More Unflattering Portraits of Presidential Wannabes

I kinda decided that none of these portraits would be flattering. IN fact I went out of my way to find reference materials that were unflattering. Many of the candidates have what I call the “petulant little repuglican repuglican repuglican repuglican repuglican democrap democrapboy frown.” You know the look a little boys, around age 5, gets when they don’t get their way? Some of these candidates get that, so often I was sure I’d painted a few of them previously, only to see they were photographed making the exact same tight lipped frown as another candidate. Go figure.

Desire to Acquire

A few months ago I started to really deeply consider the things that I’ve acquired. While I hadn’t gone past what I could reasonably use in a lifetime (SABLE*) I had picked up a lot of stuff I wasn’t using. After I’d written and posted my “cult of stuff” essays a few years back, I’d become good about not buying so much stuff. My art supplies are right within the range of reasonable use. I have a few more sketchbooks and plenty of watercolors, but I’m good about buying what I’ll use and not a whole lot more.

Somehow my desire to acquire more fountain pens and fancy pencils, though I’m a confirmed user and not collector of said tools has continued me down a path of purchases. And more purchases, and more. Things came to a head when I had to purchase a set of storage drawers to store my pencils. As I put the drawers to use, I realized I had many dozens of pencils. Some were brands and styles I’d never use. I made a few decisions, four to be specific, and for the most part, I’ve stuck to them. I like to call these “concepts” and they are as follows:

  1. Reduce– aka stop the acquisitions. Stop bringing in more stuff. Get rid of stuff I won’t or don’t use.
  2. Use– Use the stuff I have. Diligently work my way through my stash of pens, pencils, ink and paper.
  3. Examine– Deeply examine how I use my stuff. Look at each item I own and how I use it. Did I purchase it as a novelty (725) or is it something I use on a regular basis (Tombow 8900) and is part of my everyday carry (Fodderstack XL)? Examine my uses. Document them carefully. Refer to decisions reduce and use. Follow through.
  4. Forgive– I’m going to give into marketing and hype and peer pressure, and when I do, use the stuff and then move on. Beating myself up for not adhering to concepts 1-3 doesn’t help. But I can refer back to them to examine the whys and hows of my purchases. Anything new that comes into the fold must be used and reviewed.

I’ve done remarkably well with this system so far. I was able to resist getting the latest Field Notes edition, which I thought was pretty cool, but I know I prefer grids to their lines. So it was easy to resist. However, I bought the TWSBI Eco(nomical) and it was an easy one to buy as I’d wanted  one from the moment I saw their first mock up on their facebook page. I used it for a week, reviewed it, and I’m still using it. I’ll post up a few follow ups over the next few months, and report if I continue to use it or not.

So I’ve done pretty well in my new concepts. I need to refine my examination of why I want something, so that the “reduce” concept is more fleshed out, and includes a built in form of resistance. But that is for another post.

For another post on this subject check out The Clicky Post.

Continue reading Desire to Acquire

Portraits of “Presidential” Candidates

In an effort to learn more about politics and be balanced, I decided to read about each of the declared candidates for president. That wasn’t making things stick, so I decided to make art for each of the declared  candidates for US President. It turns out there are many of them. I could end up making little paintings about them all summer if I wanted to. I don’t but I’ve decided to highlight a few of them and fill a journal. Here are a few without my color commentary.

IMG_20150723_214208 repuglican repuglican repuglican repuglican IMG_20150727_112355 IMG_20150727_112355 IMG_20150727_112355 repuglicanHere are a few close ups of what the paint looks like after it dries. I’m working very wet into wet and in the humidity the paint takes forever to dry. I’m also working with a #10 and #20 brush on a hand-book travelogue series sketchbook. Which I’ll have to do a full review on soon enough.

granulation granulation

A Week with the TWSBI Eco(nomical) Fountain Pen

I’m not going to go into the specific details about this pen, this has been covered by Goulet here and the video embedded below.

Compared to other pens in the same price range, such as the Lamy Safari I find this to be on the clunky side. The cap seems a little too large to me and its lines don’t flow like the TWSBI 500 series. But it reminds me of classic budget pens like the Scheaffer school pens or the NoNonsense but with a revised clip. I always liked my NoNonsense pen, and this brings that classic aesthetic into a modern piston fill pen. That is, of course, the really important thing to remember about the Eco- it’s a budget piston fill pen with a quality TWSBI piston mechanism.20150727_100122This is not to suggest that there aren’t other budget piston mechanism pens out there, there are, but they are usually around $50 or more. There are pens from China and India that piston fill for a little less, but the pistons are junk and only hold about .75 to 1ml of ink. While the TWSBI mechanism slurps up big gulps of ink smoothly and holds roughly 2ml of ink. Which is quite a large amount if you use a fine or ef nib.

