Sunday, March 31, 2013

March Miscellany: Notebooks, Mandalas, Pencils

I hope you had a great March, and happy Easter for those of you who celebrate it.  I don't, but as I'm writing this, the sky is blue, the grass is green, and crocuses are blooming in the garden.  It's a beautiful spring day, albeit almost a bit too warm and dry for this early in the year.  Here are my favourite links from the past month:

  • Jono's post on how he organized and customized his Midori Traveller's Notebook.  While I would love to one day have a customized and multi-purpose notebook like this, right now I am focusing on using up the notebooks that I currently have in progress.  And I agree 100% with Jono's statement that, "If you organise yourself in a more effective, private, and personal way, you feel more connected with your work."  Yes.  That is so much the philosophy behind my own DIY planner - and one day I hope that my planner will expand to include a notebook and journal as well.
  • Stephanie takes us on a video tour of her art studio - which is filled with gorgeous and colourful mandalas.  Stephanie's blog, Spiritual Evolution of the Bean, was one of the first stationery blogs I started to read before I started this blog, and a major inspiration that started me drawing mandalas myself.
  • A review of the Faber-Castell Textliner and Jumbo Grip pencils at Pens etc.  This is the first time I've ever seen a wooden pencil that you could use as a highlighter, and I also absolutely love the look of these pencils.  I want some!
  • Angela shares her tips for keeping creative diary pages.  I would call this a planner rather than a diary, but I guess the line between the two can become blurry.  Whatever you call it, her pages are very fun and colourful - and I don't know why I keep hesitating to do something like this myself.
  • A review of the 0.25mm Pentel Slicci at Fine Points.  While the 0.3mm Pentel Slicci is one of my favourite all-time pens, I have not tried the 0.25mm - something that I must remedy.  And as you read this review, also be sure to check out the author's gorgeous (and tiny!) handwriting.
  • Tina is sketching sketching materials with sketching materials - confused yet?  I actually really love these sketches (in a geeky kind of way).  Here are some similar sketches of my own (and more at the end of this post) - although mine are not nearly as good as Tina's.
  • Jackie reviews the new Pilot Hi-Tec-C Maica.  Finally, the Hi-Tec-C has received an updated and snazzy looking barrel!  I've never completely fallen in love with the Hi-Tec-C, but this new barrel design just might push me over the edge.
  • Finally, last but not least, Azizah reviews the J. Herbin Pearlescent Ink Sampler Set.  These inks are gorgeous, and now I want a dip pen so that I could use them.

That's all for this month!  As always, be sure to stay tuned for new posts and reviews coming up in April.  See you then!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Shades of Purple and Pink

Here's one for all of you fans of purple and pink out there!  Personally, pink is my least favourite colour (purple is okay), so it's not surprising that I have relatively few of these items.

From left to right: paper clips; Pentel Slicci 0.3mm in Pink, Baby Pink, and Purple; Staedtler Triplus Fineliner in Purple;  Zebra Sarasa SE 07 in Pink; Post-it Flag Ballpoint; Sakura Permapaque Opaque Paint Marker in Purple; Zebra Surari 0.7mm Ballpoint in Violet; Fiskars Paper Edger (Scallop pattern); Prang ColorArt crayons; Pink Pearl eraser.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Pentel Hybrid Gel Roller Gold

This gold Pentel Hybrid Gel Roller was part of my massive thrift store haul of pens that I posted about a few weeks ago.  I suspect this is an older version of the pen.  A very similar pen called the Pentel Hybrid Gel Grip (looks basically the same as this pen, but with a grip) is still available, and, while the gold Hybrid Gel Roller is shown on Pentel's website, it is marked as out of stock.  Regardless, I thought this pen would be worth a quick review anyway.

The design of the Hybrid Gel Roller is very basic.  The pen is long and slender, and reminds me of nothing more than the classic Bic Cristal ballpoint - a pen that I do have fond childhood memories of.  It has a faceted clear plastic barrel with a basic cap.  Branding is minimal.  The newer Grip version is essentially identical in appearance except that the colour of the cap is matched to the ink colour and it has, of course, a basic grip.

I wasn't expecting this pen to write very well, but it ended up being better than I thought it would be.  It does not write as smoothly as I would expect of a 0.8mm pen, but it does lay down a relatively consistent line of ink.  The consistency of the ink reminds me a bit of that of the Sakura Gelly Roll (although the Gelly Roll is way smoother), but the Hybrid Gel Roller writes with a slightly finer line.  I'm not sure if the "Hybrid" in the title refers to some property of the ink, but the ink is apparently water- and fade-resistant.

