Saturday, November 30, 2013

November Miscellany: Journals, Collages, Nerds

The end of November, and the year itself is almost done.  I'm started to get excited for 2014 as I make plans for things I want to do next year.  As always, I have all sorts of big ideas that probably won't all get completed, but that is okay.  Sometimes just the planning and the dreaming is important.  If you need some extra reading while you plan, here are some links from the past month:

  • Jono at Pentorium has a great post on how to enjoy your everyday mundane tasks - cheaply.  I don't really have much to say about this post, because it's awesome and I agree with all of his points - and now I feel even more ashamed of the cluttered surface of my desk!
  • Check out Gennine's gorgeous journal pages.  I'm also working in a square-format journal right now; I like the look of square pages because there's more room to expand horizontally and so things seem more open, somehow.  Or something like that, anyway.
  • I know I've mentioned iHanna's 365-collages-in-2013 project before, and now she's written a detailed post on her creative process of making a collage for every day of the year.  I especially like the idea of having a weekly goal rather than a daily goal, because there always are a few days where my mind turns to mush and nothing gets done the way I want it.  If you love the idea of a 365 project, you should also check out her post on how to plan for it.
  • Perhaps as a counterpoint to Hanna's collages, Michelle writes about why she has moved away from using collage in her journals.  This post really resonated with me, because I've experienced something similar.  Although my early art journals were strongly based on collage, lately I've been more focused on drawing and sketching and developing my own style rather than borrowing someone else's style.
  • I love this story of nerds, cell phones, and (somewhat) antiquated technology.  I also love Microsoft Word, but I love my pens, pencils, and notebooks even more (and I don't even own a cell phone).  Compasses are also great!  I own an excellent Silva Ranger compass that I bought for a class in university, but I've hardly used it since.
  • Tammy has created an awesome post summarizing and describing the different kinds of Sakura Gelly Roll pens available.  It's an older post, and she doesn't cover quite all of the varieties (no Gold Shadows or Silver Shadows, for example), but it's excellent if you're trying to decide what the right Gelly Roll for you is.
  • Finally, on my other blog I've done an A to Z survey about my favourite books!  This is a bit silly and not the usual kind of thing that I write about there, but it was rather fun as well so you should check it out if you love books and want to find out what I love reading.  And if you enjoyed Jono's post at the beginning of this miscellany, you may also want to read my post on raking leaves and joy of everyday tasks.

That's all for this month!  Stay tuned for new posts and reviews in December, and my top ten of 2013 coming up at the end of the year.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Book Review: Alternative Art Journals

I won this book in a giveaway at Lost Coast Post over a year ago, and I thought it was time that I reviewed it myself.  Alternative Art Journals: Explore Innovative Approaches to Collecting Your Creativity by Margaret Peot is a book that explores art journaling beyond the confines of the traditional bound journal.  Peot describes several non-traditional approaches to art journaling and offers detailed tutorials on specific techniques and projects as part of each approach.  Some of my favourites include a card set journal completed during the course of a year (one card per week), tag journals, shoeboxes where you collect items during the week and place them in your journal afterwards (drawing or photographing them if they won't actually fit inside your journal), accordion-fold journals, and journals that include three-dimensional objects and are built inside boxes.  Many of the examples expand the boundaries of what a "journal" is.  I know that I definitely have some ideas of what makes a journal, and I'm not sure that I would consider all of the examples in this book to actually be journals.  Nonetheless, they still look like fun projects, and that's not really a complaint about the book, but more of an observation about some of my own preconceptions.

One of my favourite parts about Alternative Art Journals is that it is very well illustrated. Each page is filled with gorgeous examples of Peot's work.  She favours muted earthy colours, rich textures, and images of birds, butterflies, and eggs.  I absolutely love her style, because it is close to what I want my own style to one day be, but if you prefer brighter, more contrasting colours, then you might not like her style as much as I do.  Of course, that doesn't mean you still can't learn from her techniques, but you might enjoy the book less.

Probably my main complaint about this book is that it feels a bit too short.  As I said before, it's filled with images and illustrations, but that means there's a bit less text.  This is not a major problem; I think it's mainly because I was enjoying this book so much that I was disappointed to see it end so soon.

