Review: Narwhal Yellow Tang Fountain Pen

Narwhal Yellow Tang fountain pens popped up on my radar towards the end of 2020, and like many things in 2020, they stayed there on the edges of my vision, not being capitalized upon. Though they were in the running as a celebratory pen for purchase when I snagged my new job. When Goldspot reached out and offered me one to review I jumped on it fast! The little bubble wrapped package arrived in my mailbox a week or so later and I wasted no time cutting it open and peeking at the contents. I’d left it up to Goldspot to pick a color, though I was tempted to request a demonstrator. I am very pleased with the Yellow Tang original that arrived.

The packaging is understated but also giftable. While I appreciate a nice gift box, I appreciate being able to recycle the box more. It’s simple with modest and cute branding. The card box is lines with thick foam that holds the pen and wrench secure for transportation. I like it.

The yellow and white swirled acrylic is lovely and vibrant. While gold nibs and furniture aren’t my favorites I think silver would look odd on a yellow pen and the accents of gold trim look great on this acrylic. I almost regret that I filled it with with black ink, but even boring black ink (for sketching) it looks amazing. The yellow and white pop against the darkness of the ink. The piston moves effortlessly and takes a deep fill of ink. Usually I measure the fill, but I really just wanted to get it filled so I could draw.

In use I find that the pen is a nice size and not too heavy. I don’t usually post my caps and though the cap on the Narwhal is technically postable, I found that it made the pen off balanced and overly long. The clip allowed me to attach the pen to my sketchbook or into my pen case for safe keeping. It’s sturdy and feels as though it will last.

I’ve used this pen for awhile now and it lays down a generous but not too wet line of ink that works great for writing and sketching. it doesn’t seem to dry out when I let it sit while I use my brush pen for a few minutes to blur and blend lines.

Overall I really like the pen. The nib is great and a nice size and the acrylic pops. Even their special edition acrylics are affordable. At $45 it’s not cheap but more along the lines of Moonman or even the TWSBI Eco. I have to say that when it is compared to the Eco, I like the style of the Narwhal better. I like the overall color scheme and the fact that it feels a bit more sleek. It is a pretty traditional fountain pen style, the original in black would fit in anywhere, while the fun colors offer a bit of fun to any writing or sketching experience. When compared to Moonman, Narwhal stands out as their designs are classics and not riffs on another company’s designs. They don’t feel like a mishmash of ideas hastily tossed together. This pen also feels of higher overall quality. If you are looking for a piston filling pen for sketching, the fine nibbed Narwhal stands out as a solid choice.

Narwhal as a company stands out from the field of less expensive fountain pens in that the company backs up its products and if you head to their website you can see the owners. I like the idea that I’m supporting a small company and even specific people, that stand behind their products. That feels important to me as a consumer and reviewer. *

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State of the Art: Printmaking Play

I’ve been deep in art play mode lately. I apologize for the lack of pen posts and overwhelm of printmaking play posts. I do have a review partially completed for a great pen that I should be posting soon.

Printmaking has been a passion of mine for a long time but lack of a press and interest in other art making has taken up much of my time over the last few years.  I think that the last time I posted here about printmaking was when my friend Jane and I made gelatin plates over ten years ago! (Just writing about them makes me want to make more gelatin plates!)

I’ve been testing out how different materials collagraph- what they look like and how they stand up. I also purchased a pot of Speedball SuperGraphic Black and a tube of their fabric ink in brown.  The SG Black is taking forever to dry, but it’s also been incredibly humid and cold here. The fabric ink started to set up as I rolled it out. But both inks look great- on paper and fabric!

With collagraphs building the plate is just one part of making the image, inking is the second part, but the most important is wiping. In this final last part of the process, like etching, the printmaker controls how much of the ink is left on un etched areas of the plate and how much wiping will occur, also, if any texture is left in that ink. Changing one aspect of the wipe can almost completely change the image!

The fun little mini press aka embossing tool that I purchased allows me to play around not only with lino, wood, and collagraphic prints but etchings too! ‘

Many people make etchings into aseptic packaging- soy milk packages and the like. Any plastic lined multi-layered item will work. I managed to get my hands on an assortment of old advertising items- mini white boards with old calendars, decks with missing cards, and old advertising posters. All of these things have a plastic layer over cardstock and work great for mini etchings.

I did a few tests of prints and use of different materials for etchings and I’m really pleased with how they came out. This of course leads me to more ideas for the process.