One of the areas they have saved some cash is on finishing. There are visible mold marks on my Eco. They are faint but there. They are also visible on my cap. Additionally, because I’ve been stress testing mine by using it as an EDC in my Fodderstack XL it is showing some fine use scratches. This is in part I’m carrying it WITH my Metal Shop CT Twist BP in the FXL pen holder. It is getting really beaten up through rubbing with the Twist but also on the nylon of the FXL. That being said, I’ve also sat on it, tossed it into my bag and put a water bottle on top of it and generally not been careful of it.TWSBIeco TWSBIecoOf course, the toughness of this pen will be tested out by time. My stress test is just me in my particular use. I think that the FXL keeps the pen pretty secure, even if I do toss a Klean Kanteen on top of it on occasion. The cracking that occurred in the original 500 series seemed to be something that happened over time, rather than in response to trauma inflicted on the pen. So really we just have to wait a few months to see what will happen.TWSBIecoThe MSRP for the pen is $28.99 or $29. I bought mine via Amazon via TWSBI* for $32 with shipping included. TWSBI adds in the shipping to their Amazon prices, so though they state “free shipping” you are in reality paying $3. Depending on where you purchase yours, the shipping may be more, or it may be less. Though I doubt it would be much less.TWSBIecoAnyway, my nib has been really nice, with a small amount of smoothing it’s really nice. So far, I’m pretty happy with this pen. It isn’t as nice as my Mini or 530 or 540, but so far it’s been pretty tough and does the job. I certainly agree with Ed Jelley that the cap is ugly, classically so, but damn, eww. it’s not a sexy pen, but if you want to introduce someone  (or yourself) to the world of fountain pens with something with a piston fill and a nice bottle of ink, this may be the pen.

I’ve been using this pen as my on the go pen- in my pocket all the time paired with a Field Notes and my Twist bullet pencil. It does reasonably well with my particular ink (a blend of turquoise, blue, and black to make a nice dark teal) in terms of flow, bleed through, and smoothness.

Continue reading A Week with the TWSBI Eco(nomical) Fountain Pen

Review: Sennelier Aqua-Mini 8 Half Pan Set

The 8 color half pan travel watercolor set from Sennelier is a fantastic deal on on great watercolors. Getting 8 half pans for less than $20 is a steal, so this set is well worth the asking price, with a few caveats and work you’ll have to do to make the set useable.

The colors included are fantastic and useful for just about any urban sketching adventure. Unlike less well planned sets, this one includes the ever useful Payne’s Grey rather than black. The other colors are: primary yellow, French vermillion, cinereous blue, French ultramarine, pthalo green light, sap green, burnt umber. These colors have their limits. Obviously there is no cool or true red, so there is no mixing a decent purple, but overall it is a very useful set of colors.

First the big issue is that the tin and insert that the colors are packed in is not quite useless but really not great. The insert is made of flimsy white plastic that I cannot imagine would stand up to much use. It’s not bad, and it might last the life of the pans, it’s just not all that useful. Using the colors in it means the plastic moves around quite a bit. Annoying.
sennelier mini
To fix this issue I moved my half pans from the flimsy insert to Schminke empty half pans**. Useful.

The tin the set is housed in also has a few issues. First the lid has that cute little viewing window, which makes the lid, normally used to mix paints on, useless for that task. You could go about painting it or cutting a piece of Yupo to fit*. But that is way more work than it is worth and it won’t sit flat for mixing, so color ends up under the Yupo. . The next issue is that the tin is about ¼ inch deeper than most mint tins. This makes fitting a brush in a little more work.

I abandoned the tin and placed my pans of color into a new tin. I’m using a Thayer’s lozenge tin- it’s square, fits my hand well, and is just deep enough to hold the pans well. I use a little ball of plastic tack to hold each pan in place. It works well, and allows me to pick and chose what colors I’d like to include in my tin for that outing.

Sennelier watercolors are a great choice for someone looking for good watercolors that wet easily. Some people dislike them and others love them. I’m a fan of them for their good colors, relative affordability, frequent sales, and amazing rewetting; simply touching a wet brush to the pan results in a decent load of color.

For roughly $18, getting 8 half pans is a steal.

Oh, it comes with a tiny little joke of a brush. It holds a point well but it would really only be useful for working on something smaller than an ATC or ACEO. The handle is far too short to be useful. If you can figure out a useful way of extending it, let me know in the comments.