I think Alternative Art Journals has become one of my new favourite books on art journaling, along with The Decorated Journal by Gwen Diehn and Raw Art Journaling by Quinn McDonald.  However, unlike those books, Alternative Art Journals is probably one that I would recommend to someone who has already been keeping an art journal for a while and who is interested in exploring different techniques and approaches.  If you're a complete beginner, you'd probably be better off starting with one of those other titles, because I think Alternative Art Journals might prove a bit overwhelming and Peot does assume that her readers will already have some familiarity with basic art journaling supplies.

Although it is short, there is a lot in this book - a lot of techniques, a lot of potential projects, a lot of things that I've never seen anywhere else.  I haven't been working in my art journal very much this year, but Alternative Art Journals is a book that makes me feel excited about art journaling again.  I love to just flip through it and feel inspired and full of ideas for new projects to try.  And that, I think, is a good thing...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Ink Review: Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-Peki

Pilot Iroshizuku inks are well-known for their high quality - and their corresponding high prices.  I doubt that I would ever buy a bottle of this ink simply because the price is a bit too high for me to feel comfortable with, but because these inks are so well-respected in the fountain pen community, I still wanted to try a sample of at least one Iroshizuku ink.  I chose Kon-Peki (deep cerulean blue), and in this review I'll find out if this ink will make me change my mind about buying a full bottle!

Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-Peki in Rhodia dotPad.

The first thing I noticed about Iroshizuku Kon-Peki was that it was a bit drier than the Diamine Meadow ink I had been using before.  This meant that I needed to be a bit more careful about holding my pen correctly so that I wouldn't get any skipping.  Once I had that figured out, however, Kon-Peki wrote smoothly and I had no problems with the flow.

The best part about this ink is that (on good paper) it doesn't show even a hint of feathering or bleedthrough.  It did bleed through on some (but not all) of the cheaper papers I tried it on, but even then feathering was minimal.

Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-Peki in Paperblanks journal with lines from the poem "Here is the Road" by Arlene Gay Levine.

I have to admit I'm not terribly excited by the ink colour.  As I've mentioned before, I'm not a big fan of blue ink, and while there are some blues that I love, Kon-Peki is not one of them.  That said, I can see why this might be the perfect blue for some people - it's not too dark or too light, not too bold or too conservative.  It has a hint of green in it, but it is definitely NOT a greenish-blue.  For me, it's... okay, but there isn't anything about it that really stands out for me.  I honestly thought I would like this blue more than I do, so I am a bit disappointed because of that (but don't worry, Kon-Peki, it's me, not you).

The shading is also okay.  Kon-Peki definitely has shading, and it's easy to see even with my F nib, but it doesn't stand out.  I think I would like this ink more if the shading was a bit more obvious, but maybe with a broad or italic nib it would stand out better.  And of course if you're not that crazy about shading, then this more understated look may be ideal for you.

Scan of the writing sample for a more well-rounded impression of the ink's colour.

Overall, I have to say that while I like Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-Peki, I simply do not love it because the colour is not for me.  But it does perform very well, and I would certainly recommend it if you are looking for a medium to bright blue with some shading.  I may be warming up to this ink the more I use it, but I doubt that there is a bottle of Kon-Peki in my future.  Then again, I'd certainly be happy to try other Iroshizuku ink samples, and if I find a colour that I really love... who knows what might happen?

Related reviews: The Pen Addict, Ed Jelley, The Unwritten Word, Tyler Dahl, Inkyjournal, Greasemonkeyhands, Pentulant, Vec Blog.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Help for a Question on Green Paper

I recently received this question in my email, and because I have no answer, I hope that you might be able to help this reader out with some suggestions.  Here's his question:

"I make 3D topographical maps using paper and glue.  My next piece is going to have 20 different layers going from a light shade at sea level to a dark shade at the top.  The problem that I've come across is that many of my local stores and national suppliers only seem to stock 5 or 6 different shades of a particular colour.  I was wondering if you had any knowledge as to where I could find a supplier that stocks 15-20+ different shades of green paper and could potentially ship internationally?"