State of the Art: Collagraph Test Plates

One of the things that I really like about making prints is that you can test out how things are going to print on a smaller scale. I decided to make collagraph test plates. I pulled every acrylic medium that I own out and blended it in some manner with 3 grades of sand- extra fine, fine, and medium. I then sealed the plate with 2 varnishes, one applied two ways. The results are that I can see how each material will react under each varnish.uninked drying test plates with a variety  of mediums and sands uninked drying test plates with a variety  of mediums and sands

The plates measure 2.5×3 inches and there are a lot of them. I’m printing each one on Strathmore 400 drawing paper. Why drawing paper? I had a ton of it left over from an unfinished project, in a size that would fit into my printer and give me plenty of space to write notes on.hand holding an uninked test plate hand holding an uninked test plate

The result is a lot of interesting printable texture and deep dark areas of the prints and really interesting wipes. It is worthwhile to note that with collagraphs the wipe is as important as the original plate. You can use a variety of pressures and materials to wipe away the excess ink, also using direction of the wipe can give interesting effects.Test plate next to print from plate. (Print on left plate on  right.) Test plate next to print from plate. (Print on left plate on  right.) Test plate next to print from plate. (Print on left plate on  right.) Test plate next to print from plate. (Print on left plate on  right.) Test plate next to print from plate. (Print on left plate on  right.)

Currently I’m printing with a blend of Blick and Speedball relief inks blended weith a fair amount of retarder and a bit of antifilm.

State of the Art: Updates

I have made slow but steady progress on my studio space. Each night I peck away at it a bit more. This is of course complicated by the fact that this is also planting season. I only have so much time and I have to split that between all of my things.

I have removed almost all the paper scraps. For years I’ve saved all my bookbinding and other paper scraps in boxes to recycle. I would get a box full, seal it up, and put it into the recycle bin. It turns out that this is a big no no in curbside recycling for a number of reasons- no sealed boxes or bags in recycling and no shredded paper. It turns out that shredded paper and scraps get blown around the facility and make a mess. They don’t want them.

I have a couple of options for my paper scraps- make paper or compost.

For now I’m choosing compost. It’s not the most ideal but I also need a great deal of brown/carbon for my compost bin anyway. I also do not have the time to make paper right now. I might at some point also try making some papier-mâché clay out of my scraps but for now compost it is.

I have added to my organizational tools. As part of the office clean out at my job, a lot of things have been designated as trash that have plenty of life in them. One such thing was an old taboret. The wheels were a bit loose and it is one of those stick together versions you get from Michael’s, that said, they were a lot of money new, and I can repair this one. I also snagged a pen and pencil rack and a few other organizers.

State of the Art: Printmaking and Cleaning

I’m not going to lie, the state of the art is a mess of printmaking and cleaning my studio. Also my workplace office and a lot of the facility. I’ve had to sort through the art studio at work and decide what was trash, what could be sent off, and what would be sent to another program.

Let me tell you, that was not fun.

Of course I spent a fair amount of time staring at my work computer waiting for the system to save and load things. Our computers are old and internet slow. Go figure. While I sat there I decided to try some collagraph prints with left over office supplies- old folders and glue sticks, and beaten up craft knives.

I love collagraphs. They are very versatile and there are options for relief work but also intaglio style incised lines. Another fun aspect is that you can really get the plates to be quite painterly. The resulting prints have a wide range of tones. I’m still figuring out the right mix of ink and additives for a good wipe but also a good range of tones. I’ve ruined a few plates already, but if you want to get your hands on some of my prints, check out my Ko-Fi page, I’ll be listing them there soon. I also plan on putting together a package for Ko-Fi subscribers, after 3 months of subs of $5 or more, I’ll send a little package of prints. It’ll be a fun little surprise.

As an aside, I really want to get into using some of the waterproof when dry inks like Akua, but I really don’t trust myself to use those inks in my kitchen… Our old kitchen table had some pretty intense teal streaks. Because I want to work my little press out a lot, I’m cleaning my at home studio out. It’s a mess. When I headed off to grad school I had the school studios to work in, so more often than not, I’d grab materials, go to school, then dump them when I was done with the class. When I worked at the place after graduation, I was mostly focused on writing, so I didn’t do as much art that required a studio… So it sat. Then I started to work where I have been for the last two and a half years, where I had an office and an art studio. Why work at home when I have year round access to a well set up art studio and can leave my supplies in the office?

So yeah, my studio looks like an art store threw up in there, and it isn’t at all good. It’s awful. I’m moving supplies around, deep cleaning, and I’m eventually going to store everything in organized manners. I got down to the rug (that’s going!) in a 4x4ft corner. I’m working my way out. I took out a bag of trash and another of paper recycling.

