Tuesday, December 15, 2009

From the Art Journal: Early in the Morning

I actually finished these pages several days ago but didn't get around to photographing and posting them until now.  (These are the pages that developed from the second painted page spread seen in this post.)

Overall, I am not as satisfied with these pages as I was with the previous ones.  The colours didn't turn out quite as I had planned. I had something more muted and monochromatic in mind, but these pages didn't really want to go that way.  The various elements are not worked into the background or blended together as much as I would have liked.  And then there are the orange circles, which I added near the end and were something that I had great hopes for but wasn't too sure about after I finished.  I still like these pages, but not as much as the first ones.

The words are a few lines from a poem by Ursula K. Le Guin ("The Writer to the Morning in Up the Hill House in Sinshan") from her (excellent) book, Always Coming Home.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Uni-ball Signo Gel Grip 0.7mm

I recently picked up a 5-pack of Uni-ball Signo Gel Grip pens (2 black, 2 blue, 1 red) at half price while in the grocery store the other day and so far I am very pleased with them.

First of all, they write very smoothly, as you might expect from the Uni-ball Signo line.  I was a little unsure about the 0.7mm line width since I usually prefer 0.5mm or finer in gel pens, but this wasn't a problem at all.  I can't quite explain it, but somehow these pens feel as though they write with a finer line, even though comparisons with other 0.7mm gel pens I owned showed that this wasn't the case (as far as I could tell without bringing out a magnifying glass).  Also, the red pen seems to write with a slightly thicker line than the black and blue pens.

Another thing that I am impressed with is the overall appearance of the pen, which I find very appealing and eye-catching.  I have often thought that the Uni-ball Signo DX has a rather bland appearance, but that is not the case with the Uni-ball Signo Gel Grip at all.  Although you probably cannot tell from the photo, the Gel Grip does have a visible ink supply, which I like, but it is far more subtle and integrated into the design of the pen than that of the DX.

A brief note on the colours: while the blue and red are deep, vibrant shades, the black appears rather grey and washed-out, especially compared to the black Zebra Sarasa and the black Pilot G-2.

Overall, the Uni-ball Gel Grip is an excellent gel pen that I can see becoming one of my favourite everyday gel pens.  However, it is still not going to replace my finer-pointed gel pens anytime soon.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Other Journal

Nature journal pages from the other journal.  Sketched and written using Staedtler Triplus Fineliners.

I bought this sketchbook back in July, with vague ideas of turning it into an art/sketchbook journal where I could practice my drawing skills.  However, the pages soon became filled with abstract doodles, tests of new pens and other supplies, and notes on trees and plants that were growing in my area.  After reading Clare Walker Leslie's excellent and beautifully illustrated book, Keeping a Nature Journal, I decided that this book would become my nature journal.  I filled a few pages with this goal in mind, but the increased work that I had to do for school made it harder and harder to find time to keep the journal regularly and for several weeks, it lay untouched on my shelf.

Today, I may refer to this book as an art journal, a sketchbook, a sketchbook journal, a nature journal, or simply as "the other journal."  The pages tend to be more informal and much simpler than those of my other art journal, the pamphlet journal.  Many pages contain sketches drawn using a Sharpie Pen or Staedtler Triplus Fineliners.  (I prefer the Sharpie Pen when using watercolours, as it is waterproof.)  Others contain detailed written botanical descriptions, lists of pens I'm currently using, or passages from favourite poems.

Pages from the other journal containing part of William Wordsworth's poem, "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey," and a watercolour pencil sketch of a maple leaf.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What to do with a new notebook?

It's an old story: I was in the campus bookstore to buy a glue stick.  Glue stick in hand, I thought that I had not walked all the way across campus to spend thirty seconds in the store, so I might as well look around.  Fate led me to the clearance shelf at the back of the store, where I spied one lonely and forgotten Quo Vadis Habana notebook, only slightly shelf-worn.

I picked it up, thinking that I already had more notebooks than I knew what to do with, but it wouldn't hurt just to look, right?  It had a smooth black cover and creamy, unlined pages and fit nicely into my hand.  I paused for a moment, contemplating the notebook in my hand and the empty spot on the shelf.  I turned towards the front of the store and then back towards the shelf.  Then, without further hesitation, I turned again and headed decisively towards the checkout.

So now I have one more notebook on my shelf.  What will I do with it?

I already have two ordinary written journals, two art journals, and two planners, as well as various other notebooks being used for school notes, writing down favourite poems and quotations, keeping track of the books I am reading, as well as for just making random notes, scribbles, and doodles.  In fact, I have been thinking lately that I need less notebooks rather than more, as part of my attempts to simplify my life.

But the new Quo Vadis Habana remains, haunting me with its clean, unmarked, tantalizing pages...  Should I just keep it for the future?  One possible use that I have in mind would be that of a commonplace book.  I have recently discovered an excellent two-part article (Part I and Part II) on commonplace books at D*I*Y Planner.  I would love to try that idea out, but this notebook, with its small size and unlined pages, may not be the best option.  Perhaps it would be better suited to a pocket-sized, portable sketchbook?  Or perhaps I could use it to write poetry in.  Or perhaps to keep notes on the books that I am reading, and lists of books I want to read in the future.  Or perhaps...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Art Journaling, Part 5: Lettering

Here they are, the finished pages!

