Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top 10 of 2010

The following products are my favourite products that I used in 2010.  Not only are they products that I love using, they are also products that I use regularly.  Don't be offended if your favourite pen or notebook isn't on the list; these are just my personal favourites.

1. Quo Vadis Habana notebook (small, unlined)

This notebook has been my daily journal ever since January 1 of this year, and there are still enough pages left in it to take me well into 2011.  I love its portable size, understated appearance, flexible yet sturdy cover, and smooth, off-white pages.

2. Pentel EnerGel 0.5mm (needlepoint)

If I could only use one pen, it might be this one.  It is probably the smoothest-writing pen I have ever used, and it had bright, vibrant ink colours, a comfortable grip, and a stylish barrel design.  And I love the needlepoint tip.

3. Pentel Slicci 0.3mm

This is my favourite fine-point gel pen, and the main pen I use for writing in my daily journal.  I love its needlepoint tip, small size, and colourful body.  And of course I love how it writes: very smoothly, with a beautifully fine, crisp line.

My mother made these pen cases for me this summer and I've been using them ever since.  One stays at home, while the other comes with me to class.  I love how they lay all of my pens out for easy perusal, and keep my pens in order.  I've received many comments about my pen case from classmates and instructors, and one person I know even made his own after seeing mine!

As well as being excellent gel pens, these pens are also erasable, which is a convenience I appreciate more every time I try a different version.  The FriXion Point is my current favourite.

The Platinum Preppy, my first fountain pen, will no doubt always have a special place in my pencil case.  I still feel a little rush of excitement every time I pull the cap off and start writing with it.  I haven't yet decided what my next fountain pen will be, but I am looking forward to continuing my collection.

This is a beautiful, well-designed notebook with sturdy pages and a smooth orange cover.  Its unlined pages encourage me to draw and doodle on the pages as well as write on them.  I use it for reflective journal entries and mandala drawings; there are still many pages left so I'm sure I'll be using this notebook throughout 2011 as well.

The Sharpie Pen is a good, dependable, basic pen.  And it lasts a long time - I originally reviewed the Sharpie Pen here in September 2009, and I'm still using the same pens today.  The original Sharpie Pen is still my favourite; I tried the Grip version, but its ink ran out in only a few months and it lacks the needlepoint tip of the original.  (Did I mention that I have a thing for needlepoint tips?)

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you're probably seen this paper pad here, since I have been using it for my pen reviews since October 2009.  It's a great, small pad ideal for keeping in your shirt pocket or any other small area.

This is not a pen I use for everyday writing, but it is the pen I use most often in my art journal.  I love it because it writes smoothly on just about every surface I've tried it on, even though the white ink is not always quite as opaque as I would wish.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Pilot FriXion Point 04 Blue

When I wrote my review of the Pilot FriXion Ball, I mentioned that I was looking forward to trying its finer-tipped cousin, the Pilot FriXion Point.  I was very happy when I came across the FriXion Point in a local stationery store and couldn't wait to try it out.

I was not disappointed.  In fact, every time I try a version of the Pilot FriXion, I find myself liking this line of pens more.  I was a bit doubtful in my initial review of the Color-Pencil-Like FriXion, but my doubts are gone now - this is a great pen.

To begin with, the FriXion Point, like all FriXion pens, is erasable, using the heat generated through friction to "erase" the ink.  Unfortunately, the FriXion Point still has the "eraser" on the end of the pen so that it is covered by the cap when the pen is in use.  This problem has been fixed by the Color-Pencil-Like version, but is not a major issue for me since I really don't use the eraser that often.  The eraser of the FriXion Point seems to erase even more cleanly than those of the other FriXion pens, perhaps because the Point's finer tip lays down less ink.

One reason why I prefer the FriXion Point to the other FriXion pens I've tried is the fact that it is 0.4mm, while the others are 0.7mm.  Since I have very small handwriting, I usually prefer 0.5mm or less for my pens.  The FriXion Point also has a needle-point tip, which I love, and despite the small tip size, still manages to write very smoothly, although probably not as smooth as a 0.38mm Uni-ball Signo DX (one of the smoothest fine-tipped pens I have used).

Just as with the FriXion Ball, the ink colour of the FriXion Point appears slightly greyish, which some people may not like.  I like it though, perhaps because it is just a bit different.  The barrel of the pen has a simple yet appealing design, and I found the grip to be very comfortable.

Overall, the Pilot FriXion Point is a great pen, one that I can easily see becoming one of my new favourites.  If you don't like fine-tipped pens, then you may be better off with the Ball or Color-Pencil-Like versions, but if you do, then the FriXion Point may be an excellent choice.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

From the Art Journal: Fearless

"The Way North." Acrylic paints, pearlizing medium, Pitt Artist Pen, collage.

I haven't been working in my art journal as much lately, but that doesn't bother me.  I admire those people who manage to create a new journal page every day or every other day (or even every week) and who also manage to blog about it every day as well, but I have accepted that I am probably not going to be one of them.

I made these two pages a couple of weeks ago and have done little in my art journal since then.  The first of the pages, "The Way North", is one of my all-time favourites.  Because I mixed the paint with pearlizing medium to give it some extra texture and gleam, it was hard to photograph.  In the photo it looks much shinier than it is in real life.  I had originally intended to add some more writing in the blank space, but then realized that I didn't need to - I was happy with it as it was.

