Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October Miscellany: Handwriting, Pencils, Erasers, and More

My monthly miscellany posts are collections of links and thoughts that don't get developed into full blog posts.  In this month's miscellany, we explore handwriting, pencils, erasers, and brush pens, and meet two individuals who own way more journals and pens than I do.  It's a relatively long miscellany this month, so let's get started!

  • An article from the JetPens blog on what your handwriting says about you.  When I did this analysis for myself, my handwriting actually didn't say much about me at all, as my handwriting has hardly any of the characteristics described in the article - but maybe your handwriting will be more revealing.
  • Regardless of what your handwriting reveals about you, check out this great article on why handwriting matters.  It is a bit long, but well worth the read, and is apparently actually an extract from a new book - perhaps a book that I should be checking out.
  • To continue the theme, check out this article from Tiger Pens on 6 reasons why taking notes by hand still wins.
  • Some useful tips on differentiating between pencil graphite grades from the European Paper Company.  I always knew that B was soft and H was hard, but now I know that it's a bit more complex than that.  Good to know, especially since I'm starting to use wooden pencils more often.
  • For more on pencils, check out this fun pencil shaving artwork from Marta Alt├ęs (via The Well-Appointed Desk).  The drawings are simple but very expressive, and I love how the artist used the pencil shavings to create different shapes - I think I could almost do this kind of art.
  • A great article all about the Pink Pearl eraser (via Pencil Revolution).  I remember craving one of these erasers back in elementary school after reading about a character in one of Beverly Cleary's novels who owned one.  (I have always been a bibliophile, and I have always wanted to be like the characters in my favourite books.)  This article even quotes from the very same book that I remember, so check it out.
  • Pentel Brush Pen doodles from Gourmet Pens.  I just don't really get brush pens, and I've never been able to use them as well as this.  I think Azizah is a much better artist than she thinks she is!
  • I don't usually use prompts in my writing and art, but as I'm trying to write more fiction I think that I may start.  And these links to a plethora of writing prompts may come in helpful.
  • Awesome notebooks that look like the bark of trees: Woodpecker Notebooks from Writersblok.  I want one of these!
  • This amazes me: Michelle Reuss at Lost Coast Post currently has 28 journals and 17 sketchbooks in progress (not to mention the dozens of unused ones waiting in the wings).  I think that I have a lot of notebooks on the go when I'm using, say, a dozen at a time, but that is nothing to what Michelle has!  I honestly can't imagine using so many journals at once; I think I would be completely and utterly overwhelmed.  I admire anyone who can keep that many journals and sketchbooks at a time.
  • And Michelle may have a lot of notebooks in progress, but Azizah has a lot of pens and she recently did a penventory.  This also amazes me.  I'd be happy to have even a tenth of her collection.

That's all for this month, and I'll see you in November with a review of another notebook from Daycraft and a new series of posts on art journals!

Monday, October 29, 2012

My Sticker Collection

Ever since Azizah shared part of her sticker collection earlier this year, I've been wanting to do the same.  I've always collected stickers, although I only have a fraction of the numbers that I used to have.  When I was in elementary school, I had a sticker album full of stickers, and at least two other books filled as well.  I no longer have those albums, and I've used up most of the loose stickers that I used to have, but I still have a few stickers that I've acquired - and somehow more stickers keep appearing in my desk.

Here's my current collection.  (For some reason a lot of my stickers have flowers and butterflies on them and may look rather excessively girly.  I do love flowers and butterflies, but in much more of a naturalist/scientist sense (I studied biology and ecology in university), so please don't judge me wrongly for this!)