As you can see, I've added some words, as well as few more small collage items and doodles.  I mainly used brown and green Sakura Permapaque paint markers, a white Pilot Choose gel pen, and a black Staples Gel Mini.  The Pilot Choose performed way better than it usually does; apparently it likes writing on a painted surface.  The words are a favourite quote by Henry David Thoreau: "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, it is perhaps because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."  I also added in the date and the word "journal" (original, I know).

Overall, I am really thrilled with how these pages turned out.  I absolutely love the colours and patterns, and I also like that they took a long time to make.  I enjoy returning to the same pages over a period of several days or even a couple of weeks, rather than just finishing it all in one sitting.  I actually think these pages are one of the best things I've ever made in my life.

I have the next two pages nearly finished, so I'll try to post those once they're done, and perhaps also some pages from a book I am calling "the other journal."

Here are the links to the previous posts in this series:

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pilot FriXion Color-Pencil-Like Erasable Gel Ink Pen 0.7mm Purplish Red

This is another pen that I bought partly because of its colour.  How many other pens have you seen that come in purplish red?

However, this pen is probably one that would go into the "good but not great" category.  It writes fairly smoothly but I have used smoother pens.  The eraser also works well, but not perfectly.  Personally, if I'm writing something that I think I might have to erase, I use a pencil.

The pen does not have a visible ink supply, which I would have preferred.  There is no clip on the lid; instead there is a small bump that I presume is to prevent the pen from rolling off the table.  As someone who likes to clip my pen to my papers, I find this a bit annoying and I am a bit puzzled as to why someone would have decided not to include a clip.  I really like how the cap satisfyingly snaps into place on both ends.  The eraser is placed on the end of the cap, meaning that it is still usable when the cap is on the end of the pen.  Apparently, the shape of this pen is supposed to mimic that of a wooden pencil, but I don't think I would have noticed that if I hadn't had it pointed out to me.  Finally, even though I haven't had this pen that long, the words "Pilot FriXion" are beginning to wear off of the cap.

If you would like a pen that just a bit different, or if you would like an erasable pen that works better than those horrible erasable ballpoints, then the Pilot FriXion Color-Pencil-Like* erasable gel ink pen could be for you.  If not, you might prefer a different pen.

Related reviews: pensandmore, The Pen-Guin, Color for Bead Artists, Current Addictions, School Supply Dance, Pens 'n' Paper, The Pen Addict, Life Imitates Doodles, Lung Sketching Scrolls

*Every time I type the words "Color-Pencil-Like," I cringe at having to write "color" instead of "colour."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Art Journaling, Part 4: Pen Work

If you are just joining us, I was recently inspired to begin keeping a new art journal after watching Teesha Moore's excellent series of videos on art journaling.  If you are interesting in art journals or if you think you might become interested, I highly recommend these videos.  You might also like to check out Teesha's blog.

In previous posts, I made an incredibly simple pamphlet journal, painted a couple of backgrounds, and added a layer of collage items.  In this post, I have gone over the collaged pages with markers and pens, working the collage items into the background and making them part of the overall appearance of the page.

I mainly used the Sakura Permapaque paint markers, which I was very pleased with as they wrote effortlessly over all of the different surfaces (papers of varying degrees of porosity, and painted surfaces).  However, I do have one complaint to make about them - the lids do not post on the back.  They seem as though they are meant to and even fit somewhat loosely.  However, the lid quickly falls off again as soon as I begin using the marker.

I also used a handful of Staples brand mini gel pens.  These pens are very inexpensive so I didn't have to worry about potentially wrecking them (something I have been known to do in art journals) and actually wrote surprisingly well on the different surfaces.  A few other miscellaneous pens probably got in there somewhere as well and I also added some shading with pencil crayons to give the pages depth.

Stay tuned for part 5 of this series, where I add letters and words to the pages.

Other posts in this series:

Monday, November 30, 2009

Uni-ball Signo RT 0.38mm Lavender Black

How could I resist a pen with the colour lavender black?  Just as blue black manages to be entirely unlike either blue or black, lavender black is different yet again, but in a subtle way that does not call too much attention to itself, making this pen suitable for use in nearly any situation.  I would describe the colour as a very deep purple, with more blue than red in it.  Probably the colour could have been just as easily called purple black, but lavender black does sound much more interesting.

As for the pen itself, it writes very smoothly, with a beautifully fine line.  It is very satisfying to write with and is one of my current favourite pens.  The grip section is comfortable and (unlike many other pens that I have used) actually manages to cover all parts of my hand that touch the pen.  The overall appearance of the Uni-ball Signo RT is not particularly exciting but I have no complaints about it either.

Because this pen is designated "RT," it is of course retractable, which may be a plus or minus for you.  I personally prefer lidded pens, merely because of the satisfaction I get from removing the lid of a pen and snapping it onto the end, but that is definitely not a major issue here.

In other news, check out this great giveaway at Notebook Stories for a chance to win a Moleskine Color-a-Month 2010 planner and other Moleskine products.

Related reviews: Gourmet Pens, The Pen Addict, No Pen Intended, OfficeSupplyGeek

Friday, November 27, 2009

Art Journaling, Part 3: Collage

Here's the first page spread of my art journal after applying collage materials.  I used various origami papers, scrapbooking papers, magazine cutouts, and miscellaneous scraps of coloured and patterned papers.  Part of one of my mandalas that I drew with compasses and a straight edge and coloured with pencil crayons is also featured at the top of the right-hand page.  For attaching the collage materials, I used a tape roller rather than a glue stick.  For once, I didn't get glue all over my desk and my fingers weren't sticking to everything.

