Review: Apsara Platinum Extra Dark

I received this pencil free from Notegeist in my first order.  As far as I can tell other than some large quantity packaged on Amazon and eBay, Notegeist appears to be the only place to get just a few of these. Frankly, you’ll want at least one of these in your pencil case.

The looks of the pencil are very nice. It’s coated in a nice thick lacquer with silver and black stripes.  The end is capped with a simple black end dip. The imprint is even and not too deeply set in silver foil. It stands out well and is easily read.

The pencil sharpens with ease, though it appears to be made out of basswood and not cedar. I was able to sharpen it in any sharpener and to any point. It held a long point well.

As far as the core of this pencil goes, it’s nice and dark. While it holds a point reasonably well it doesn’t hold one nearly as well as an HB. It is fantastic and smooth. In my use I have not encountered a single bit of grit nor scratchy bit.

Review: Uni Kuru Toga Roulette Gunmetal Mechanical Pencil

David Reese might refer to mechanical pencils as bullshit but I’ve had a long standing love affair with these wondrous pieces of awesome. From my first knurled metal gripped Koh-i-Nor to this pencil, I love ‘em. Well, except for that cheap ass Kuru Toga I previously reviewed. 20141203_172208Enter the metal bodied version of the Kuru Toga, the Roulette. I have previously discussed the smooth metal bodied version, this one is knurled. And the knurling is nice, it’s crisp and grip-y and completely not slippery. Which was a problem I had with the smooth metal gripped version of this pencil.20141203_172129

The balance is just right for my hand. With the larger weighted end of the pencil being at the business end and the lighter end being the rest of the pencil. It is also important to note that Uni cheaped out and made the rest of the pencil out of colored plastic.  While the pencil is metallic and perfectly matches the paint, I do wish it was made out of the nice aluminum of the grip section. I find that the plastic is less noticeable on this version than the pink version, possibly because the grip and the plastic are the exact same color.20141203_172032

The tip floats a bit as it needs to be able to move up and down without friction thus has a loose-ish fit in the cone. It’s barely noticeable as I’m writing. The Kuru Toga “engine” does it’s job and moves the tip in miniscule amounts as I write, keeping the edge sharp and crisp. The line doesn’t widen at all, it’s stays the same. IF I remember to not rotate my pencil. Since I’ve been writing with wooden pencils all summer I have gotten back into the habit of rotating my pencil, so in effect I defeat the mechanism.20141203_172136

The key to making these pencils work well, it to not rotate the pencil as you write, something that is hard to stop yourself from doing if you’ve been making yourself do it for a full 4 or more months. It also helps if it’s held at more than a 45 degree angle. Steeper angles don’t provide quite enough force to the mechanism to actually rotate the lead. So it just acts like any old pencil.20141203_172048

Anyway, bullshit aside, this is a great looking and feeling mechanical pencil. I break very few leads with this beauty and my writing is crisp and accurate, well as crisp and accurate as my crappy handwriting can be. The price isn’t bad depending on where you purchase it. I found mine on Amazon for about $10, but they are now out of stock. On Jetpens they are $16. In my opinion, if you are looking for a great mechanical pencil, the knurled metal grip Roulette is a fine choice.