Continue reading Review: Sennelier Aqua-Mini 8 Half Pan Set

Review: Nock Co Fodderstack XL

I backed the Pen Addict Kickstarter this past spring and received a Nock Co Hightower in dark green and yellow. It was fabulous, but after a few days of testing it out, it simply didn’t suit my needs. I sold it and bought myself a Fodderstack XL, which is basically a cordura nylon sheath for a pocket notebook and a pen or two.

I bought mine in the midnight and blue jay color way, which is a deep navy blue outside and bright blue inside. The stitching is slightly lighter than the exterior canvas, which I quite like. Looks wise, this is a pretty simple concept, in line with the DDC Stuff Sheath, but nylon and vegan for people who care about that sort of thing. I’m not vegan but I was looking for a lighter weight alternative for my summer notebook carry. My One Star Leather goods cover is heavy and seems to cause excessive sweating in my rear pocket.FXL

The Fodderstack XL (FXL hereafter) fit my needs better than the Hightower. It fits into my back pocket, carries up to 2 notebooks and my Metal Shop CT Twist bullet pencil, and either a pen or other writing tool. Lately I’ve had a Field Notes BIC Clic in there. Currently, I’m using a Field Notes and a Nock Co Yellow flap notebook. Now that I’ve been using the FXL steadily for over a month, I can’t imagine my carry without it. In fact, I’m not sure I’ll go back to the leather cover at all. The FXL is smaller, lighter, and simply works for me. FXL

Now that I’ve professed my love for the FXL, let me tell you a couple of issues that my FXL exhibits. At least one of which is nit-picky and the others… Less so. First, my tag is stitched on slightly crooked. This annoys me but does not alter the functionality of the FXL. The bottom edges are not heat sealed. This meant that until I turned my FXL inside out and singed the edges with a lighter, little frayed bits of nylon kept finding their way out of the bottom.* This greatly annoyed me, it also lowers the longevity of the piece. If the bottom continued to fray, eventually it would tear out. *GNASHES TEETH* My final issue is that some of the stitching was both loose and poorly done. I used my sewing skills to pull a loose thread through, tie it off and then heat seal it. In fact I went over every end stitch and sealed it with a flame. Had I not done this my FXL may not have made it the month.FXL

I’m looking at these issues as aberrations because the Hightower did not have any of these flaws. Especially, not the stitching flaws. I think the basic design of the FXL leave the bottom seam open to fraying, and a wonderful solution would be to heat seal the edge after sewing the bottom. That would keep the bulk down, but stop the fray. Perhaps Nock Co should also look at upping their quality control. The loose stitching was apparent the moment I put a pencil into the case.FXL

Now keep in mind my FXL sees daily hard use. I walk relatively long distances with it in my back pocket. I keep it in my back pocket and sit on it. In fact I had a class and sat on it in a warm classroom in Cambridge, MA, for two long weekends. I use it to give my FN support while I write. I’m not gentle with it. I toss it around and generally give it hard use. As I said above. I know that in one quick grab I can have all my notebook and pencil needs taken care of and be out the door. Te FXL has helped me to simplify my carry and through it’s use I’m able to worry less about “Which notebook do I need to take?” Rather, I have 2- one for my general junk notes (Nock Co Flap) and one for my more formalized use (FN.)

Anyway, the FXL is part of my daily carry, and I think if you are trying to simplify yours, it can be that cover.

Continue reading Review: Nock Co Fodderstack XL

Review: Staedtler 900 25 Pencil Holder/ Extender

I’ve been using the Staedtler 900 25 pencil holder/extender (hereafter Staed925) since May. I haven’t used it daily, but nearly so. Let’s face it pencil holders and extenders range from ugly to slightly less ugly, but few are actually what I would term attractive. that is, until I received the Staed925. The Staed925 has an aluminum body that is anodized brushed silver, with the Staedtler logo in shiny silver. It’s a nice contrast. The grip is nicely knurled. Enough to be grippy but not so much you feel like you can sand off your callouses.  The lead grade indicator ranges from 2H to 4b and stays put until it is moved.Staed925Staed925I’m going to address my two issues with this pencil holder. First is the useless atrocity of a clip. This clip is a hemorrhoid on the entire design of the holder. With all of the pretty design that went into the holder, I cannot imagine why they would chose to sully the clean lines with this ugly clip. the clip is serviceable enough, it’s a simple fold over design. It is meh. The other issue that I have with this holder is the eraser deployment mechanism, in that it is also an after thought. The crimps for grip clash with the precise knurling of the grip, and look shoddy. Instead of raising the eraser, the tube around the eraser screws into the body of the holder. It’s dumb. The eraser itself is quite nice and I use it far more often than I ever expected.*Staed925 Staed925 I replaced the clip with a clear silicone band and a clear glass bead. I have no need of clipping the holder to anything, but the bead and band keeps it from rolling off my desk of cafe table when I set it down.Staed925The grip is turned to loosen to remove the pencil and tightened to create a vise-like grip on larger sized pencils. I found that while it held a USA Gold I was not able to sharpen the pencil while in the holder. Which is very unlike larger, thicker Japanese pencils like the Mono100 or the thicker Palomino Blackwing. These were held in a strong grip and I was able to sharpen the thicker pencils. Staed925 20150526_175721Anyway, until I received the Staed925 pencil holder/ extender my Derwent extenders** were getting a regular workout. Now I only use the smaller of the two Derwent extenders for the smaller thinner pencils. This holder feels like a pen and a nice pen at that. I feel fancy while I use it. Who doesn’t like to feel fancy on occasion?