So far I am really liking the way these pages are developing.  After I made the border, a circular theme started to develop (and now that I am looking for it, I can see lots of circular patterns in the border as well).  I absolutely love the colours, which I tried to keep muted and not too light.

The next step will be work with various pens and markers, which will hopefully make these pages look like more than just a bunch of pieces of paper stuck on a painted background (which, after all, is all they are right now).

Other posts in this series:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sakura Permapaque Opaque Paint Markers

Despite my resolutions to post more frequently, life inevitably gets in the way.  This past week I have had far too many tests, quizzes, lab exams, and assignments due.  Whenever I have had any spare time, I haven't felt like doing anything other than curling up with a good book.  (Actually, considering the amount of time that I should have spent studying, I am rather appalled at the number of books I have read recently.)

I'm not going to write a proper review of the Sakura Permapaque Opaque Paint Markers.  I have never used any kind of paint markers before so I don't really have anything to compare them to.  That said, I recently bought a pack of ten colours: white, black, brown, red, pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.

So far, I'm liking them.  They definitely have a different look and feel to them than your basic markers that you can buy at the grocery store.  The only disappointing thing about them so far is the white marker.  At best, all it does is lighten the colour of the paper beneath it.  At worst, the white is practically invisible.  I have tried it on several different surfaces with the same results.  I am rather puzzled by this as the yellow marker (also a light colour) writes on dark surfaces fairly well.  Oh well.  I suppose my quest for a good white pen/marker will continue.

Mandala drawn with the Permapaque paint markers.

I am planning to use these markers in my art journal, which I have not forgotten and which I do intend to write more posts on.  (I warned you about my inconstant journaling habits.)  I have a short break between exams right now, so hopefully I'll be able to get another post up here soon.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Back to the Art Journal, Part 2: Painting the Backgrounds

In my first art journal I used craft acrylics for painting, which were okay since that was all I had, but they had a tendency to remain slightly sticky after drying (especially the metallic colours) and they killed a number of my pens.

So for this art journal I decided to spend the extra money on Golden fluid acrylics.  So far I have a grand total of two different paint colours, but that's okay.  I'll add colours gradually.

First page spread.

Because the paper I used in making the pamphlet journal had two different sides, rough and smooth, the paint behaved slightly differently on the different sides.  I think the rough side looks better than the smooth side, but I'm not too worried about it as the pages are ultimately going to be mostly covered with collage, pen work, and writing anyway.  It is something to keep in mind for future projects however.

Second page spread.

I love the look of the varying colour intensities over the page.  Next step: collage.  Stay tuned!

Other posts in this series:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sakura Gelly Roll Stardust in Lime Star

If you are truly obsessed with pens as I am, you have probably accumulated, as I have, a few pens that have absolutely no practical uses.  Such a pen is the Sakura Gelly Roll Stardust in lime star which I bought for no other reason than that it had glittery lime green ink.

How could I pass by a pen with glittery lime green ink?  I am NOT usually a glitter type of person, but sometimes you just have to indulge yourself.  The only place I could see myself actually using this pen is in my art journal, but even then it would have to be used sparingly so as not to appear overdone.

So what sort of pen is the glittery lime green Gelly Roll?  Well, it has a smooth, sleek body of clear frosted plastic, a cap with a hint of glitter in it, and the nice touch of an iridescent shooting star decoration on the clip.

The barcode is printed directly onto the pen rather than onto a sticker that I could remove, which is a bit annoying.  It writes very smoothly, although the ink does have a habit of coming out all at once in a glob as you begin to write. 
But seriously, it writes with glittery lime green ink - what more do you need to know?

Related reviews: Journaling Saves, QuinnCreative

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Back to the Art Journal, Part 1: The Journal

If you are interested in art journaling and you haven't yet seen Teesha Moore's series of videos on art journaling - including painting, collage, pen work, lettering, as well as making the journal itself - then I urge you to check them out now.  My own journaling practice had deteriorated lately into a sketch here or a few lines jotted down there, but after watching Teesha's videos I was inspired to go back to keeping a regular art journal.

But to begin with, I needed a blank journal.  Teesha's video showed how to make a simple, 16-page, single-signature pamphlet, but I used Gwen Diehn's (very similar) instructions in The Decorated Journal.  The only suitable paper I had on hand was a Heinz Jordan watercolour pad that had come in a package with my watercolour pencils.  The sheets are 10x14 inches; folded in half, this makes pages 7x10 inches.  I used three sheets and didn't worry about a cover (the simpler the better) and sewed them together with some green upholstery thread.  (Maybe not the usual thing for bookbinding but it was all I had on hand - and it worked.)

The journal.  Not much to look at so far.

The result - a 10-page (counting the inside "covers"), 7x10 inch, single-signature pamphlet journal that took just minutes to make.  In the future, I will probably want something that looks more like a book and has a few more pages, but knowing my inconstant journaling habits, this is probably good for a start.

Stay tuned for more of my art journal adventures, as I venture into the weird and wild realms of painting, collage, pen work, and more.

