Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December Miscellany: Black Paper, Nature Sketches, Planners

Finally, it's the end of December.  2013 is very nearly done, and 2014 is soon beginning - in fact, it has already begun for some of my readers.  I'm feeling relieved that this year is almost over; it was a frustrating year for me in some ways, as I didn't get done a number of things that I wanted to do.  But, as always, I'm full of plans for the new year...  Here are some final links for 2013:


That's all for now; happy new year, everyone!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Best of A Penchant for Paper 2013

To follow up on my top 10 supplies of 2013, here are my top 10 blog posts of the year.  These aren't necessarily the posts that were the most popular or that received the most comments, but they are posts that I think express the best of A Penchant for Paper and what I've been doing this year.  If you like this kind of thing, you might also want to check out my top posts of the year on my other blog.


  1. The Next Step: Lamy Z24 Converter - I mentioned in my top 10 list how this converter changed my relationship with my Lamy Safari fountain pen, turning it from a pen I liked to a pen I loved.  This is also my favourite post of the year because I was exploring a new area (bottled inks), I had no idea how things were going to turn out (for example, I was halfway through writing this post when I realized I needed a bulb syringe to properly clean my pen), and I needed to do a lot of research.  It was a fun - if time-consuming - post to write and photograph.
  2. My Productivity System - My system is continuing to evolve and it looks different now than it did at the beginning of the year when I wrote this post, but simply being able to understand my system enough to write this post was an important step for me.
  3. Ink Review: Diamine Meadow - I was nervous about this post, because I had never reviewed a fountain pen ink before.  But I did some research so I knew what I wanted to include in the review, and I think it turned out well.  And I may have started a new tradition of including a poem with each of my ink reviews.
  4. Handwritten Post: The Story of My Pen and Paper Addiction - If you've ever wondered just how I became such a geek about pens, pencils, and paper, read this post.  Another fun post to write.
  5. My Growing Wooden Pencil Collection - I had hardly any interest in wooden pencils when I started this blog, but that has certainly changed over the years.  I've reviewed a few of them, and somehow I've ended up with this collection...  Now I just need to get into the habit of using them more often.
  6. Rethinking the DIY Planner for 2014 - My DIY planner is an important part of my life, but I'm contemplating some major changes to it next year.  I may be a bit too obsessed with my planner, but that's okay, right?
  7. Creating & Using a Blogging Schedule - 2013 was a good year for me in terms of maintaining a regular schedule of posts, something that is important to me.  This post summarizes how I do it.
  8. Less is More Art Journaling - I didn't do much art journaling this year, but I was really happy with the art journal that I did work on, my "less is more" art journal.  I think it really expresses me and my style better than any art journal I've kept before.
  9. Seeing the Big Picture: When Paper is Better Than Digital - Sometimes paper really does work better than digital, especially if you're a writer and you're easily overwhelmed when the piece you're working on is many thousands of words long (um... yes, that would be me).
  10. Question & Answer With A Penchant for Paper - This was a series of questions from readers that I answered this summer.  It was a fun post to write, but also a lot of work!


And here are the most popular posts of the past year:
  1. Guest Post: Life as an Addicted Cursive Writer by Alice Jenkins
  2. How Small Can You Write?
  3. Rhodia Pencil
  4. Laurentien Coloured Pencils
  5. My Productivity System
  6. Handwritten Post: The Story of My Pen and Paper Addiction
  7. Ink Review: Diamine Meadow
  8. Five Disappointing Pens
  9. Pens for Dark Paper
  10. The Joys & Challenges of To-Do Lists

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ink Review: Private Reserve Shoreline Gold

I have to admit that I wanted to try Private Reserve Shoreline Gold ink partly because of the name.  "Shoreline Gold" makes me think of the colour of beach sands at sunset - a nice image to contemplate in the depths of winter!

Private Reserve Shoreline Gold in Rhodia dotPad.

Fancy aside, Private Reserve Shoreline Gold is a soft warm orange colour (not a bright orange at all, which I like because I prefer more muted colours).  It becomes noticeably darker as it dries, but I feel that for me the colour might still be a bit lighter than I would like, especially with a fine nib.  I suspect that with a broader nib it would be better.  Shoreline Gold is also not a very saturated colour - to me, it seems a bit watery, but it makes up for this with some lovely shading to a deeper earthy orange.