"Fearless."  Pitt Artist Pens, Lyra Rembrandt Aquarell watercolour pencils, acrylic paints, gel pens.

The second page, "Fearless", was a bit challenging because the mandala overlapped the spiral binding.  I also used watercolour pencils over top of acrylic paints, something I hadn't done before, but everything turned out in the end.  The mandala itself is a bit more bold in colour and design than I usually do - I think I had Stephanie's mandalas from Spiritual Evolution of the Bean in mind when I was working on these pages.

I'm thinking of doing something a bit different in the future for these art journal posts: perhaps a series of posts that go step-by-step through the creation of a page, or perhaps a series of journaling prompts.  Though since I've never found journaling prompts all that useful myself I'm not that sure about the second of those ideas.  What do you think?  Do you enjoy just being shown the pages or would like to see something more?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Knock Knock Nifty Notes Paper E-mail

This is not the sort of item that I usually purchase or review here, but when I saw a pile of these "Nifty Notes" on the discount table at my university bookstore, I couldn't resist picking one up.

The Paper E-mail is just one of a series of humorous paper pads, sticky notes, and related items produced by Knock Knock.  They are the kind of items that, I suspect, you buy as gifts for friends, co-workers, and people you want to annoy.

I find the Paper E-mail rather amusing, especially the blurb on the back of it, which claims: "This Nifty Note...revives a revolutionary form of communiciation: handwriting.  Soon even bloggers will be wielding a pen!"  I use a pen in some way for nearly every post here at A Penchant for Paper - I didn't know that made me a revolutionary!

With an item like this, the quality of the paper is probably not going to be major issue for most people, but I was pleasantly surprised when I tried out a handful of pens, none of which showed any bleedthrough at all.  The pages tore off cleanly from the pad, and the pad seems, as a whole, to be well-designed and well-made.

Now I just need to begin using these paper e-mails to annoy my friends and family....

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Clairefontaine Minuscule Notebook

I won this notebook in a giveaway at OfficeSupplyGeek some time ago, and have been meaning to write a review of it ever since.

Clairefontaine Minuscule

The Clairefontaine Minuscule is a spiral-bound notebook with sturdy plastic covers, and 180 white, lined pages.  The dimensions are 14.8x21cm, not nearly as small as the name "minuscule" originally led me to believe the notebook would be.

I have always had mixed feelings about spiral-bound notebooks - on one hand, I love how they always lie completely flat, but on the other hand, I dislike how impermanent they feel (since pages can be removed so easily, without leaving a trace), and how the spiral binding can become warped with time.  Hopefully, since the Clairefontaine Minuscule uses a double-spiral binding, the latter problem will be minimized here.

Close-up of the Clairefontaine Minuscule spiral binding.

One thing that I have noticed about the spiral binding of this notebook is that it feels very loose, i.e., the front and back covers and the pages seem to shift around a lot.  Looking at the binding more closely, the holes seem a bit larger than usual, which could account for the looseness, but perhaps it is just me.

One of the most noticeable things about this notebook is the window on the front cover.  The picture may appear puzzling at first, but when the cover is opened up it reveals a close-up of the head of a caterpillar and the word "minuscule" with a flying ladybug as the dot of the "i" (a nice touch).  (If insects are not your thing, there do appear to be some other cover designs as well.)

Opening the cover of the Clairefontaine Minuscule.

Inside, the pages are made of white, very smooth, 90g paper wth violet lines 8mm apart (a bit wide for my taste) and running right to the edge of the page.  Ample margins are located on the top (18.5mm) and bottom (15.5mm) of the page.

A look inside the Clairefontaine Minuscule.

All of the pens I tested wrote on the paper very well with very slight to no feathering, showthrough, or bleedthrough, with the exception (of course) of the Sharpie marker.  One important note: probably because of the smoothness of the paper, many of the pens took a fairly long time to dry.

Pen test in the Clairefontaine Minuscule.

[Digression: Why do some people include Sharpie markers in pen tests? They always bleed through the paper and who would want to write in a notebook with a Sharpie marker anyway? Maybe someone would, I guess. But not me.]

Reverse side of the pen test page.
Overall, the Clairefontaine Minuscule is a fun notebook that should play well with most of the pens and inks you use in it.  Although its loose spiral binding and wide ruling will probably prevent it from becoming a personal favourite, it may still be an excellent choice depending on your personal preferences.

A further note: In his original review, OfficeSupplyGeek mentioned that these notebooks were not available in stores, which appears to still be the case.  I did a quick search and the only websites that mention this notebook at all are in French.  So if you want to buy one, good luck, and hopefully these will become more widely available soon.

Monday, November 29, 2010

From the Other Journal: Mandalas

When I wrote that November was going to be a quieter, less busy month than October, I was wrong.  Very wrong.  November was much, much busier than October.

Back at the beginning of the month, when things weren't that busy yet, I began to draw these mandalas with my new Pitt Artist Pens, inspired by Tammy's lovely and intricate black and white mandalas over at Daisy Yellow, a great blog to check out if you are looking for inspiration.  She also manages to post daily, something that continues to amaze me.  These days, I'm lucky if I manage a post a week!

"The Hill."  Nov. 7, 2010.  Pitt Artist Pen (fine and super-fine) in Heinz Jordan Sketchbook.
My first mandalas were a bit awkward and clumsy-looking, but they've improved since then, so much so that I was even more daring by adding a bit of colour to the second mandala shown here.  The first mandala (drawn while I was sitting at the top of a hill, hence the title) is probably my favourite of the two.  I love the curves and the combination of white space and areas of dense lines.

