Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top 10 of 2011

Just as I did last year, I'd like to share my favourite products that I used in 2011.  These are not new products for 2011, but simply the products that I used regularly and loved using this year.  Don't be offended if your favourite pen or notebook isn't on the list; these are just my personal favourites.  That said, here they are!

1. Rhodia Webnotebook (orange cover, unlined, A5 size)

This notebook became my main journal in the last part of the year and will likely continue as my journal throughout 2012.  The off-white pages are made of very smooth paper that works great with most pens, while the fact that they are unlined encourages me to doodle and draw as well as write.  I also appreciate the cheerful orange cover and endpapers.

2. Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens (black ink)

These have become my pens of choice for sketching and drawing mandalas.  The ink is waterproof, which makes them ideal for use with watercolours.  I bought the set of four nib sizes: brush, medium, fine, and super-fine.  I don't particularly care for the brush pen, but the others are great for creating lines of varying widths in my mandalas.  The super-fine is still not quite fine enough for me, so I'm also eager to try out the extra-super-fine version.

3. Pentel EnerGel 0.5mm (needle-point)

The Pentel EnerGel remains my favourite basic pen.  It's one of the smoothest-writing pens out there, the ink colours are vivid, and it's long-lasting.  The 0.7mm is great as well, but the 0.5mm needle-point is my favourite.  It's the ideal nib size for my small handwriting, and I always love needle-point tips on pens.

4. My homemade pencil/pen cases

I'm still using the pen cases that my mom made for me back in 2010, and they're the best pen cases I've ever owned.  Sure, you could probably buy a fancier pen case, but making your own (or getting someone to make one for you!) is the simplest way to ensure that you have a unique case that is customized to be exactly how you want it.

5. Heinz Jordan Permanent Sketch Book (A5 size)

I'm not sure of the availability of these sketchbooks outside of Canada, but I see them everywhere in art supply stores around here.  This is a great inexpensive, basic sketchbook, with white pages and a plain black cover.  It is also quite thick, so it lasts a long time, and the pages lie very flat, which is ideal for drawing.

6. Pentel Slicci 0.3mm

After the EnerGel, the Slicci is probably my favourite pen for writing.  The small, colourful pens write very smoothly and are surprisingly comfortable to use for their size.  At 0.3mm, these are a bit fine for general use, but they are great for writing in my journal, editing, or jotting notes in the margin.

7. Uni-ball Signo DX 0.38mm (green black)

This pen is similar to the Slicci, but it has a grip and comes in a few different colours.  Green black is definitely not a typical colour, but it has become one of my favourites.  Dark with a hint of sophisticated colour, it definitely stands out from the standard blacks and blues.

8. Rhodia Pad No. 11

This paper pad can be easily slipped into a pocket or bag, and features Rhodia's smooth 80g paper that is a dream to write on with nearly all pens.  The pages can be torn off cleanly along the perforations or left intact.  It is also excellent for writing short pen reviews!

9. Quo Vadis Habana Notebook (black cover, unlined, pocket size)

I recently retired my beloved Habana, which was my previous daily journal.  I loved its small size and smooth ivory pages.  My larger Rhodia Webbie has since taken over as my main journal, but I still have a lined, red-covered Habana for miscellaneous notes and pen tests.

10. Moleskine Volant Notebook

This one is a bit of a surprise.  Although it initially lost out to the Rhodia Classic Staplebound notebook in their epic battle, the Moleskine Volant has since redeemed itself.  Say what you will about the paper quality, what this notebook has going for it is the ability to close completely flat once opened, which for a soft-covered notebook of this size is quite a feat.  I also appreciate its matte black cover.  The ruling on the pages is too wide for me, and I don't like that the pages can be removed (which just feels wrong in a bound notebook), but otherwise this makes a great pocket notebook.


So, what were your favourite products in 2011?


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Checking In: Sketchbooks, Gluebooks, Art Journals

I've been keeping this book lately.  Cutting out bits of paper, pictures from magazines, old drawings and mandalas, out-of-focus photos from ages ago, squares of scrapbooking paper and wrapping paper, gluing them on the pages of this huge (11 by 14 inches) sketchbook I have.  I have no real purpose, I'm just gluing down things that appeal to me at the moment - colours, images, patterns.  No real themes.  Jot down a few words on the page, random thoughts that happen to be floating through my mind, comments on the images.  The words might not be added until weeks after the papers were glued down.  No plan at all.

I'm not sure what to call this book.  Art journal doesn't seem quite right.  Scrapbook would probably be more accurate, but probably means certain things to certain people that it doesn't mean to me.  I'm rather liking the term gluebook, which I encountered on a blog somewhere or other in the last few years.  That's all this book really is, after all, a place for gluing bits of paper onto pages.