Private Reserve Shoreline Gold in Paperblanks journal with lines from the poem "This Time of Year" by Barbara Crooker.

The flow of this ink is nice - perhaps slightly on the wet side on smoother, less porous papers.  As with most fountain pen inks, you may see some bleedthrough on cheaper papers, but generally I found this ink to be well-behaved, and on better papers (i.e., Rhodia) I had no problems with it.  One of the best parts about it is that it dries relatively quickly - 10 to 15 seconds on Rhodia (and probably faster on more porous papers) - making it the fastest drying ink of the three inks that I have so far used (the other two being Diamine Meadow and Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-Peki).

Scan of the writing sample for a more well-rounded impression of the ink's colour.  The two photos showed the ink looking a bit darker than it really is; this scan shows it looking a bit lighter.  Take the average of the photos and the scan and maybe you'll get something approaching reality.

Overall, I think that Private Reserve Shoreline Gold comes very close for me.  If it was a bit darker (or maybe if I changed my combination of pen, nib, and paper), I think that I could easily love it because I really do like the colour, flow, and fast drying time.  As it is, it's just a bit too pale for me and - while I really want to like it more than I do - I find it a unsatisfying because of that.  However, if the colour appeals to you, then certainly give Shoreline Gold a try - maybe it will be just right with your favourite pen and nib.

Related reviews: Inkophile, FPGeeks.

~~~

Reminder: Don't forget to submit your posts to the upcoming Carnival of Pen, Pencil, and Paper!  All posts on relevant topics are welcome.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Top 10 of 2013

Once again it is time for my list of my top ten supplies of the year.  This is not a list of new products of 2013 and not necessarily a list of items that I would recommend, but simply a list of my personal favourites of the past year.

I just realized that everything on my list is either green, orange, or black.  I think this must be my most colour-coordinated top ten ever!

  1. Lamy Safari Fountain Pen + Lamy Z24 Converter - Yes, I know that's two items and not one, but it is together with the converter that the Lamy Safari really shines.  Before I bought the converter, I liked the pen but I was quickly growing bored with the limitations of the Lamy cartridges.  Now, I absolutely love this pen because I can use any ink I want in it.  And when I'm filling my pen from a tiny sample bottle and flushing it out afterwards with a bulb syringe, I feel like a serious pen geek.
  2. Diamine Meadow Fountain Pen Ink - My first bottled ink!  I love the colour of this ink and how well-behaved it is.  I'll definitely be buying a full bottle when my sample runs out.
  3. Uni Mitsubishi Pure Color-F Double-Sided Sign Pen - I just love using these pens.  I love that they're double-sided, I love their minimal but colourful design, I love that they come in lots of colours.  Using them just makes me happy.
  4. Pentel Pulaman Disposable Fountain Pen - I could probably say the same for this pen.  It's quirky and strange (then again, so am I; maybe that's why we get along so well), but I love it and I always enjoy writing with it.
  5. Rhodia dotPad - You knew there had to be something Rhodia on this list, didn't you?  I love this little notepad - the paper is heavenly, it's dot grid, and the perforations are magical (seriously, I'm always amazed at how uncannily well the pages tear off).
  6. General's Kimberly Drawing Pencil in B - While I still not in the habit of using my wooden pencils as much as I should, I love this one.  I like it's history, I like the metal cap on the end, and I like that I can both draw and write with it.  And it's green.
  7. Rhodia Webnotebook Dot Grid - More Rhodia!  More dots!  I know that some version of the Webnotebook has been on every single top ten list I've compiled so far, but I honestly think that this may be my perfect notebook.  I'm not even that interested in trying out other notebooks anymore.  Though I would prefer this one in orange rather than black for next time.
  8. Tombow Fudenosuke Twin Tip Brush Pen - I wasn't overly impressed with this pen when I first tried it, but I ended up reaching for it a lot when I was doodling in my art journal.  And I still think the combination of black and grey inks in one pen is kind of neat.
  9. Uni-ball Signo DX 0.38mm Green Black - I have used and loved this pen for a long time (the review is from 2010!), but I found myself appreciating it more this year.  It's just right in so many ways: gel, fine-point, smooth-writing, and green black - quite possibly my perfect ink colour for everyday writing.
  10. Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens - Another old favourite.  While I didn't do much sketching or drawing this year and so didn't use these pens as much as I have in previous years, they're still an essential part of my supply kit.  I wouldn't want to be without them.

And that is it for the top ten of 2013!  What were your favourite supplies this year?

