Sarcastic Pencil Portraits

I’ve been working on a series of portraits as a method of working though my thoughts and feelings surrounding the Orlando Massacre. I started the series using BIC pens but they seemed to colorful for the grim theme, and I switched to pencils pretty quickly. These images have almost exclusively been drawing with Palomino Blackwing pencils. I’ve used the MMX (original Palomino version), Pearl, and the 24. I’ve also used the Casemate’s Premium as well as a few Pentel Sign pens*. I am drawing all of these images in a Hand Book travelogue series sketchbook- 5.5×7.5 in size. Each image is takes up roughly one spread in the book, with the bulk of the image on one page.Doing a portrait series like this is a GREAT way to get drawing portraits. As these people are relatively well known, there are loads of images available via Google.

I look at about a dozen images and use them to create a single image. I might use the eyes from one image, the nose from another, and the mouth from another. Finally I look at how the lighting affects the shading of their face and I take this into account. I am NOT trying to create flattering portraits. They are meant to be unflattering and harsh. Think Alice Neel’s realism. If I were to use colors there would be a strong pink, yellow, and orange coloration in these images.shitbag

I try to spend no more than 10 to 15 minutes per drawing and I try not to erase unless I need to bring out a highlight. This is going to be an image heavy post, so I’ll hide a few image after the cut.shitbag shitbag shitbagshitbag

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Review: Write Notepads Pocket Ledger

 

Given my usual disdain for spiral bindings it might be considered unusual for me to put up yet another positive review of another spiral binding, but I am. So for those of you who need no other info, I like these so read no further.

Let me get into WHY I like these notebooks so much.

Let’s start with the insides. These notebooks sport 120 super thick eggshell colored pages. The paper is smooth yet toothy. The ruling is a pale shade of green that melts into whatever is written. The combination of warm paper with pale ruling just gets me. The paper isn’t so warm or off-white that it interferes with ink color or pencil has difficulty showing on it’s page, rather it compliments everything I’ve put onto the page. Everything simply looks good on this paper.Write ledger

As for what I’ve put onto these pages. Well I’ve used Akkerman Zuiderpark Blauw-Groen, Sailor Yama-dori, Platinum blue black, and every grade of graphite available to me. I’ve been sticking to fine and extra-fine pens so the paper works okay with fountain pen ink with a minimum of show through and bleed through. Larger nibs, well they are out of the question. Ink spread out to a bit more than nib size, and the wetter the nib, well that just invites disaster. Pencil, on the other hand, oh mama, that might be what this paper was chosen for. Pencil slides onto this paper without grinding the tip down quickly. Yeah a large amount of graphite is taken, but tips seem to last well.My favorite grades were HB and B. Which were plenty dark and were complimented by the cream shade of the paper.Write ledger Write ledger

While I adore the paper inside the covers, the covers might be my favorite part of these notebooks. The chipboard is heavyweight and perfect for writing in hand. There is just enough flex in the chipboard that it conforms to my hand as well as to a pocket. Over time the cover also gets softer with use, not just in stiffness, but in feel. I’m a fan of the worn in and well used look and these covers get that look oh so well. Yet, they don’t look like the dog chewed on them either. This notebook has been with me for about  a year and it’s gotten better looking with age.Write ledger

Now, my least favorite topic, spiral bindings. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I don’t despise them as much as I thought I did but rather, I like them for some uses. It seems I like them for some small pocket notebooks. Which makes sense, the way I got into pocket notebooks was through the free 3×5 pocket notebooks we were given at my old DayJob to keep track of things. I must’ve used hundreds of those things. For journals, I hate spirals, for day-to-day notes, ideas etc… spirals are a-ok. The good thing about the Write Notes spirals- they don’t crush or smush in my bag- they stay strong. I can get behind that.

I think it’s worth examining the size of these ledgers. By modern standards it’s weird at 3×6 inches; bigger than a 3×5 notebook and too small to be a reporter notebook. That said, it is a perfect size- it fits in the hand just right and is easy to write in.