I haven't been keeping a regular art journal for months, not since I finished my last one sometime in the spring (and which I still haven't got around to blogging about!).  I haven't been doing much art at all lately, other than gluing pieces of paper together in my gluebook, which I'm not sure really counts.  (Okay, I'm sure that a bunch of you are going to leave comments that it does count!)  I finally managed to draw a couple mandalas in my sketchbook (the one I actually do sketches and drawings in) this month.  Here is one of them: the title of it is Unravelling, which rather describes how my life has been feeling lately.

My, it has been a while since I last stopped in here, hasn't it?  Ah, the joys of my last semester at university!  At this point, I have less than an hour left of classes this week, and in a little over two weeks I'll be done exams and heading home!  I should have more time to blog then.  And to make art.  And to write (since apparently I'm writing a novel).  And to take photos.  And to go for walks.  And do any number of other things that I've been wanting to do this semester but haven't had time for.  And I should actually go about looking for a job as well....

I know I mentioned in my last post about changing my focus here at A Penchant for Paper, but I'm still not sure where I'm going with that.  Don't expect any immediate changes.  I'm good at making promises in blog posts and then not following through with them.  My "new focus" isn't a promise.  It's more of a possibility.  A suggestion to myself.  It will probably end up being one of those things that just changes so gradually that it is almost imperceptible.  Who knows what might happen?

Just like my gluebook, there wasn't really any plan to this blog post.  I just wanted to check in, let you all know that I'm still here, and new posts are forthcoming... eventually.  And I couldn't let November go by without any posts, could I?  Many thanks to all the new followers who have joined lately!  And thanks as well to the old followers, commenters, readers, and lurkers.  I always appreciate your support!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A New Focus?

I have found lately that my focus here at A Penchant for Paper has been changing.  I am becoming less interested in writing endless reviews of pens, notebooks, and other stationery items, and more interested in exploring the process of writing.  Although I still enjoy trying out new stationery items and sharing my thoughts on them with you, I find myself reaching more often now for my old favourites - the Pentel Slicci, the Pentel EnerGel, and my Rhodia and Quo Vadis notebooks - rather than constantly using new items.  I have accepted that I am not The Pen Addict and I no longer feel compelled to try out every single new pen that I come across.  Furthermore, I will be completing my degree in December; as school is the place where I use the majority of my pens, I doubt that I will be using as many pens in 2012 as I have been in recent years.  The act of writing remains very important to me, and I think that in the coming months my focus here may shift from the tools that we use for writing to the act of creating, whether it be of writing or of visual art (mandalas, drawings, art journals, etc.).

Don't expect any immediate changes, however!  I still have a number of pens that are waiting to be reviewed, so you can expect those reviews showing up sometime in the next month (I hope).  I also want your input: What do you like best about A Penchant for Paper?  What kinds of posts would you like to see more of, either here or in the wider blogosphere?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sharpie Gel Highlighter

I know some people who will fill an entire page of notes with highlighting in different colours.  Flipping through the pages of their notebooks is like flipping through a rainbow, as colours flash before your eyes.

I'm a bit more staid myself.  I like using different colours of pens, but highlighters?  Not so much.  In fact, I've never even reviewed a highlighter on this blog before.  That, however, is about to change.

Enter the Sharpie Gel Highlighter.

The Sharpie Gel Highlighter in all its glory.
One reason why I don't usually use highlighters is because I print out the majority of my notes for school on my inkjet printer.  And basically all traditional highlighters that I have used smear the ink of inkjet printers, even long after it has dried.  About a year ago, I heard about gel highlighters, which do not use ink, but rather a dry, "gel stick" that has a consistency similar to that of a wax crayon.  Supposedly, these types of highlighters did not smear any kind of ink at all.  Excited, I was eager to try one out.  Sadly, however, I couldn't find any gel highlighters in any of my local stores.

Not to worry, though, for this story has a happy ending.  I went back to Staples this year and discovered, to my delight, the Sharpie Gel Highlighter.

Please do not actually try to use the highlighter with the gel stick out this far.  It would probably end badly.
For the uninitiated, the "gel" of the Sharpie Gel is indeed similar to a wax crayon.  The material is probably completely different than that of a wax crayon, but it feels very similar when you drag it across the page.  As it wears down, the gel stick can be advanced by turning the dial at the bottom of the pen.  The pen body is chunky but serviceable, and oblong in profile rather than circular.  Most importantly, this dry gel stick does not smear any inks (unless, of course, you use it on ink that hasn't dried yet, but that would be rather foolhardy, wouldn't it?).

If you look very closely, you may see a tiny bit of smearing of the Papermate Gel, but that was because I was being impatient and the ink wasn't quite dry yet.  I warned you.
It does not even smear the ink of my inkjet printer.

No smearing, right?
However, just like anything else in this world, the Sharpie Gel Highlighter is not perfect.  In fact, it has a number of small quirks that could turn your love for it into something else entirely.  First of all, the Sharpie Gel is not for those of you who like your highlighter lines to be neat and precise (see above photo).  Because of the way the gel stick wears down as you use it, the lines of this highlighter tend to be erratic and unpredictable, ranging from wide to relatively narrow.  But I'm happy with that.  I like the surprise of never knowing exactly what's going to happen every time I put the Sharpie Gel to paper.  It makes me feel like I'm living on the edge (and yes, my life really is that uneventful).

