Category Archives: Inspiration

Diversity? Schmercity

I haven’t subscribed to the Blackwing Volumes. There are so many reasons why, but after I let my Field Notes sub lapse I thought a lot about what it means to me to subscribe to something. I forced myself very carefully to examine my want vs need internal meter and each time I am faced with that WANT feeling, I carefully examine it.


For the most part, the Volumes don’t hit home for me. I like Dylan but uh, it’s a little before my time. The 211 was nice and hit all the buttons for me- except for the core. I don’t like the 602. Then we had the 1138 which I just don’t care about. The 24 is really nice but I have to actively divorce the Steinbeck association away from the pencil.* Finally we have the 56, the Dimaggio edition over a 602 core. Meh. Of the 5 editions only 1 really spoke to me.

Part of my disdain of the majority of the BWV is the heavy handed marketing by BW, the corporate atmosphere surrounding the editions, that they won’t release numbers produced** but also, the majority of the stuff memorialized is before my time. I’m not their target demographic- which is apparently older white dudes.

Mellissa in the Erasables group put up an interesting post pointing out that all of the editions have memorialized dead white guys and a music festival. Not one woman. Not one person of color. We could probably explore the myriad of reason for this, but I’ll leave it alone.

There’s been plenty of research in sociology and psychology that people tend to see people like themselves as their heroes. So when it comes to portraying heroes we usually see white dudes as those heroes. So I started to think about if I were to do a tribute pencil what would it look like and who would it be?

The Lois Lane Edition, 1938 She first appeared in the comics in 1938,m sure she was the love interest for Superman, but she was also a “tough broad” who held her own- a difficult thing in the newsroom back in ‘38. It’s be black, because Lois has black hair (most of the time) and a blue eraser, to match her eyes. The core? The extra-firm of the 24.

The Hannah Hoch Edition, Dada No numbers for this one, the Dada movement would insist. Hoch is often overlooked in favor of the male Dadaists, but she was no joke. Some of her art is astounding and stand up to this day. Call her the godmother of creepy teenage collages with oversized eyeballs. The pencil would be paperwhite, with a silver ferrule, and a black eraser because most of her work was done in black and white.

The Sojourner Truth Edition, 1851. She ran to freedom with her infant daughter in 1826 Changed her name in 1843. And gave her famous “Ain’t I a Woman” speech in 1851. The pencil would be dark blue for the Union Army’s Uniform, silver ferrule for lead shot, with a red eraser for blood lost.

The Audre Lorde Edition. 1984, For the year she published, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” an amazing read that every person should read. The pencil would be the grey of a well used tool handle, the ferrule rust colored, and the eraser, white to denote it’s the master’s tool.

The Softball Edition, 2012, Softball was removed from the list of olympic sports in 2012. But it’s played all over the world by millions of girls and women. Go figure. The pencil would be red for the stitches on a baseball, it’s have a gold ferrule for the gold medals that’ll never be won, and a brown eraser for the color of the infield. The core would be an MMX, because no one buys those.

The Ellen Edition, 1997. Ellen DeGeneres was the first openly gay woman on TV and had the first character to come out. The importance of this cannot be minimized. For years lesbians had to pretend that other female characters were “like” them and suddenly, there she was on the screen. It’d be a god damn rainbow.

Interested in reading more posts like this? Check out Johnny’s post and Andy’s post.

Please be aware there are no accusations leveled here, simply ideas for things I think would hit my demographic just about right.

Continue reading

Using the Stockpile of Materials

As a response to my series of posts related to the Erasable group discussion I wondered how do we get people to actually use their stockpiled materials. I alluded to teaching art in my previous post and how one tool is to get students testing out their various pencils, pens, and brushes. Once acquainted with how they feel, students tend to favor one over another and begin to experiment. This enjoyment of experimentation is one of the tools I use to motivate myself into using my acquired stockpile of tools. It is also what gave birth to my reviews as well as my review philosophy.

I think that people would be happier and the world would be a better place if everyone owned a copy of these two books:

How to be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith (HtbaEotW)
The Creative LIcense by Danny Gregory

(Yes, those are affiliate links to the ‘zon.*)

Why these two books? First, you might know Smith’s name from her rather well know, and  lesser book, “Wreck This Journal.” Don’t get me wrong. WTJ is a great tool, but HtbaEotW is superior. On page 5 it gives a list of 13 ways a person can be an explorer of the world, this list is amazingly compact and delicious when used to direct journaling and experiences. Number 8 on this list, DOCUMENT your findings (field notes) in a variety of ways is key for anyone starting out in journaling. What I especially like about this book is that it treats self exploration and exploration of your surroundings in the same way- just another thing to look at and consider. Basically, HtbaEotW is a guide for mindful journaling, it strips away the self conscious aspect of self exploration and makes the reader consider it as if their life and thoughts are scientific discovery. For my friends/readers who are therapist- this it the idiot’s guide to arts based research, but minus the self important grandiosity that I associate with some of our “leaders.”