My sticker collection!  Click to see larger.
  1. Stickers that come in the mail from various charities when they are soliciting donations.  Most people probably just throw these away, but family members usually pass them on to me.
  2. Metallic star stickers.  I had a craving for these earlier this year and couldn't rest until I had finally located some.  Now, I can give myself a gold star (or a blue, red, silver, or green star) whenever I feel like it.
  3. JetPens sticker that was included when I bought my green Lamy Safari.  Kind of cute, but I'm not sure what I'll do with it.
  4. Completely random stickers that I picked up from the thrift store just the other day.  I haven't used any of these yet.
  5. Sticker booklet: Old-Time Mini Butterflies Stickers by Maggie Kate.  Did you ever collect these sticker booklets published by Dover?  I used to have quite a few of them, but this is the only one I have left.
  6. Sandylion Essentials stickers with a "fall leaves" theme.  These are three-dimensional paper stickers, and I've actually never yet taken them out of the package.  But I will one day, don't worry...
  7. Mrs. Grossman's stickers in "Bitsy Butterflies" and "Micro Butterflies".  I got these ones at the thrift store as well.
  8. Spring-themed stickers.  This is the last page of what was once an entire booklet of spring-themed stickers that I've had for literally FOREVER.  Some of them are a bit excessively cute, but I have to keep them for old time's sake.
  9. Butterfly stickers.  I told you that I had a lot of butterflies.  These ones come loose and are very sparkly but feature fairly realistic patterns and colours.
  10. Puffy smiley-face star stickers.
  11. Fabric flower stickers.  All of these last three were given to me by my mom.  When I was at university she would send me a card every week that would have some of these tucked into it.

That's all for my sticker collection!  Not too many, as you can see, but most of them are ones that I really like using.  I use them in cards, on journal pages, on the covers of notebooks, and wherever else I feel like it.

Do you collect stickers?  What do you use your stickers for?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pencil Review: Staedtler Mars Lumograph

The Staedtler Mars Lumograph is without a doubt the best of the pencils that I have reviewed so far.  Unlike my previously-reviewed pencils, which are marketed as basic writing pencils, often targeted towards students, the Mars Lumograph is described specifically as a "premium quality sketching/drawing pencil."  It comes in six degrees: 2B, 3B, 4B, 6B, 2H, and 4H.  I opted for the 2B, which is fairly middle-of-the-road, yet should be a bit darker and softer than my HB pencils.  Certainly this is the first of my wooden pencils that has lead that seems as dark as the Pentel Hi-Polymer lead I use in my mechanical pencils.

Why, oh why, are pencils so hard to take good photos of?
The Staedtler Mars Lumograph has a bright blue, hexagonal body, crisply printed in silver letters with the name of the pencil and where it was made (Germany).  Unlike the other wooden pencils I have reviewed, this one has no eraser, merely a black cap on which is printed the degree of the pencil.  I like this feature; erasers on pencils are generally useless for serious erasing jobs anyway, and this ensures that you will be able to quickly pick out the pencil you want if you have a number of these of different degrees stored together.  For some reason, I find myself gripping this pencil harder than I usually do with wooden pencils.  I'm guessing that this may be because the lead is a bit softer than what I am used to or because the Lumograph has a very smooth texture that can feel a bit slippery.  A fairly minor detail nevertheless...

Please ignore the random scribbles in the background.
The Mars Lumograph has a very smooth, dark lead that feels enjoyable to write with.  It erases very cleanly with my Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser (of course I had to use my Staedtler eraser with my Staedtler pencil!).  The package claims that "leads will not crumble or dust."  I did not notice any crumbling of the lead, even when the lead was freshly sharpened to a point, although this has never been an issue with any wooden pencil that I have used.  The package also claimed that the Lumograph writes with "smear-resistant lines,"  but a quick test comparing this pencil with the other wooden pencils that I own revealed that smearing is about equal for all of them.  Light pressure on the page shouldn't smear the lead too much, but smearing can occur with this pencil as well as with others.

Writing and erasing samples.

Because the Mars Lumograph is, after all, a sketching and drawing pencil, I thought I should use it to do a bit of actual sketching:

I'm so sorry that I had to inflict this upon you...
But now that I've done this I don't think this sketch really adds much to this review other than to show that my pencil sketching skills are sadly lacking - and that I really need to work on learning how to shade properly.  This is awful.  (But then again, this is the first thing I've drawn with a pencil since elementary school, so I suppose I shouldn't be too upset about it.)  Oh, and I can finally draw a lamp.