I have also read many complaints about the crumbs that the gel stick leaves behind on your paper.  I have experienced this as well, as little bits of the gel stick cluster at the edges and ends of the lines on the page and stick to other papers, leaving me with unexpected spots of fluorescent orange appearing even on pages I haven't highlighted.  This is an issue, I admit it, but it doesn't occur frequently enough to make me turn away from my Sharpie Gel Highlighter for good.

If I had a macro lens for my camera, I could give you a really good look at these crumbs.  Unfortunately, I do not have a macro lens.
So in the end, the moral of this story is that, sadly, even Sharpie Gel Highlighters can't be perfect.

But they can be fun to use, and this one certainly is.  It is pleasantly different from every other highlighter I have ever owned, and takes me back to the hours I spent when younger colouring with crayons.  It doesn't smear any inks and will be sure to add some liveliness and colour to your writing.

If you're looking for a non-smearing highlighter, think you can live with the imperfections, and are willing to try out something a little bit different, then I would definitely recommend the Sharpie Gel Highlighter.  Just let your ink dry completely before using it, and life will be good.

Related reviews: OfficeSupplyGeek, Office Supplies Junkie, Serendipity Mommy, The Klauer Review, Rhonda Eudaly, Pens 'n' Paper.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pentel School Essentials Pack

I recently received this Pentel School Essentials Pack from a giveaway at Tiger Pens Blog.  The pack contains the basic writing supplies that a student would need for heading back to school, although it would probably be best suited to students at the high school or university level.  As I also recently headed back (reluctantly) to university for my final semester, this was a timely and cheering gift to receive.

The Pentel School Essentials Pack contains (left to right in the photo below):
The clear plastic case that everything comes in is also intended to be used as a pencil case.  It might not hold up that well to a lot of abuse, and I think that most students would probably want to transfer the contents over into their regular pencil case.

As you can see, this pack does contain all the basics, and there aren't really any major items that seem to be missing. A set of extra pencil leads would have been a nice touch, as well as a red pen for correcting and editing, but I really have no complaints with the contents.

I'll probably be reviewing some of these items individually in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

And if you're interested, the Pentel School Essentials Pack is still available for sale from Tiger Pens.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Zebra Surari 0.7mm Violet

The Zebra Surari is another super-smooth ballpoint similar to the Uni-ball Jetstream and the Pentel Vicuna.  Unlike the Vicuna, the Surari does not suffer from the ink globbing syndrome, which definitely puts it ahead of the Vicuna and in serious competition with the more well-known Jetstream.

The Zebra Surari writes very smoothly for a ballpoint, approaching the smoothness of a gel pen.  Given that Zebra also produces the pen I consider to be one of the smoothest gel pens around, the 0.7mm Zebra Sarasa, this is perhaps not that surprising.  The Surari is also a 0.7mm, which I think is what I prefer for a ballpoint.  Ballpoint ink doesn't spread out as much, so a 0.7mm ballpoint is probably comparable to a 0.5mm gel pen.  And ballpoints less than 0.7mm, even ones as smooth as the Surari, can easily become scratchy and annoying.

The violet ink of my Surari is a bit pale for me, and it showed up even paler in the photo of the writing sample.  My camera doesn't do well with violets, so imagine the colours of both the ink and of the pen itself being richer, warmer shades (more violet than purple).  The violet ink was also not ideal for use with the violet lines of the Rhodia pad.  The pale ink really inhibits my enjoyment of this pen, so I definitely want to check out some of the darker colours in the future so that I can appreciate the full Surari experience!

Moving on to the body of the pen, the Zebra Surari is a rather typical retractable ballpoint.  Plunger, clip, and retracting mechanism are all completely typical.  Branding is minimal, limited to some unobtrusive gold paint on the clip that looks as though it will wear off easily over time.  The best feature is the grip, with is firm, long enough to cover all parts of my hand that touch the pen, and slightly tapered towards the end.  It is one of the better grips that I have seen in pens of this type.  Ink colour is indicated by the grip and by the plunger.  Again, colours in the photo appear more blue than they do in real life.

Overall, the Zebra Surari is an excellent choice for a ballpoint pen.  For most everyday writing, I'm still more likely to choose a gel pen, liquid ink pen, or even fountain pen over a ballpoint, but if you're a ballpoint person, then you should check out the Zebra Surari.

Related reviews: Gourmet Pens, The Pen Addict, OfficeSupplyGeek, Pen and Design, Notebook Loves Pen.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

September Carnival of Pen, Pencil, and Paper

Here it is!  Welcome to the September Carnival of Pen, Pencil, and Paper, and the first ever carnival at A Penchant for Paper!  Are you excited?  Then let's get into this month's selection of great posts on pens, pencils, paper, and more!