Also, it seems as if it is aimed at children, but ignore that, get yourself a copy, if only for page 5. Heck print off page 5 from this NPR interview and keep it in your journal.

Why Gregory’s book? It’s an inspirational how to for visual journaling. I find Gregory’s anti-pencil/pro-pen stance a little… meh. But the rest of his information is inspirational and interesting as well as useful to get people using their tools. It’s both visual but writing inspiration. He gives a fantastic list of reasons to journal.

Both of the examples I give are inspirational for journaling. I’m biased toward journaling as a use for my tools because it is how I use most of mine (that and school)  and think it is a wonderful way to begin journaling. Also, it is probably important for me to define what I call “journaling.” Journaling is the use of a notebook (or sketchbook) to record anything of interest. Those things of interest can include simple to do lists, entries about your day, gratitude journaling, storytelling, fiction writing, recording of life, receipts, and other assorted items- either writing or art based.

In this definition, writing prompts can also be useful. I found a number of sites that had useful and interesting writing prompts. I’m not big on using prompts but I’ve found a few that are useful. The more interesting sites that I found are as follows:

I’d also include the book  How to Make a Journal of Your Life by Dan Price, but it is out of print and a little hard to find**. It’s also one of those love it or hate it books. Price is better known as the Hobo Artist and the man behind Moonlight Chronicles (sadly, now defunct) and this slim volume details the process he used to create his journals which became the Moonlight Chronicles. The advice is solid and combines both visual and creative writing. The ideas are sound for a variety of people. I love it but I have read reviews where people despise the book and Price* himself.

Continue reading


I’ve been toying with the idea of adding reviews of my other other passion, coffee to this blog for awhile. I haven’t gotten around to doing it, but the idea is still sound. Of all of the things that come and go in my studio, coffee is a constant.  I cannot remember a time I did not create with out a good cup of coffee somewhere nearby.

Over the last few years I’ve had to cut back on my coffee consumption. I was a full  pot a day kinda woman, only I found that it was making me jittery and was interfering with my sleep. I’ve cut back to 1 or 2 cups of good coffee a day. Occasionally when pulling a late night study session I will have an additional cup. But most days I’m down to one cup.

Because I cut back so much I decided that I wanted to drink even better coffee than I was before. I began exploring higher end coffees and micro roasts. Though I spend more per pound of coffee I’m spending less than I was before because I’m drinking less. I’m also enjoying it more. I’ve also gotten very picky about the brews I’ll drink. I could tell you stories about the undrinkable swill I bought at a Starbucks on the Maine Turnpike or the delightful cups I’ve purchased near school.

Basically, I like coffee a lot and I’ve spent the last few years learning about different brewing methods and good coffee, maybe I should write about that. Maybe not. Maybe this stuff should go on a whole new blog, but I kinda feel like coffee and art go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

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.”

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Reflection: The BEST Pencil, EVER

After getting the weird bendy extruded pencils*** (by empire? eagle?) several years in a row I vowed that when I had control over my pencil purchasing power to buy better pencils. I was also older and used pens as much as I possibly could. That is a whole other story*. Anyway, I think it was 8th grade when I discovered the various colored Eberhard Faber Americans. They came in red, blue, and green. After years of messing around with crappy bendy nasty writing pencils I suddenly had pencils that sharpened and wrote well. It was a miracle to not struggle with my pencil.ECOwriterAs I entered my second year of high school I had been reading about ecology and recycling and though of myself as a budding tree hugger. That school year I purchased my first batch of Eberhard Faber ECOwriters and  the pulpy gray recycled paper that went along with them. The paper was a dull gray had green ruling and a little recycle logo in the bottom right corner. It was terrible paper for pencils, but was great for ballpoint pen. The ECOwriters were briefly available at my local drug store (I think back then it had changed from Welby’s to Rite-Aide) and I could pick up another 12-pack anytime I wanted them. When it wasn’t back to school time they were ridiculously expensive but I always splurged. **