Moving on, the Staedtler Mars Lumograph is a great pencil for writing, with dark, smooth lead that erases well.  Unfortunately, I am not an experienced or skilled enough artist to really comment on how well it performs for sketching and drawing.  Regardless of that, I will still recommend this pencil if you want to start using wooden pencils - or if you're looking for a pencil that is a bit better than the average.

Related reviews: Pencil Talk, PenciLog, Dave's Mechanical Pencils (a review of two separate wooden pencils, including this one).

Friday, October 19, 2012

From the Gluebook Journal: Collage Tree

"Collage Tree."  Collage using scrap papers in spiral-bound sketchbook.

It has been ages since I last showed you a page from one of my art journals.  Part of the reason is that I simply haven't been working in either of my art journals - my sketchbook journal or my gluebook journal - very much lately.  In June and July I worked on ICAD and created an index card a day, in August and September I started practicing drawing more with Danny Gregory's EDM Challenge, and finally at the end of September and the beginning of October I went travelling and kept a travel journal.  But with all of that my regular art journals have been sadly neglected.  Also, I am planning to start a new art journal soon, which means that my old gluebook journal (which I have actually been working in off and on since 2010 - it began its life as my  scrapbook journal) has lost some of its interest.  My gluebook is a collage-only journal, and I must admit that I am beginning to get tired of limiting myself to collage and I am looking forward to bringing out my acrylic paints and other supplies again!

That said, this page is probably one of my art journal pages ever.  For some reason, I felt like creating a tree out of scraps of paper (and, oddly enough, I have a vague memory of doing something similar in elementary school many years ago).  I thought that the end result would either look awesome or totally dorky, and luckily this page turned out more awesome than dorky.  The leaves took me a while to cut out; I used every bit of green paper that I could find, and kept going until I had cut three leaves from every piece.  This page is way different from the other pages in this journal (most of which are rather square and boring), and I absolutely love it!  For a few weeks after I made this page I displayed it beside my bulletin board in the library so that I could admire it every day.  I hope you like it as well...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Daycraft Juicy Notebook

I'm not usually into excessively cute notebooks or pens, but for some reason I was won over by the (undeniably cute) Daycraft Juicy Notebook.  It is a lined A6 notebook that comes in five different "flavours": pineapple, orange, honeydew melon, watermelon, and strawberry.  I opted for the Strawberry, as strawberries fresh from the garden are one of my favourite foods.

Daycraft Juicy notebook, with packaging.
The Juicy notebook seems (to me) to be very similar to the small Quo Vadis Habana notebook.  Both are A6 size, with cream-coloured pages, and a smooth, flexible cover.  The Habana has nearly 100 more pages, however, at 224 pages as compared to the Juicy's 128 pages.  The cover of the Juicy notebook is "fine Italian PU", otherwise known as polyurethane, and it has a smooth, somewhat shiny surface that is textured with black spots that look like the seeds in a strawberry.  The cover is surprisingly flexible (considerably more so than the Habana), but sturdy and durable.

Left: Daycraft Juicy notebook (top) compared to Quo Vadis Habana.
Right: testing out the flexibility of the cover.
Opening up the Daycraft Juicy notebook reveals the boldly coloured endpapers, which feature a design that roughly resembles a strawberry cut in half lengthwise.  I love the look of patterned and/or coloured endpapers, so I appreciate this, and I also like how the design of the endpapers continues the overall theme of the notebook.

Check out those endpapers!
The notebook also contains a green felt bookmark that, when it is inserted into the book, resembles the leaves of a strawberry - both cute and functional.  Unlike a ribbon bookmark, you can remove this bookmark from the book, so you will need to be careful that you don't lose it.  The Juicy notebook does not have an elastic closure or a back pocket.  The lack of a pocket doesn't bother me, but an elastic closure would have been a nice touch.  It's not a major complaint of course, but I am so used to seeing them in these kinds of notebooks that this notebook looks a bit unfinished without one.

