The Limited Edition Joey Feldman Artist Series Retro 51 Review

Background

Typically using A1 size paper for his canvas, artist Joey Feldman fills up the vast space with unique combinations of ink in wild and chaotic designs that come together to form portraits of people, animals, monsters, and more. Feldman's art is full of color, wonder, and character and his large drawings show off an incredible amount of detail. So, when Lisa Vanness approached Feldman about designing an exclusive Retro 51 pen for Vanness Pen Shop, Feldman had to adapt. His new canvas would measure approximately 340 millimeters by 146 mm. A1 paper measures 841 mm by 594 mm, which is more than ten times the surface area of what Feldman now had to work with. Further, the design would end up on a pen barrel, so the design had to work when wrapped, not just when laid flat.

 The original artwork for the pen on top of Feldman's typical canvas which has more than ten times the surface area. Image courtesy of Joey Feldman.  

The original artwork for the pen on top of Feldman's typical canvas which has more than ten times the surface area. Image courtesy of Joey Feldman.  

In spite of the challenges, Feldman was excited for the opportunity. Not only would he get to put his mark on a name brand pen, but Feldman would get to make the design for the first in a potentially new series of pens celebrating artists. With his tools at hand, Feldman got to work and came up with a startling, clever, and unique design that stands out amid a sea of overused and bland pen designs. He filled the limited area he had with a chaotic blend of shapes and primary colors that pop against a white background.

To further accentuate his design, Feldman chose two different clip colors: black and red. Each clip color is available in a limited run of 250 individually numbered pens for a total of just 500 Joey Feldman Artist Series pens. The red clip pens also include a signed print of the artwork that Feldman made for the pen itself.

 The signed print is only included with the red clip pen.

The signed print is only included with the red clip pen.

Packaging

 The packaging for the pen is functional and aesthetically pleasing.

The packaging for the pen is functional and aesthetically pleasing.

The Joey Feldman Artist Series pen comes packaged in a black cardboard tube wrapped in a thin, perforated plastic seal. The tube measures 155 mm in height with a diameter of 43 mm. The black finish has a subtle linen-like pattern to it. Printed horizontally across the vertical axis of the top piece of the tube, Feldman's signature with trailing ink splatter contrasts the black tube nicely with bright silver lettering. Immediately below Feldman's signature, "Artist Series By Vanness Pens and Retro 51" appears in the same silver finish, but with simple san-serif lettering. On top of the tube, there is a circular sticker that is 33 mm in diameter. The sticker is either red or black depending on the color of the clip, with white lettering, design details, and bar code. Curiously, there is an outline of a fountain pen nib on the label. With the red-clipped pens, Retro 51 inserted a print of Feldman's design featured on the pen around the tube and under the plastic wrap. The bottom of the tube has a small clear label with the individual pen number. The label is 6 mm tall and 23 mm wide. Right above the label, you will find a simple "Made in Taiwan" imprint.

 When you first open the tube, the pen is ensconced in plastic.

When you first open the tube, the pen is ensconced in plastic.

The tube opens as two separate pieces. The bottom piece is 71 mm tall. There is a small step down in diameter 43 mm from the bottom. The step is where the top and bottom pieces come together. The top of the step, where the diameter is slightly smaller, slides under the top piece when the tube is closed. Inside the bottom piece is a circular piece of black foam that fills the inside from the very bottom of the lower piece and ends just 5 mm short of the top of the lower piece. There is a circular cutout in the middle of the foam piece that is 12 mm in diameter. When first opened, the pen rests ensconced in a clear plastic bag inside this cutout with the pen tip at the bottom of the foam piece. The length of the foam means that the pen sticks out 66 mm from the foam. So, the top of the pen, including the finial, twist top, clip, and 47 mm of body beneath the clip remain visible with the top piece of the tube off. One neat thing about this hole is that you can flip the pen over and stick the finial and twist top into it to show off the entire body of the pen. With the detailed design that Feldman made for this pen, resting it in the bottom tube with the finial and twist top placed in the hole in the foam shows off the pen remarkably well.

 Inside the tube, you will find the pen and some inserts.

Inside the tube, you will find the pen and some inserts.

Also inside the tube, you will find two paper inserts. The first is a red slip with white lettering that provides Feldman's biography. The other is the standard Retro 51 user guide booklet that includes a separate reminder about the rollerball refill as well.