Review: Uniball Kuru Toga Starter Kit 0.7

I’m going to start off this review with a negative statement then run into the more positive. This isn’t my first Kuru Toga and won’t be my last, but you shouldn’t buy this as your introduction to Kuru Toga. Why? It’s a cheap imitation of Kuru Toga greatness. The idea of the Kuru Toga is that the lead rotates so you are always writing with a sharp crisp point. This pencil does that, and does it pretty well. If I were just reviewing the Kuru Toga “engine” this pencil would get a high five and stellar review, unfortunately the great guts are marred by a god awful pencil body.bad kuru toga bad kuru toga The body of this pencil is smokey gray plastic that allows you to see the inner workings of the pencil. In theory this is a pretty cool idea, but unless you are working in bright light you can’t really see the inner workings. For me to see through the plastic I must be under a nice bright light otherwise I can’t see anything inside moving, certainly not the small white logo on light blue that is inside this pencil.bad kuru togaThe other Kuru Togas I’ve handled have had a stainless steel tip section, this model has a chrome plated plastic section with a super wide silicone ring around it. The rubbery silicone grip keeps your fingers from sliding off the pencil. The problem is that it’s really hard, has a raised ridge, and is very uncomfortable. I consider myself to have a pretty tough writer’s callous on my right middle finger, but this pencil irritated it. bad kuru togaThe eraser is puny, but works okay once you can get it into contact with the paper. The eraser is so short that you have to flip the pencil completely upside down for it to make contact with the page, otherwise the body of the pencil gets in the way. When you do flip it over you have to press so hard you deploy the nock.  The end cap is also miniscule and easily lost. Basically, just keep a block eraser on hand for erasing. This starter set arrives with 2 extra erasers, but no case to keep them in, so you’ll lose those too.bad kuru toga bad kuru togaThe set arrives with 2 leads in the chamber and a 10-lead tube of NanoDia HB leads. While these are not my favorite leads, they are very nice and smooth for HB leads.  This is probably the best part of this $5 starter set. bad kuru togaI don’t know why Uni made such a terrible pencil package as it’s Kuru Toga starter kit. I don’t think this pencil is going to bring anyone to a love of the Kuru Toga. If anyone is interested in getting a Kuru Toga they are better off getting the rubber gripped version or one of the metal gripped versions. The rubber gripped version is only a few dollars more expensive, and has better reviews.

In short I’m saying this pencil is very cheap feeling but the Kuru Toga engine inside works just fine. I wish I had just saved my $5 and put it toward another metal bodied Kuru Toga or a package of BIC disposable mechanical pencils. The “good” thing about it is that I can use it at my internship and not worry about losing it. Since I don’t have desk space of my own, I have to carry all my stuff around either on my person or leave it in my bag, meaning I don’t leave anything of any valuable laying about.

Review: Midori World Meister’s Grain

I hit the Japanese gift shop at my University before class and picked out a selection of stationary goods as I shopped for potential Christmas gifts. I ended up leaving with stuff only for me (and this blog) and no Christmas gifts. But I did have ideas.

Anyway, one of the items I purchased, on a whim was the 3×5 spiral bound fancy pants Midori World Meister’s Grain notebook.  Before I go on my rant/tirade I’ll give you some fact, then I’ll lose you with the rant. It has 100 sheets of paper. 50 lined with a solid line then 4 dashed  lines then another solid 4 more dashed lines and so on. Then 50 more blank pages.  The lined pages are a creamy color with brown lines. the blank pages are a warm ivory shade. The paper is smooth and crisp. It’s great with pencil, gel ink, and fountain pen. No bleeding and little show through. Quite stunning with fountain pen.

The spiral binding is a copper colored metal and feels sturdy enough. The elastic is brown and goes quite well with the copper wire. The elastic is held to the back cover by two sturdy looking black eyelets. I picked out the black “leather” cover. The copper wire looks great with it, the brown elastic? Eh, it’s okay, just not great. They had brown and tan covers available as well, the brown elastic looks great with them. The “leather” cover also looks pretty good. It’s got a nice texture and feel that goes well with the rest of the materials. Altogether this is a great looking notebook.

The price is a tad on the high side. Okay, well, it’s not a TAD on the high side it’s really god damn expensive. I paid $8.25 on a whim, for a 3×5 spiral notebook with 100 sheets. Yes, I feel like a fool. I could get 12 notebooks on amazon for $10 if I looked for 5 minutes. Could I get one with paper this nice? No. Would fountain pens and gel ink soak through like I was writing on TP? Most likely. This paper is premium and lush. It’s fancy. Is it $8.25 fancy? Well, probably.

If you use fountain pens this is a great looking 3×5 notebook that you’re likely to reach for again and again. It works so flawlessly with fountain pens I’ve been loath to use it with anything else. It’s great with pencils too but man, the ink just works on this paper.