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Review: Galen Leather XL Cover for Tablet and XL Moleskine

I’ve been using the large sized Teffa Bag-in-Bag to carry my tablet*, composition notebook, keyboard, pen, pencil, and the sundry other items I need for daily use. I’ve been looking for a portfolio style case that lets me carry the tablet safely along with the other tools I use for writing in one compact case. Most portfolios integrate in a legal pad instead of a side bound notebook. They also attach the tablet into the portfolio. I wanted to be able to write in the notebook and not have the tablet in the way. Also, I didn’t want to be tied to the case if I wanted to use the tablet. It was a conundrum

Enter the Galen Leather XL Cover for Tablet and XL Moleskine, what I will call the XL Portfolio. I’ll state here that I was offered the case in exchange for the review. I do believe I’m going to offer an honest review, so please continue. The XL Portfolio arrives via Fedex, signature required so be sure you are home when it’s scheduled to appear. The tracking was pretty accurate once it hit US soil, which was in about 48 hours. Shipping was very fast, roughly 4 or 5 days from the shipment notification. The Fedex mailer was stuffed with the box which was securely wrapped in bubble wrap.

Daaaayum just stopped at fedex to pick up this bad ass piece of leather. That blue is gorgeous.

A photo posted by LC Harper (@originallcharper) on


The packaging must be noted. It’s gorgeous. It’s a perfect gift presentation- a nice kraft box with a nice logo printed in black ink. Opening the box I was hit with the scent of fine leather. The XL Portfolio arrive with a belly band, a maker’s card, and an Evil Eye charm. The whole package tells the story of the company and makers- Galen Leather. It’s very personalized and looks great.

I chose the XL portfolio in blue. The color is awesome. It isn’t bright and it’s not dark, it’s a deep, intense shade of blue. It is perfect. I love this color and the look of the portfolio.Galen

The XL Portfolio fits an XL Moleskine or standard US composition notebook and likely other sized notebooks as well. The notebook’s back cover slides under an elastic where it is held pretty snug. I find that my elastic is a tad too loose on the inside and the comp books slides around a bit, but mostly, it stays put. With a thicker covered notebook, this would not be an issue.

Behind the spot for the notebook is a pocket, this is for your tablet. It slides in and stays in place when the covers are closed. I’m using my XL portfolio with a 10 inch Galaxy Tab 3 which is a tad thicker than the iPad Air it is designed for so it is quite snug. Because the case is leather it is slowly forming to the tablet and the tablet is easier to insert and remove. There is a second pocket on the opposite side of the case, this should also fit an iPad air, but it does not fit my Galaxy tab 3. So please be aware that if you are not using the iPad with your case, the individual variations in the handmade product may mean that your tablet does not fit. That being said, the newer 8 and 9 inch tablets should fit. My partner’s Kindle Paperwhite fits into the opposite pocket perfectly well.Galen

The left hand side of the case has a few card slots, a pocket notebook slot, a larger slash pocket to hold a pencil roll, and there is an elastic pen holder. In the larger pocket designed as the secondary iPad pocket, I stash my tablet stand. The slash pocket houses my pencil case and the pocket notebook pocket has a notebook in it. I don’t use the card slots, yet. I have my TWSBI Eco in the elastic pen holder. All of these pockets work well for their intended use. I may adapt them over time as I use the XL Portfolio more. At this point I’ve been using it for about a month and I can see myself adapting the pockets for other uses.
GalenTo close  the case you close it like a book but there is a thick elastic you can pull from the back and over the spine to hold the XL Portfolio close. The elastic holds everything secure and tight.

Overall I find the XL Portfolio very usable, and distinct. It’s classy and polished looking. I feel sorta, you know, professional and stuff when I pull it from my backpack**… There are a few things I had to give up in comparison to carry my tablet in the Bag in Bag- namely I can’t also carry my keyboard in the same case, nor can I have my charger and cable in the XLPortfolio. The XLP might be more contained but that means sacrificing carrying the kitchen sink…

In addition to not being able to carry my charger and cable is that the XLP weighs 1lbs 2.4oz without anything in it. I add an additional 2lb 10 oz, so altogether I’m looking at carrying around 3lb 14 ounces. Fortunately I’m pretty minimalistic in my EDC because this is heavy. Comparing it to the bag in bag, which weighs only 6.4 ounces just shows how heavy this case it. However, the XLP is very protective. The Bag in Bag always left me worried that when I arrived at the cafe my screen would be cracked and that maybe my keyboard would no longer work. I do not have that fear with the XLP. I know that there is no way my screen is getting cracked in the XLP.