"Starry Night."  Nov. 9, 2010.  Pitt Artist Pen (fine and super fine) and Staedtler Triplus Fineliners in Heinz Jordan Sketchbook.

As the semester is drawing to a close, the things I need to do are gradually becoming less, and I have finally had time to begin working in my art journal again, so hopefully I'll be able to share some pages with you in the near future.  There are a few more reviews I want to write as well, and I'm also planning a "Top Ten of 2010" post for the end of the year.

Finally, I'd like to mention that I just received a email today telling me that A Penchant for Paper had been chosen as one of the top pen and pencil blogs of 2010 [LINK NO LONGER ACTIVE].  I have no idea how the blogs were selected, but I feel very honoured to have my blog included with some of my favourites such as The Pen Addict and pencil talk.  And hey, if people are giving me an award, I'm not going to argue with it!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Battle of the Pocket Notebooks: Moleskine Volant vs. Rhodia

Which is the better pocket notebook: the Moleskine Volant or the Rhodia Classic Staplebound notebook?  In this epic battle, only one notebook will emerge a winner - or will it?  Read on to discover the result.

Moleskine Volant and Rhodia Classic Staplebound notebooks, with Sharpie Pen for scale.

Round #1: Size and Ease of Use

The Moleskine Volant is the smaller of the two, measuring 6.5x10.5cm, while the Rhodia measures 7.5x12cm.  Since these are pocket notebooks, they obviously should not be too large, but very small notebooks may also be awkward to handle, especially for people with larger hands.  Personally, I found the slightly larger size of the Rhodia made the notebook a bit easier to use than the Moleskine.

Score: Moleskine 0, Rhodia 1

Round #2: Packaging

Because I am concerned about the environment and want to reduce waste, I try to buy items with less packaging as often as possible.  Although the amount of packaging may depend on where and how you buy your notebooks (in store vs. online, for example), the Rhodia was the clear winner in this case.  (I bought both of my notebooks in local stores.)

The Rhodia came with no packaging (other than a price tag), while the Moleskine came packaged in a plastic wrapper, with a paper sleeve on the outside, and a pamphlet on the history of Moleskine and two blue stickers marked "Quality Control" whose purpose is unknown on the inside.

Score: Moleskine 0, Rhodia 2

Round #3: Cover Material

The Moleskine cover has a black textured finish, with no markings other than the embossed Moleskine logo on the bottom of the back cover.  Sophisticated and understated is the look here.

The Rhodia, on the other hand, has a more casual appearance with the Rhodia logo displayed boldly in orange in the middle of the front cover.  The back cover bears another logo, information on the notebook, and a barcode, all in orange.  The glossy black cover has a smooth coating and is described as waterproof, although I haven't tested it.  What I really don't like about the Rhodia cover is that the material shows every small scratch and scuff.  It also does not feel quite as sturdy as the Moleskine cover.

Both notebooks have rounded covers, which is preferable to avoid that dreaded dog-eared appearance.

Score: Moleskine 1, Rhodia 2

Opened up: Rhodia (left) has bright white pages, Moleskine (right) has off-white pages.  (Excuse my fingers.)

Round #4: Paper

The Moleskine has off-white paper of unknown weight, with grey ruled lines 6mm apart, although the ruling seems wider because the notebook itself is so small.  The Rhodia has bright white 80g paper with violet lines 5mm apart and is available in both gridded and lined versions.

Although the crisp clean appearance of Rhodia's white paper and violet lines probably would have made it the winner in this round anyway, what sealed the deal is that the Moleskine Volant has perforated, detachable pages.  I didn't realize this when I bought the notebook (okay, I didn't read the package) and was very disappointed when I opened it up.  It just feels wrong to remove pages from a bound notebook like this.

Score: Moleskine 1, Rhodia 3

Writing samples: Moleskine (left), Rhodia (right).

Round #5: The Dreaded Pen Test

Both notebooks were enjoyable to write in and I noticed no immediate or obvious differences between the two while I was testing out the different pens.  The colours of a few pens may have looked slightly more vibrant on the off-white paper of the Moleskine than on the bright white paper of the Rhodia.  However, on closer inspection there were greater amounts of feathering with the Pentel EnerGel, Uni-ball Vision (but not the RT version), and Pilot V5 Hi-tecpoint in the Moleskine than in the Rhodia.  The lines in the Rhodia generally looked crisper than in the Moleskine.

Turning the pages, there was minimal showthrough in the Rhodia, while the Moleskine suffered from bleedthrough with the three pens mentioned above as well as with the Vision RT.  The rest of the pens showed through to some extent.

Although it depends on what sort of writing instrument you use (for example, I liked the Jetstream ballpoint and the pencil better in the Moleskine than in the Rhodia), generally the Rhodia performs better here.

Score: Moleskine 1, Rhodia 4

Writing samples, reversed: Moleskine (left), Rhodia (right).

Further Remarks

The Rhodia is staplebound, while the Moleskine has a stitched binding.  The Rhodia has 48 pages, while the Moleskine has 56 pages.  The Rhodia is made in France, while the Moleskine is made in China.  Finally, the Rhodia cost me only $2.29, while the Moleskine cost me $7.95 for a 2-pack ($3.975 each).  Of course, your prices may vary.