~~~

Thursday, December 12, 2013

PaperMate Write Bros. Ballpoint Pens & Mechanical Pencils

I'm fairly sure that I have liked none of the PaperMate ballpoints that I have tried. Not that I've tried a lot, of course, because the few disappointing examples I have tried haven't exactly encouraged me to try more.  I don't understand it, because PaperMate does make a perfectly decent gel pen.  So why can't they make their ballpoints better?  But let's get back to our subject - the PaperMate Write Bros. ballpoint pens and mechanical pencils.


The PaperMate Write Bros. ballpoint pen looks like a cheap stick ballpoint.  Which is of course just what it is - a narrow plastic cylinder with no grip and a flimsy-looking clip.  The kind of pen you can buy a dozen of for a couple bucks.  Writing quality is fairly terrible.  The ink appears pale and washed out, and these pens (along with most other PaperMate ballpoints I have used, with the possible exception of the InkJoy, although that one had other problems) have the bad habit of simply ceasing to write when left attended for too long.  Until they reach that point, the ink seems to gradually dry up and become more and more difficult to write with, requiring you to put more and more pressure on the pen to make a mark on the page, and - because these pens are just narrow plastic cylinders with no grip - that in turn causes more and more pain to your hand, as you grip the pen tighter and tighter.


For whatever reason, the single black pen I have writes much more smoothly and with a darker ink than the three blue pens I have, although given my small sample size, I'm not going to draw any conclusions about whether or not there actually is any difference between the blue and black inks.


Let's move on to the mechanical pencils.  These are actually usable.  I'm not very fussy about my mechanical pencils, and as long as the pencil holds lead and I can refill it with my favourite Pentel Hi-Polymer refill leads, then it will generally be acceptable.  And the PaperMate Write Bros. mechanical pencils do fulfil that basic requirement, more or less.  They also come in a lot of different colours, they're available in 0.5mm, and I like the pop of the white eraser against the translucent black clip and how the eraser matches the bold white lettering.  Apart from that, these pencils are very lightweight and the plastic feels rather cheap and flimsy.  The eraser also erases poorly.  But I could see these being a decent choice for a parent who needs to buy their kid some mechanical pencils and knows that their kid will probably lose all the pencils by the end of the school year, so quality and durability of the pencils is not as important as something cheap that can be bought in bulk.


Overall, the PaperMate Write Bros. ballpoint pens and mechanical pencils are cheap, basic supplies.  The mechanical pencils are usable, but I would certainly not recommend them in most situations.  The ballpoint pens, however, are among the worst pens I have ever used, and I would advise you to avoid them unless you want to give them to someone you don't like or to use them as bait for pen thieves (though I would hope that any self-respecting pen thief would know that these aren't worth stealing!).

Related reviews (ballpoint pen): Dan Reviews the World, Writing by Hand, Art Supply Critic.

Related reviews (mechanical pencil): Dave's Mechanical Pencils (make sure to check out the photo of what happened to the eraser!).

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Working With Mistakes and Imperfections in the Art Journal

For my current art journal, I chose to use a PooPooPaper spiral-bound notebook.  This notebook has a hard cover, and square pages of rough paper made from elephant dung.  It's rather awful as an art journal.  The rough paper is a challenge to work with.  Many inks bleed through and feather.  Even the pigments of my watercolour pencils will bleed through after I add water to them.  But despite all of this (in fact, because of it), this is the perfect art journal to use to work with mistakes and imperfections.


First, a mistake: On the above page, I doodled with Diamine Meadow ink, but when I looked at the page afterwards, I realized I didn't like it.  The colour seemed too bright for the page.  It wasn't the look I had been thinking of when I began.  So I moved on to another page.  Sometimes we need to sit with our mistakes for a while, and give ourselves time to think about what we're going to do, and whether this mistake is really a mistake at all.  Later, I went back.  I used my waterbrush to lightly brush over the doodled lines (but not my writing; I blurred out the words in Photoshop in the photo above because it was a bit too personal to make me feel comfortable sharing).  Because Diamine Meadow is not a waterproof ink, this softened and blurred the lines.  I still think the colours are too bright, but I like the softer look and I'm more comfortable with this page, mistakes and all.