Editor's Picks
Julie (O-kami) mixes up some green inks in her review of Platinum Mix Free Ink at Whatever.
TonyB takes a look a great new pen that may give the Pilot G-2 some serious competition in Pen Review: Pentel EnerGel-X at Tiger Pens Blog.
Brian reviews yet another excellent notebook from Rhodia - the Rhodia Unlimited Notebook with Soft Touch Cover - at OfficeSupplyGeek.

Economy Pens presents a mixed review of the Uni Pin 01 - .24mm Black at Economy Pens.
lady dandelion checks out a new pen in lalex 1938 forme - a quick peek at a shiny, pearly bargain at lady dandelion.
Peaceable Writer presents a very informative post in A Bit About Platinum and Nakaya at Peaceable Writer.

Economy Pens takes a look at some Daycraft Notebooks at Economy Pens.
We have two reviews of BookJournals - handmade journals made from old books that are both unique and reasonably priced.  Julie (O-kami) presents BookJournals at Whatever, while JoniB presents BookJournals by Ex Libris Anonymous: A Review at Daydreamers Welcome.
Millie presents Product review: Monsieur notebook - a review of an attractive leather notebook with a whimsical touch - at Planet Millie.

Art Supplies
Alberto shares one of his latest sketching pencils which was manufactured half a century ago in Blast from the past: EagleTurquoise 3375 Drawing Lead Holder posted at Lung Sketching Scrolls.

Need to sharpen your pencil?  Check out the Kum Scribble and Kum Tip Top Pencil Sharpeners reviewed at Economy Pens.
If you're planning for 2012 already, check out Cheryl's look at Dual-Purpose Planners With Room For Notes at Writer's Bloc Blog.
If you're looking for a more unusual journal, you may want to try a bulking dummy (a mockup that gets made before a book is printed).  Sandra Strait won one and she discusses using it as a journal in Bulking Dummy Journal Page 1 & 2 at lifeimitatesdoodles.
Even if you don't think it's for you, you may want to give art journaling a try anyway.  Sophie_vf did, in Doing what I don't usually do, and kind of liking it at For love and idleness.

That's it!  Thanks for visiting the carnival, and stay tuned for the October edition coming up next month!

If you want more information about the carnival or if you're interested in becoming a future host, visit the carnival's page at Notebook Stories or the carnival home page.  Go here to submit a post to a future edition of the carnival.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Notebook Pockets - Do You Use Them?

It seems like every other notebook I own these days has one of those oh-so-handy pockets on the inside back cover.  At least, I assume they're handy, since I have never found much use for them.  In fact, on a few occasions I have even "lost" papers that I had thoughtfully put away in the pocket of a notebook for (supposedly) safe-keeping, only to forget where they were.  Still, notebook pockets do seem like such a useful thing; I would certainly like to use mine, yet I have no idea what for.

Do you use pockets in notebooks?  What do you put in your notebook pockets?  Or do you find notebook pockets simply to be useless additions to otherwise excellent notebooks?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Banditapple Carnet Notebook

The Banditapple Carnet is a simple notebook with a classy, understated appearance.  The notebooks come in 3 sizes: Peewee (9x14cm), Handy (11x21cm), and Tablet (13x21cm).  They are available in either plain or ruled, and in either black or red covers.  Mine is the ruled Peewee with a black cover, and I received it in a giveaway from Julie (O-kami) at Whatever (thanks, Julie!).  I urge you to check out her review if you want more information about these excellent notebooks.

Banditapple Carnet posing with Papermate Gel.
The Banditapple Carnet has a non-glossy cover made of sturdy cardstock with absolutely no markings on it anywhere, good if you prefer your notebooks to have more of a minimalist appearance.  Keep in mind, however, that the cover is not weather-resistant and would probably not stand up well to a great deal of wear and tear - despite its portable size, this might be a notebook that is better left at home or kept protected.  The corners are rounded for comfort when holding in your hand.

One thing that I really love about this notebook is that it is stitched rather than stapled, and the stitches are clearly visible on both the spine and in the centre of the pages.  I always appreciate being able to see the binding of a book in this way.  The pages lay flat when open, but due to the nature of the binding, this book will probably always need to be held open by hand, and will never lay completely flat when closed either.

Check out that stitching.
My Peewee Carnet contains 64 pages of 80g paper that is slightly off-white (my photos make the paper look more ivory than it really is).  The black lines are 6mm apart, with a 14mm margin at the top and a 9mm margin at the bottom.  The ruling is a bit wide for my handwriting, and I would have preferred a slightly more unobtrusive colour than black for the lines, but overall the ruling is fairly typical for this sort of notebook.  If you have larger handwriting, then you shouldn't have a problem with it.

Blank pages - ready to be written on.
The paper is slightly rough to the touch, and is great to write on.  Wetter, wider-nibbed pens may be a better choice for this paper; my fine-point gel pens felt rather scratchy while writing on it.  Drying times are fast, and no pen I tested showed any bleedthrough on this paper.  There was some slight showthrough, but it was scarcely noticeable.  Even the Sharpie marker didn't bleed through that badly.