Other posts in this series:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Carnival of Pen, Pencil, and Paper

The Fourth Carnival of Pen, Pencil, and Paper is now up at Black Belt Productivity.  It contains many excellent posts and reviews on pens, notebooks, and more, including my own review of the Uni-ball Fusion.  Find out more about the carnival, including how to submit a post, at Notebook Stories.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Book Review: Keeping a Nature Journal

Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth is a delightful, inspiring, and beautifully illustrated book for artists, journal keepers, naturalists, and scientists alike.

The book begins with an introduction to nature journaling - what it is and why someone would want to do it. As Leslie and Roth write, "Nature journaling is your path into the exploration of the natural world around you, and into your personal connection with it." They present nature journaling as a simple, rewarding activity that is accessible to everyone, yet they also stress the importance of practice to improve your writing and drawing skills, and of making the time to work in your journal.

The next chapter gets into the actual practice of keeping a nature journal. It describes the equipment you need - nothing more complicated than a blank book and some basic pens and pencils. Leslie and Roth then describe a basic format that can be used for any journal entry. This format is very useful for beginners, who might be intimidated by the blank page. They discuss basic drawing techniques and give suggestions on how to overcome your fear of drawing. The chapter finishes with specific suggestions on where to go and what to look for while journaling.

The third chapter presents a sampling of pages from various journal keepers, many of whom have very different styles. Both beginners and more advanced journal keepers will find much to inspire them here. Following this are four chapters that focus on journaling in the four seasons. Leslie and Roth write, "To get the most out of journaling, try to integrate the practice into your life, day to day and year to year." Interspersed throughout this section are exercises on drawing specific aspects of nature, such as leaves, trees, birds, and insects.

The next chapter gives more detailed information on drawing techniques. Its placement at the back of the book allows those who are more experienced in drawing to easily skip over this chapter if they wish. The last two chapters are about how to teach nature journaling to both children and adults and how to use nature journaling in schools. If you are a teacher, I am sure you would find these chapters of interest. The book ends with a lengthy list of suggested books to read and a list of some famous (and not-so-famous) naturalists and journalists throughout history.

Overall, Keeping a Nature Journal is an excellent book filled with practical information, inspiration, well-chosen illustrations, and quotes from a variety of naturalists, artists, and journal keepers. I recommend this book whether you want to expand your journaling style or if you want to become more attuned to your natural environment.

Note: Keeping a Nature Journal has also been published as Nature Journaling: Learning to Observe and Connect with the World Around You by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Notebooks, Journals, Sketches

Check out this giveaway at Notebook Stories for a chance to win a black PSN sketchbook.  It looks like a fairly decent notebook; there is also an excellent review of the PSN notebooks so you can decide whether you would like to win one or not.

In other news, I finally returned to my long-neglected journal last night, with some simple sketches:

I am still hoping to write a book review of Keeping a Nature Journal (whenever I do not have to study for an exam), as well as some reviews of pens and other supplies that I have around.  (I am trying to resist going to the campus bookstore to stock up on more stuff for a while.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Uni-ball Fusion

The Uni-ball Fusion has a 0.6mm line width (not 0.8mm, as I mistakenly wrote in my writing samples), and is available in blue, pink, purple, and grey.  I picked up a 2-pack with the pink and grey versions.  The Uni-ball Fusion has an eye-catching appearance, with its white colour and floral design on the barrel.  Some people may find it too "girly" but I think the floral pattern is fairly unobtrusive.  Overall I find it an attractive pen.

The grip is completely smooth - no ridges or anything - and it does feel a bit slippery and uncomfortable when writing.  Maybe it's just me, but the lid on the Uni-ball Fusion seems unusually long and it also does not click into place when posted on the back.  Probably I'm just being fussy here.

The Uni-ball Fusion writes smoothly, but I did notice that the colour of the ink when laid down on the page is not uniform.  I don't know if you can see this in the pictures or not, but some parts of the letters are darker than the others.  This was most noticeable in the grey and reminded me of how ballpoint pens sometimes form globs of ink at the tip.  I don't know if a similar thing was happening here.  The grey ink had a bluish or purplish tone to it (I would have preferred a more neutral grey) but the pink ink was a nice bright shade (although I have to admit I'm not a pink person).

The most unusual thing about this pen is the ink itself.  The "ink" in the barrel is a clear, somewhat milky fluid.  Obviously, somewhere between the barrel and the tip of the pen the colour must be added.  The package reads "ink starts out clear and flows to color" but I could not find any more information about this on the Uni-ball website.

If you want an attractive pen with some unique features, then Uni-ball Fusion could be the pen for you.

Note: These writing samples were written in my new Rhodia #11 pad.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


The margins of my school notes are filled with abstract geometric doodles.  Occasionally, I'll take a theme I particularly like and develop it further in my sketch book or I'll do some more extended doodles while trying out a new pen.

Left: Colours and boxes.  Lyra Rembrandt Aquarell watercolour pencils.  All doodles are in my Heinz Jordan 5"x8" Permanent Sketch Book.

I find that doodling while I'm in class actually helps me to concentrate on what the instructor is saying.  I also seem to be incapable of having a pen and a piece of paper in front of me and not be writing or drawing.  I just have to keep my hand busy.

Below left: Mandala with black and red overlapping scales.  Sharpie Pen.
Below right: Detail of a page of overlapping circles.  Staedtler Triplus Fineliners.

Below: 3x3 coloured squares.  Staples Gel Mini.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Uni-ball Signo DX 0.38mm Lime Green

I'm sure many of you already know about the Uni-ball Signo DX, but I'm still discovering these pens so I thought I would share my thoughts on it with you.