My favourite part of this pen is the ink colour.  It's warm yellowy gold colour with a definite metallic sheen.  A good metallic pen can be almost as difficult to find as a good white pen, but this one is really not too bad.  As you can see in the photo above, the ink also shows up equally well on both white and dark paper, which is an added bonus (the white ink in the photo is that of the Uni-ball Signo Broad, just for comparison).  I expect that I will get a lot of use out of this pen in my art journal and for craft projects.

While I doubt that I would ever specifically recommend this pen, you could give it a try if you ever run across one of these or the Grip version and if it seems like something that you might be interested in.  It is an okay pen, but there are also better ones out there.

Related review: The Pen Addict.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Creating & Using a Blogging Schedule

Last summer, I finally settled on a definite schedule for this blog, and since doing so made the tasks of writing posts and organizing my ideas so much easier I thought I'd share my methods here.

First of all: why use a blogging schedule?  It's not essential, but I have noticed that the blogs I most enjoy reading tend to be the ones that are updated on a regular basis, whether that is daily, a few times a week, once a week, or even just once a month.  Maintaining a regular posting schedule lets readers know that they can depend on you.  And letting your blog sit for too long without any new posts also runs the risk of turning away potential new readers who may think your blog has become dormant.  But, as I said before, it's not essential, and some bloggers simply don't have the time or inclination to commit to a specific blogging schedule, which is okay.  But if you do, and if you like to be organized and methodical the way I do, then using a schedule can be a great way to go.

These are the pages in my DIY planner that I use to organize my blog posts.

First of all, decide how frequently you want to post.  If you're just getting started (or even if you've been blogging for a while already), I would suggest that you estimate your desired frequency of posts, and then pick a target frequency that is a bit lower than that.  Most people probably overestimate the number of posts that they'll be able to write, so choosing a lower frequency makes it more likely that you'll end up with a schedule that you can actually maintain.  For example, at the beginning of this year I revised my blogging schedule for this blog so that I'd have a new post appearing approximately every 5 days.  While I would love to be able to post three times a week, that is not realistic for me right now and trying to post that frequently would just lead to failure.

Secondly, have a list of ideas for future posts.  If you've been blogging for a while, you may already do this, but if you don't, start making a list right now of specific ideas for potential future blog posts, and add to the list whenever you think of a new idea.  You should try to have anywhere from a week's to a month's worth of blog post ideas on this list at all times.  That way, when it's time to write a new post, you won't need to worry about what to write.  Trust me, this makes things way simpler and less stressful.

Next, use a monthly calendar to plan out your future posts.  (You can see mine in the above photo.)  It will probably be simplest if you use this just for blogging so it doesn't get cluttered up with anything else.  Say you have decided to post twice a week on Monday and Wednesday.  Take your calendar and write "blog post" in every week on Monday and Wednesday.  Then look at your list of blog post ideas and write specific ideas in on the days when you'll be posting.  If you tend to write posts that fall into a few very specific categories, try to space things out so you don't have two very similar posts being published one after the other.  This brings in some good variety to your schedule.  For example, I usually alternate product reviews with non-review posts.

Finally, start writing!  It usually makes me a lot happier if I have my blog posts completely written before the day they are posted.  You should be able to set things up on your blog so that you can write posts and have them automatically posted on a date and time that you choose.  This means that if you are incredibly productive one week and write ten posts in five days, you can publish your two posts for that week and schedule in advance blog posts for the future, when you may experience a dry spell or be too busy to spend time writing for your blog.  This allows you to post regularly even if you may not be writing regularly.

Writing the draft of a future blog post by hand in my notebook.

Some more tips:

  • Your schedule is not set in stone.  If you miss a day, or if your post is a day or two late, don't worry about it (this post and the last one were actually a day late!).  Probably no one but you will even notice it, and even if they do, who cares?  It's your blog, and if you start feeling guilty about missing posts, then you'll start to enjoy it less, and if you're not having fun doing it, why do it at all?
  • Likewise, if you need to increase or decrease the frequency of your posts, just do it.  It's great if you can post more frequently than you thought you could at the beginning, but even if you can really only manage one or two posts a month, that's okay too.  The most important thing is (to me) maintaining a regular pattern of posts (i.e., not ten posts one month and then none for the next two months).
  • Don't tell readers that you will be posting about such-and-such topic unless you already have that post written or you are 99% sure that you will have it posted by the time you said.  I've done this in the past, where I've said on my blog that I'd have a certain something written in the next few weeks and it never happened.  That really annoyed me, so now I try to avoid saying something like that unless I'm absolutely certain that I'll have that post up by that time.