Although the Rhodia Classic Staplebound notebook came out the winner in this battle, it may not necessarily be the best pocket notebook for you.  Depending on your personal preferences, choice of writing instrument, and extent to which your notebook is a part of your fashion statement (or lack thereof), the Moleskine Volant may be the better choice.

Conduct your own tests, assign your own scores.  The battle continues.

Related reviews for Moleskine Volant: OfficeSupplyGeek, Simplicity Embellished, Life Imitates Doodles, Rob's Art Supply Reviews.

Related reviews for Rhodia Staplebound: Travel Tech Review.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pilot B2P Gel Ink Pen (and a Rant)

The Pilot B2P is a member of Pilot's BeGreen line of pens, and is made from recycled plastic water bottles, hence the name: B2P stands for "Bottle To Pen."  It is refillable with the popular Pilot G-2 refills.  Because this, there are no problems with the writing ability of the B2P; just as expected, it writes very smoothly and cleanly, with no skipping or bleedthrough.

The most interesting and unique part about this pen is the pen body itself, which is made, as mentioned above, from recycled plastic water bottles.  The design of the pen even mimics that of a water bottle.  It is a rather funky looking pen and the grooved plastic grip and medium width of the body makes it fairly comfortable to use.

Overall, if you like the standard G-2 and you're looking for something just a little bit different or if you are environmentally conscious and want to choose a pen that has less environmental impact, then the Pilot B2P would be an excellent choice.  Or would it?

Excuse me if I rant a bit here, but I would like to point out that the B2P is still a plastic pen that required a certain amount of energy to produce, from the recycling of the water bottles to the creation of the pen itself, and to ship to the store.  Although it is refillable, I suspect that most people who buy inexpensive pens like these simply can't be bothered to buy refills, and when they are done with this pen, they will simply throw it in the garbage, where it will eventually end up as just another piece of plastic waste in a landfill somewhere.

Although being made into pens is a better fate for water bottles than being thrown away and while I also respect Pilot for trying to produce pens that are more environmentally-friendly, the B2P is far from ideal here.  If you really want an environmentally-friendly pen, get a good fountain pen, which can last for decades and can constantly be refilled with different inks, or use a pencil, especially one of those that is made from recycled materials.  Pens made from biodegradable plastics are also not a bad choice.

Don't be sucked into buying an item (a pen or anything else) just because the manufacturer has labelled it as "green."  If the environment is that important to you (and I hope it is!), think carefully before you buy and remember that the old fountain pen and ink may still be the best option.

Related reviews: Future; Nostalgic, penamor, The Pen Addict, Gourmet Pens, OfficeSupplyGeek, Dose of Salt, Pocket Blonde, Rhonda Eudaly.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Upcoming Posts & Reader Input

Things have been a bit quiet lately over here at A Penchant for Paper.  Part of the reason is that I was very busy with studying for exams and writing reports in October.  Things have quieted down a bit now that we're into November, so hopefully I will find more time to write posts for this blog this month.

Yet another part of the reason is that I haven't been completely satisfied with the direction that this blog has been going, which is why I would like to ask you, readers, what would you like to see more (or less) of here?  To make it even easier for you to give your input, I have added a poll to the sidebar on the right-hand side of the page (just below the welcome message).  It will just take you a second for you to select the things you would like to see more of.  Also feel free to leave a comment on this post or contact me directly via email.

I will probably also be changing the blog design again so any suggestions related to design, colours, blog headers, etc. would also be appreciated.

I know that several more followers and readers have joined us in the last month, so I'm really sorry that I haven't had more posts up for you to read.  However, that will hopefully be changing this month, as I have several posts lined up for the next few weeks.  The photo below gives a sneak peek at what you can expect here in November.

Many thanks to all readers, lurkers, followers, and commenters!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

From the Art Journal: Grid, Typography, Silhouette

Yet another grid.

I haven't shared any art journal pages with you lately, mainly because I haven't been creating many.  When I posted my last page, I mentioned that I was feeling rather dissatisfied with the pages that I was creating.  But apparently I wasn't as dissatisfied as I thought, for not long after completing that art journal I began to want to start another one.  The problem was finding the right notebook....

I wanted a spiral bound notebook this time so that it would lay completely flat and pages could be removed easily to prevent the book from bulging open with the addition of collage.  I also wanted something very cheap, and possibly with brown paper.  Finally, I found what I was looking for at Michaels.  It was called a "Papier Mache Journal", had brown paper, and was spiral bound.  It was a bit smaller than I wanted and the spiral binding was inferior (when open, the front and back covers don't align properly, for example), but it would do.

I work very slowly, so I only have three complete page spreads since I began this journal at the beginning of September.  The first page spread (shown above) is yet another grid.  I have a thing about grids lately, and I don't know why - I just love creating them.  Speaking of grids, iHanna had a great art journal page of grids and lines on her blog lately; I love the look of order and disorder, although her colours are very different from the ones I would choose.

A mess of words.

The second page spread was especially fun and easy to do.  I felt like I was back in elementary school cutting out words and gluing them on the page.  Some of the quirky combinations of words on the page amuse me: "changing world" next to "nothing changes", and "lust" next to "surrender", for example.  The pages still have a few holes in them (I was running out of magazines to look through), so there's still room for a few more words.

Odds and ends: silhouette, collage, Celtic knotwork, and more.