First of all, I absolutely love this pen!

The fine line width (o.38mm) is great as it allows me to write very finely and neatly. The Uni-ball Signo DX is also available in 0.28mm, which I would also like to try. This pen writes very smoothly - I have never experienced any skipping or scratchiness with it - and it requires very little pressure when writing, which is good for me as I tend to grip my pens very firmly and press down quite firmly onto the page.

I love the lime green colour, which is light and bright without being too light to read easily (the writing sample does not do it justice). I definitely prefer this shade of green to the basic "ballpoint green" which is dull and uninspiring.

The physical appearance of the Uni-ball Signo DX is not particularly exciting. It is basic and functional but not as eye-catching and smart-looking as the similar Pentel Slicci. The grip of the Uni-ball Signo DX does not seem to come down far enough towards the tip but that may just be due to the way in which I hold my pen.

Overall, however, I absolutely love the Uni-ball Signo DX!

(I have also just figured out how to create triptychs using Photoshop, hence the pen photo at the beginning of the post.)

Related reviews: A Penchant for Paper (green black version), Pocket Blonde, No Pen Intended, Tools & Toys, Gourmet Pens, The Pen Addict (red), Kataish, The Pen Addict (bordeaux black), The Pen Addict (pink), The Pen Addict

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Traumatic Event

In my last post I mentioned my Ph.D. Multi, which I have had for years.  I am sad to report that I lost this pen today in biology class.  Somehow it slipped out of my pencil case (which I had carelessly forgotten to close).  I went back afterwards but my pen was gone.  It was not the greatest pen in the world and had become very worn and tattered, but I had become quite sentimentally attached to it because of the many years I had owned it.  I will probably not try to replace it because I have so many other pens but I will need to find a new mechanical pencil.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Essential School Supplies I Would Be Lost Without

  1. A pencil case. I would probably lose or break all of my pens and pencils without a case to put them in. My pencil case has one see-through compartment with pen loops (of course I have way more pens than loops) and a second compartment that I use for miscellaneous items such as a small ruler and a cloth for cleaning my glasses.
  2. Basic pen, pencil, and eraser. I carry many pens around, but these are the ones that I reach for most frequently when I'm at school. At home I use a greater variety. My basic pen is a ballpoint, which is cheap and dependable. I can lend it to other people without worrying about not getting it back and it is good for notes that will probably end up getting recycled anyway in a few years. A pencil is good for tests, calculations, and any other times when you might need to erase and redo your work. I've had my Papermate Ph.D. Multi for years. I has black and red ballpoints and a 0.5mm mechanical pencil. My eraser is a Sanford Speederase.
  3. "Planner." My "planner" is a small ruled notebook. I use it for my to-do list and reminders of appointments, things I need to buy, etc. The current notebook I'm using for this is a recycled Mead Fat Lil' Notebook that already had some notes in it. (This book will get thrown out when it is filled up so I didn't want anything fancy.) Complementing this is a small 2-year monthly calendar.
  4. Plastic folders. I bought 2 of these at Staples ages ago. They are made by Oxford but I know nothing else about them. They consist of five coloured plastic folders that fit into a single translucent white plastic case. I have five classes and these folders are essential in organizing the papers and notes that I need to take to class every day.
  5. Index cards. The only way I can effectively study is with index cards - I write key words on the front and the definitions on the back and use them as flash cards. I usually use the 3"x5" size; I have tried the 4"x6" cards but the smaller size is more portable and more easily held in the hand.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Still Here

I must apologize for the lack of posts. I am, if you did not know, a natural resource science student, which means that in September and early October, I go on field trips just about every weekend. I have also had many quizzes that I have had to study for. Needless to say, I have been fairly busy in the last few weeks and it feels like ages since I have tried any new office or school supplies.

And it has just begun to sink in that if I want to have two blogs and write regularly for both, that means I have to write twice as much. Right.

But don't go away! I have several posts planned for the future: perhaps some reviews of some of the pens I have laying around right now, a look at some of the most important supplies I use for school, and a book review of one of my favourite books on journaling, Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth. I would also like to drop by the campus bookstore and pick up one of the Rhodia notebooks I spotted there and perhaps a pen or two as well...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Obligatory Sharpie Pen Review

Everyone (in the pen world, that is) seems to be talking about the Sharpie Pen these days. Here's my thoughts on it:

First of all, the overall pen design has a smooth, modern appearance. The problem I have with it is that the only indicator of the pen colour is a narrow band near the base of the pen and four fine curved lines running along the length of the pen. I keep my Sharpie Pens in a case with several other pens, and I find it difficult to quickly locate the colour I want as the colour indicators are quite small and not very obvious.

I have heard many complaints about the uncomfortable grip section on the Sharpie Pen, and yes, that sharp edge cuts into my finger as well. However, this problem has supposedly been solved with the new retractable version of the Sharpie Pen.

The line width of the Sharpie Pen is a bit wider than I would prefer, despite the fact that the pen is labelled "fine." The ink is waterproof, which is nice if I want to use the pen with watercolours. I would show you the water test I did but there isn't much to look at as the ink was completely unaffected by the water. The Sharpie Pen ink does not bleed through the paper, but there is a fair bit of show-through on some papers.