You have a few options on buying this holder. Jetpens and various sellers on Amazon. If you have prime it’s cheaper at the ‘zon. There are also sellers shipping it straight outta Japan with free shipping. Choices, you have them.  For my Euro/UK friends this is available via CultPens as well.

Continue reading Review: Staedtler 900 25 Pencil Holder/ Extender

Attention! Kickstarter Cerat Pencils Not a New Product

A few days ago I found this Kickstarter for Cerat pencils of Britain. I’ve seen the gem or jewel topped pencils around for ages, usually being sold on cheap import shops. So to see them on Kickstarter being sold as something new and of quality, well, I found that kind of funny.

Anyway, I’m not sure if the pencils are really a quality item or not, but that they are being hawked on Kickstarter as a new item is untrue.

Anyway, this is one of those Kickstarter beware campaigns. Oh you can find the same pencils on ebay and amazon for about the same cost. If you are going to buy them get them from Amazon or the ‘bay instead. Don’t encourage Kickstarter fakers.

From Cerat’s own kickstarter page it states:

Here are the approximate breakdowns:

– Around 10% will be taken as fees by Kickstarter and transaction fees.
– Production takes 45% due to the labor involved as these pencils are partially hand made.
– 15% will be reserved for materials cost including acrylic blocks for the crystals on each pencil.
– A maximum of around 25% will be going into Postage and Packaging of the pencils.
– Any remaining funds after the rewards have been completed and backers are satisfied will be invested into & by Cerat Creations for new projects in the future.

Let’s break this down: The fees are about right. The production costs may be correct. The crystals made of acrylic look to be molded on every other iteration of the pencil. Earlier in the Kickstarter they mention these being “carved” from acrylic blocks, I highly doubt that. Postage may be correct. However, the cost to back this project is about what these cost on eBay or Amazon.

Also a quote from their page:

The pencils are all in stock, we have plenty thanks to a batch production we undertook, there really are no risks present and we’re prepared to ship immediately. Of course all costs have been considered and reward prices set accordingly.

The only risk that we may encounter is the over-funding of this project, which isn’t a bad thing at all! In this case, we’ll send out as many as we can fulfill the rewards by December where our production will have begun by.

The pencils are in stock. I’m not sure what you’d be backing here? Shipping? Them opening up the packages and repacking them by color? Again, not sure.

Be sure to read some of the Amazon reviews of a VERy similar product that basically state that these are cheap. The rhinestones fall off before they even arrive.