Finally, this last page spread is rather eclectic collection of elements: a messy painted background, collage, doodles, a silhouette, and Celtic knotwork.  I'm not sure if I entirely like this page yet; perhaps it is not quite finished.  Maybe I should add some lettering, or more paint?  Or just leave it as it is?

I have at least three more page spreads that are currently in progress, although it will probably take another month or more before I finish them.

Do you keep an art journal?  If so, what kind of pages do you create in it?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens

I had been wanting to buy some Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens for a while, but had been consistently put off by the price.  Finally, last month I broke down and bought a set of four at Michaels with one of their 40%-off coupons.  Although I have been using them off and on for the last few weeks, I can tell that I will need to spend much more time with these pens.  So don't take this review as the final word.

The set I bought comes in a reusable plastic case and contains four black pens, each with a different tip size: super-fine, fine, medium, and brush.

My favourite so far is the super-fine; I just love the way this pen feels on the paper.  As soon as I begin using it, I feel like covering the whole page with lines and doodles.  However, there doesn't really seem to be enough difference between the super-fine and the fine, and between the fine and the medium.  I'm not sure about the brush.  The only brush pen I ever used before was the Sakura Pigma Brush, whose tip I managed to wreck after only a few days of use, so it was a disappointment.  The tip of the Pitt Artist Pen brush feels harder than that of the Sakura Pigma, so I am hopeful that it will turn out better, but I'm still uncertain how actually to use a brush pen.

The black India ink of these pens is excellent.  It ranks among the blackest of blacks and, according to the package, is waterproof, smudge-proof, and extremely lightfast.  I haven't used these pens with watercolours yet, but I'm sure that I will be doing so in the future.  And the ink certainly does seem to dry very quickly.  Keep in mind that although these are "art" pens, there is no reason why you couldn't use them as ordinary writing pens as well, and I think that the fine or super-fine would be especially nice for that.

Finally, because these are intended as art pens, I wasn't expecting much in the way of a snazzy design or comfortable grip.  However, they do have a rather serious and professional look, and are not uncomfortable to use.  They are much more comfortable than the Sakura Pigma Micron, which has a sharp edge that digs into my finger and that I find almost impossible to use for even a short time.

These pens are fun to draw with, so much so that I wish I was better at drawing so that I had something nicer to show you than this page of doodles:

I even had to cover up a particularly bad drawing on the left with three of the pens!  Hopefully, I will improve with practice and maybe now that I have these pens I will feel like practicing my drawing more often.

Before I leave, I would also like to urge you to head over to Notebook Stories to read a very detailed review of Arwey notebooks and to have a chance to win one of the same notebooks.  Good luck!

Related reviews: David Wasting Paper, Paint Daubs, Artista Blog.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My Daily Arsenal

These are the items that I find myself reaching for most often these days:
  1. Quo Vadis Habana notebook, small, black cover, unlined pages - This is my current journal, and I absolutely love it.  If I miss a day or two without writing in my journal, I don't feel quite settled until I have written in it again.  The notebook itself is wonderful: it is plain and simple so that I don't get tired of it, and the smooth, creamy paper is a joy to write on.
  2. Staples Better Binder - If you read my last post, you will know why this is on the list.  This binder contains my planner, as well as all the notes I need for my classes.  It is also an excellent, durable binder (and it's lime green!).
  3. My pencil case - I love this pencil case, and I think it is very close to being perfect.  I especially love how it displays all of my pens for my perusal, and keeps them in order (I like to keep my pens in a particular order).  More thanks to my mother for making this for me!
  4. Staedtler Polo 0.5mm mechanical pencil - I'm not a big pencil user, but I do always have at least one mechanical pencil on hand, although I'm not too fussy about the kind that I use.  I think this one originally was part of a geometry set; I love it's bold black and yellow colours.
  5. A few pens - I have a number of pens in my pencil case, but a subset of these get used more frequently.  The ones that I'm using most these days include the Pentel Slicci, Sharpie Pen (both original and grip versions), Uni-ball Jetstream, and Pilot FriXion.
What's in your daily arsenal?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My System

Before I returned to class this fall, I thought about how I wanted to change my organization and planning system.  I wasn't satisfied with what I had been using before, and there were also three main issues that made this difficult:
  1. I didn't want to carry a planner around with me.  Most planners contain many pages that I have no use for (address books, notes pages, maps, etc.) and just add extra bulk and weight to my backpack.
  2. The majority of my instructors present their lectures using Powerpoint.  Most students (myself included) print out the lectures ahead of time and add notes to them in class.  Before, I was keeping these pieces of paper in plastic folders, but this got a bit messy, so I decided to keep them in a 3-ring binder instead.  Perhaps my planner could also be incorporated into this binder?
  3. I thought that I would use some of the forms available at D*I*Y Planner, but there were none available in the 8 1/2 x 11" format that were suitable.
Eventually, I created some very simple and plain planner pages myself using Microsoft Word.  The first page has monthly overviews, 2 months per side (shown on the left-hand page below).  This makes the squares fairly small, but they are still large enough for me to write in due dates of assignments and dates of exams (I have small writing).  The next pages contain weekly overviews, 2 weeks per side (shown on the right-hand page below).

I use different colours on the weekly pages for further organization.  Exams are in red (and in capital letters) to stand out, assignments due are in green, tasks to complete are in black, and planning for my blogs is in blue.