I've maintained my blogging schedule since last June (although I did start posting slightly less frequently this January) and it's really made me so much happier with my blog.  I currently have five future blog posts written and scheduled, and I have my schedule planned out completely until the end of July (and reviews planned until September), which is a bit excessive but really makes things a lot simpler for me.  I just get such a good feeling looking at all of those future blog posts planned out, even though I know that some things probably will get changed around a bit before July comes around.

Do you stick to a schedule with your blog posts?  Do you have any tips for blogging regularly?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dong-A Miffy Scented Gel Ink Pen 0.5mm

The Dong-A Miffy is a 0.5mm scented gel ink pen, something I've never used before.  I chose the colours green and lavender purple and, while I do have a relatively poor sense of smell, I can detect only the faintest glimmer of scent from the green ink.  The lavender purple is more strongly scented, but is still fairly mild and doesn't (to me) smell anything like lavender.  If you're looking for a good scented pen, I'd suggest looking elsewhere.  Luckily, I wasn't, and, apart from that, these are surprisingly nice pens.

They write very smoothly, and the colours are bright and vivid.  For some strange reason, I have relatively few 0.5mm gel pens.  For my handwriting, 0.5mm is just about the ideal size for everyday writing - not so large that my handwriting turns into a mess, and not so fine that I end up writing absurdly small.  The only real complaint I have about the way these pens write is that, similar to the Pilot Hi-Tec-C, they can sometimes be a bit slow to get started and you may need to scribble on a scrap of paper for a few seconds to get the ink flowing.  Although I do find this slightly annoying, it's a relatively minor issue and a small price to pay for the otherwise great writing experience.

As for the ink colours themselves, the green is a fairly standard colour, but the lavender purple is a bit different.  It's a pale bluish purple shade that is still dark enough to read easily.

(Apologizes for the horrid washed-out photo.)

In appearance, the Dong-A Miffy is similar to the more well-known Hi-Tec-C, with its clear plastic barrel, lack of a grip, and needle-point tip, although the barrel of the Dong-A Miffy is round while the Hi-Tec-C's barrel is faceted.  And at only $1.10 each, the Dong-A also costs substantially less than the Hi-Tec-C at $3.30.  The clear barrel of the pen is printed with tiny apples and two cute bunnies (Miffy herself, I assume).  While these graphics may not be to everyone's liking, they're small enough that I don't really notice them and they don't bother me.

The grip of the Dong-A Miffy is completely smooth plastic, without even the grooves that the Hi-Tec-C has, so this pen would probably not be very comfortable to use for long writing sessions.  And, since I grip my pens very low on the barrel, I also have a problem with the shape of the nib section, which has a rather prominent ridge that occasionally rubs uncomfortably against my finger.  It probably wouldn't become a major problem unless I was writing for a long period of time, and, of course, if you hold your pen differently you won't notice anything at all.  One of my favourite things about this pen is the cap, which slides securely into place on both ends of the pen with a very satisfying click!

Overall, while the Dong-A Miffy is not perfect, I still think it is a great pen.  It may be a scented pen with cute bunnies on it, but don't let that prevent you from taking it very seriously indeed.  It writes well enough to compete with the more well-known pens, and I would definitely recommend it if you're looking for a cheaper alternative to the 0.5mm Pilot Hi-Tec-C or if you're simply looking to try out a new, fun gel pen.  Despite my forays into fountain pens, I must admit that gel pens are still my favourite pens for general everyday writing, and I was really pleased with the way this one performed.  It's worth a try.

Related reviews: Gourmet Pens, Andy McNally, Hey Matthew, Ms. B's Bonnet.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Old Art Journals Rediscovered: "Number Four"

The title of this journal is a bit of an embarrassment.  I thought, after I finished it, that it was my fourth art journal, so I titled it (unimaginatively), "Number Four."  Unfortunately, it was actually my fifth art journal!  I began this journal in October of 2010 and finished it March of 2011 - nearly two years ago now.  I was surprised to realize when compiling this series of posts that the only visual journals I've kept since then have been a couple of collage-only journals and my sketchbook journal.  This means that it's been nearly two years since I've kept this kind of an art journal - certainly an indication of my changing styles and approaches to my art.