I'm not overly thrilled with the colours. They are light and bright, but the green has too much of a bluish cast to it (this really showed up when I did a comparison of the green pens that I own) and overall the colours remind me of the markers that I used in elementary school. The only one that I regularly use in my journal is the black version. (The Sharpie Pen is apparently also available in purple and orange, but I haven't tried those.)

Overall, the Sharpie Pen is a decent pen that writes well and is available in several colours, but it is probably not going to become one of my favourites.

Related reviews: Pen and Design, The Pen Addict, OfficeSupplyGeek, Does This Pen Write?, Dose of Salt

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Does the Way You Write Affect Your Writing Style?

In seventh grade, we were required to write all of our assignments in cursive, using a pen. We had to underline the titles using a red pen and a ruler and we had to write our name and the date in the top right-hand corner of every page. The next year I went to high school, where there were no such rules (or at least not as many). I went back to writing with a pencil rather than a pen (especially as I took more math and science courses) and I stopped writing in cursive. I didn't really think much about it, until recently.

Last year, I came across a suggestion in The Decorated Journal by Gwen Diehn to try changing the way in which you write to loosen your writing and make the words flow more easily. At that time, when I wanted to write something (like a blog post), I would begin composing it on the computer. This method didn't work very well. I don't like computers much anyway, so staring at a computer screen was not the best way for me to get my creativity flowing.

So I grabbed an old ballpoint pen and some scrap paper and began writing - in cursive. I hardly remembered how to do it! But it worked. The words began to flow and I found myself enjoying the process of writing much more.

Now, this is the way I have to write - on scrap paper, with a ballpoint pen (which I otherwise don't like very much), in cursive. I don't know what it is - the smooth, flowing, rapid nature of the writing (I can write faster than I can type), or the throwaway nature of the paper and pen that allows me to write whatever comes into my mind, as well as to scribble, cross things out, and doodle in the margins.

How do you prefer to write - with a pen, a pencil, typed on a typewriter or computer, or etched in stone?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pen in My Pocket: Staples Gel Mini

Maybe I just have small pockets, but I have found that many pens and notebooks that people call "pocket-sized" are not, at least for me.

One item that is pocket-sized is a 1 1/2" x 2" pad of Post-it notes, perfect for jotting down a few words or sentences. All I needed was a pocket-sized pen to go with it. I had my eye on the Pilot G-2 Mini at JetPens, but then I saw a 12-pack of Staples brand mini gel pens for only $1.99. For that price, I thought I might as well give them a try.

I was not disappointed because the Staples Gel Mini is a very decent gel pen. The size is printed on the package as 0.8mm, which is larger than what I prefer (which is 0.5mm or smaller) but on paper, the black line width doesn't look much wider than that of my 0.5mm Pilot G-2. The pens write fairly smoothly, with the darker colours seeming to be the smoothest. I did experience some skipping with the light green, light blue, and light purple, with the light purple being the worst. The line width of the light purple also seems to be wider than that of the others.

The length of the pen with the cap on is 9.5cm (3.7in), and with the cap posted on the back it is 11cm (4.3in). Without the cap, the pen is slightly over 8cm (3.1in) long. Despite the short size, the Staples Gel Mini is surprisingly comfortable to write with, although I wouldn't want to write with one for a long time. Your own experience would probably depend on the way you hold your pens and on the size of your hands.

If you are looking for an inexpensive gel pen that you can easily keep in a pocket or just about anywhere else and which is also available in a multitude of colours, you could probably do worse than the Staples Gel Mini.

Related reviews: Shared Reviews, All This

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Green Pens

Ever since I can remember my favourite colour has been green so it is not surprising that I would have more pens in that colour than in any other.

From left to right:
And here are writing sample of these and a couple of others:
One thing I notice about this is how much bluer the green Sharpie Pen is than other green pens. It certainly stands out from the others.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Many Notebooks and Pens

Here's a photo of all of the notebooks and journals that I have used in the past or that I am currently using. I can't guarantee that all of the notebooks I own are in this pile; I wouldn't be surprised is there is one or two that I missed. This pile also does not include notebooks I have used for school, which usually get recycled at the end of the year. If it did, the pile would be much larger!

And here's a photo of most of my pens, mechanical pencils, and highlighters (and I think two markers got in there as well). The bottom row contains highlighters, markers, and mechanical pencils; the middle row gel pens and a case of Staedtler triplus fineliners; and the top row is miscellaneous.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Old Art Journal Pages

Every once in a while it can be entertaining to take out old art journals and look through them. I have only been keeping an art journal since last December so I only have two old journals to look through.

The first page spread is from my very first art journal. Many of the pages in this journal were decorated using craft acrylic paints, which was not the best choice. When I took the book down after several months of sitting on the shelf, many of the pages were stuck together, although they did peel apart fairly easily.

This art journal was also a poetry journal so the left-hand page contains a poem I wrote using an exercise from The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach edited by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell. The right-hand page includes collage elements and a found poem from words clipped from magazines. I also used craft acrylics, pencil crayons, and Staedtler triplus fineliners.

The second page spread is from my second art journal, which is less of a journal and more of a "gluebook," as the pages consist mainly of collages. I did this not because I was particularly drawn to collage as an art form, but because I had a stack of collage materials that I wanted to use up.

I created several pages that were themed around particular colours; this is the "green" page. Theming pages by colour is a fun and easy way to get started on a collage. The collage materials include magazine cut-outs and scrapbooking papers, as well as a few stickers. I also did some doodling with various pens, including the Pilot Choose gel pen in white.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

On Writing

Writing is a funny thing. Some days I sit down and write page after page, none of it any good. So I shove the pen and paper aside in disgust and go downstairs to the computer and engage in some mindless activity. It doesn't matter what the activity is, as long as it requires little mental exertion.