I used the ECOwriters for a couple of years with much happiness. I bought one of my last packages in college and thought nothing more of them, until I ran out. I had squirreled away a few packages of them, but for the majority of college I used art pencils and roller ball pens or various art pens. It wasn’t until I was teaching that I had a need to get another pack of ECOwriters. I went to my local drug store, and found nothing. On a weekend I took a trip to the far away box office store, and found nothing. I went to box stores, nada. I looked for them on and off for a few months before I happened onto another package I can’t even remember where I found them, but I remember being confused, the pencils said “ECOwriter” but it was accompanied by the brand PaperMate.***

I got them home, tore into the package for instant sadness and disappointment. The core was gritty and not smooth. Sharpening them was a painful experience. Back then I sharpened with a knife 99% of the time and that was just an awful mess. My art sharpeners, even new sharpeners left a terrible mess on the pencils. It was as if the pencil that I had loved was crumbling before my eyes. I think I left these in my classroom for kids to steal rather than use them.

Enter eBay, the flea market for champions of 90s nostalgia. A seller on eBay has lots of these beauties, true vintage Eberhard Faber ECOwriters from the 90s! I was surprised to get a package from a friend containing a baker’s dozen true EF ECOwriters, in not only  the traditional yellow but also the color version. Best early birthday gift ever! I immediately sharpened one up and used it all day. It was rad. I’ll do a full review, remember it’s colored with nostalgia.

Continue reading

Reflection: Not Just Any Pencil Will Do

On the Erasable podcast group awhile ago the question was posed, “When did you first notice that there were differences among pencils?” Since I’ve had far too much caffeine than is good for me* and I can’t sleep I’m going to answer this question with 2 answers.USA BondedBack here I told you about my Grandparents traveling to far away place in the US and coming back with unusual things. One of these trips went south, where my Grandparents toured a pencil making facility, what one I don’t know, but in my head I’m sure it must’ve been Musgrave.** Mostly I believe this because they went to Tennessee. This was back in the earlier to mid-eighties. With 5 grandchildren my Grandmother took it upon herself to bring back a bag of pencils. Not just ANY pencils, but misprints. My grandmother’s thriftiness is well known, and for her misprints or not, these were a good deal.

In this bag there were pencils with erasers and without. There were marbled pencils, pencils with flat paint, and shiny paint. I suspect that she purchased a gross pf pencils. It is likely that she got them for very little money, on account of her thriftiness. In this mixed bag of pencils were a few with no paint or finish at all- round wooden pencil naked and showing off their gorgeous cedar glory. My cousin chose the marbled and the “cool” pencils. When it was my turn I picked  the naked pencils and one of the few marbled my cousin turned down. Eraserless and smelling strongly of cedar I remember these pencils being a sharp contrast to the pencils that I’d gotten for school that year- they smelled good, and unlike the crappy extruded pencils they didn’t bend, the marks were darker and smooth.

After this, not any pencil would do.

There were quite a few pencils left over in the bag and my Grandmother would put a few more into her pen and pencil cup every now and then. I remember once that she was babysitting my brothers and I and we had to sit at the kitchen table to do our homework. She passed us the pencil cup we carefully chose our pencils and started to do homework. I remember putting the pencil I was using back because it was too scratchy. Then picking another with the same issue, then another. Finally, my grandmother said, “Leslie, what is the problem!?! Pick a pencil, any pencil will do! Do your homework!”

Of course there was no lip to be had so I picked a slightly less inferior pencil and did my homework. I remembered to always bring my own pencil after that.

Story will continue tomorrow

Continue reading

New Journals

At the beginning of the summer I made 6 recycled sign vinyl journals. I’ve been making this style of books for years, it’s my most popular handmade journal. It’s friendly to people who don’t want a leather journal, super tough and fantastic for those notes you need ot keep around. I used a similar journal for long term notes for my last 2 jobs. The notebook lasted the duration of each position and longer. I still have them. Though I don’t need the information contained within them, they stand as testimony to the toughness of this vinyl and hemp combination. They are listed in my etsy shop.rugged journalI have a stack of covers I’ve got to stitch up, but I’m going to have to be careful in my choice of paper that goes inside. Stitching up the covers with cardstock inside made my hands and wrist hurt in a new painful way.  It reminded me that I’m growing older and arthritis runs in my family. After I spent a day working on those books my hand hurt for weeks afterward. When I make these in the future it will be with lighter weight paper and in limited quantities. I’ve got a stack of covers to go through.