Monday, November 18, 2013

Rethinking the DIY Planner for 2014

Although it's only November, I've already started thinking about my plans for 2014, particularly about how I can be more productive and organized in the new year.  I've been relying on my DIY planner a lot this year, and it's made me happy to have a system that suited my needs so well.  But my productivity system has evolved over the year, and now my planner no longer fits me quite as well.  As the year draws to a close, I've been thinking about making some radical changes to my DIY planner for 2014.  Some of the issues I have with it include:

  • My productivity system has grown beyond my planner - I now organize my master to-do list on the computer, because it makes it easier for me to shuffle around the order of tasks by cutting and pasting rather than rewriting the entire list.  I also have a separate, monthly to-do list that I keep on a pad of paper, not in my planner at all.
  • I'm not using all parts of my planner - I rarely touch the Notes or Reference section.  My To-do List section has mostly migrated to the computer, as discussed above, and is confusingly organized.  I used to refer to the Goals section during my weekly reviews, but I've gotten out of the habit of doing that.  The only sections I really use anymore are the weekly and monthly planning pages.
  • My weekly layout doesn't work for me anymore - I've been using a layout that allows me to plan my day hour-by-hour, but I usually end up not following that schedule exactly anyway.  I originally thought of trying a different layout, but then I realized that there were all these other issues as well, so I think that would only be a temporary fix.
  • Finally, I love the flexibility of being able to add and remove pages from a ring binder, but I also like the permanence of a bound journal - With a bound book, I could combine my planner and my journal, which would cut down on the number of notebooks that I need to use, something that's part of my ongoing project to simplify my life.

I've been reading about the Bullet Journal system, and it looks very appealing.  I like that it is a simple system that I could easily modify to suit my needs, and that it would allow me to incorporate a planner, journal, and sketchbook into one notebook.  And instead of buying a new notebook for my Bullet Journal, I could simply use one of the Rhodia Webnotebooks that I'm currently using as journals.  I have been using one of my Webbies since September of 2010, which is rather a long time for me to be keeping a journal, and I would be glad of an excuse to use this notebook more often and fill it up.

I'm still nervous about the idea of giving up the system that has worked so well for me this year, even though I know I could easily change back again if I needed to.  Luckily, I still have over a month to decide what my system for the beginning for 2014 will be, and I certainly welcome any of your suggestions or ideas.

Have you tried the Bullet Journal?  Are you making any changes to your planner system for 2014?  Do you even use a planner, or do you survive without one?  Am I totally crazy to be spending this much time thinking about this?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pencil Review: PaperMate Earth Write HB

In my quest to discover more wooden pencils, I recently stumbled across the PaperMate Earth Write pencil in HB.  Unlike the other wooden pencils I have reviewed here, the PaperMate Earth Write is made from 100% recycled wood, making it an option if you're looking for a slightly more environmentally friendly pencil.  Although I think it's mostly an average quality pencil, I do have some mixed feelings about it.

The lead of the Earth Write is nice and dark, and, while it feels slightly scratchy on the page, I prefer a scratchier pencil for writing, so this doesn't bother me.  I  feel that the tip of this pencil started to wear down a bit fast for an HB pencil, but it's not a major issue; this pencil might be on the softer side of HB.  It also smudges very easily, which isn't great for writing.  Many of this qualities make the Earth Write better for sketching, but even there I feel that it might smudge a bit too easily.

The Earth Write is hexagonal, but it feels (to my hand) slightly narrower and the corners feel sharper than I'm used to, making it more uncomfortable to use.  It's also medium green, a suitable colour for a pencil that is claiming to be more eco-friendly, with silver lettering, .  I'm not sure what recycled wood is, but it still smells like cedar.  The green eraser is a nice touch, and actually worked very well, erasing even this darker lead cleanly.  And somehow the green eraser dust amused me far more than it should have.

Overall, the PaperMate Earth Write is not going to be one of my favourite pencils, although there are some things I like about it.  However, if you're looking for a basic pencil that you're not going to be too fussy about, you might as well choose one like this that's going to be a bit kinder to the environment.  I think that this would also be a decent pencil to get your kids for school.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Seeing the Big Picture: When Paper is Better Than Digital

I've read many posts discussing whether or not digital is better than paper, and whether computers will one day completely replace the traditional pen (or pencil) and paper.  I usually get bored with such posts, because I believe that both paper and digital have their benefits and drawbacks.  For some tasks, it's much faster and simpler to use a computer (or other device), while for others, it can still be more helpful to use paper.

I've been working on the revision of my novel sporadically over the last several months, but lately I was stuck.  I could see so many problems with the manuscript - scenes that needed to be shuffled around, characters that needed to be cut out, passages that needed to be rewritten - but the whole thing had become so large that it overwhelmed me.  I would open up the Word document, and stare at it blankly, aimlessly scrolling through pages, with no idea of how or where to start.  Before, I had been able to work chapter-by-chapter and scene-by-scene, but now the changes I needed to make were on a much larger scale and I was unable to see that larger scale on my computer screen.