Writing sample.  For some reason the front and back of the page appear to be slightly different colours in the photo.  This is not actually the case.
Overall, the Banditapple Carnet notebook is a great basic notebook.  If you're looking for a notebook with a simple appearance and nothing too fancy, and that also works well for all of your pens, then the Banditapple Carnet may be the answer.

Related reviews: Gourmet Pens, Notebook Stories, Whatever, Rants of the Archer, The Original Steven H, Bleistift.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Stamps & Ephemera from Letters & Journals

I'd like to share this lovely gift that I recently received in a newsletter-only giveaway from Jackie at Letters & Journals.  Not only does Jackie hold a monthly giveaway of stationery items on her blog (the August giveaway is on now, so head on over and put your name in!), but she also sends out a monthly newsletter in which she offers additional giveaways for newsletter subscribers.  Her blog and newsletter contain excellent posts and articles on stationery, journaling, mail art, and more, so they're well worth subscribing to even without the giveaways!

The item I received is a collection of used stamps and other assorted ephemera, from an old library card to old post cards, business cards, scraps from magazines, and theatre tickets.  The stamps are, I think, my favourite.  My parents used to collect stamps and still have a box full of stamps hidden away in their basement somewhere.  I think that I may have caught a bit of the stamp-collecting bug, since I love looking at stamps and I was thrilled to get these.  The used stamps are more interesting to me, since then I can wonder about the envelope that they were originally on, and what that envelope contained, and how many people have handled them before they came to me.  I'm sure these stamps could tell many tales of their journeys.

I also appreciate the plastic pouch from that the ephemera and stamps came in.  I've been looking for something like this to hold small paper items for collage, so I'm sure I'll be able to use it again.  Thanks very much, Jackie, if you're reading this!

Do you collect old stamps or other ephemera?  If so, what do you with them?  Do you put them in albums and store them away, or do you use them in art?  I'll probably eventually end up using much of this ephemera in collage of some form, but I haven't been keeping an art journal lately, so I'm not yet sure what exactly I'll do with it.  I'd love to hear any of your ideas!  What would you do with this collection of stamps and ephemera?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

More Lost and Found Pencils and Pens

Long-time readers may recall that last summer I wrote about the pencils and pencil stubs that I had found in the yards of three nearby schools.  Well, I've been picking up pencils again this year and once more I have ended up with a rather nice stash of worn down stubs and pencil fragments.  My stash this year is larger than last year's: 39 pencils and pencil fragments as compared to only 20 that I picked up last year.  The larger numbers this year are probably due to the find of about a dozen coloured pencils, many marked with the name "Lexy."  Clearly, some student lost the contents of his or her pencil case.  This year's collection is also augmented by two pens and a marker that I found.

Once again, I find myself pondering why pencil stubs are so much easier to find on the grounds of the middle school rather than those of the high school or elementary school.  Is this age group particularly careless of their writing instruments?  Most of the pencils that I can identify seem to be inexpensive varieties from Dixon and Staples, although I also found one from Faber-Castell and a couple (broken into pieces) of Staedtler Noricas.  The coloured pencils include Crayolas and one Laurentien.  And one of the pens is, of course, a Bic ballpoint.

Do you pick up pencils and pens that you find on the ground?  If so, where are the best places for looking?  Have you noticed any trends in the kinds of pens and pencils that you find?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pilot Petit1 Mini Fountain Pen

The Pilot Petit1 has the honour of being only the second fountain pen ever reviewed at A Penchant for Paper.  (The first was the Platinum Preppy.)  I must admit that I am still somewhat intimidated by fountain pens.  Luckily, the Petit1 is about as unintimidating as a pen can get.

Capped (top) and posted (bottom).
The bullet-shaped body measures just over 10cm when capped, coming perilously close to being called a "cute" pen. I initially worried that a pen this small would be uncomfortable to write with, but it expands to nearly 13cm when the cap is posted and is actually not that bad, although I wouldn't want to use it for long periods of time and I wouldn't recommend it for those with large hands. One thing that I really appreciate about the design of this pen is that the barcode is printed on a sticker that easily peels off.  It always annoys me when an otherwise nice pen is marred by an ugly barcode printed directly on the barrel.

The nib of the Pilot Petit1 is marked with an "F", which presumably stands for "fine", although after writing with this pen I am beginning to suspect that it actually stands for something like "fat" or "full."  The nib is certainly not as fine as that of the Platinum Preppy, an otherwise similar sort of cheap, "disposable" fountain pen.  The Petit1 is also a much wetter pen than the Preppy, and tends to feather on most papers, even slightly on the paper of my Rhodia No. 11 Pad.
The business end.
One thing that I love about this pen is the dark green colour of the ink.  It is a much more distinguished and elegant colour than the brighter greens that are more commonly seen among pens.  The ink also shows some shading, which I always love in a pen.

