Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April Miscellany: Blog Updates, Postcards, Pencils

Once again, it is the end of the month, which means that it is time for monthly miscellany!
  • First of all, some blog updates: I've added two new pages to this blog.  The Creativity page is an illustrated index to all of my posts on art journals, sketching, mandalas, writing, and more.  Check it out if you're interested.  The second page is on Productivity, and, while there's not much there yet, this is a topic that I am very interested in right now and that I'll probably be writing about more in the future.  If I make any major changes to any of these pages, I'll let you know!
  • I loved Kayte's story of how she got caught up into the world of pens.  This post really reminded me of why I love blogging and how great the community of stationery bloggers is.  My commenters are amazingly supportive and helpful, and posts such as The Pen Addict's "Ink Links" and similar posts on other blogs help beginning bloggers get noticed.  Although I sometimes thinking about letting this blog go to give myself more time for other projects, I'm still enjoying it too much to do that.
  • I have been watching the millenia mail art project develop over the last few months, and Roben-Marie has recently posted the completed postcards.  Very inspiring!  Six postcards and six artists, and the result are surely much more than the sum of their parts.  I would love to participate in a project like that one day.
  • Stationery Traffic writes about pencils and music, a post that brought back memories of my days in the high school band.  I played flute for six years in elementary school and high school, and a pencil was an essential item in my instrument case as well - even though I just used a boring Bic mechanical pencil back then.
  • I also love Shangching's travel kit of fountain pens, notebooks, and stamps.  I like how all of the different pieces seem to go together so well.  You can also check out my travel journal supplies that I took with me on a trip last fall.  In retrospect, it seems like more supplies than I probably needed, and I'd do things differently now - too bad I don't go on very many trips!
  • I enjoyed watching this video of seven days in an art journal.  I like the idea of adding to a page over several days rather than completing it in one sitting.  It's a much less intimidating way of keeping a journal, I think.
  • Finally, these sculptures of birds and other animals are just amazing.  I can hardly believe that they're made of paper.

That's all for this month!  As always, stay tuned, because I have new posts coming up next month, including the much-anticipated shades of brown.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Centropen Liner 2811 0.3mm

The Centropen Liner 2811 was part of the bundle of pens and refills that I found at my local thrift store last month.  I have no idea where the original owner found this pen, because Centropen is a Czech company that doesn't appear to be very well known among most pen bloggers.  They produce a wide variety of pens and markers, one of which is this 0.3mm fineliner pen.

The Centropen Liner 2811 is a 0.3mm plastic-tip pen available in black, blue, red, and green.  It's slightly interesting in appearance because it has a white barrel, which is uncommon among pens, although it might not be ideal if you tend to have inky fingers.  I like the round design of the cap, but the plastic has a cheap feel to it, and the pen generally feels very light in the hand and has a vaguely institutional look to it that I don't really like.  Ink colour is indicated on the tip and on the end of the pen (not shown in my photos).  It's a basic design but functional and, while I'm not getting excited about it, I have no major complaints either.  It works.

As for the writing quality, the Centropen Liner 2811 is similar to the popular Sharpie Pen.  The tip might feel a touch softer than that of the Sharpie, but maybe that's just my imagination.  The blue ink is also a shade brighter than that of the Sharpie.  It bleeds and shows through slightly on cheap paper, but performs perfectly on Rhodia.

Overall, the Centropen Liner 2811 is a decent basic pen.  I think that for those living in North America, there are enough similar pens available here (Sharpie Pen, Marvy Le Pen, Stabilo Point 88) that this one doesn't really need to be an option.  Unless you really fall in love with the design of it for some reason.  Or unless you're a crazed pen blogger who is obsessed with trying out every different pen you can find.  Which may certainly be the case.  Speaking as a crazed pen blogger, I certainly wouldn't mind trying out other Centropen pens if I come across any in the future, but, unless you live where these pens are more readily available, this pen is probably not one that I would recommend you seek out.

Have you tried any of Centropen's pens or markers?  What did you think of them?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Joys & Challenges of To-Do Lists

I love lists.  Activities such as organizing, planning, sorting, setting goals, and checking off boxes are immensely satisfying to me.  Because of that, keeping a to-do list is essential for me.  I discussed how I use to-do lists a bit in my earlier post on my productivity system, but I've been thinking a lot about to-do lists lately so I wanted to discuss them again in more detail.