The next day, feeling discouraged and resolving not to waste any more of my time scribbling on pieces of paper, I go into town or do anything that is unrelated to writing. I return home at the end of the day, tired yet refreshed, sit down at my desk, and write. Suddenly the words are flowing as fast as I can write them down and a few hours later I have written a couple of passable blog posts, a poem, or the beginning of a short story.

I don't know how it happens. I don't know where the words come from. Writing is mysterious.

I have read about some writers who can only write in a certain location, at a certain time, or with a certain pen or paper. For myself, I prefer the junkiest paper and pens I can find. This usually means the back of paper that already has writing on the front and cheap ballpoint pens. This way I do not feel guilty about filling page after page and throwing them away right afterwards.

Before I started my first blog, most of the writing I did was for myself. Now, every few days I sit down at the computer, type a few paragraphs, and send them off into the void to be read by potentially anyone in the world who has access to the Internet. It is very mysterious, is it not, that the words I have written at the basement computer, looking out at the garden and trees, are now being read by you, wherever you are?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto

I have mixed feelings about the Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto. Although my overall opinion of it is positive, I do have a few small issues with it.

I ordered a clear 3-colour pen body, and 0.4mm ink cartridges in blue black, green, and apricot orange. I don't particularly care for the clear pen body, but none of the other colours available (pink, blue, and black) appealed to me either. The cartridges are very easy to load into the pen; simply slide them into the bottom end and close the white cap to secure them.

The ink seems to run down fairly quickly. I would like to try the 0.3mm cartridges, but since the 0.4mm ones are sometimes a bit scratchy, I am afraid that the smaller size would only make the problem worse.

I love the blue black colour; it is just a little bit different and perfect for those days when you can't decide whether to use blue or black. The green is a perfectly serviceable, decent shade, but not the most exciting green I have encountered. The apricot orange is a very lovely colour, but just at the edge of what I would consider too light to do regular writing with (it looks darker in the photo than what it actually is).

Overall, the Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto is an acceptable multi-pen, but I can't say that I have fallen in love with it.

Related reviews: Pen Swag, The Pen Addict, Economy Pens, East West Everywhere

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Book Review: The Decorated Journal

The Decorated Journal: Creating Beautifully Expressive Journal Pages by Gwen Diehn was one of the first books on art journals that I read and it remains one of my favourites.

The Decorated Journal begins with a detailed section on materials used for art journals. This section is helpful for people (like me) who may not be comfortable in an art supply store and who may be unaware of the range of materials available to journal keepers. Diehn also advocates a "less is more" approach to materials: "Try sticking to a small range of high-quality materials and practice with them to learn how they work. Once you can use these few materials well, you will be able to produce every effect you want." She discusses paper, blank books, paints, brushes, pens and inks, adhesives, pencils, crayons, and other materials and tools, covering the benefits and drawbacks of using each type of paper, adhesive, etc.

The second section examines "seven different ways of seeing the world and reflecting those visions in a journal." These range from the multi-dimensional world of layers to the simpler world of wabi-sabi to the worlds of the inventor and the naturalist. Interspersed throughout this section are additional essays on various topics including colour, drawing, and writing. This section is inspiring and beautifully illustrated with journal pages in many very different styles.

The third section breaks the creation of an art journal page into three stages: starters, middles, and toppers, and discusses various techniques you can use in each stage. This section would be particularly helpful to the beginner who is uncertain about where to begin and how to actually create a meaningful journal page. However, there is a lot of information and inspiration here for more advanced journal keepers as well.

Finally, the last section covers bookbinding for "the reluctant bookbinder." The bookbinding projects range from a simple single-signature pamphlet to a beautiful journal with a leather cover. If all you want to do is make a serviceable book for keeping a journal, I don't think you would need anything more than Diehn's instructions here. Even if you do not want to make your own book, Diehn offers some helpful information on how you can customize a purchased blank book to suit your needs.

Overall, The Decorated Journal by Gwen Diehn is an excellent resource and source of inspiration for anyone interested in keeping an art journal. The only complaint I have is that I wish some of the illustrations were larger, but that is really only a minor detail.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Daily Supplies, Part Two

In part two of this post, I take a look at the supplies I use in my journals.

First of all, the actual journals:
For writing in my regular journal, I will use any of the pens mentioned in Part One, but usually I just use a pencil. In my art journal, I may use any of the following pens for drawing, doodling, or writing:
For adding colour:
  • A set of 12 Lyra Rembrandt Aquarell watercolour pencils
  • Various tubes of Deco Art Crafter's Acrylic (I rarely use these anymore)
  • A set of 60 Laurentien coloured pencils
  • A set of 64 Color Art crayons (I haven't used these crayons for years, but I think it would be fun to use them again)
For collage:
  • A glue stick (usually UHU)
  • Scissors
  • A metal ruler (for cutting along a straight line)
  • Various images cut from magazines and old greeting cards, scrapbooking papers, coloured cardstock, wrapping paper, stickers, ephemera, etc.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

My Daily Supplies, Part One

Here is a list of the pens, notebooks, and other supplies that I am currently using daily:
I use this small, portable notebook for jotting down to-do lists, ideas, and other brief notes, as well as for doodling. I use a variety of fine-point gel pens when writing in it, which include:
I find it hard to play favourites with these pens, although I think I can say that I generally prefer the Slicci and the Signo's to the Hi-Tec-C's.