Green ink!  I love it!
I think that some people have modified this pen as well as the Preppy to be used with bottled fountain pen ink so they don't have to rely on cartridges.  However, as this is approaching the intimidating side of fountain pens, I won't be getting into that here any time soon.

The Petit1 (top) looks like the little brother of the Platinum Preppy (bottom).
Overally, the Pilot Petit1 is a decent, inexpensive fountain pen.  If you're a bit nervous about fountain pens as I am, then the Petit1 is not a bad introduction, although if you prefer finer-nibbed pens you're probably better off with the Platinum Preppy.

Related reviews: The Pen Addict (1), The Pen Addict (2), Pen and Design (1), Pen and Design (2), Tyler Dahl Fountain Pens, No Pen Intended, East West Everywhere, Good Pens, From the Pen Cup, Potentially Percipicacious, UnpostedCrónicas Estilográficas, OfficeSupplyGeek.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rhodia Webnotebook Dot Grid

I was pleasantly surprised the other day when I opened my mailbox to discover this dot grid version of the Rhodia Webnotebook waiting for me, a sample from Karen at Exaclair.  Because I have already reviewed the orange-covered, unlined version of the Webnotebook, this will not be a complete review, but will instead focus on the unique features of the black-covered, dot grid version.  If you want more information about the notebook in general, check out the original review.

Black notebook in orange packaging.
As I mentioned, my new Webbie is black rather than orange, meaning that not only the cover but also the endpapers, back pocket, and ribbon bookmark are black.  I'm not used to seeing very dark endpapers in books so the black endpapers did come as a bit of a surprise, but overall this is a great-looking notebook with a somewhat understated appearance - not nearly as bold as the orange version.

Checking out the pocket.
However, the most exciting part of this notebook is the dot grid format of the paper.  I have never before used any paper in a dot grid format, so I was really looking forward to trying this out.  The dots are grey (therefore unobtrusive on the off-white paper) and 5mm apart - possibly a bit narrow for some but ideal for my small handwriting.  The dots run all the way to the top, bottom, and sides of the pages, with the pages being otherwise unmarked.

Unlined (top) compared to dot grid (bottom).
Just as with the unlined version, this dot grid version offers 90g Clairefontaine vellum paper.  Keep in mind that, as I described in my review of the Rhodia No. 11 Pad, the very smooth nature of this paper may lead to slow drying times for some pens and inks.

I tested a number of pens on this paper and, unsurprisingly, they all performed very well.  Only the Sharpie marker bled through the paper (is there anything Sharpie markers don't bleed through?).  The pens with darker ink and wider nibs showed some shadow on the other side of the page, while the Uni-ball Vision rollerball and Pilot Petit1 fountain pen (both very wet pens) showed minor amounts of feathering

The pen test.
The back side of the pen test.  Curiously, the paper appears a different colour in this photo.  It is in fact the same colour on both sides of the page.
I really love the dot grid format of this notebook.  The dots offer the look of a plain, unlined page, while also allowing you to keep your words lined up as if you are writing on lined or graph paper.  I usually prefer to write on unlined paper because I don't like the look of the lines, but sometimes find my writing meandering over the page, so this dot grid format really seems to offer the best of both worlds.

Although I probably prefer the orange cover over the black, the Rhodia Webnotebook is an excellent choice in any format.  I highly recommend it.

Related reviews: Stationery Review, Note Booker Esq., Whatever.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book Review: 1,000 Artist Journal Pages

1,000 Artist Journal Pages: Personal Pages and Inspirations by Dawn DeVries Sokol is a unique and valuable book on art journaling.  The book contains hardly any text, apart from a few introductory pages where contributors provide journaling prompts and their motivation behind journaling.  The bulk of the book is taken up by images of 1,000 pages that artists from around the world (but mostly from the United States) have created in their journals.

Probably more of the pages represent the complex, multi-layered, painting + collage style that seems to be most popular among art journalers today, but a great variety of styles are presented, from abstract pen-and-ink drawings to watercolour nature sketches to boldly coloured paintings.  Most artists are represented by more than one page, allowing the reader to get a feel for each artist's individual style.  These are indeed "personal" pages: in their journal entries, the artists complain and worry and question the directions of their lives, cross things out, scribble over their work, and make "bad" drawings.  These pages are not "pretty," finished works of art, but raw glimpses into the personal creative process.

I do not recommend 1,000 Artist Journal Pages for those who have never kept an art journal before.  The extreme variety of journal pages and styles presented could prove very intimidating to complete beginners.  Instead, I would recommend The Decorated Journal by Gwen Diehn, which describes basic supplies and techniques for art journaling and is, I think, more approachable for beginners.  Diehn's earlier book, The Decorated Page, is also good, although not quite as detailed.

However, for those who have done some art journaling already, whether you've just completed your first journal or have been doing it for years, then 1,000 Artist Journal Pages is a great resource.  After flipping through the book a few times, I feel full of new ideas and ready to start creating some new pages in my journal.