Cute little felt bookmark.
Inside the Juicy notebook, the cream-coloured pages offer 6.5mm ruling (a bit wider than the Habana's 5.5mm ruling and hence better if you have larger handwriting).  The corners of the pages are decorated with cute line drawings of various fruits - pineapples, oranges, strawberries, apples, watermelons, melons, cherries, and bananas.  Although these drawings might get in the way of your writing, they are printed in a light enough ink that you could write over top them if you needed to and still be able to read your writing.  Normally, I don't like it when notebooks contain designs right on the page I'm writing on, but in this case I do, because the drawings are cute but not tacky, directly related to the theme of the notebook, and relatively unobtrusive.

The ruling continues on over top of the drawings so it would be easy for you to write over them - unless you find them so cute that you don't want to cover them up!
I tried out a number of pens in this notebook and discovered that most of them performed quite well.  Only my wettest writing pens, the Uni-ball Vision rollerball pen and the Pilot Petit1 fountain pen, showed the slightest, barely noticeable feathering.  On the back side of the page there was some slight showthrough with most pens, although it was negligible in most cases and would certainly not prevent you from using the back of the page.  The only pen that actually bled through the paper was (of course) the Sharpie marker.  I would have no worries about using any of my pens in this notebook.  My new Lamy Safari with a fine nib performed beautifully in it.  The only pens that might have issues would be wet writing fountain pens or rollerballs with medium or broad nibs, so use caution with those.

Front and back of the writing sample.  And my fingers.
Overall, while the Daycraft Juicy notebook may be cute, it is fully capable of being used for some serious writing.  And if cute is not your thing, don't let that turn you away from checking out the rest of Daycraft's notebooks.  They produce notebooks in a diversity of styles, from cute to classy.  The Daycraft Juicy notebook in particular is a sweet little notebook that would be ideal for keeping in your desk or bag for short notes or journal entries, and it is also one that will lighten your day and maybe even bring a smile to your face when you look at it.  Because who can resist a notebook that looks like a fresh, juicy strawberry?

Related reviews: Gourmet Pens (watermelon), Rants of the Archer (watermelon), Notebook Stories (honeydew melon)

**Disclaimer: This Daycraft Juicy Notebook was generously sent to me for the purposes of review by the folks at Daycraft, but all of my opinions are my own!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pages from the Travel Journal

I returned from my trip to the West Coast last week, and have spent the following time slowly getting caught up with everything and settling back into my old routines.  Now, as promised, I am ready to share with you some pages from the travel journal that I kept during my week-long trip (actually, it was eight days).

Page spread from day 3.  A watercolour sketch of the beach and the ocean (my first time ever sketching in public!), supplemented by some writing and some small sketches of the shells that I collected on the beach.  (Please ignore the areas on the page where I blocked and blurred out private information!)

This was my first time ever keeping a travel journal, so I wasn't sure how it would work out, but I quickly found myself settling into a routine.  I used an entire page spread for each day of our trip (although even that often wasn't enough space), except for the first two days which were spent mostly travelling from point A to point B and were rather uninteresting and hence shared one page spread.  I started each day's entry by collaging some paper scraps to create a space on which I wrote the date and the day of our trip (day 1, day 2, etc.).  I then worked on the journal whenever I had a spare moment during the day (though I mostly worked on it during the evening).  I did not always work linearly.  Often I would flip back to add a sketch to an earlier day if it would fit (for example, some of the seashells that I drew on the page spread above were actually collected and drawn a couple days later).  Apart from keeping the journal, I also kept notes on a scrap piece of paper as to where we were each day.  This would help me to complete the journal when I was at home again.