After several days of this, I knew I had to completely change the way I was approaching things.  So I slowly went through the manuscript and typed up a detailed outline of my novel, one that identified and described every chapter, scene, and action.  This ended up being 17 pages long - still long enough to overwhelm me - so I printed it out, single-sided, and spread the 17 pages out in a circle on the floor.  I sat down in the centre of the circle, got out several dozen of my favourite pens and highlighters, and started at the top of page 1.

I used different colours of pens for the different plots and subplots in the novel, and for different chapters.  I crossed things out.  Highlighted things.  Circled entire scenes and wrote down the number of the chapter I would move them to.  Drew arrows indicating rising and falling levels of tension.  Wrote chapter summaries on the backs of the pages.  Jotted notes of things to change or add in the margins - sometimes writing diagonally and sideways.  When my mind went blank and I didn't know what to do, I doodled until something came to me.

And - most importantly - I could finally see the big picture of my novel.  I could see all 17 pages of my outline at once.  I didn't have to scroll up and down, I could glance from page 3 to page 9 to page 14 by simply turning my head, or lining up those pages in front of me.  Unless I had a computer screen as large as my floor, it would simply have been impossible for me to see all of those pages at 100% scale any other way.  Printing them out was my only option, and led to a complete shift in the way I was viewing my writing.

Plus, spreading all the papers out on my floor helped me to stop procrastinating.  Once they were on the floor, I had to keep working on them so I could clear off my floor again.  And using my favourite pens and highlighters and lots of bright colours made my task more fun than staring at a computer screen for hours.

While I will return to my computer to continue my revision, without the help of paper I don't know if would have been able to get beyond the point I was stuck at - and certainly not that easily.  I may very well have simply given up on the entire project in disgust.  Now, thanks to paper and my pens and highlighters, I can move forward.

When is paper better than digital for you?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Stabilo Boss Original Highlighter

The Stabilo Boss Original highlighter bears a suspicious resemblance to another highlighter I've reviewed here: the Staedtler Textsurfer Classic.  Both are short, flat, roughly rectangular-shaped highlighters that are refillable.  The Stabilo Boss is more tapered and slightly shorter, and lacks the Staedtler's clip and colour-coordinated cap.  The Stabilo is also a bit more expensive than the Staedtler.

For me, I've found that most highlighters work well enough, so I tend to be more fussy about their appearance and feel.  And I really like these flat highlighters.  They have a distinctive shape that makes it easy for your hand to find them if you're rummaging around in a crowded pen case, they don't roll off your desk, and they are comfortable to hold.  And I think they look kind of cool.

Comparing the Stabilo Boss to the Staedtler Textsurfer Classic.

I usually use highlighters over my own handwritten notes, so it's important that my highlighter does not smear the ink of my pen.  I tested the Stabilo Boss on a gel pen, Sharpie Pen, Pentel EnerGel, ballpoint, fine-point gel, fountain pen, and pencil, giving the inks several minutes to dry.  The only pen that really smeared was the 0.7mm gel (and in my experience, wider-tipped gel pens almost always smear with highlighters because they have the slowest-drying inks), so I would feel confident using this highlighter over most inks.

Highlighter inks never photograph well.  Don't pay too much attention to what the ink looks like, just look at the amount of smearing (or lack thereof)!

The Stabilo Boss highlighter also works well on the page of a textbook, with no bleedthrough to the other side of the page, and over inkjet ink.  I did notice a bit of smearing on the page fresh out of my printer, but nothing on the older page.  One thing I really like about this highlighter is that the yellow ink colour is bright and stands out very well on the paper, but it is not a fluorescent yellow.  Although I like the more fluorescent highlighter yellow, I also like this softer yellow because it is easier on the eyes and not as harsh.

Stabilo Boss highlighter on a textbook page, and over inkjet ink, old (top) and fresh out of the printer (bottom).

Overall, I really like the Stabilo Boss Original highlighter.  Although I do think I prefer both the Staedtler Textsurfer Classic and the Platinum Preppy highlighter over this one, that is simply my personal preference and doesn't necessarily mean that those are better highlighters.  I also love that Stabilo Boss is refillable (all of my favourite highlighters are).  I definitely recommend it if you're looking for a good highlighter.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...