The binder I am using for this is a Staples Better Binder.  It also contains my class schedule, and tabbed sections for each of my classes, labs, and seminars.  I only keep the papers that I need for the current week in here; old papers are removed and placed in another binder that stays at home (otherwise this binder would get way too heavy and bulky to carry around with me).

I have been using this system for almost a month now and have encountered no major problems.  I feel more organized than ever (although I still can't seem to post here more frequently!)

What is your system for planning and organization?  How has it changed?  Do you even have a system?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stabilo Bionic Worker 0.5mm Black

The Stabilo Bionic Worker caught my eye at the store recently and, especially since I think I have only ever used one Stabilo pen in the past, I was curious to see how it wrote.  I have been using it for the last couple of weeks and have not been disappointed.  This is a great pen, although it is not without its flaws.

The Stabilo Bionic Worker writes very smoothly, although the ink is rather slow to dry.  I have not noticed any bleedthrough with this pen on any papers yet.  It is available in blue, red, and green, as well as black.  The pen is described as 0.5mm; however, after comparing it with several other pens, I think it appears to be much closer to 0.7mm or even larger.  For my small writing, the Stabilo Bionic is too bold to ever become a favourite, but if you have larger writing or just like bolder-tipped pens, it could be an excellent choice.

Speaking of bold, the orange and black design of this pen makes it easily stand out in your pencil case.  And it also makes the Stabilo Bionic Worker a natural companion to Rhodia pads and notebooks:

The body of the pen is made of a rubbery material and it has a contoured shape: it starts out relatively narrow, gets wide in the middle, narrows again, and widens again at the end of the grip.  It is reasonably comfortable to write with: not uncomfortable, but not the best I have ever used either.  The rubbery body shows a slight tendency to attract dirt; I have noticed a few faint greyish smudges that I had to rub at to get off, but I am being very picky here.

Overall, the Stabilo Bionic Worker is a very nice pen, that is enjoyable to write with, and has an attractive design (although the design and bold colouring may not appeal to everyone or be suitable in all situations).

I haven't written many pen reviews lately, for various reasons: my pencils cases are too full already, I have been busy with classes, and, unless you're The Pen Addict, endless pen reviews can get a bit boring.  I don't have many more items (pens or otherwise) lined up for review, so if there are any items that you would like to see me review, or if you have any other suggestions for future posts, please leave a comment and let me know.

Related reviews: The Pen Addictpencil talk, Rhonda Eudaly, Pocket Blonde, I Love Pens.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Calligraphy Practice

Thanks to all the readers who left cleaning suggestions in my "Garage Sale Calligraphy" post.  On the past weekend, I finally got around to following through on some of those suggestions and I am happy to report that all went well.  I soaked the nib in room-temperature water for a day, I didn't manage to wreck anything, and the nib now looks like new.

That said, I actually used one of the other nibs - the broad version - for my first attempts at calligraphy as I thought that might make things a bit easier.  My first impressions of calligraphy practice is that it is much harder than it looks and it is quite fun as well.  Slowly forming the letters and filling page after page with them is a very relaxing activity as well.  As you can see from the picture, I haven't got as far as words yet - I'm still working on the individual letters and getting used to the pen, to the angle at which I have to hold the pen, etc.

Although many of the letters are still far from the way I want them to look, I am still excited by how some of them are turning out already.  Suddenly even a simply page of letters in alphabetical order looks much more impressive and important.  I especially love the shading.  These are some of my favourite letters so far:

I'm really enjoying my calligraphy practice so far, and I think it will be a nice relaxing activity to indulge in after a stressful day of classes.  I look forward to trying out the other ink colours, as well as the medium and fine nibs.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Small Book of Art

The title of this book is Whimsies, which is appropriate, as it is different from my usual style and is fairly, well, whimsical. I made the book itself well over a year ago in April of 2009 from scrap papers, following the instructions in Gwen Diehn's The Decorated Journal for her "Six-Minute Double-Pamphlet Journal." (If you own the book, there are actually two versions of the double-pamphlet journal. I don't have the book with me right now, so I can't tell you which one I made.)

I used the book for a while for drawings, doodles, and the odd journal entry, but I never really enjoyed working in it, so it sat on a shelf for over a year until this summer, when I was inspired to turn it into this crazy book of art. I used just about everything I had on the pages: collage, paint, many different pens, paint markers, pencil crayons. I even used dimensional fabric paint on a few pages, although that turned out to be a mistake as it caused the pages to stick together. I finished the pages with some of my favourite quotes.

This is not an art journal, because it contains no journal entries and I worked on all of the pages at once rather than page by page, as I would have done in a journal. Rather, it was just a fun project that gave new life to an earlier project that did not turn out so well. This is the first time I have used paint on top of collage; I really enjoyed doing it and I like the effects, so I will probably do that again in future projects and journals.

On a related note, I want to start another art journal. I became rather dissatisfied and even bored with my last art journal, mainly because the format of the book just wasn't working for me. When I finished it, I didn't think that I would want to start another one for quite a while, but, surprisingly, I do. My next one will be spiral-bound, I think, and will preferably have larger pages. Another problem with my last art journal is that I was turning working in it into a chore; I was forcing myself to work in it everyday, even if I didn't really feel like it, just so I could finish the thing. Once something becomes a chore, it is not as fun anymore.