I made sure to leave spaces on the pages for the photos that I planned to add in later.  After I returned home, I flipped through the journal and decided what photos needed to be where, and then I looked through the hundreds of photos that I took to find the ones that would be the best fit.  I printed the photos, trimmed them to fit in the spaces that I left, rounded the corners with my corner rounder (I love the look of round corners), and glued them in.  Using the notes I had kept, I also completed the written entries.  Finally, to finish off my travel journal, I made a title page, drew a map which showed the route we had travelled on, and created a page which showed our schedule on every day of our trip (once again my rough notes came in handy).  I'm not showing you these pages because they are a bit more personal.  I put some receipts as well as extra photos in the pocket at the back of the book.

Page spread from day 5.  This page spread is more typical of the pages in my journal, as it contains both small sketches and photos.

One of things that I liked best about working in this journal was that I didn't feel pressured to complete each day's entry on that day.  We were quite busy on our trip (which was not nearly as long as it should have been), and if I had tried to do that, the journal would probably have failed.  As it was, I kept good notes and took a lot of photos and I didn't actually finish the journal itself until a week after we had arrived back home.

There were a few things that I will do differently next time.  For example, I will use a sturdier paper for the cover.  The handmade paper I used for the cover of this book looked good but it wasn't really strong enough.  For my next journal, I will use a sturdier paper or maybe even make a hardcover book.  I will also bring fewer supplies.  I used my Pitt Artist Pens, waterbrush, and watercolour pencils almost exclusively, and I hardly touched my Gelly Rolls or Staedtler Triplus Fineliners at all on this trip.

My travel journal ended up being a personalized souvenir and record of our trip, something that I was able to share with the rest of my family (and they all loved it), and that I will be able to enjoy looking through for years to come.  This was my first travel journal, but I am really delighted with how it turned out and I will definitely be keeping similar journals on my future journeys.  And I also highly recommend that you try keeping a travel journal on your next trip!

Find out more: Binding the Travel Journal + Supplies for the Travel Journal

Friday, October 5, 2012

Pencil Review: Dixon Tri-conderoga

This Dixon Tri-conderoga is probably my favourite of my found pencils.  I found it below a bench in the school yard next door to my house, and I bet the student who owned it was sorry to lose this pencil!  Most of the pencils I find are fairly boring and run-of-the-mill, but this one is very eye-catching.  It is a large, chunky, triangular-shaped pencil with a smooth, matte black body.  The name of the pencil is printed boldly on the body in shiny red letters, the ferrule is striped in green and red, and it is all finished off with a matching black eraser.

Based on look and feel alone, this pencil is great.  It definitely stands out from the crowd, and it caught my eye because of its chunky size and bold red lettering.  The triangular shape takes a bit of getting used to: if you hold it the wrong way, the edges all dig into your fingers, but if you hold it right way, it's the perfect fit.  The slightly thicker size and smooth, soft surface are also a bit different from your typical pencil.  Although the Tri-conderoga has been marketed as the world's most comfortable pencil, I don't think it's quite that comfortable.  It is a different experience from writing with most pencils, though, so if you don't like the feel of other pencils you may want to give this one a try.

The appearance of this pencil gave me high expectations of how well it would write, but I was quickly disappointed.  The lead seemed faint (and it definitely was not any darker than the Dixon No.2/HB which I reviewed previously), making me feel that I needed to use more pressure to make a mark, and occasionally while writing I would encounter these strange scratchy parts of the lead.  It's hard to describe any better than that, and, while it didn't really seem to have much of an effect on writing quality, it did detract from my overall writing experience.

The eraser is okay for small erasing jobs, but it felt like I needed to make more passes over the page to actually erase something.  Of course, it's not a big issue, because I always do carry a separate eraser with me.  The ferrule is very colourful and generally rather neat-looking.  Both the eraser and ferrule felt very secure and not loose at all (loose erasers really annoy me - even if I don't use them).

Overall, the Dixon Tri-conderoga is not a bad pencil, but I was expecting something more from it.  I was captivated by its flashy exterior and good looks and was expecting it to write better than it did, and I was disappointed.  Maybe I'm being too harsh, or maybe my Tri-conderoga was just the bad one of the batch.  I still think this pencil looks really awesome, and I want to like it more than I did.  Give it a try.  Maybe you'll have a better experience with it than I did.