My gripe with this notebook is painting the “leather” cover as “recycled” leather. It’s less an issue with the notebook than it is with the industry (maybe Midori) for taking something that is a standard practice and painting it as some sort of green recycling thing when it’s been done FOREVER. They call this “recycled leather.” It’s leftover leather that is ground up, mixed with plastic, and pressed into a sheet. Sometimes leather scent is added. This has been around for so long that it’s the reason there are laws in the US for labeling leather products. This is why you get a tag on your boots or gloves that says “full grain leather.” This product has been used in bookbinding for ages and ages. It’s easier to use- the leather is rubberized so it’s flexible, it comes with glue on the back (if they order it that way) and it’s an even size. Yes, it’s a good practice, but is it really green? After all they are mixing plastic (probably vinyl) with an organic product that would break down.

Out of Touch, Yet Perfectly Valid

As I’ve delved further into my graduate work I’ve felt more and more out of touch with the world of online art teaching, specifically the teaching of art journaling. Part of this is that I’ve deliberately distanced myself from all the hoopla and brouhaha that surrounds the opening of new classes. The marketing and commercialism turns me off. I get that these classes bring in new people to the joy of art journaling but I can’t help that I just don’t like some of the things I’ve seen. I don’t begrudge the creators of these classes their fat paychecks**. But to me, art journaling when done for healing is a private thing.

This sort of uneasy feeling was cemented when earlier this week I met with a client who isn’t an artist, would likely say she’s not interested in art, but was willing to try out visual journaling. As we sat together and she learned about the materials and expressed herself visually I realized that these sorts of moments- true expression and exploration are what got me interested in art journaling in the first place.

What hooked me wasn’t pictures of big eyes girls, or classes, or even making pretty pages. What hooked me was the authentic expression I found within the pages of my journal.

What I was so very privileged to share in this woman’s experience was pure unadulterated authentic expression using only the most basic of art materials.

When was the last time you used something basic in your art journal? Cheap markers? Oil pastels? Crayons? Prang watercolors?

This was the first time in a year where I’ve felt connected to visual journaling in the same way I did 10 years ago. I was able to see the connection to the journal form and the pure expression of her art build. I witnessed something special.

I haven’t felt that online in ages.

This isn’t to say that the mega classes aren’t fun, I’m sure they are, but they aren’t what I think of when I think “art journaling.”

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Review: Tattersall Pocket Notebook

I picked up a 2-pack of OrangeArt’s pocket sized tattersall letterpress printed notebooks at Black Ink in Harvard Square awhile back. The 2-pack was $8.50, so pretty pricey.TattersallEach notebook has a cover and pages that are letter press printed with a  tattersall pattern. Basically zigzag lines in a large grid pattern. The covers are printed in 2 colors while the interior is a nice shade of gray. The interior paper is nice, toothy enough for pencils and smooth enough for fountain pens. Fountain pens perform reasonably well on this paper, with a little show through and hardly any bleed through but for where I rested my pen a second too long. I used 3 inks in my testing, Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite, J. Herbin Lie de The, and Noodler’s Heart of Darkness.  All were in medium or fine nibbed pens that run wet. I had no feathering or widening of the lines. With the finest of pens the paper made them feel scratchy, but not bad enough to stop me from writing. Pencils performed admirably on this paper. I was able to use my soft dark Palomino Blackwing (“original”) as well as my harder lighter Mirado Black Warrior to good effect. The paper was toothy enough to pull off a decent amount of graphite but not so toothy it felt like I was writing on a cheese grater. Pretty much just right.TattersallTattersall TattersallThe book is held together with 2 standard staples. This works reasonably well. I did not subject this to a stress test as this book was my at-home journal and even there lived in a leather cover. The cover is letterpress printed in 2 colors on white. The cover paper is not much heavier than the interior pages and feels flimsy. It is the worst part of the whole book. While pretty, this cover simply isn’t going to hold up to much abuse or pulling in and out of a back pocket. This is a paper cover that necessitates a case for any use out and about.TattersallThe 40 pages take fountain pen and pencil well. This notebook has 8 less pages than other pocket notebooks that are cheaper. The ruling is also  odd. It is a gray version of the exterior printing but without the cool letterpress imprint*.  The ruling is super wide, about double the width of a Word notebook and most other ruling. It measures in at 13mm. Super wide. i was able to fit 2 lines of writing into one line. I find this annoying. the ruling is also thick about .5mm. even though it’s gray it shows up under all my writing and remains very noticeable. They are available without the ruling. If I were to buy these again I’d look for them with blank pages.Tattersall TattersallOverall these are very pretty pocket notebooks and wonderful if you use a case/cover for your books. If you use fountain pens you will be pleased with the interior paper, and likewise for pencil. They are higher priced than Field Notes or Word notebooks, but boast letterpress printed covers and interior pages. Worth it if you like letter pressed items and want something a little different from the standard fare.