With my possible free time next week, I hope to make more progress, I’d like to clear out one end, so I then have a spot to sort out supplies and decide what is trash, what I need to pass on, and what I need to store. And most importantly, HOW I’m going to store this stuff.

When I’m done with this massive chore, I’m going to treat myself with a range of nontoxic oil based water-soluble inks.

State of the Art: Print Making

One of my art loves is print making, it combines well with bookbinding and allows the artist to make many copies of the art work. What isn’t to love?

A few years back my friend Jane and I spent a weekend setting up and making gelatin plates, and shortly after I read Linda Germain’s post about plasticizing the gelatin for longer lasting plates. Her blog has stayed on my Old Reader and Feedly feeds since then.

Recently she wrote about pressing flowers in a little die cutter and embosser tool. She linked to an old post where she wrote about using it as an etching, litho, and all around mini press.

I immediately took to the inter-tubes to see if I could find one of my own. The brand she suggested is hard to find and very expensive now. Instead I found a similar model by a different brand on clearance. It should arrive this week and I hope to play with it a bit when i finish getting my garden ready.

Most of the brands seem to have a press bed of 6 inches by 12 inches. Perfect for half of a standard American letter sized sheet of paper. This is a good size for my use- I like to work small anyway, and the small portable size means I can stash it just about anywhere.

If you decide to make a purchase of one of these presses for yourself look for a die cutter/embosser with adjustable pressure. Either on the top or the side opposite the crank handle there will be a knob. Most companies will have this emblazoned on their boxes. You can use one that is not adjustable, but you’ll have to adjust pressure with addition blankets and shims, which is annoying.

Anyway, check out Germain’s blog, it’s excellent.

No links to the ‘zon on this one.

If you enjoy my posts, hit the ko-fi button on the sidebar and buy me a coffee, it helps to get stuff in for review and fuels my art habits. 🙂

Maker: Moving into a New Journal

Moving into a new journal is an important moment in every journaler’s life. Without a new journal my life is prone to… disorder. So I always have a new one ready to go when I have 20 or so pages left.

What do I do to prepare?

I grab my current journal and assess what did and did not work. My current set up where I use a printed year at a glance calendar, a 6 month future log, blog posts to write tracker, and then set up 2 month logs, weekend logs and everything else is a form of collection.

The Muryo system had me thinking about themes for indexing and quick grouping of information. I settled onto a few: SuburbSkills, plans, Useful Journaling, Learning/research, blog, posts, I add and leave behind themes as I no longer need them.

The above is accomplished early, far in advance of the actual journal being finished. When the journal is finished, I start the next phase.

I flip through the journal and make notes on plans and projects. If a project failed I make a note about what happened and why it failed. If it worked but not to expectation, I make more notes. So on and so forth.

I then flip through again with some post it flags and tag the various on going projects. I don’t stick to a particular color, though I should consider that for the future. Some projects don’t get a tag- like the plans for the work bench and pergola. I’ve shifted to a different type of pergola, using recycled materials. The bench is in progress and thus doesn’t need to be tagged.

I also transfer information as needed. I try to keep this to a minimum, knowing that I can grab this journal off my desk at any time. I look at the current month and only transfer what is left in this month’s log to the new journal. The 6 month future log gets the same treatment.

My blog post list gets transferred, and I have to determine if a review or post will ever get done at this point. If an item lived  on my to do list for the life of an entire journal will I ever actually write that post? Probably not. I have turned this list into a pair of lists, one for this blog and one for Suburb Skills, as these are the 2 sites I’m working on currently. Useful Journaling only gets an update when new zines come out. Though I do have ideas to make that site something more.

After all that, I write the end date in the old journal and the start date in the new one. I make sure my new journal has a bunch of tabs and post it notes in the front, and a ruler in the back. After all that, which really only takes an hour or so, I start using the new journal.

As I look at this, it reads as if it is very complicated, and I swear that it is not. It’s a relatively quick and simple process. In Bullet Journaling this process is called migration I tend to call it getting started or transferring. Here are some more shots from my transfer session.

State of the Art: When Shit Falls Apart

I started a pogo-print-a-day project back in October 2020, and looking back that was not the world’s greatest time to start a project. But I was hopeful.

I can’t write about much of the falling apart here, but things got stressful. I will not go into the impact of covid and the, then impending holiday season. But many of my projects fell apart in late November. I did win Nanowrimo, but that was followed by December.

December was intolerably stressful. I reached my original goal of 50 photos, then… stopped taking them. Writing got more difficult and tapered off to nothing. I maintained the blog until about January, which many of you remember that in past years I’ve taken off. This year I took most of February off too.