But I'm eager to begin my next art journal, so hopefully I'll find an appropriate blank book soon to create it in. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Garage Sale Calligraphy

I love garage sales - you never know what you are going to find.  I was at a garage sale a couple of weeks ago when I spotted a basket of art and craft supplies.  I glanced through the contents and discovered a Sheaffer calligraphy set.  I've always wanted to do calligraphy, and since the set was only $3 (the original price on the box was $17.50), I couldn't resist.

The set contains 12 ink cartridges (only 2 are missing); fine, medium, and broad italic nibs; a Sheaffer fountain pen; an instructional booklet; and a practice pad ruled for calligraphy.  The previous owner of the set also put in a pad of plain paper and a card with further instructions.  Everything appears in good condition except for the fine nib (the other two nibs look like they have never been used), which was left in the pen with an old cartridge and has dried ink on it:

I'm not sure how I should clean it, so I would really appreciate any advice that you could leave me in the comments.

I can't wait to start practicing calligraphy, so once I get everything cleaned up, look for some of my experiments in a future post.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pen and Paper Related News for September

If you have been wondering about the lack of posts here over the last week, my excuse is that I have been busy packing and moving into my residence at university for what will be my fifth (!) year here.  However, I am (mostly) settled in now, so I should be back to blogging regularly again.  I have some great new posts coming up for you in the next few days, but until then, I'd like to share some pen and paper related news.

First of all, over at Notebook Stories, Nifty has a review and giveaway of several Daycraft notebooks.  Visit her post for a chance to win one of three Daycraft notebooks.

Second, the September Carnival of Pen, Pencil, and Paper is up over at OfficeSupplyGeek.  As always, the carnival contains many interesting posts and is an excellent way to discover some new pen and paper blogs.  For more information about the carnival, including how to submit a post, see this page at Notebook Stories.

Finally, here's a sneak peek at some of the items that may be appearing at A Penchant for Paper in the next few days and weeks.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Butterfly Observation Journal

Some people are bird watchers.  I, however, am a butterfly watcher.  And, being the journal-obsessed person that I am, I have begun keeping a journal to record my observations.

I use a small, inexpensive Mead Journal and write in it with a black Sharpie Pen Grip.  (I like to always use the same type of pen in a particular journal - it lends some uniformity to the entries.)

For each entry, I write down the date, time, location, weather conditions, and temperature as well as the species of the butterfly (both common and scientific names) and some sentences on what the butterfly looked like, what it was doing, how I identified it, how sure I am of the identification (often, not very!), etc.  I will also note whether or not I managed to photograph the butterfly (probably not - they fly fast and when they land, like to position themselves under grass blades).

Lorquin's Admiral, Limenitis lorquini
Observation journals like this one are great for anyone who wants to keep a journal but who is not interested in the more personal kind of journals.  You can keep a journal of your observations of insects, birds, the weather, the traffic, the people you see while shopping at the grocery store, or anything else.

If you are interested in becoming a butterfly watcher, I recommend that you read The Audubon Society Handbook for Butterfly Watchers by Robert Michael Pyle.  This book even contains a chapter on "Records and Field Notes."  Pyle writes:
"Even more than binoculars or forceps, the notebook is an essential item for the serious observer who wants to learn as well as enjoy.  Any sort of notebook will do - I've tried dozens of species, from little spiral memos to weatherproof professional models.  The paper should be of good quality so that  it will not deteriorate in a few years from its own acid; and the pages should be bound in firmly, so that a gust of wind will not swipe a whole week's writing in an instant.  You want a book that will be easy to carry and handy to use but not so small that it gets overlooked or easily misplaced."
Sounds like good advice, and I love how he describes the different kinds of notebooks as different "species"!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Do Men and Women Relate to Office Supplies Differently?

Recently, there was a post over at The Art of Manliness blog entitled "The Manly Tradition of the Pocket Notebook."  This post has been linked to in a variety of places, which is how I stumbled across it.  Now, I love pocket notebooks (all notebooks, really) and, despite the fact that I am a woman, I found the post interesting, well-written, and well-researched.  Yet a number of questions began to arise in my mind.

Is a man's notebook different in some way from a woman's notebook?  I can see that, historically, there may have been, since society dictated different roles for men and women, and their different experiences may have required the keeping of different types of notebooks.  But what about today?  Do women and men use and collect notebooks, pens, pencils, and other office supplies differently?

Many companies have produced versions of their products that are targeted specifically at women, which I think is ridiculous.  If something is pink and has floral designs on it, then I will be less likely to buy it, not more.  There do not seem to be similar products targeted specifically towards men.

The practice of keeping an art journal seems to be more popular among women than men, but I could be wrong here.  Perhaps there are many men doing a similar thing but they just do not talk about it as much, or they call it something else.

What are your thoughts on these issues?  Do men and women relate to office supplies differently?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Uni-ball Vision RT Bold 0.8mm Black

I have been unable to become terrible excited about the Uni-ball Vision RT.  Although there is nothing particularly wrong with this pen, it is probably best described as being of average quality.

First of all, although the writing quality is reasonable decent, this pen does not write nearly as smoothly as I had expected, especially as compared to the other Uni-ball Vision I own.  I experienced more than a little skipping, even on the smooth paper of my Rhodia pad.  In fact, the Vision RT seems to be an entirely different pen altogether from its non-retractable cousin.

The Vision RT has one unique and interesting feature: it is designed so that when you lift the clip (for example, to clip the pen onto your shirt pocket), the tip of the pen is automatically retracted into the body of the pen.  This is supposed to help prevent leaks (because nothing is worse than an ink-stained shirt pocket).