Here you can see the Tattersall on top of a Field Notes Red Blooded, it's a tad smaller than the Field Notes.
Here you can see the Tattersall on top of a Field Notes Red Blooded, it’s a tad smaller than the Field Notes.

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Review: Classic Eraser Round Up

Over on the Erasable podcast they spent an entire episode on erasers. The episode focused on erasers from the perspective of writers and lacked the perspective of an artist.* This highlighted to me the major differences in how artists and writers use erasers and why they use them.

An overwhelming favorite of the podcast were the Pearl erasers, which are now available in the classic pink but also in black and white. The pearl series of erasers feature a gritty removal mechanism that artists tend to avoid as it can damage the delicate surfaces of your art paper, but removes graphite quickly and pretty cleanly while writing. And if you are pressing hard while writing the Pearl erasers can press down the surrounding paper fibers and get down into that groove and get that graphite out. Great for writing, not so great for drawing.

When it comes to using erasers for drawing or  shading, there are so many options out there that it’s confusing. What do you use and when do you use it? This post is about a few classic erasers that you’ll find many art teachers recommend.

All of the images show Design Drawing 3800 4B and a General’s Semi-Hex HB/#2 swatch on color lined 3×5 card. The Semi-Hex was chosen for it’s grittiness and ability to leave scratches in the paper, to demonstrate how the soft erasers have issues with getting into these grooves. The 4B was to demonstrate how the pencil can be pushed into the fibers of the paper. Also included in the first image is the pile of eraser crumbs created via erasing.

Let’s start off with the classic Art Gum Eraser.  It’s tan and can be purchased in a variety of sizes for cheap money. when you use ity you’ll notice that it is also crumbly and makes a mess of crumbs across the page. It does an okay job of graphite removal but it really does a better job with charcoal. It also doesn’t have any grit to speak of so it doesn’t abrade the paper like the Pearl erasers. It is however pretty stiff so I can dent your page.

I recommended this one to my former students mostly because it was super cheap but also for it’s great work with charcoal pencils. erasers1 erasers1Next is the standard kneaded eraser. These are made by a bunch of brands and can also be found in soft, medium, and hard varieties. though most varieties are medium (IMO) and are not labeled. If you aren’t in an art store you will not find the various “hardnesses.” Even most art stores simply carry one style. Many stores also have their brand label of kneaded erasers. In the past kneaded erasers were always gray. Now you can find them in blue, yellow, and other colors.

To use a kneaded eraser you stretch and pull it until it is soft and pliable. You can form it into shapes to make erasures on your page. My favorite shape is a teardrop, the pointy end can be used for details while the larger rounded end can clear away larger swathes of graphite. These can be trickier to get the hang of than similar block erasers, but once mastered they are great. You would use these on almost any drawing paper where you want to clean off graphite or charcoal without damaging your expensive paper. They leave no trace behind so generally, even after erasing your paper will react to watercolors just the same as before you erased. If you have pressed into your page, this eraser will not get that graphite out. This is a delicate eraser meant to remove delicate marks. However with work it will get a paper close to clean.erasers1 erasers1The final classic eraser we should discuss and is always on every art supply list I’ve ever received is the Staedtler Mars Plastic (SMP). While white plastic erasers are now everywhere** the Mars Plastic is the original. The SMP is suggested because it’s soft enough that it doesn’t damage paper but also can clean the paper really well. Unlike the Pearl erasers it has no grit but works really well. It was originally designed for designers to remove graphite from blueprint films, it removed graphite cleanly and easily. It tends to tear if you hold it too far back from the working end, and the paper sleeve helps to keep it from breaking but also to keep it clean. It was able to be cut into shape and used to get tiny small details, which was always fantastic for detailed drawings.