Because so many different styles are presented in the book, it can help you to discover things about your own personal style.  For example, most of the pages that I have created in the past have been fairly busy, stuffed full of colours and images.  However, the pages I am most drawn to in 1,000 Artist Journal Pages are the spare, minimalist pages, with lots of white space and perhaps only one main image as a focal point.  I also noticed that while it is the colours and images that attract me to a page, it is the words that really draw me into the page and keep me looking at it longer.  My favourite pages had a nice balance of words and images, something that my own pages have often lacked, being either word-heavy or image-heavy.

Overall, 1,000 Artist Journal Pages is a great resource for art journalers, experienced or not, looking for further inspiration in their practice, although I do not recommend it for complete beginners who have never journaled before.  It is the kind of book that you could look at again and again and always receive more inspiration from.

4.5/5 stars

Friday, July 8, 2011

Journal Writing - Daily or Weekly?

I began my current journal on January 1, 2010 - I liked the idea of beginning a new journal at the beginning of a new year. I began by writing in my journal daily and, for quite a while, this worked.  I looked forward to opening up my journal late in the evening or early in the morning to jot down a few of my thoughts.  Because I typically write no more than a paragraph for each day, and because I have very small handwriting, I am still using the same notebook (a small unlined Quo Vadis Habana) over a year and a half later.

However, lately my journaling habits have changed.  Instead of eagerly writing every day, I find myself letting my journal sit untouched for days at a time and sometimes even forgetting to write altogether.  When I do return to my journal after a week or so, I feel guilty for not writing in it as regularly as I used to.  My feelings of guilt then make it difficult for me to write freely.  And because it has become so ingrained in me that this journal is a daily journal - and nothing else - I still end up writing an entry for every day, even though I'm only writing in it about once a week.

I can't switch from a daily to a weekly format until I move to a new notebook, and I can't move to a new notebook until this notebook is completely filled.  When this notebook is finished (which will be fairly soon), I will not keep a daily journal anymore.  As much as I love the idea of writing in my journal every day, it is just not working for me.  It would be better for me to write less often, but to look forward to writing without any feelings of guilt.

Do you keep a journal, or have you kept one in the past?  Do you write in your journal daily, weekly, or just whenever you feel like it?  Do you feel guilty if days or weeks go by without writing in your journal, or do you just shrug and let it go?  If you do write daily, what do you do to motivate yourself to write every day?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pentel EnerGel RT 0.7mm Red

I have reviewed a Pentel EnerGel before - the 0.5 mm, non-retractable, needlepoint version.  This version is a 0.7 mm, retractable, conical-tip rollerball.  Although similar to the 0.5 mm EnerGel, the 0.7 mm has its unique qualities as well.

To begin with, the Pentel EnerGel RT 0.7 mm writes very smoothly - I mean, seriously, this thing is smooth.  While many pens are described as "gliding across the page," the 0.7 mm EnerGel actually does.  And if you usually hold your pens with a death grip (as I do), then this pen might encourage you to lighten up.

The ink quality of the 0.7 mm EnerGel is very similar to that of the 0.5 mm, although the 0.7 mm version is a bit more prone to bleeding through thin, poorer-quality papers, probably because it lays down more ink than the 0.5 mm.  On Rhodia paper, there is some slight showthrough (and perhaps the tiniest bit of bleedthrough where I held the pen down at the beginning of a letter), and feathering is minimal on all papers.  The red ink is a very brilliant, deep colour - this is a seriously red ink, without a hint of orange or blue.

Unlike the 0.5 mm EnerGel I reviewed, this version is retractable.  The plunger seems to require a bit more force to push down than that of other retractable pens I have used, and the retracting mechanism makes a slight scratchy sound, but otherwise works fine.  This RT version also has a wider barrel than that of the non-retractable version, making it better for those who prefer fat pens.  The grooved rubber grip is identical to that of the non-retractable version, and is reasonably comfortable, but nothing special.  The metal clip is a different shape on the RT, and is sturdy but not flexible.

Pentel EnerGel RT 0.7 mm (top) compared with Pentel EnerGel 0.5 mm (bottom).

The Pentel EnerGel RT has a silver body with a coloured grip and accents, giving it a sleek, stream-lined appearance.  I have always found the appearance of the EnerGel pens rather attractive, and this 0.7 mm RT version is no exception.

While I enjoyed writing with this pen, the 0.5 mm needlepoint remains my favourite version of the EnerGel (and one of my favourite supplies of 2010); 0.5 mm is more suited to my handwriting, and I always love needlepoint tips.  However, if you have larger handwriting, or just want a smooth-writing retractable pen, then you should check out the Pentel EnerGel RT 0.7 mm.

Related review: No Pen Intended.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Rhodia No. 11 Pad

The Rhodia No. 11 Pad is one of those items that has become so ubiquitous in my desk drawers, it is astonishing that I have not reviewed it before.  This is even more astonishing when you consider that this same paper pad has made an appearance in most of my pen reviews.  (The Rhodia pad first appeared in my review of the Uni-ball Fusion, a pen that ultimately proved disappointing; luckily, the pad did not disappoint.)