Next, an imperfection: This is the back of the first page.  Because the paper in this notebook is very imperfect, you can see that the green fountain pen ink bled through.  I used a brown Staedtler Triplus Fineliner pen to trace over some of the lines of bleedthrough, incorporating them into a new page, rather than covering them up.  I circled the darkest spots of bleedthrough, turning them into floating bubbles.  (Readers of Quinn MacDonald's book Raw Art Journaling may recognize this design from one of the exercises in that book.)  I also used a white Uni-ball Signo Broad gel pen to cover some of the green spots, but because the paper is not white and white ink is not completely opaque, this doesn't really hide anything so much as it gives the appearance of scar tissue.

This page, like the first one, is not finished yet.  I will continue to work on them, bit by bit, working with the imperfections in the paper and with the mistakes that I have made.  These pages may never be completely finished.  That is okay.

Some art journal blogs and books recommend painting over mistakes so you can start again or prepping all your pages with gesso so you can start with a smooth surface every time.  While those can be useful techniques, I think it can be equally useful to let our mistakes and imperfections stand, work with them if we can, and even embrace them.

How do you work with mistakes and imperfections in your art?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Submit Your Posts to the Carnival of Pen, Pencil, and Paper!

The Carnival of Pen, Pencil, and Paper will be coming to A Penchant for Paper on Tuesday, January 7, 2014, so please start submitting your posts now!  The deadline to submit your posts is 5pm EST on Sunday, January 5.  Any posts related to pens, pencils, notebooks, journals, and related topics are welcome (especially pencils; I'd love to see more posts on pencils in the Carnival).

You can submit your posts by using this form (although please note that the Blog Carnival site now requires users to login before submitting posts, so if you don't want to use the form, you can also email me directly - just be sure to put "CARNIVAL SUBMISSION" in the subject line and get your email to me by the deadline).

If you need more information about the carnival, you can check out its page on the Blog Carnival site, this page at Notebook Stories, or the FAQ.  I also encourage you to visit the December Carnival of Pen, Pencil, and Paper at Life Imitates Doodles.

I have noticed that recent editions of the Carnival have been a bit quiet, so let's make the first Carnival of 2014 amazing by submitting lots of great posts to it!  I'm looking forward to receiving your entries.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Zebra #2 Mechanical Pencil

The first time I saw one of these Zebra #2 mechanical pencils, I thought it was a wooden pencil.  Then I looked closer.  Wait a minute...

These pencils are fun.  They're short plastic mechanical pencils finished off with a metal ferrule and an eraser.  And they look a lot like wooden pencils.


The standard Zebra #2's come in orange (the traditional yellow-orange of wooden pencils) and black.  Both are very convincing imitations of wooden pencils.  You can also find them in different "Cadoozles" patterns; these are obviously targeted towards children, but of course that's no reason why you shouldn't enjoy them as well.

See, I told you these were fun pencils!

The hexagonal shape makes the Zebra #2 comfortable to hold, although it may be a bit small and light for some users.  The small size, however, also makes these pencils very portable.  I keep one by my chair in the living room for doing crossword and sudoku puzzles, and it works very well for that.  It's also a cheap enough pencil that I don't have to worry too much about a cat losing it behind the couch.

The orange pencil has a mauve-pink eraser, the black one a white.  The eraser works reasonably well, and is larger than many mechanical pencil erasers.  It also serves as a cap that you can pull off to insert spare leads directly into the pencil:


One problem I have with the Zebra #2 is that it's only available in 0.7mm.  I prefer 0.5mm for mechanical pencils, so it would be nice to see it available in that option, but that's just me, and I actually have been quite happy with how the wider lead writes.

The biggest problem I have with these is that the finish is not that great.  Many of my pencils show noticeable white marks where the paint has rubbed off.  To me, the problem seems slightly worse with the Cadoozles patterns, but maybe the traditional orange and blacks just haven't been used as much.


Despite that issue, the Zebra #2 is a great little mechanical pencil.  It may not have any fancy features, but it makes up for that by being both cute and clever.  It's always a pencil that I enjoy using, just because it makes me smile.  Recommended if you need a cheap and portable mechanical pencil to toss in your bag, or if you like the look of wooden pencils but don't like writing with them.  Or if you just want to add a bit more fun to your writing experience.

Related review: Unposted.
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