The top piece of the tube measures 112 mm tall. The inside depth of the tube is 97 mm long, ending with a small circular black foam piece that is approximately 10 mm in height. The top piece slides over the graduated step of the bottom piece when closed.

Design

 Image courtesy of Richard Koehler and Retro 51.

Image courtesy of Richard Koehler and Retro 51.

The physical shape of the pen is the same as other standard Retro 51 Tornado pens. A twist top retracts the ink refill from a tapered barrel through a nose cone on the other end. A sturdy curved metal clip juts out from the top of the barrel and features an elongated teardrop cutout in the middle.

 The defining feature of this pen is the artwork on the barrel.

The defining feature of this pen is the artwork on the barrel.

What begins to make this pen so unique is the artwork silkscreened onto the barrel. Designed by Feldman, the art makes use of primary colors and black on a white background. At first glance, the art appears chaotic, but in classic Feldman style, close inspection reveals an incredible level of detail. Starting from the top of the barrel, there are three circles, one each in red, yellow, and blue. The red and blue circles appear to be eyes with black pupils lightly circled in blue inside the main circles. Feldman connected the red and blue circles with a thin blue line randomly accented with triangles. Fine black lines protrude from near the top of the blue circle. Between the red and blue circles, the yellow circle looks like some sort of gear with various black and blue lines and circles inside.

Beneath the three circles up top is a wild diamond-shaped mouth filled with large rectangular teeth. The diamond shape starts out black on the left and becomes red on the right. Throughout the entire design, flecks of color appear at random to provide added depth to the art.

The middle of the barrel design is a collection of circles, squares, rectangles, triangles, and lines in red, blue, yellow, and black. In spite of the chaotic design here, a closer look reveals some patterns and larger forms among the various shapes and colors. Feldman aptly describes his design for the pen as "fun and organized chaos".

The bottom third of the barrel features a neat design trick. At first glance, the bottom part of the barrel design looks like a colorful checkerboard pattern tilted at a 45-degree angle. Rows of white and black squares alternate with rows of blue and black, red and black, and then yellow and black squares. A small replica of Feldman's signature appears in white over the black and blue checkerboard pattern as well. On its own, the wild checkerboard pattern shows off more of the primary colors featured throughout the rest of Feldman's barrel design. Yet, there is more going on with this section. "I like to twirl pens," Feldman explained, "so I wanted a pen that would take advantage of that."

 Twirling the pen in your hands evokes the swirling helixes of a classic barber's pole.

Twirling the pen in your hands evokes the swirling helixes of a classic barber's pole.

If you twirl the pen in your hand, like Feldman is wont to do, the checkered pattern is reminiscent of the swirling helixes of a classic barber's pole. "I wanted to do something design-like, but had a little bit of my flavor," Feldman added. "I wanted it to look unique, but still appeal to people."

The design also glows in the dark. When dark, the white background glows and the other colors provide a havoc-laden, monster-inspired design.

 The finial is one of my favorite design touches. It features the red "eye" from Feldman's barrel design.

The finial is one of my favorite design touches. It features the red "eye" from Feldman's barrel design.

There are two more Feldman touches to the design. First, the finial features the red circular eye-like shape from near the top of the barrel. Set against the top of the black twist top, the finial really stands out among typically basic pen top designs.

The other design touch is the clip. There are two versions of the pen: one with a red clip and one with a black clip. Feldman chose the red clip because of this love for the color. Set against the white background of the barrel, the red clip blends well with the red used in Feldman's barrel design. The black clip provides a bit more of a utilitarian feel as it matches the black twist top and nose cone in addition to the black on the barrel design. Both clip colors look good with the pen design, but I think the red clip looks best.

Twist top, top ring, and logo band

 The knurled twist top rests between the top ring and the logo band.

The knurled twist top rests between the top ring and the logo band.

Made from brass and covered in a glossy black lacquer, the twist top features a knurled twistable section capped with a smooth top ring and finial. The finial consists of a clear plastic disc inlay with a silkscreened eye from the Feldman design on the barrel. The finial is glued into the top ring which is then glued onto the knurled twist top. The finial, although small in size, is a standout design feature for me. With the silkscreening beneath the outer layer of the disc, there is added depth to the circular design. The finial evokes the feeling that the pen is watching and ties the design of the barrel to the top of the pen nicely.