For other writing purposes, I have some other gel and ballpoint pens:
Finally, I also have:
  • Sanford Speederase retractable eraser
  • Sharpie Accent highlighter
  • 2 paper folders that I have decorated with magazine cut-outs and strengthened with packing tape to hold loose papers
Watch for part two of this post coming up in the next few days, where I will discuss the supplies that I use in my journals.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Disappointing White Pen: Pilot Choose 0.7mm

I had always wanted a white pen, so on my last JetPens order I picked up a Pilot Choose 0.7 mm gel pen in white.

Here are writing samples of the Pilot Choose on several different surfaces: paper that has been coloured with craft acrylic paint, watercolour pencil, a Sharpie marker, and pencil crayon, as well as paper cut from a magazine and card stock.

When writing on all of these surfaces, the white ink seems to be absorbed into the paper, resulting in an ink colour that appears pale grey rather than white. The only way I can get the line to actually look white is to repeatedly trace over the same line. The effect is least noticeable on the smooth, non-porous magazine paper, but it is slow to dry on this paper and so is prone to being smudged. I also found it hard to obtain a smooth, even line on the magazine paper.

The surface that the Pilot Choose seemed to write best on was the craft acrylic paint, but even on this surface the colour of the ink appears light grey rather than white.

Overall, I was disappointed with the performance of this pen, and will continue my search for a good white pen.

Related reviews: No Pen Intended, Pocket Blonde, The Pen Addict, School Supply Dance

Friday, July 31, 2009

Pentel Slicci 0.3 mm

Naming one favourite pen would probably be as hard as naming one favourite book. However, one pen that would definitely make it onto the list of my favourite pens is the Pentel Slicci.

I bought my first Pentel Slicci at JetPens a few months ago. The Pentel Slicci is a gel pen, and is available in 0.25 mm, 0.3 mm, 0.4 mm, and 0.7 mm, and in a multitude of colours. I chose a 0.3 mm version in sky blue.

I love the Pentel Slicci because it lays down a smooth, fine line that allows me to make small, neat letters. When a colour has a name like "sky blue," I am afraid that it may be too light to read easily, but that is not the case with the Pentel Slicci. The sky blue is a bright, beautiful blue, completely different from the standard blue of ballpoint pens. (The photograph makes the ink look a bit lighter than it really is.)

I also have to mention the physical appearance of the pen. It has a sleek, stylish look, which I prefer to the more mundane look of similar pens, such as the Pilot Hi-Tec-C. The Slicci also has a sturdier tip than the Hi-Tec-C. (I once bent the tip of a Hi-Tec-C because I press fairly hard when writing, but I do not think this would happen with the Slicci.) One drawback is the small, thin body of the pen, which can be uncomfortable if used for a long time.

Related reviews: Pencil Wrap, The Pen Addict (1), The Pen Addict (2)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New Art Supplies

I recently bought myself some new art supplies: a Heinz Jordan 5"x8" Permanent Sketch Book, a set of 12 Lyra Rembrandt Aquarel watercolour pencils, and a Sakura Pigma Brush pen.

The sketchbook is going to be used for my latest art journal. My previous art journals have been heavy on collage and used dollar-store notebooks that I adapted to suit my needs. This art journal, however, is going to contain sketches, drawings, and light watercolour paintings.

The Heinz Jordan sketchbook is just what I wanted. It has a plain black cover and plain white paper with no printing anywhere on the book. When I purchased it, there was a label stuck on the front cover that I was able to peel off easily. It is fairly thick, which is good, since I want it to last a long time. The pens I have been using in it - Staedtler fineliners, Pigma Microns, and Sharpie pens - do not bleed through the pages at all. The pages do buckle when water is applied to them, but that was what I expected.

I love my Sakura Pigma Brush pen. It allows me to create the look of writing with a brush without the annoyance of always having to dip the brush in ink. It is smooth to write with and more fun than using an ordinary pen.

Mandala drawn using brush pen and coloured with watercolour pencils

Finally, my Lyra Rembrandt Aquarel watercolour pencils came in a set of 12 colours: black medium, Venetian red, Van Dyke brown, apple green, sap green, Prussian blue, light blue, dark carmine, pale geranium lake, light orange, lemon, and white. I had never used watercolour pencils before and most of my previous "art" supplies had come from the school supply aisle, so I was excited to get these. The colours are bright and they blend well. I only need to add a little water to use them as watercolours. (The pencils also come in a nice tin.)

Monday, July 27, 2009


Welcome to my new blog, A Penchant for Paper!

This blog is going to be about paper, pens, notebooks, journaling, writing, drawing, painting, bookbinding, origami, paper-making, books, creativity, etc.

I have created this blog as an outlet for my growing obsession with paper, pens, journaling, etc. In December of 2008, I innocently embarked on a new hobby of art journaling, not imagining that a few months later I would be reading any books on journaling and writing I could find, following several pen blogs, and haunting the stationery aisle at my local grocery store.

I'll try to update this blog regularly, at least once a week, but preferably two or three times a week.

In the future: a post on my newest art supplies - a sketchbook, watercolour pencils, and a brush pen - as well as a mention of some of my favourite pens.
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