My To-Do List System

Because I have such a love of planning and organizing, I don't have just one to-do list, but an entire system of to-do lists.  While I used to keep just one to-do list, as my list grew and I started working more with goals, I needed to refine my methods.  Although I feel fairly happy with how I use to-do lists today, my system is still definitely a work in progress.  That said, here are the different levels of to-do lists I use:

  • Giant To-Do List of Doom - A multi-page list of every single thing I want and need to do, from the small to the large.  I only compile this once a year, because it's really messy and overwhelming and looking at it more often than that would just stress me out.  But I use it because seeing everything in one place helps me to get a clearer idea of where my goals, passions, and areas of interest are.  (I talk a bit more about this in my earlier post.)
  • Categorized, ordered lists - From my Giant To-Do List of Doom, I group everything into several categories.  The categories themselves are whatever seem like the best fit for me; last year, I had eight different categories, this year, I had only six.  (That's last year's Blogging list that you see above.)  I also take this time to begin to break down some of the larger items on the giant list into smaller, more manageable tasks.  Finally, I order each categorized list according to priority, which allows me to easily see what needs to be done next.  These lists live in my planner and I add to them throughout the year and periodically rewrite them, removing items that I have completed and revising the order of the remaining items.
  • Month list - This is a new list that I've just started using in the last month.  It addresses the problem I had that even with my categorized, ordered lists, I still had difficulty deciding what particular tasks I should be working on in any one week or day.  (It's difficult because I have many different projects on the go at once, and very few of the things I do have hard deadlines.)  My month list consists of the top items from my categorized lists, as well as other tasks that aren't on those lists (things like cleaning, writing individual blog posts, etc.).  I break everything down into small sub-tasks, and order it all according to when I'd like to get it done by and how important it is.  This really helps me to focus on doing what is most important first, and helps to reduce procrastination.

With all of these lists in place, it's easy for me to select my Big Rocks of the week and my Most Important Tasks (MITs) of the day - I simply choose the top tasks from my Month List, and I can feel confident that these really are the most important tasks for me to be working on in that day or week.  Although the system may sound complicated when I write it all out, it really is simple once I have it in place.  I may need to spend a bit of extra time planning at the end of the month, but I actually end up saving time because I spend a lot less time planning any individual day or week.  None of the lists are set in stone, and I can and do change them as circumstances in my life change.

Challenges of To-Do Lists

My main challenges with to-do lists are overestimating the amount of things that I'll be able to get done in given time and underestimating the amount of time that I need to accomplish any one task.  I guess this is more a challenge in my life generally and not really with to-do lists in particular, but it results in a list full of items that I feel behind on.  I hate feeling behind, but if I could learn to better assess how long I'll need to accomplish different tasks, then I could avoid the problem arising in the first place.  If you have any tips based on how you've dealt with these issues in your own life, I would really appreciate them!

The other challenge that I used to have with to-do lists was simply feeling overwhelmed by them.  I've dealt with that by breaking my list down into categories (which replaces one large scary list with several smaller, less scary lists) and by ordering the items in each list according to priority.  When my to-do list is in order, I don't need to worry about all of the items on it, I just need to worry about the one or two items at the top of the list, and I can trust that those tasks are the ones that are most the important.  It sounds simple, but it really makes things a lot easier!


Do you use to-do lists?  Do you keep just a basic list, or do you use any methods similar to those I've discussed here?  What are the joys and challenges of to-do lists in your life?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Rhodia dotPad

I love Rhodia products, and I also love the dot grid format for writing, so I'm a bit puzzled about why it's taken me so long to try out one of these Rhodia dotPads.  The Rhodia dotPad is, just like the classic Rhodia pad, a stapled paper pad with perforated pages.  The difference is that instead of the traditional ruled grid, the dotPad's grid is marked with light dots - a much more unobtrusive alternative and a good middle ground between lined and unlined pages.

I chose the No. 12 (8.5 by 12 cm) size, a good compact size that could be slipped into a bag or pencil case, with a black cover, to contrast with my old Rhodia pad, which has an orange cover.  Just like the traditional pad, the dotPad has a sturdy paper cover on the front and back.  The back cover also includes a piece of stiff cardboard to provide a firm surface for writing, and the front cover is scored on the top to allow the cover to be easily bent over while writing - that kind of attention to detail always appeals to me.  I have noticed that the black-coloured cover seems to show fingerprints more easily than does the orange-coloured cover, but that's a fairly minor issue.  Some people might not like the bold branding on the front cover, but I actually like it and it does not bother me at all.  I'm not really a fan of all the writing and the obvious barcode on the back cover, but I can certainly live with it.

Rhodia dotPad front cover (left) and back cover (right).

However, as great as all that is, the real fun starts when you open the cover and check out the paper inside!  The photo below shows the dot grid of the Rhodia dotPad compared to the ruled grid of the traditional Rhodia pad.  I've always enjoyed writing on grid paper, but the lines can be a bit intrusive, especially if you're using a finer-tipped pen or a pen that has a similar colour of ink to the lines of the grid.  The dot grid is much more unobtrusive and gives the look of plain paper.  I did have one slight disappointment with the dot grid in the Rhodia dotPad: the Rhodia website describes the dots as the same violet colour of the lines in the traditional pad, but to me they just look grey.  I liked the violet colour so that is a bit disappointing, but a relatively minor issue.  The dots are spaced 5 mm apart (the same as the lines in the traditional grid), which may be a bit narrow for some but is perfect for my small handwriting.