The top ring hangs ever so slightly over the knurled section. The diameter of the top ring is 11 mm while the finial has a diameter of 8 mm inside the ring. Both the top ring and twist top are made from brass and then plated with copper sulfate and a glossy black lacquer. The twist top is 10 mm tall, and the knurling on it is very well done. It provides a nice tactile feel without being too rough. The black lacquer is evenly applied and allows the knurling to reflect light in spite of the rougher texture. The knurling also allows for quick no-look identification of the twist top for quickly opening and closing the pen. The twisting mechanism is smooth, yet firm. Turning the twist top to the right half way around the pen allows the tip of the refill to protrude through the nose cone. The same turn in reverse retracts the tip of the refill back into the nose cone.

The knurled twist top sits recessed in the logo band, which wraps around the entire perimeter of the pen. Made from brass, plated with copper sulfate, and coated in the same glossy black lacquer as the twist top and top ring, the logo band features the Tornado name with trademark symbol and Retro 51 engraved under the lacquer. Between the branding, the individual three-digit pen number is engraved to reveal the copper treatment underneath. The name engravings are understated and classy, allowing the number to take precedence on the logo band. My only quibble, and it's very minor, with the logo band is that I wish the number aligned with the clip underneath instead of being off to the left of the clip.

All in all, the top pieces of the pen are both functional and beautiful. The twist top works well and feels good in hand, the finial is striking, and the disc, top ring, twist top, and logo band fit together seamlessly.

Clip

 The pen is available in two models. One has a red clip and includes a print of Feldman's artwork for the pen. The other has a black clip.

The pen is available in two models. One has a red clip and includes a print of Feldman's artwork for the pen. The other has a black clip.

Beneath the logo band, the clip measures 37 mm in length and varies from 3 mm to 6 mm in width. It rests in a thin rectangular cutout at the top of the barrel. The blended bronze material provides a combination of strength and flexibility. Depending on the model, the clip will be plated with copper sulfate and then either a black or red lacquer. The black blends seamlessly with the logo band and draws from the black used in the barrel design. The red clip is stunning in color and in how it contrasts with the black top pieces and nose cone and the white background of the barrel design. The red clip also matches the red used in Feldman's design. Running vertically down the clip, there is a teardrop-shaped cutout. The metal in the clip has sufficient spring to lift the clip just enough over a pocket or some paper. The clip feels solid as well.

Barrel

 Feldman's artwork is silkscreened onto the stainless steel barrel.

Feldman's artwork is silkscreened onto the stainless steel barrel.

Eighty-nine mm in length, the stainless steel barrel extends from beneath the logo band and tapers off to the top of the nose cone at the bottom. Feldman's design is silkscreened onto the stainless steel barrel and covered with a clear varnish. Since the barrel tapers, Retro 51 had to silkscreen Feldman's design instead of using a graphic wrap. Feldman started with Bristol board that measured approximately 340 millimeters by 146 mm and then used dip pens and black India ink and other color inks along with Hi-Tec C pens and a ruler. It took Feldman a couple of hours to finish the initial design. He then provided a high-resolution scan of the art to Retro 51, who then turned the scan into artwork that could be silk screened on to the barrel.

The size of the canvas was not the only challenge for Feldman. The artist likes to mix colors on paper, but the silk screening process limited his pallet to just eight colors, of which, he used five. Within those limits, Feldman still went for "fun and organized chaos" with his drawing. "I'm a spontaneous pen and ink person," Feldman said. "I never plan anything with art. I have fun playing with shapes."

The clear varnish on top of Feldman's silkscreened design provides a slick, but not overly slippery, surface. The length of the barrel is sufficient. With the tapered end, the barrel feels good in hand. The pen has great balance when holding with a slight heft near the top due to the twist top. The clip never seems to get in the way and even with the clip facing down and in the web of my hand, it never bothers me due to the bend near the end of the clip. This pen is satisfying to hold and use for long periods of time.

Nose cone

 The nose cone continues the taper from the barrel and matches the top pieces of the pen.

The nose cone continues the taper from the barrel and matches the top pieces of the pen.