It is also worth noting that I use my tablet in conjunction with a keyboard as a replacement for a laptop. Mainly it is used in this manner for word processing. I occasionally check social media. I also use it for reading books, though this is an occasional thing as I prefer other tools for reading, like paper. To solve the problem of protecting my keyboard I bought an inexpensive neoprene case, which seems to keep it safe.

Anyway, I feel pretty safe suggesting to someone who might want a notebook and tablet case that looks quite professional,  to check out the XL Portfolio on Galen Leather’s website. It is an amazingly tough product that does its job very well. Continue reading

Review: Story Supply Company Pocket Staple Notebook

Story Supply Company was a fantastic Kickstarter back in Fall of 2015. I’m happy to say that I backed it to the tune of 2 packs of notebooks. I chose a pack of lined and grid rulings. I regret that I did not get a pack of their pencils at the same time.SSCPS

SSC notebooks sport nice thick covers, some of the thickest on any of my pocket notebooks I own. I compared them to Furrow, Field Notes, Calepino, Word, Write, Public Supply, etc… Though I did not get out the calipers, the SSC covers are the thickest. I feel that this makes using the SSC notebook very enjoyable for notes on the go. I don’t have to rely on a cover to give the notebook needed heft, the notebook’s got that on it’s own. The covers sport a simply logo in a creamy yellow shade in a field of navy blue. I really dig this color combination. It is sedate and even professional. These notebooks can be used at work without garnering too much attention, unlike a neon Field Notes.SSCPS

Inside the cream color is mirrored in the shade of the pages. The page is warm with pale blue gray lines (in both the lined and grids). I adore how the pale lines melt into the background when I use a dark pencil or ink color. I forget their presence. So very nice. The paper is smooth and really nice with both pencil and pens. Softer pencils tend to smudge a bit, but rollerball and fountain pens do really well. I also found that felt tip pens, like Staedtler Triplus fineliners did really well on this smooth paper. Also, only the wet fountain pens soaked through the page and made a mess. I was able to use a lot of my fine and extra fine fountain pens. While Field Notes tend to require rollerball or pencils, SSC paper lets me use whatever writing tool I want, options are good.

Terrible picture, cannot capture the color with a camera

Terrible picture, cannot capture the color with a camera

What more can I say about these notebooks? The paper is great. The covers are sedate and thick. In addition to being a great notebook the company gives back by donating writing utensils and notebooks to schools in need. What’s not to like?SSCPS SSCPS

Oh, they also have a new series of covers drawn/designed by a guy who has drawn Deadpool. You can support education and get a cover that is a little less sedate but wrapped around a still awesome notebook. Great stuff. (The new covers will be on  a larger size notebook- 5.5×7.5)SSCPS

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Review: Lihit Lab Teffa Bag-in-Bag A5 (Small)

Recently Brad over at the Pen Addict mentioned that he had both sizes of the Lihit Lab Teffa Bag-in-Bag (BIB) and didn’t find the smaller size as useful. Like Brad, I have both sizes but I’ve found a use for the small size, but I don’t use it for stationery. I use it for personal care items that I want to have in my bag but don’t want to have duplicates of for every bag.ospreyflapjack

If you’ve read my previous bag reviews you know that I was basically using my backpack as a mobile office while I was in school.   A good part of making this comfortable was being organized. There is nothing quite as bad as realizing I’m away from home and that I forgot the charger for my phone, and that the cheapest charger at CVS/school bookstore/etc is $20 that I don’t have. I was spending entire days away from home without the comfort of a locker or desk to stash the usual stuff I would leave at a desk. My small BIB became that carry all for those desk drawer items you don’t always think about. It made it really easy for me to swap bags from day to day. On school or cafe working days I’d put the BIB in the Flapjack, on internship days it went into my professional leather bag. Much easier than moving all the small items from bag to bag.LLTBIBMy small BIB contained the following:

In the main compartment:

  • Epipen
  • Travel pack of WetOnes wipes 
  • Travel tube of hand lotion
  • Snack sized zipper bag with tampons and pads
  • Snack sized zipper bag with OTC, bandaids, alcohol wipes, toothpicks, and a vial with 1 day of spare prescription medication, and the scripts for them
  • Travel pack of ibuprofen (not pictured)
  • Zipper bag with 2 pairs of nitrile gloves*LLTBIBinside

In the outer pockets:

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Packets of tea**
  • Handmade cotton handkerchief
  • Spare 10ft charging cable for my tablet+wall jack (not pictured, FN in it’s place)
  • Emergency Bullet pencilLLTBIBfront

Some of this is obviously female centric- but someone of this works for anyone- the OTC meds and bandaids, you would be surprised at the number of occasions I found people needed a bandaid, or I did. Hangnail or paper cut the alcohol wipes and bandaids were there. Start to feel sick? Got dayquil tablets. Got raging diarrhea? Got some immodium right here. Bike chain jumped off? Got gloves and wipes. Stuck my hand in some gunk on the train? Hand sanitizer to the rescue. Friend needs a charge? Got that covered.

Thirsty and tired of sipping water? Well, shit, let’s not be uncivilized and let’s sip some chai or chamomile.*** Stung by a bee? Anaphylactic shock setting in? Well there’s the epipen, and 2 benedryl  in the pack.

Until recently I used the large size to corral my tablet, keyboard, and a notebook into one package, but I’ve swapped that out for a Galen Leather case. The large size is great for that purpose, but the small size has it’s merits as well, but perhaps those merits aren’t stationery related but more EDC related.

My zippers were smooth and work well. However I did notice a few stitching issues here and there- they were easily solved with the use of a lighter to heat set them.

You can get one here.

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Review: Bic Cristal

The Bic Cristal seems to be a heavily favored ball point for sketching, drawing, and doodling. One might wonder why when there are so many “better” options out there for pens. Please keep in mind that this review/discussion is abou the Cristal and NOT the shite Bic Stic.biccristal

First and foremost, I’ll point out that my strongest belief is that the best tool is the tool you use. If you have a Bic in hand and you feel like drawing, then  you should.biccristal

Bic Cristals are available everywhere. I found them in CVS, Walgreens, target, Staples, Walmart, and every other place I looked.  They are also very inexpensive. A 24 pack of mixed colored Xtra Bold were $4 at my local Staples while the 15 pack of Ultra Fine “Precisions” were $3.49 at my local Target. (Calling these two chains local sort of begs the question of what local is- in this case I’m using it to describe a location to which I could, if pressed, ride my bike to in a reasonable amount of time, that is roughly 5 miles from my home.*) For less than $10 I was able to purchase 39 pens in 8 colors and 2 tip sizes for under $10. That is very cheap.biccristal

Because they are quite inexpensive and easily available everyone knows what they feel like to use. Because of this they do not feel precious. You can use them to your hearts content and not be worried that you are going to use them up, because for another $4 you can get another 24-pack.biccristal

For the most part, they simply work. I’ve found that a few of the colors seem to flow more slowly than others, and that the Ultra Fines seem to skip a bit here and there, but that is also useful when sketching or drawing- using a pen with a “rougher” flow can give a bit of character to a sketch that otherwise might be flat and boring.biccristal

The various colors are all pretty standard. Their core colors are black, dark blue, red, and dark green. The new 4 seem to be part of  their “fashion” line up- dark purple, light blue, pink, and light green. The purple, light blue, and pink are okay but the light green is a sick shade of yellow green that borders on the color of bile. Nasty.biccristal biccristal

What makes the Cristal stand out from the Stic is that the Cristal body is hard, while the Stick flexes quite a lot in use. When I was a kid my Bic Stics ALWAYS ended up curved. In some part because I would use them as a worry and bend them as I read, but also because I’d put a lot of pressure on them. The Cristal doesn’t allow for flex. Too much pressure and it will shatter. Unlike the Clic, the Cristal’s point doesn’t flop all over the place as it is used. This makes the Cristal great for sketching, doodles, and drawing.biccristal

Currently, I’m testing the lightfast abilities of all the Cristals in my possession but I strongly doubt that the majority of the colors are lightfast, if any at all. I suspect that the light green, pink, red, and purple will be gone in a week or 2, and in a month the majority of the other colors, including black, will have shifted in shade substantially. I’ll keep you updated.

