do too…? The search continues!

  7. Dylan Horrocks says:

    Monocat – the GCD pens are not quite that; they’re firmer and sharper than most brush tipped markers. But I may try the Zebra one anyway, in case it adds another welcome tool to my kit.

    My other favourite Japanese pen is this: Pentel GFKP – a brush pen that really is a brush!

  8. monocat says:

    ah – a harder nib.. The silver double ended zebra pen is quite a soft nib, so I couldn’t recommend that. I also find (when testing) that it’s not waterproof at all (so much for memory). The other Zebra pen I have:
    http://www.jetpens.com/product_info.php/cPath/221_501/products_id/2309
    may be more to your liking & is also waterfast (which is probably where the idea that the silver one might be came from)

    I have taken some bad ‘pen porn’ picture (close up of nibs) & will try to upload these soon.

    It sounds like your more after what seems to be termed a ‘sign pen’ rather than a ‘fude pen’, but you can find a lot of right naff pens looking for something along those lines.

    Good luck with Kinokuniya

  9. These pens sound great, I’ll try find some when I am over in the US in the summer. By the way Dylan, do you work on Bristol board? I’ve been trying to find some non-Fanboy brand bristol in NZ and I’ve had no luck since I moved here.

    Thanks!

  10. Dylan Horrocks says:

    Actually, I draw on cartridge paper these days – part of my conscious strategy to scale back my materials to comfortable and basic that I launched a few years back (that’s when I started using markers again). Mind you, it is imported Italian cartridge paper (the brand is Fabriano, and it has pretty much zero bleed).

    Before that, I used to draw on what they call ‘ivory board’ here in NZ, which I think is pretty similar to bristol board (which isn’t a term used here, so I never entirely understood what it was). But it got really, really hard to find ivory board of decent quality a while back (the cheap stuff bled like crazy), which was another factor in my shift over to cartridge paper.

    The best art supplies places I’ve found in Auckland are The French Art Shop on Ponsonby Rd, Studio Art Supplies in Grey Lynn and Gordon Harris (espec. the Newmarket store). But you probably already know that… :-)

    Really like your site by the way!

  11. Dylan Horrocks says:

    GCD-111/112 update: apparently the Kinokuniya store in Singapore stocks them, but doesn’t do online orders for stationery. Sigh! But a friend there is generously buying some and sending them over, so that’s good news! And I’ve emailed the Sydney branch to ask if they also stock them.

    Meanwhile, the French Art Shop continues its quest to get more reliable supplies, too.

  12. monocat says:

    hmm – last comment got deleted (probably my bad use of a certain word).

    anyway as I said, that silver zebra pen ain’t so colourfast…

    & I’ve taken some (slightly duff) snaps of the pens themselves here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/monocat/sets/72157606979430101/
    (‘pen nerd’ set)

  13. Dylan Horrocks says:

    Huh – your comment was sitting in the spam-watch folder (presumably, indeed, because of that ‘bad word.’ I’ve now approved it (you’ll see it above at last). I would complain about overzealous spam filters, but then I look at the other comments it’s successfully blocked and I just can’t say a word against it. :-)

    Your photos are very nice indeed… And yes, there’s some nice lookin’ pen action there. I will check out those Zebra pens some time.

    I laughed when I saw the comment from the ‘Brush Pen Evangelists’ group!

  14. Sean says:

    Hi Dylan,

    I love the GFKP myself (as does Craig Thompson, I think 90% of his Carnet De Voyage was drawn with those), but yeah, the ink isn’t the greatest. It’s hard to find a non-dipping dib pen with really good ink. A lot of folks I know use Pigma Microns, where you get a bit of line variety, but it dries out rather quickly, and the ink isn’t all that solid. A buddy recently pointed me to Staedler’s Pigment Liner series, which do allow for quite a bit of line variety. But they can already be pretty hard to find over here, seems every store is switching to Microns and Copic Multiliners (which aren’t bad either, but the ink isn’t black enough for me, and the brush variety has a crappy point). Those GDC-111 pens sound great, but alas, will probably be impossible to get over here (The Netherlands). Maybe I’ll give Ebay a shot.

  15. Anton Emdin says:

    Hi Dylan,

    Love your work – have done for years!

    I picked up the Tombow GCD-112 at the Kinokuniya store in Sydney the other day. Wow – it is almost perfect! I find it a little on the dry side though, so fast sweeping strokes are a little streaked.

    I had a quick go at a tester for the Pilot Brush pen hard – http://www.pilot.co.jp/products/pen/sign_marker/fude_pen/kohitu_kouhitu/index.html (the top one) which is similar but really nice and wet. Unfortunately they are out of stock of those, and are hoping to get more in a month.

    I’ll be happy to ship you over some if you’re having trouble getting them.

    Cheers,
    Anton

  16. Anton Emdin says:

    Ps. Mine started running out the other day, so pulled the cap off the (back) end and used a syringe to squirt a bit of fountain pen ink (I used Pelikan black, but I’m sure most will work) – works a treat! You can keep refilling it until the tip goes.

  17. Hi Dylan,
    I tried these pens at your Wheeler Centre workshop in Melbourne and ordered my first lot today from Jet Pens online. Can’t wait to use them at home. :)

    Thank you for the inspiration, I really enjoyed the workshop and my drawing is already more confident and relaxed, just from that one exercise we did.

    Thanks again!

  18. In case you haven’t heard yet, JetPens is now carrying both the hard and soft Tombow Fudenosuke pens – http://www.jetpens.com/product_info.php/products_id/5035.

    I’ve also just reviewed them at http://www.penaddict.com and gave you a shoutout :-)

    Thanks!

  19. Hey Kalina – that’s an excellent review! I’m gonna bookmark it and point people in its direction whenever they ask me about THE PEN. But how come even with my favourite pen, I still can’t do drawings as amazing as yours? :-(

    And yay for JetPens! Now I don’t need to lie awake at night worrying about my local store running out.

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