Beneath the barrel is the nose cone. Coated with the same glossy black lacquer as the top pieces of the pen, the nose cone is made from brass and plated with copper sulfate as well. Simple, thin threads on the top of the nose cone screw into threads at the bottom of the barrel with ease. The shape of the nose cone continues the taper from the barrel , so the top of the nose cone is wider than the bottom where the tip protrudes out. The diameter of the top of the nose is 7 mm wide; however, since the top of the nose cone hosts the threads, the widest point of the nose cone is the same 9 mm diameter as the bottom of the barrel. The bottom of the nose cone has a diameter of 3.5 mm with a slightly smaller opening for the refill. The opening is perfectly sized for the refill to glide through without causing any friction or leaving any noticeable space between the refill and the inner wall of the nose cone.

Spring

 The steel spring holds the refill inside the pen.

The steel spring holds the refill inside the pen.

Twisting off the nose cone reveals two pieces inside the pen: a spring and the refill. Made from steel, the spring is 24 mm tall and 4 mm in diameter. The spring is thin and sufficiently flexible, yet solid enough to handle the refill and twist mechanism.

Refill

 The capless rollerball refill has a 0.7 mm tip.

The capless rollerball refill has a 0.7 mm tip.

The included refill is a Retro 51-branded Schmidt CL8127P black rollerball. This is a capless rollerball refill with a 0.7 mm ceramic ball stainless steel tip. The refill itself measures 109 mm in length. The tube is metal capped with plastic ends and the stainless steel tip. The rollerball refill saturates the paper when writing, which makes the writing experience much smoother than ballpoint or other rollerball pens. One thing to be cognizant of with this pen is that if you choose to carry it in your pocket or store it a fabric pouch or bag, make the sure the tip is fully retracted into the pen. Otherwise, the tip of the pen will allow the ink to saturate and stain the fabric.

One advantage to this pen is that you can replace the included refill with a variety of alternatives. For comprehensive lists of alternative refills and refill hacks, check out The Epic Refill Reference Guide on The Well-Appointed Desk and Pen Hacks on Pens and Planes!.

How it writes

 This pen is a smooth, wet writer that can keep up with fast writing.

This pen is a smooth, wet writer that can keep up with fast writing.

I find this pen to write incredibly well for a rollerball. The Schmidt refill is smooth and wet and can keep up with faster writing. It works well on a myriad of papers that have various levels of smoothness. For some, the refill may be too wet in the amount of ink it leaves. Also, if you are looking for a very fine point, this may not be the refill for you. However, as mentioned above, you can swap out the refill with lots and lots of alternatives.

Pros

  • Unique art-centric design that is a joy to look at and explore
  • Solidly built with strong materials
  • Smooth writer that can keep up with fast writing and long sessions
  • Twist mechanism is smooth and easy to use
  • Not limited to included refill (many alternatives available)
  • Red clip version includes a print of Feldman's art

Cons

  • Refill is not for everyone (although I like it) and if you forget to retract it, it can wick onto fabrics easily

Who is this for

This pen should have wide appeal. For those tired of the same old basic pen designs, there is no better choice than the Joey Feldman Artist Series pen. Feldman's detailed and colorful artwork is just that: a work of art. It is a pen you can display on your desk or bookshelf when not in use or carry in your pocket and use as a conversation starter.

The red clip pen also includes a print of the artwork Feldman made for this pen, so if you are looking to add to your Feldman (or other art) collection, this is the pen to get.

Random fun

Feldman's signature appears five times with this product. First, there is the silver signature on the tube that holds the pen. Then, his signature appears in white on the pen itself near the bottom on top of the blue and black checkerboard pattern. It also appears in white on the biography insert included in the tube. Then, for the print included with the red clip pen, Feldman's signature appears in black on the print (over the checkerboard pattern again). Finally, at the bottom of the print, Feldman signed each one in pencil.

Where to buy

The Joey Feldman Artist Series Pen is exclusively available from Vanness Pen Shop. You can order the red clip pen with the included print for $65 or the black clip pen for $45.

Special offer

For a limited time, while supplies last, use promo code JOEYFELDMAN to receive a free Rhodia A5 blank notebook when you purchase a Joey Feldman Artist Series pen from Vanness Pen Shop. Restrictions may apply.