Behind the scenes I was gathering more materials for reviews and testing them, but not writing reviews. I’m now writing up those reviews and getting them posted.

I finally finished Useful Journaling 1.3 (The Every Thing, Every Where issue.) I’m now working on 1.4 and what I’m calling series 2. Series 2 is going to be different, more in depth and longer than series 1. I’m excited.

Slowly but surely, I’m getting back to my usual posting and art based activities.

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Maker: Worn in Tools

pencil with imprint worn off

Doms Fusion with imprint partially worn off.

I posted a review of the Doms Fusion pencil. It’s a nifty little pencil with a grippy matte finish printed with loads of little foil starbursts and silver words. I love everything about its weird little design choices. Why red, blue and green foil with a silver imprint? Why not have all the printing be one color for each pencil? The end dip is spectacular.
I know a lot of folx want their imprints to be pristine from the start to finish of their pencils. The last few weeks I’ve been using the Fusion pencils as I write up notes, outlines, and jot down research. I’ve carried one with me to and from work. I’ve been shoving it over my ear and under the folded brim of my beanie.

As I’ve used it, the foil has worn here and there. As I sharpen it, it gets a little more worn. I love the look of a tool that shows I’ve used it, I’ve worn it into my use. To my eyes, it looks better every day.

Review: Muryō Bullet Journal Indexing System

Muryō is a very personalized and interesting bullet journal indexing system. Muryō is the brainchild of Jessie Friedman and reflects his bullet journaling methods. Consider Muryō to be an add on for your bullet journal.

In the Three Month Pack of Muryō you get 3 folded cards. They designed these to fit well in a regular A5 Leuchturm1917. They fit in my regular A5 sized ScribblSheets okay, but the fit wasn’t perfect. We’ll get to why that was important. It was a bit short all around.Muryō bullet journal indexing system
One side of Muryō has some mood and habit tracking icons and lines for creating an index with scribbled on “tabs” for finding the items in your notebook. There’s also a set of lines for a dated to do list. The opposite side has habit tracking, goals, and what Jessie called “Legend.” This is another name for an affirmation.*
I like affirmations; I think I have to because I’m a therapist. They are extremely useful tools for motivation, goal setting and fighting that pesky self doubt, so whatever you need to call it, use it. I prefer to write affirmations more frequently than once per month. This could be a suitable space to write an overarching objective for the month. The goals section was easier to apply, as I have projects that made the goals easy to write. As for the habit tracking, I dutifully filled that in. Though I realized that without dates labeled, it was hard for me to keep track of where I was, if I wasn’t filling them in daily.
For my use, this is where the system falls apart, if you aren’t using it daily, it’s really easy to lose track of where you are on the habits, and some habits that might require a daily tick mark are easier to monitor digitally. My step count is monitored by my fitbit, water intake is easier to monitor through the fitbit app and so on. Other tasks adapted well to this system, but again, if I didn’t pull out that sheet daily and tick them off, I lost my place.
Eventually, I just wrote the dates for the month along the bottom row of the chart.
The flip side with the index lives. This is where things get really useful. I found that because the Muryō sheet didn’t fit my journal as well as an L1917, that lining up the mood and habit tracker was less helpful. So it ended up being wasted space that I’d much rather have used for additional index spaces. I didn’t have a single habit that I wanted to track on its own bumped out space in my journal that wasn’t already being addressed by the habit tracker on the other side of the Muryō. That felt like over kill.
The dated task list area ended up unused because of the way I have my bullet journal set up. My dated tasks end up on their own task list for a specific set of dates.
This brings me to the index system, which is the part of Muryō that I found the most useful. The scribbled index markers on the edge of the page helped me to find areas and ideas in my journal very quickly. All i needed to do was find the correct edge scribble and flip to that area. Fast. Easy.
My over all thoughts about the Muryō is that it’s a nice system if you aren’t already using a system. Putting my habit tracking into the back pages of my journal seems to work better for me than having it on a card that I pull in and out of the notebook. I dislike the idea of gluing it into the journal after I’m done with it and instead stashed it into the back pocket of my journal. I really wanted to keep using the index after the month. It is really tempting to tear the habit tracker off and continue to use the index. I think if you are looking for ideas on how to track habits or a fast indexing system it’s worth testing it out for a month. If you are like me and already using a habit tracking system, or use a digital method** for some of your tasks, this might not be the system for you.
I like Muryō but it feels very personalized and doesn’t quite link up with my Every Thing Every Where journaling style.

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