Blackwing’s Volumes 725

Not too long ago the new Blackwing limited edition series called “Volumes” was announced. With this new series of limited edition pencils, a subscription service mimicking that of Field Notes was introduced. There are some obvious differences, which will be discussed later on, but for now, let’s just say, it’s not the same.725In the subscription you receive  a dozen of the quarterly limited edition pencils, a tubed “collector’s” pencil, and it’s all packaged in a nifty box with shredded paper, a sticker, and apparently, magic. This is a vastly different package than what you get if you order Volumes on it’s own. In that case your Volumes box is slipped into a pretty sleeve and placed into a manila bubble envelope. While the subscribers get ceremony, non-subscribers don’t.725The cost of a subscription is $99 and $12 for shipping, for a total of $111 for a year. Buying a single box of the Volumes will cost $24.95 plus $4 shipping for a total of $28.95. The sub cost per pencil is $2.31 or $2.13 if you count the extra 4 collector’s tubed pencils. Non subs pay $2.41 per pencil, less if you can buy them from a retailer that offers free shipping.*725I won’t go deep into my thoughts on the heavy handed marketing that is used with the Blackwings. I will say that I’m annoyed that I still have no idea how many of these sets were produced. That aspect of  Field Notes is something that I appreciate. It is completely transparent. The number produced of each edition is printed on the inside back cover. The Blackwing marketing is highly reminiscent of Moleskine marketing, which I could really write about for hours, but won’t. You can just go here and read the pinned post for more info.725Anyway, I decided to buy the first Volumes edition after seeing all the stellar pictures posted of it online. It is a really really pretty pencil. The starburst finish which starts as yellow at the tip, fades to red, and ends in black. The end is capped with the standard golden ferrule and filled with a standard black eraser. The paint is glossy and thick. It is glossy like the Pearl and the 602.**725Anyway, after the pictures I saw online, I guess I expected something, more? Ripping open a bubble mailer isn’t as sexy as opening a carefully packed box. Having spent nearly $30 on 12 pencils, it felt a bit cheap. I won’t describe the sleeve or the box itself, as you can find other blogs that go on about the beauty of the sleeve and box. The pencils themselves are very pretty. In use they are no different than a Blackwing Pearl, which I have to say is my favorite of all the Blackwings. The kicker to me in all of this is that if I were to peel away the fancy new paint job, all I’d have in my hand is a Pearl. A very expensive Pearl.*** Of course there are other less expensive Pearl replacements- the MB Nano Dia B is only $1 per pencil and sports a pearlized finish although with some funky diamond shapes printed in lame pastel colors****. There are other blogs that really search out for Blackwing replacement pencil, and though I enjoy them, I’m not one to spend a lot of time researching this topic. I’m pretty happy with my Musgrave Test Scoring 100 or General’s Cedar Pointe #1.725The fact is that with $30, I wish I’d picked up another box of Pearls, a few erasers, and maybe another sharpener instead of the 725.

Continue reading Blackwing’s Volumes 725

Opinion: Adult Coloring Books and Art Therapy

By now I suppose everyone has read about the “adult coloring revolution!!!”, from one of those click-bait shares on the book of face. Some of these articles suggest that the use of these coloring books is as effective as art therapy or IS art therapy. To make either of these two suggestions is incorrect and innocently ignorant of what art therapy is and isn’t.

I will start this out by stating that coloring is an effective tool in reducing agitation, easing anxiety, and helping someone to contain their emotions in the short term. It is often a tool used in hospitals and by art therapists to assist clients in the short term. It is not a long term solution and can be something someone uses to simply shut off their feelings, which as I previous wrote, can be useful when containing emotions. But art therapy (and regular old talk therapy)  teaches us how to understand our emotions and how to cope with them. Rather than just shut off the emotions, we use skills and tools to understand. That’s therapy- the teaching of skills, tools, and understanding. While coloring is but one tool to assist in containing emotions.

I have personally witnessed  and worked with a client who used coloring to contain agitation and anxiety. The client had early stage dementia and would often be confused as to time(as in what year/date/month) in the morning. This would cause a great deal of anxiety and the client be quite agitated and angry. Using crayons and a selection of coloring sheets gave a moment to calmly color. It decreased anxiety, focused attention, distracted from confusion, and in a short period of time the client was calmer, and in a significantly better mood. The coloring allowed the client to focus attention away from anxiety of being aware of disorientation. This didn’t help to orientate to time or place but allowed the client to be calmly distracted and contain emotions. The elevation in mood didn’t last either. The client would be calmer for about an hour. The coloring was a tool to assist in the moment of agitation.

The main difference in the coloring and art therapy was that the coloring allowed the client to become calmed while art therapy allowed for exploring anxiety, understanding it, and normalizing emotions. Through coloring she became comfortable with color, making color choices, and knowing that art felt better.

In my mind coloring books are a tool to helping people to explore art as therapy, but art therapy is a powerful tool for healing. There is potential for coloring books to be a gateway for art therapy. Perhaps if someone begins to color as a way to relax, they will look up a registered art therapist in their area. I certainly won’t slam coloring books as ineffective, but instead look at them as a tool that has been a staple in the art therapist’s toolbox for ages. Instead of hissing and booing at the new boom in popularity, art therapists should capitalize on this popularity, and attempt to garner more positive attention on ourselves. I encourage people to look up some of these adult coloring books but to also understand that they are a tool, but to further understand themselves they should seek out an art therapist. If one is not near them, seek out a therapist who is open to you using art in your sessions.

So go ahead, color away, but be aware that there are art therapists out there who can help. (Links go to amazon affiliate links of coloring books I think look interesting.) Continue reading Opinion: Adult Coloring Books and Art Therapy

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