Related reviews: Pencil Revolution, Pencil Talk

Monday, October 1, 2012

Supplies for the Travel Journal

To go along with my handmade travel journal, I selected a travel supply kit to bring with me on my trip.  I didn't want to be hauling along a whole bunch of stuff, so I just selected my favourite supplies that I used the most.  Keep in mind, however, that we were driving, not flying, on our trip, so I didn't have to worry about bringing certain items on the plane, and we were travelling in our RV, so, while space was an issue, it was not as much of an issue as it would have been if I had needed to fit everything into a suitcase.

Here's my travel journal and my pencil case, out on the sidewalk and ready to go.  Except I think I should do up that zipper first.
I did, however, manage to fit everything (other than my journal itself) easily into one pencil case.  If I had made my journal a bit smaller, I could have probably fit it in as well - something to keep in mind for future trips...  The pencil case I used is just one big case that everything gets dumped into.  It's just about the most basic case that there is, and I've had it for years, but it holds a lot of stuff and, because it doesn't have any interior pockets or dividers, it makes it simple to see all of the contents at a glance.  It is a bit bulky, but it is good enough for this trip!

And here are the contents of my travel supply kit:

All lined up, with my travel journal in the background.
  • Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens in fine and super-fine - I have the medium and brush versions as well, but the fine and the super-fine are the ones I reach for most.  These are my favourite pens for drawing and sketching.
  • Watercolour pencils (not shown) + water brush - This is probably the most portable way of using watercolours.  The pencils can fit into any pencil case, and you can keep your water brush filled with water so that you can use it at any time without having to worry about carrying water separately.  I currently use Lyra Rembrandt Aquarell watercolour pencils and a Pentel Aquash water brush.
  • Uni-ball Signo Broad white gel pen - The best white pen ever.  I use it for writing on dark paper, doodling, and adding white highlights to watercolour sketches.
  • Sakura Gelly Rolls in black, yellow, and lime green - These are great dependable craft pens.  As with the Uni-ball Signo, I use them primarily for doodling and adding highlights of colour.  These are probably the three colours that I use the most.
  • Staedtler Triplus Fineliners (not shown) - Great for sketching and writing, and I also love the case that they come in.  Unlike the Pitt Artist Pens, these ones aren't waterproof, so I can't use my watercolours over them (unless, of course, I want that kind of effect).  I originally bought the set of ten, but have long since customized it by adding in my favourite non-standard colours.
  • Mechanical pencil + eraser + spare leads - Although I am starting to use wooden pencils more often, I decided to bring just one mechanical pencil with me on this trip.  Since I'm not too fussy about mechanical pencils, it's just my 0.5mm Pentel Fiesta, and I'm also including a Pentel Hi-Polymer eraser  and Pentel Hi-Polymer leads (not shown).
  • Small glue stick - UHU glue, my favourite, for collage.
  • Small pair of scissors - These originally came out of my dissection kit from university - but they were the only small scissors I had.
  • 15 cm ruler - Just in case I need a straight-edge or want to measure something.
  • Pencil sharpener.
  • Binder clips - For holding the pages of my journal together if I'm using it outside on a windy day.
  • Small envelope of collage items - I probably won't doing much collage in this journal and, if I do, the items I use for it will probably be ephemera that I collect on my trip.  But I did bring along some extra paper scraps - just in case.
Here's what everything looks like in the case, with my sets of watercolour pencils and Steadtler Triplus Fineliners shown on the left.  I put those on top of everything else when the case is closed.  It's a perfect fit.
Of course, having selected these items, I can't help but wonder if I should have included more gel pens, or if I should have brought a fountain pen, or if I really will use all of my Staedtler Triplus Fineliners on this trip...  Still, I have to draw the line somewhere.  I'll share my reflections on keeping a travel journal and some pages from my journal after I return, so stay tuned for that!

Have you ever kept a travel journal?  What supplies did you bring with you?

Read more: Binding the Travel Journal + Pages from the Travel Journal
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