Rhodia No. 11 Pad posing with a Stabilo Bionic pen.
Let me first draw your attention to the size of the Rhodia No. 11 Pad.  At 7.4 x 10.5 cm, this small paper pad will fit with ease and comfort into nearly any pocket.  As for the cover, it is made of a durable coated material, attached with a single staple to the pages.  A stiff cardboard backing provides a firm surface to write on, and the front cover is cleverly scored to allow it to fold over the back of the pad:

The clever cover scoring in action.
These Rhodia pads are available in both orange and the more staid black.  Both covers wear the Rhodia logo prominently (and proudly) on the front cover.  The back cover contains information about the pad:

The back cover.  Ignore the gluey remnants of a price tag that I was unable to remove cleanly.
Opening up the Rhodia No. 11 Pad reveals the 80 sheets of 80 g gridded "high grade vellum paper."  (I'm not exactly sure what "high grade vellum paper" actually is, but it sounds impressive, right?)  The paper is very smooth and very white (wet pens dry slowly on this paper, a hazard that left-handed writers especially should beware of).  The grid is printed in violet lines, a nice contrast to the orange cover, although some purple, violet, or blue pens may not show up that well.  The squares are 5 mm, ideal for those with small handwriting.  The pages are perforated at the top of the pad, and tear off very cleanly.

Curiously, this photo makes the lines appear pale blue.  In fact, they are darker and violet.
All pens that I have tried perform very well on this paper (click through some of my past pen reviews to see even more writing samples).  Feathering and bleedthrough are minimal to nonexistent with most pens.  As seen in the writing sample below, the only pen that really showed any significant bleedthrough was, unsurprisingly, the Sharpie marker.  The Uni-ball Vision and Pilot V5 Hi-tecpoint showed slight bleedthrough; since you probably wouldn't be using the back of the paper anyway, none of this really matters.  The Uni-ball Vision showed some very slight feathering, but it was barely noticeable.  The only real issue that some might have with the paper is, as I mentioned earlier, drying time, especially with wet pens, although it hasn't bothered me at all.

The writing sample, front (left) and back (right).  Click to see larger.
The Rhodia No. 11 Pad is one of my favourite writing supplies (it even showed up on my list of top ten supplies for 2010).  It is, however, not perfect.  Rounded corners, for example, would give the pad a classier appearance, reduce wear on the corners, and improve comfort if you're keeping it in your pocket.  The violet grid could be a bit fainter, to conflict less with your writing (especially if you use fine-point pens with violet ink), although if the grid really bothers you, you might be better off checking out a pad with a dot grid.

The most annoying thing that I have found is that the cover, once folded back, never returns again to a perfectly flat position:

To solve this, I use a wide elastic band to hold the cover down and prevent the pages from flapping about:

This looks kind of ugly so I wonder if some sort of closure could be invented that would keep the cover closed?  But then again, any addition would likely detract from the classic simplicity that is embodied in the Rhodia No. 11 Pad, so perhaps it is better left just as it is....

Finally, happy Canada Day to all of my fellow Canadians!

Related reviews: Gourmet Pens, Pens 'n' Paper.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Problematic Pen: Stabilo Colorgel 0.4mm

I would like to show you a writing sample of the Stabilo Colorgel.  Unfortunately, I am unable to do so.  The problem?  The pen doesn't work.

Let's start at the beginning.  I bought this pen a couple months ago, at the university bookstore.  I tried it out in the store; the line seemed a bit fatter than 0.4mm, but it wrote fairly smoothly and the ink was a nice dark green colour.  I brought it home, and wrote with it off and on over the next couple of weeks or so.  A couple problems soon appeared.  The first was that the Stabilo Colorgel was not consistent in its writing ability - sometimes it wrote smoothly, sometimes the ink flow became much slower and the pen felt much scratchier.  The other problem was that the cap gradually became looser and looser until eventually it didn't fit at all and fell off if I turned the pen upside down.  The cap still posted on the back of the pen, not that it did me much good.

The semester ended, and I headed back home for the summer.  The pen sat unused for a couple of weeks.  When I pulled it out again, intending to review it, it didn't work.  I suspect that the loose-fitting cap may have contributed to the problem by allowing the pen to dry out, but given the pen's earlier inconsistency, it may not have.

Apart from these issues, the Stabilo Colorgel is not that bad of a pen.  A bit longer than usual, the barrel has a rather appealing swirl design.  The grip is, however, useless to me, as no part of my hand actually touches the grip when I am holding the pen (but maybe I just hold my pens in a weird way).  At this point, though, I really don't care about any of this since I can't even write with the thing.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I can get this pen to write again?  It is a gel pen, there's plenty of ink left in the barrel, and I can usually get a small amount of ink to come out of the pen when I first touch it to the page, although this quickly dries up as I continue to try to write with it.  Ideas, anyone?

Related review: The Pen Addict.
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