The paper in the dotPad is 80gsm, the same as the traditional Rhodia Pad, but different from the 90gsm paper of the Rhodia Webnotebook or the R by Rhodia premium pad.  There is some showthrough with most pens on this paper, but it is insignificant in most cases except for the wettest-writing rollerballs.  The only pens that bled through were the Bic Exact-tip Roller and the Sharpie Marker (which of course bleeds through everything).  (If you want to see how different fountain pens and inks perform, check out the other reviews linked to below.)  Feathering was also minimal, except for with the aforementioned Bic Roller.  If you're going to be using very wet-writing or bold pens, I'd suggest one of the 90gsm options, but the dotPad is going to be a great choice for most pens.  The paper is white, but not bright white, and very smooth.  Because of how smooth it is, some inks may take longer to dry, so be cautious of that, but other than that this is beautiful paper to write on.

Writing samples on the Rhodia dotPad, front (left) and back (right).

Overall, the Rhodia dotPad is another great Rhodia product.  I wish now that I had bought a larger-sized pad rather this one, but I'm still happy with my purchase.  I'll probably end up using this pad for pen reviews once my current Rhodia pad is used up.  I highly recommend this if you're looking for quality paper for writing, sketching, or, well, anything, really!

Related reviews: Rants of the Archer, Pencil Revolution, OfficeSupplyGeek, Ink Nouveau, Seize the Dave, Spiritual Evolution of the Bean, Pens and Pencils, The Leaky Pen, Neil Dixon, Life Imitates Doodles.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Old Art Journals Rediscovered: Rainbow Collage Journal

This is the second of my collage-only journals that I created a couple of years to use up some of my stash of paper scraps.  The title of this journal is the Rainbow Collage Journal, and although the title is kind of corny, it is also accurate, because each page spread in this journal is dedicated to a different colour.  This journal is the least personal of my journals - in fact, it's probably right at the border between a journal and a scrapbook, as it really is little more than a collection of scraps chosen more for their colours than for anything else and it doesn't really have as much of me in it as in any of my previous journals.

These pages are, obviously, the brown pages, and, while I did say that this journal is less personal, the paper scraps that I choose to hoard do reflect something of who I am.  There are a lot of things that I like on these pages: different animals, botanical patterns, muted colours, stripes, and geometric designs.  Not to mention the colour itself - brown is probably my favourite colour after green.  I probably wouldn't make a journal like this again, but it was a fun journal to create.

What counts as a "journal" for you?  Do you collect paper scraps and ephemera?  What do you do with them when they start to accumulate?


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, April 6, 2013

Laurentien Coloured Pencils

Laurentien coloured pencils are a Canadian classic.  Most people probably remember either using them in school or buying them for their children to use.  For whatever reason, I never had a set of my own when I was young, so one of the first things I did when I was living on my own in my first year of university was walk down the street to the store and buy a set of 60 Laurentien coloured pencils (I know, I'm such a geek).  I was absurdly thrilled that I finally had a set of my very own.

 This post from the Canadian Design Resource has a good history of these pencil crayons.  They were originally called "Laurentian" (with an "a" not an "e") and were owned by the Venus Pencil Company, although later the name was changed to the French version Laurentien (with the "e"), apparently to help promote them in the Quebec market.  In the mid-nineties, Laurentien was bought by Sanford.  I remember when these pencils came in a nifty vinyl pouch that I coveted when my best friend owned a set, but this was later discontinued by Sanford.  The colours each had a number and a name (the numbers were apparently a relic of the days when they were used in colour-by-number kits), and many of the names were rather unique (you can find a list of the names on Wikipedia).  Unfortunately, the comments in this post tell a sad story: Laurentien pencil crayons have been discontinued and are now difficult to find (and those that are available are often of poorer quality).  I was sorry to discover that when I was researching this post, and thankful that I was able to purchase my set several years ago.

The pencils themselves have an easily recognizable design, with the name "Laurentien", the name of the colour (in both English and French), and the number stamped on white on the body of the pencil.  The large white space is apparently for students to write their name in, so they don't get their pencils mixed up with those of other students.  The colours are vivid and blend relatively well; several years ago I made this chart showing the colours I had in my set (which included both the basic colours as well as 6 metallic colours).

(Click to view larger.)

Most office and art supplies available in Canada today are made by American companies, so I am sorry to see the end of these pencil crayons.  They are still one of my all-time favourite supplies, and I'm sure I'll be taking better care of my set of 60 now that I know how much harder it will be to find them in the future.

Do you remember using these pencil crayons?  What other classic supplies from your childhood do you miss?
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