For the art journaler who uses acrylic in their journal, the Xtra Bold pens have the added bonus of being able to write over acrylic paints.

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Review: Osprey FlapJack (OriginalVersion)

For my final year of graduate school I realized I needed a smaller bag, my Brain bag was simply TOO big. I only had 2 classes, and only one of which met regularly in the city. Additionally, I didn’t need to cart around quite so much stuff. I established what I’d be carrying on a regular basis.

  • My tablet and keyboard
  • A notebook
  • Pencil case
  • Phone
  • Assorted daily items
  • Clipboard with printed articles (roughly 25 to 100 printed pages depending on the day.)

Obviously, my daily carry for classes had changed over time and had dramatically reduced. I wanted a backpack with an integrated laptop sleeve for my tablet and keyboard and enough room for my stuff plus occasional purchases and removed outer layers.ospreyflapjack

With this purchase I was far less concerned with the longevity of the bag and more concerned with it being cost effective and comfortable. With this in mind I checked out the bags carried by some of my peers and searched Amazon for something about half the size of the Brain Bag. The Osprey FlapJack fit the bill. I purchased the olive green.* The FlapJack includes several replaceable straps for the closure and sternum strap. These are easily replaced with a little oomph applied.ospreyflapjack

Inside the bag are two large compartments divided by the integrated laptop pocket. The pocket furthest to the back is slim and doesn’t hold much at all, only a few notebooks. I used this mostly to hold a clipboard with printed articles, or my tablet depending on the day. The integrated laptop pocket will hold up to a 15″ laptop and was plenty deep for my 10″ tablet and keyboard. The largest pocket, furthest to the front of the bag has a small mesh pouch that is not overly useful but will hold a water bottle to the side of the bag. The large compartment can hold several books and notebooks as well as an assortment of other items. There is a side pocket that is long and slim.It is perfect to hold a waterbottle, and on several occasions I’ve used it to corral a wet umbrella. The flap has a small pocket that is accessible when the bag is closed. This pocket is only big enough to hold keys, chapstick, and a few other things. This bag is not big, it has a slim profile that can be snugged down even more slim with the use of the straps. The flap can be used to secure a jacket or other loose items.ospreyflapjack ospreyflapjack ospreyflapjack

There is no suggesting that this is a big bag, it’s just big enough for someone who needs to carry a few books and a laptop or tablet, maybe a few other things. This is not a bag for a long weekend trip or even a student in need of a lot of things. You aren’t going to pack this bag with things for more than 2 classes, and even then, you won’t fit all the books for 2 classes in it at a time. No, this is a bag for when you don’t need a lot of stuff with you. It is a perfect bag for grabbing and going to the cafe to work, or to the library for research.ospreyflapjack 20160528_133525 ospreyflapjack

The bag was very comfortable when packed full or packed lightly. The straps are very comfortable and the back utilizes mesh as well as foam to create air channels that help to keep your back cool. I found this very comfortable. I did find that the sternum strap did not adjust quite low enough for me and in several positions I felt as if it were strangling me. On the lowest position it worked just fine. The sternum straps are secured to the shoulder pads via a button and buttonhole type attachment. There are only 4 options for attachment. The zippers are smooth and work incredibly well.ospreyflapjack

I purchased this without expecting it to last past the school year, but even after repeated use and abuse the bag looks good and still works well. I’ve found that some types of foam flatten out with use and are less comfortable over time. The FlapJack does not suffer from this issue. The straps are just as comfortable today as they were a year ago at the day of purchase. I expected to toss this bag into the recycling bin at the end of the school year, instead I’m reaching for it again and again when I walk to the cafe or to the library to work on this blog. This is a high quality bag that I expect to use for years to come. For a backpack that I spent roughly $60 on, this has worked extremely well.

