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a email today telling me that A Penchant for Paper had been chosen as one of the top pen and pencil blogs of 2010 [LINK NO LONGER ACTIVE].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!

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