That said, this journal is probably my favourite art journal.  It started life as a simple spiral-bound brown-paper notebook that I bought at my local Michaels and I tried to maintain its somewhat rustic look, with more muted colours and simpler, single-layer pages.  I feel that the pages in this journal really express my personal style and philosophy better than any of my previous journals - as though in this journal, I finally "arrived."  My favourite page spread in this journal is titled "The Way North" and it is part collage, part acrylic paint background.  The design is simple, but as the idea of north and the imagery of mountains have been themes that have occurred repeatedly in my writing (if not so much in my visual art), this page really expresses a lot of who I am.  It's one of my favourite page spreads ever.

What images speak to you?  What ideas do you keep returning to in your written or visual journals?

Other pages from this journal: Grid, Typography, Silhouette; Fearless.


Old Art Journals Rediscovered is a series of posts dedicated to rediscovering the art journals that I have created over the past four years. In each post, I will introduce you to one of my old art journals, and share with you one page spread from that journal - not the page spread that is the prettiest or the fanciest, but the one that speaks most clearly to me today. I hope that by sharing with you the evolution of my own art journals, you will feel inspired to start your own explorations with art.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Recent Acquisitions, Massive Edition

It all started innocently enough, with a modest JetPens order that I placed for my birthday - not even enough items to really qualify for a recent acquisitions post.  But, before that arrived, I acquired a bag full of pens and other items from the thrift store.  Even after I picked out the items that I didn't want and threw out the few things that didn't work, there was still a lot remaining.  After my JetPens order finally arrived, this is what I was left with:

First of all, on the left side, from JetPens: a Rhodia Pencil, Rhodia DotPad, Dong-A Miffy Scented Gel Ink 0.5mm Pens in Green and Lavender Purple, Uni Mitsubishi Pure Color-F Double-Sided Sign Pens in Yellow-Green and Orange, and a Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen Twin Tip.

And secondly, on the right side, from the thrift store: three Sanford Liquid Expresso Extra Fine Line Pens in black, Bic Exact-Tip Rollers 0.6mm in red and black, Kuretake Zig Ball 05 pens in blue and black, Centropen 0.3mm Liner 2811 in blue, a Sun-Star "Flex-Pen" in black, a metallic silver Sharpie marker, and (on the bottom), a Pentel Hybrid Gel Roller in gold, a Mitsubishi Uni wooden pencil in F, a Pentel Clic Eraser, and (finally) a yellow Stabilo Boss highlighter.

I attempted to look up most of the thrift store pens online, and many of them are no longer being produced or are being produced in updated versions, so I'm guessing these pens have been around a while.  I was unable to find any information at all on the Kuretake Zig Ball pens and the Sun-Star Flex Pen (which has such an odd-looking nib that I may have to do a separate post on it later).

I will be reviewing some, but not all, of these items in future months, but right now I am still getting over my excitement at having so many new pens and other items to add to my collection.  Seriously, I think this is the most pens that I have ever acquired at one time.

And if that wasn't already more than enough, the bag from the thrift store also included a massive amount of refills and ink cartridges - none of which, strangely, were actually for the pens they came with.

There were actually about a dozen or so more refills than this, but they ended up fitting into some of my mom's ballpoints, so I gave them to her.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do with these refills, because I don't think any of them even work with any of my pens, especially the mini ballpoint refills in the top left corner.  I tested all of the refills that weren't in packages, and they all work, so I don't really have the heart to throw them out.  Most are ballpoints, but there are a few rollerball refills in there too.  The refills in the lower middle are clearly marked as for the Pilot Precise pen, while the refill in the silvery package in the bottom right corner is for a Pentel brush pen.  I would like to be able to use the ink cartridges in the top row, but they are unmarked, so I'm not sure what kind of ink they contain or even whether they would fit into any of my pens (and not knowing what the ink is, I'm a bit hesitant to try one out).  If you have any suggestions for what to do with these refills I would really appreciate it!

And those are (thankfully) all of my recent acquisitions (for now).  Are you familiar with any of these items?  What have you acquired lately?
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