Nitty gritty details at a glance:

  • 1 large compartment divided in two
  • Zippered laptop compartment, fits 15″ laptop
  • Mesh organizer pocket inside main compartment
  • 2 small organizer pockets at front of bag- largest with organizing pockets, one with a key leash
  • 1 side pocket that fits a 1L water bottle or umbrella
  • Large flap keeps contents dry
  • Small pocket on flap
  • Sternum strap
  • Hip Straps
  • Holds 25Liters

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Review: Casemate Premium No. 2 Pencils

I found these due to a post on the Erasable Facebook group. Casemates is Walmart’s private label office goods brand.I found a wide assortment of Casemate (CM) goods- from legal pads to pencils to journals in their office aisle. You name it, they have a Casemate logo slapped onto it. The majority of the goods, well, it is easy to see that they are simply rebranded things from other manufacturers. Such is the case with all private label goods*. With careful purchasing you can buy a product that is ALMOST the same as the regular product for a fraction of the price**.CMPP CMPP

The CM Premium Pencils (CMPP) are sold in an 8-pack for 97 cents. The 8-pack comes in a tin and plastic tube that doubles as a sturdy pencil case or stand. It does dent easily, but it is not crushed with ease. Inside the case are 8 pencils and a sharpener. The sharpener is pretty meh, but it does the job. It sharpens to a standard short point. The sharpener is labeled “Nataraj.” Which leads me to believe that the pencils are made by the Hindustan company which manufactures the Nataraj pencil brand***.

The pencils are quite nice. They have a thickly applied glossy lacquer in silver and black. The color scheme appeals to my inner angsty teen. The imprint is in silver foil and simply says, “No.2/HB.” the imprint is done well on some and not so well on others. On  a few of mine only part of the imprint was there the rest it was fine.CMPP

The wood appears to be linden/basswood. It’s light in color and sharpens well. When sharpened it has the smell of bay leaves. The ferrule is affixed to all of mine well. It holds a useless nubbin of an eraser that must’ve been added as a joke. It’s a white rubbery blob that is too small to fit properly into the ferrule and does an absolutely shit job of erasing graphite from anything I’ve tried- from Field Note to Story Supply Company to 3×5 card to Reporter notebook to my Mt Tom. It was a useless turd of an eraser. It sort of dust gathers, but mostly the pristine white eraser turns a shade of gray and feels mushy. This thing sucks sooooo bad.CMPP

The core itself is dark, smooth, sharpens easily, and holds a point remarkably well for a pencil this dark. I didn’t have to sharpen the pencil for page after page of writing. Holy smokes awesome. I was able to keep on going and going. Amazing point retention. However I would not call this an HB pencil, no, it is easily a B if not a 2B. Cores are mostly well centered, with one or two of the 24 I purchased off centered enough to notice a problem during sharpening.

Now the reason these pencils are kind of a big deal? Well first off the whole package- case, sharpener, and pencils are only 97 cents. That a pencil this dark and smooth is available for 97 cents is pretty amazing. The other part of the awesome is that these look and feel just like the Nataraj Platinum Extra Dark 2b pencil. Which is an awesome pencil with all the same flaws I’ve listed above. More importantly is availability. Previously, you have to order from CWPE (not a bad option) or find them via Amazon or eBay. None of these are deal breakers, but if you go the Amazon/ebay route you could wait weeks to a month to get your pencils, and pay more than 12 cents a pencil, plus you don’t get a sweet hackable metal case. The sharpener is okay, but nothing special. It’s the case that makes this a sweet deal. The case holds 13 pencils packed full, and is so much fun to decorate. I really really enjoy this tin.CMPP

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Testing: Light VS Dark in Pencils

Occasionally I watch a few videos on the Youtube* and this one guy kept popping up as someone I should watch, RixCanDoIt. His videos are pretty good, and in the pencil videos he makes reference to his “MB grading” system. He’s thoughtfully provided a video on this MB grading System. 20160522_125354
Upon watching I had a few thoughts. First I think it is a great idea to create a personal system to help you compare pencils to a personal standard.( More on this point in a bit.) Secondly, I don’t think that using shading is an accurate way to compare light/darkness while writing, for drawing yes, writing not so much. (more on this point later) Finally, using the lightbox behind the shaded area is not useful because it merely shows you how much graphite is on the page instead of how dark it is.20160522_125425