It was always outrageously expensive but has gone down drastically in price over the last 15 years. Which is really great  for the art students out there. I tended to go through one of these, if not more in a school year, as I sketched out ideas, added ink, and then erased my lines later.  It never worked as well with charcoal as it did with graphite but still did okay. It was also available in a click stick format. But that is for another round up.erasers1 erasers1These three erasers were on every art supply list I received in college and later I often recommended them. Over the years I’ve gotten rid of the art gum in favor of other styles but recognize it’s usefulness.

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Review: Ticonderoga Sensematic HB #2

After using wooden pencils nearly exclusively for an entire summer it feels somehow wrong to admit to using a mechanical pencil, especially a new fangled one like the Ticonderoga Sensematic. I mean a ballpoint pen is necessary for filling out forms and such, but a no knock mechanical pencil? Oh my!sensematicThe Sensematic* sports a silver body made of plastic. It is roughly the same size as  a regular pencil. The imprint is teal that matches the typical Ticonderoga green foil pretty well, but I find myself wishing it were green foil. The silver is tough and thus far in my week of use the imprint is staying strong.sensematic

The writing end is all black plastic. The a-typical sleeve is also black and conical is shape. The mechanism is similar to a Uniball Kuru Toga. As you write the interior of the pencil feels you writing and advances the lead just a smidge. It works really well, advancing a little tiny amount of lead each time you make a letter. Now, if you write with long flowing cursive strokes, like the Kuru Toga, this is going to be an issue. Cursive tends to defeat the mechanism, making this pencil well suited for printing and crappy cursuprint like I use.**sensematicThe ferrule is metal and painted Tigonderoga colors. It’s fitted to the lead holder very well and is where one grips to remove the lead holder for refilling the pencil. After unscrewing the ferrule one finds a small white plastic tube with a black cap. This holds 3 leads.*** The cap removes with a pull. On the back end of the pencil is a black eraser, which is the same quality as any other Ticonderoga eraser. That is to say, pretty good as far as pencil cap erasers go. It appears to be the same as the Ticonderoga Noir.sensematicThe lead itself is pretty meh. It is slightly scratchy and not as dark nor as smooth as most Ticonderogas. However, it will accept any 0.7 leads you have available.  I’ve used about a lead and a half over the last week of use. I’ve done quite a lot of writing but no sketching. The lead in this is pretty light so I don’t find it very useful for sketching.

So what am I using this for? First off you’ll notice in the pics, I added a pencil clip. While it’s not the most secure clip in the world it does let me clip the pencil to my shirt at my internship, so that I can grab it for quick notes. The fact that I don’t have to click a knock to advance the lead is super convenient. That only a small amount of lead is exposed at any one time is great. I’m not breaking off bits of lead  or stabbing myself with the pencil. With the clip this is a super convenient mechanical pencil. The final great thing is that they are not much bigger than a pocket notebook in length, so they pair wonderfully with pocket notebook in a cover for EDC.sensematic

In addition to the core being a little scratchy the big downside is that it feels really cheaply made. Granted it was merely $2 for a 2-pack (on clearance) and regularly isn’t much more expensive, but I do wonder what these would be like if made out of better quality materials. They also feel disposable, so I doubt that people, other than me, will replace the lead in them to use them over and over. Honestly a Ticonderoga is a pretty inexpensive pencil to begin with why make a cheap mechanical pencil that will be discarded when empty and pollute the environment? Why not just stick to wood?sensematictoss out the included leads and pick up a pack of Uni NanoDia leads in B or 2B. You'll thank me.

toss out the included leads and pick up a pack of Uni NanoDia leads in B or 2B. You’ll thank me.

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Ideas and Content

As I move further into my professional development as an art therapist and licensed mental health counselor* I find myself wanting to integrate some of my new interests into the blog. Partially as a resource, both for myself, but also to my readers. Well, with training in art therapy comes a lot of ideas of therapeutic interventions as well as a shit load of reading on the various topics. I’m also doing a fair amount of research for my papers and internship.