The Uni-ball Vision RT also claims to have two other leak-prevention features: an "elevator ink system" and a "spring-loaded tip."  I'm not sure what an elevator ink system actually is (although it no doubt sounds impressive) and I've seen many pens with spring-loaded tips (although I'm not sure how, exactly, a spring in the tip of a pen prevents leaks).  The "auto-retractable clip," however, is something that I have never seen before and that I wouldn't mind seeing becoming a feature in more retractable pens.

Finally, the physical appearance of the Vision RT is fairly striking and the pen is of a shape that is comfortable to use.  But looks aren't everything and, despite the retractable clip, the disappointing writing quality makes the Uni-ball Vision RT an average pen.  There are many things I like about it, but I do not love it.

Related reviews: Gourmet Pens, OfficeSupplyGeek, Cheap Pen Review, Random Babbles, The Pen Addict.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Further Tests in the New Rhodia Webnotebook

Although I reviewed the Rhodia Webnotebook last week, I still wanted to do some further tests in the book with watercolours and other media.  Well, I don't actually own all that many interesting art supplies to test, but I did finally get around to testing the ones that I do own.

In the first test, I used a Uni-ball Fusion rollerball (just because it was the first pen I grabbed out of the drawer) to draw a mandala.  I then used watercolour pencils to colour the mandala, applied water to blend the colours together, and added some final details with a Staedtler Triplus Fineliner.

The pens wrote very well on the paper.  Because of the smoothness of the paper, however, I found it hard to lay down a thick layer of colour with the watercolour pencils.  The colours blended very well when I added water, yet the resulting mandala appeared somewhat pale and washed out (see other watercolour pencil mandalas in my Heinz Jordan Permanent Sketch Book here and here).  The paper did, of course, warp after the water was applied.  It wasn't that bad, but I've seen better.

In the second test, I used paint markers and ordinary pencil crayons to create another mandala.

The paint markers glided on wonderfully (but they write on everything) and the colours were brilliant on the off-white paper.  However, with these pencil crayons as well as with the watercolour pencils, I felt that I had to press down harder than usual on the paper to get a thick, dark layer of colour, and I didn't really enjoy using the pencils on this paper.  Again, this is probably due to the thinness of the paper.

Overall, pencils are probably not ideal for this notebook.  Watercolours can be used if you don't mind the warping and plan to only use one side of the page.  But if you work mainly in pen or marker, then this notebook will be an excellent choice.

(And in case you were wondering, I still haven't decided what I'm going to use my Webbie for.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Scrapbook Journal

A while ago, I bought a huge spiral-bound sketchbook (it's 11 x 14 inches).  There's nothing special about it, although it does have sturdy covers, an elastic closure, and fairly heavy paper.  I never planned to actually sketch in it - I am using it instead as my scrapbook journal.

A scrapbook journal is a place for all those bits and pieces of paper that you accumulate: clippings from magazines, old greeting cards, old calendar pages, small drawings and doodles, and all sorts of odds and ends and paper scraps.  Some of these things I use in collages, but others I like just as they are and I don't want to see them cut up, painted on, or otherwise altered.  So I came up with the idea of a scrapbook journal.  It is something like a commonplace book, but for images rather than for words.

I glue each piece of paper into the book and I write beside it a few sentences about why I have saved it, why I like it, and what it means to me.  I write the date at the end of each entry.  Because the pages are so large, I am leaving lots of white space around the images and words instead of stuffing each page full.  I love the way the pages look - they have a calm, quiet look about them - and I am sure I will enjoy reading these pages and looking at the images in years to come.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Homemade Pencil/Pen Cases

I have never been able to find the ideal pencil case.  Excessive numbers of pockets and pouches are too confusing, while single, large, deep pockets swallow pens into their depths, never to be seen again.  The ones that I liked best were those that rolled up, but the price of the one I wanted (the 122KCal Roll Pencil Case found at JetPens) was higher than I wanted to pay, especially after taking into account taxes and shipping.

And the design of this pencil case looked so simple.  What if I just made my own?

Well, I actually enlisted my mother to help me make this one, as she is much more of a sewer than I am.  We found some sturdy fabric in a colour I liked (I think it cost about 10 cents at our local thrift shop) and some thinner fabric in a complementary colour for the liner.  We based the design of the pencil case on the 122KCal Roll and, although there were a few false starts where fabric was cut to the wrong size, we eventually ended up with this:

It is about 13 inches long and 7 inches high and includes 5 pockets, each of which holds 2-4 pens, depending on the size of the pens.  The case would not hold standard-length wooden pencils, but obviously if you made this yourself you could adjust the dimensions.  With the top flap (which prevents the pens from falling out) lifted, the case looks like this:

I really love this pencil case (actually more of a pen case) and I can't wait to start using it when I return to university in September.  (I'm such a nerd, I'll probably be showing it off to everyone.)  I am very thankful to my mother for making this for me.

My mother actually enjoyed making this case so much that she offered to make me another one, which is very similar to the first version, although with rounded corners:

This was meant to be the "new and improved" version, but I think I actually like the original best.  Still, I love both cases and, as you can see, I already have them stuffed full of pens.  I think that I will use one to hold pens that I carry with me to class and one to hold pens that stay at home.  Of course, that is still not enough to hold all of the pens I own...
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