Creating standard references is a fantastic idea and tool to take the blind subjectivity out of “How light or dark is this pencil?” However, if someone were to come over, sit at my desk and create a sample to reference against my set of standards they would get entirely different results. There are a range of reasons for this. First when creating a sample with shading, this is a skill I’ve practiced, so I’m able to get very light layers of graphite built up, not everyone is able to get that effect with their pencils. So My HB reference sample is going to be lighter than someone else’s and darker than others. So even though I’ve created a standard sample to compare new samples against, it will be different than another person’s. It would be disingenuous for me to suggest that my sample is a perfect sample. That can’t be done.
20160522_125828
My second point is that when you shade you use very light pressure and add as little graphite to the page as possible to build up shades of light and dark. So you are trying for a light even layer. This is not how people write or even sketch (draw yes, but that is another conversation.**) When writing we tend to use a variety of pressures and hold the pencil is a very different way then when drawing and shading. I wanted to create a standard that would mimic these varieties of pressure. As I was thinking about this- could scribbles do it? Yes, but there isn’t an effective way to control scribbles, but one can control cross hatching.20160522_125822

I created two standards of reference- one shaded and one crosshatched using Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils. Partially because in my mind this is what I compare everything to and also because I had a set on hand. I created the standards on 8×10 HandBook FlexiBook paper. The paper is a dull white, non reflective, toothy and good with pencils. I also hate it so using it for samples suits my purposes. For individual samples I cut 3×3 inch squares of the FlexiBook paper and create a roughly 1 inch square in the middle. I trim this down to a small strip of paper and the graphite runs up to the edges making it easy to compare the sample to the standard.20160522_125410

To visually compare the sample I lay the new sample against the standard. I look at it and if need be squint and let my eyes unfocus. This way I’m not looking at the sample or the standard and I’m better able to see if things are similar.20160522_125656

So my results are mixed. Some of the pencils are the same when shaded or when crosshatched, but I found quite a few that were a grade darker in crosshatched instead of shaded.20160522_142844 20160522_142833

Is this a useful tool? Yes. I’ll be adding it to my testing of new pencils. I’ll probably do both the shading and crosshatching but maybe not all the time. What I found most useful was comparing pencil to pencil. Interestingly my comparison of the Blackwing Volumes 24 to the Palomino HB confirmed my initial idea that they are nearly identical in darkness- both in the shading and crosshatching test. Now these tests tell me nothing about point retention, smoothness, or other somewhat subjective things with the use of a pencil. Now to devise a standardized test for point retention…

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Revisit: TWSBI Eco (nomical) Fountain Pen

Nearly a year after its introduction, the TWSBI Eco is now available in full demonstrator model. I would be a liar if I said I didn’t want the full clear model.* I have been using the original black and clear since purchasing it shortly after release. This is the ONLY fountain pen in my stable that I’ve kept full of ink since purchase. I’ve run several fills of ink through it, until settling on Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo as my go to ink for this pen. Tsuki-yo is a medium teal ink that leans perfectly between blue and green for me. It’s well saturated yet not overly so and lubricated enough to make the EF steel nib on my Eco glide over most paper. This ink and pen combo is great. I am currently testing out the Edelstein Turquoise ink and it is also a great combo with this pen.TWSBI ECO

I have abused this pen. It lives in my Nock Co Fodderstack XL all the time next to one of my MetalShop CT Twist bullet pencils. This is not an easy life for a fountain pen. The Fodderstack lives in the back pocket of my jeans. I sit on it regularly. It bumps up against the Twist. I’ve dropped the Fodderstack and it’s contents, I’ve tossed them across the room and onto the couch. Shockingly, the Eco has survived, certainly with some scratches and wear, but not a crack has appeared. This is precisely WHY I’ve been so abusive to the pen. Why I’ve thrown caution to the wind and risked a teal colored bottom. I wanted to see if the Eco would crack not only under normal circumstances and use, but with abuse.TWSBI ECO

It hasn’t.TWSBI ECO

I also wanted, and needed a pen that could withstand such abuse. My work tends to be on the go. I move around much of my day. I’m standing at a whiteboard, sitting with a group, moving from room to room, little of my day is spent in one place. I needed a pen that could survive my use. The Eco did it, with a gold star.TWSBIECO

While I hesitate to recommend the 500 series to people for this same sort of abuse, TWSBI has done something with the Eco that seems to eliminate the cracking issues. I’m confident that when I purchase the full clear demonstrator model I’ll be happy.
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