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.
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