In other news I start up school again tomorrow and I’m looking forward to my classes. I’m particularly interested in my elective, Storytelling and Healing. I suspect it’s going to be interesting. That class lasts until 9:30pm, so it had better be interesting!

I fixed up one of the many bikes I have in our garage that does not have a motor and was not in riding condition. I’m happy to report that the junky TREK 800 I bought for dirt money last year is now in riding condition and is in fact in better condition than I expected. Granted it isn’t as nice as the other old TREK we have but I won’t mind riding it to the train and leaving it parked. I also tested out the compact bike light I picked up via amazon a few months back. It’s light is even visible during the day. That’s a lot of lumens.TREK 800I hope to get back to writing more than just reviews for the blog. Right now I’m in the midst of harvesting the great things from my garden, this will only continue as I get more and more tomatoes, cucumbers, pears, and other yumminess. I meant to give regular garden updates but never got around to it. So here is a gratuitous shot of some of my yummy seckle pears. So tiny, so cute, so sweet, so tasty.pears


I’ve been trying really hard to not turn this blog into a straight up review blog. I need to share a few of my opinions on other “things.” Right? Yeah. Sadly, I’ve been less inspired to write than I have been in the past. Maybe it’s the 20 page papers I’ve been writing in grad school or the loss of our dog, but writing isn’t somethign I’m doing. I’m thinking about posts and ideas, even writing them in my Field Notes as I consider them, but they aren’t making the leap from the analog to digital world. I’ve always gone with the roll of my moods with this blog. I’m working on a few good posts about some ideas I’ve got, I’ve got  pencil reviews queued up for months and I’m adding a few paper reviews as well as other assorted stuff.

Now that I’ve transitioned from Typepad my other stuff blog is no longer around, so I might need to figure out a new location for that info. Or maybe I’ll roll my garden and dog stuff into this blog. Speaking of which, we decided to adopt another dog. Wickett our previous dog missed Ruby a  lot, so we decided to get him a buddy. We found a lovely mixed Chuhuahua Italian Grayhound mutt who has a wonderful personality and is gentle, lively, and smart. Within 5 minutes of meeting us he was sitting in our laps.

As for my garden? I got started late, but it is starting to finally come together and look great.


Cost of Entry

If I were new to the pen, pencil, and paper addiction and reading the top blogs right now I’d be convinced that entering into this addiction might be very very expensive. As much as I love to read about pricey pens, I know that many are out of my  reach. It seems to be a rare occurrence for an affordable pen to be flogged. A notable exception is the Pilot Metropolitan, a pen that I like very much but wasn’t overly enamored with, but still recommend for people looking for a starter pen.

Another thing that makes pencil-dom more affordable is that pencils and paper pair up more easily. I have a stack of journals and notebooks I’ve put aside because they didn’t work well with my fountain pens. Many of these are doing great with my pencils but were horrible with fountain pens. Take for instance the Martha Stewart and Avery pocket notebooks. God awful with even a dry writing fountain pen but great with a pencil. In fact with a pencil they shine. the paper doesn’t chew up the pencil, but is toothy enough to get a lot of graphite on the page without crazy smudging. I still wouldn’t recommend it as a primary pocket notebook because it’s got those nasty perforated pages, but for quick notes or short letters, it’s great.

Every time I pick up a pencil it writes. Occasionally a point will break off and I’ll have to sharpen it, but generally speaking, I get graphite on the page. That isn’t always the case with a fountain pen. Sometimes the ink will need coaxing out of the nib, sometimes it needs water to be added, or I nee dot refill it , or flush it, or something. If I’ve used a pen consistently it will write without issue, but man if you let that sucker sit for a month you are in for some work.

Of course there are exceptions to that rule. I’ve got 2 Platinum Preppy pens sitting on my desk. I haven’t touched either one in over a month. One is loaded with red ink and another with black. Both of them wrote without a skip or issue. My TWSBI 540 or Lamy Safari can’t say the same thing.

One of the reasons I’ve been reviewing pencils this summer is that for the most part, pencils are affordable. even the most expensive pencil I’ve reviewed/ purchased was $2.50. Compared to my most expensive pen at $75 that’s a bargain. Getting into pencils can be done with just a few dollars. A decent writing experience can be found for $2.50 for a dozen pencils (USA Gold Naturals) and an exceptional experience can be had for $20 a dozen (Palomino Blackwings, pick any one of the 3). I’m not suggesting that pencils are better than pens, simply that they have a lower expense for greatness.