First I’m thinking of integrating a few book reviews into the blog, specifically those I’m finding inspirational and useful in my internship and papers. I’m reading a lot of really interesting stuff on art therapy, art as therapy, art used in therapy, and general therapy books. I’m less interested in reviewing therapy books as I am books that give specific ideas for Art Therapy. I’m not sure how this will work, or if it will work out. It’s something I’d like to do.

As for the therapeutic interventions. I almost feel like that needs to go on it’s own blog rather than here. But again, my personal philosophy of having the blog follow my personal interests and not having a set theme other than “Leslie’s Mental Whimsies,” is the only way I’m able to continue the blog without  burn out. Look at how different the blog is than it was at it’s inception back in 2000**. I’ve gone from just documenting my various bookbinding ideas and dabbling in art journaling to basically reviewing pencils, pens, and paper. Basically I’m at a loss as to exactly how I’m going to integrate this into my blog.

Those are the first two ideas I’d like to add to the old blog. I’m not sure how I’ll fit them in, or if I’ll even add them. Time is at a premium, and these kinda feel like I’m adding to my course load. I guess I’m also interested in how my readers feel about my ideas for new content. Clearly I haven’t’ been writing much about art journaling lately and my focus has really moved from art as an activity to art as a healing tool. As I make that shift in my head and my practice I’m really struggling with how I’m going to keep up my blogging practice*** I’ve been forced to cut back on blogging simply because I only have so  much time in a day and much of my time is taken up by studying and writing for my classes.

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Review: Furrow Books Pocket Size Notebook

I signed onto the Kickstarter campaign for Furrow Books roughly 6 or so months ago.  I pledged for one of the founding member pocket sized notebooks. Its price was fair to help support the campaign.FurrowThe pocket sized notebooks are 3.5×5.5 inches in size and contain 48 pages. The pages are held to the cover by 3 silver staples. This is all pretty standard in the pocket sized notebook arena. The front cover is unadorned and is a nice dark shade of green. The back cover has some information about the company and the book. Because this was a limited edition of 1500, it sports a hand numbered 0044/1500. At the bottom of the back cover is the furrow books logo. The cover is made of stiff sturdy card. I really dig the logo free front cover.FurrowFurrowInside the covers are colored the original Kickstarter green* and they are blank. They don’t have a place to put your information but this is easily enough to be scrawling in with ink. The pages are blank. Furrow books schtick is that their pages are blank, but that they have a card with lines that you can stick behind them and use as a guide. The pages are just thin enough that you can see this guide well enough to, uh, guide your writing. In practice this works pretty well. I found shoving the card behind every page a tad annoying** but for specific reason which will likely not annoy anyone else (read the footnote for more info on this.) Using the notebook in my cover meant that the elastic pushed the card out of place. Outside the cover it worked pretty well.  I really liked the fact that once I was done there were no lines visible on my page and yet my writing was perfectly straight. Like lines? That’s covered. Like grids? That’s covered. The card is double sided to accommodate what you prefer.FurrowFurrow FurrowFurrowWhile using a pencil I found that my card got a little graphite transfer. This wasn’t an issue in use just a thing to make note of. It wouldn’t happen with fountain pens.FurrowAs someone who interchangeably uses fountain pens, pencils and cheap roller balls it’s important that I know what kind of utensil will work on my paper. I found that pencils worked the best on this paper, in fact they worked so well I found myself using little else. I did test out the Field Notes clic pen to good effect. I tested out a few of my fountain pen stash and the results were ok. I had a lot of show through  and a touch of bleed through. YMMV. I really liked it with pencil, and I would put it on par with some of my other favorite notebooks with pencils. Furrow FurrowOverall this is a pretty nice notebook with great paper that is made well here in the US. The aesthetics are significantly different than Field Notes and approach a classy simplicity in the choice of cover materials and treatments.  These notebooks would look good in an office, board meeting, or a meeting with nerdy professors. The branding is subtle and adult, sophisticated. Again,, comparing them to Field Notes, they lack the fun factor, but make up for it by being an adult notebook.

While I was a Kickstarter Supporter, I suggest that people keep an eye out for these notebooks and support them. MAde in the USA, quality construction (when compared to other notebooks of similar build) and a nice look. How can you go wrong?

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