Category Archives: technique

An Updated PigPog PDA

This post is written by Lenore, one third of the 3 woman team that makes up the awesome RSVP Stationery Podcast. You can listen to Lenore talk stationery to you over here. You could also enroll at the University where she teaches chemistry if you really want to know more about the elements that make up the world around us. You can hang out in the RSVP stationery podcast Facebook group and learn even more about stationery!

My history with to-do lists and pocket notebooks has been a messy one. Like most of us, I often have lots of little personal tasks that need doing, some on a timeline, some not, along with tasks for my work including big jobs, small jobs, and big jobs that are made up of lots of small jobs. I’ve dabbled with various organization and productivity systems in the past, but have usually fallen back on some combination of a desk pad, a stack of index cards, a pocket notebook, or random scraps of paper, none of them organized in any intentional way.

So when I read Less’s post last week about her planner setup, [ed note this is from 2006 and unearthed when we were talking about OLD school GTD methods on RSVP.} there were three main components of it that leapt out at me and made the difference:

(1)    The 4-page arrangement: two facing pages for lists, and the next two pages for random whatever. I needed this. One of my problems has always been the fact that there’s a combination of action items and random thoughts needing to be corralled, and like siblings in the back of a station wagon on a 13-hour road trip, these don’t play well together unless some thought is put into making space for them.

(2)    The concept of marking things off *or moving them forward.* I don’t know why this had never occurred to me before as a formal part of a system; it always felt like cheating to mark something off one list and move it to another, but of course, it’s brilliant, because it keeps everything where you only have to look at one display, rather than checking back.

(3)    Dropping in one vertical line for the margin, to check things off as they’re dealt with.

Of course, her setup, and the PigPog planner setup from which it’s adapted offer so much more than this. I was going to go the whole way, setting up my new notebook with sticky flags in the front, dedicated pages for various tasks, etc etc, but then it was four days after I had initially read her description and I still had no place to write down the first action item, which was, “Go back to Less’s blog post and set up planner.” So I realized that I needed to just take the very minimum components and get it going.

My setup is as basic as it gets: a dot grid No-Brand pocket notebook with a date in the front and my name and phone number in the back; 

the first set of facing pages marked with margins and separated into four to-do lists;

and the second set of facing pages marked as “idea pages”. 

Because of the weird way my first day went, the “idea pages” didn’t get any play, while the to-do list pages were nearly full. But that’s ok because I just leapfrogged over to the third set of pages for my next set of lists. It was fine.

Less’s setup has dates in the margins for when jobs need to be completed; I rarely need this feature, since I have a sense of the necessary timeline for most of my tasks, and can naturally prioritize them in an appropriate way when I have them all laid out in front of me. And since the number of tasks I’m recording is small enough for me to have an idea where most of them are in terms of progress, I don’t need the dot-slash-X-circle kinds of codes a lot of systems use. For me, a check mark indicating completion is usually plenty. Similarly, I don’t need color-coded inks (and indeed this would be an impediment to my using the system, since I don’t normally carry a variety of writing materials.) For me, it was really critical to give myself permission to write—and check off—with literally whatever is handy to write with.  (This is another point in favor of the pocket notebook, since I often feel pressure to match the ink and use good handwriting in a “nice” journal.) In my initial setup, I was thinking of three categories of jobs, but of course I didn’t allocate exactly the right amount of space for them so I ended up with some messiness when the longest list slopped into the next available space. Also, four lists is a more appropriate breakdown for me, if I’m going to use a single notebook for work and personal lists together. On my second set of to-do lists, I fixed that by starting two lists on the same page, one from the top line down, the other from the bottom line up. I left a space between them when they approached in the middle, and I still had to slop one list over to another area, but at least it was only one. Oh, and here’s one of my revlations: when the pages started filling up with jobs, and then the margins started filling up with check marks, and I found myself staring down the barrel of opening a new page of to-do lists…I was reluctant to copy some of those jobs over. They were such little things, it really seemed like I should just do them instead of carrying them to the next list. I should just…do them…oh. I should just do them. Oh, yeah. I don’t know why it took me that long to catch on, I mean the point of a to-do list is to remind me to do things, but before starting this system, I was perfectly happy to let those jobs just sort of languish on an old list. I mean, I knew I needed to do them sometime, but…well, they were on my list, weren’t they? But now I have to put up or shut up. The day this dawned on me, I completed several small tasks that would normally have just fallen off the end of the day, again and again.

I use a few other adaptations that I haven’t noticed in other places (apologies if I’ve appropriated ideas without credit):

  1. For tasks that include several small sub-tasks, I often combine them on a single line, with spaces for check marks after each sub-task. Then when the whole series is done I can mark it off in the margin. For example, for an exam that has to be scored, the line might have:

“E1: Score___ Total___  Alphabetize___ Scan____ Collate____ Record____.”

Then if I need to move part of this to a new list, it might become

“E1: Collate___ Record___”

or just “Record E1.” (b)  I do use the PigPog method of keeping a sticky flag on the first page that still has active jobs listed on it. However I also literally mark across a page with a slash mark when everything on that page has been completed or moved. It helps me get over the uneasy feeling that I might be missing something.

(c) For other needs that come up, I just start from the back of the book and use space as needed. Quotes, meeting notes, ink tests, drawings my daughter does when I’m trying to distract her at a restaurant, etc. Most of the things I might need to do in a pocket notebook are sporadic and unpredictable enough that I don’t need to invest mental capital in setting them up when I start a new book. The top consideration for me is low startup costs. The best planner is the one you’ll use, and my experience is that if I have to do a lot of organizational work before I can start my organizational work, I’ll close that loop by never doing any of it (and I’ll be back to a pile of index cards, a random scattering of pocket notebooks filling simultaneously, and a lot of dropped balls and missed deadlines.)  (d) When I have a task that really has to happen pretty quick, particularly if it’s a kind of task that is outside my normal workflow (I’m lookin’ at you, insurance open enrollment period), I put a circle in the margin (with or without a date) to draw my eye every time I open the book. [Pic 8]

So, the tl;dr: new notebook; margin lines slashed in on outside edges of first two pages and date at the top (total setup time <30 sec); four categories of tasks, one category at the top and one at the bottom of each page; markthrough of entry and check mark in margin on completion of a task. A set of dedicated pages immediately after list pages for whatever brain dump/ephemera/info that needs to be captured and transferred elsewhere. A plan to use pages starting from the back for anything I need to use them for. Permission to be messy.

 

Home Brew Pocket Notebooks

I intended for this post to come out BEFORE I introduced No Brand Notebooks, but alas I left it in draft form and forgot about it. That said, I’m a huge fan of open sourcing information and  I’ve offered up patterns for a bunch of my products to others for free in the past. I’ve done tutorials on many of the books I’ve sold in the past, and frankly, I think being open about the process of binding brings more people into the hobby than being closed about info. Sharing is caring and all that fun stuff. I’m a maker not a great salesperson.

Also, before anyone asks, no I will not make diagrams or take photos of the process. The images  provided should give you a good idea of where staples should be placed. Experiment and you’ll figure it out.

Any of you who have read this blog for any period of time know that my obsession with stationery started young, but was really pushed to new heights as I attempted to find a sketchbook that worked for me. As a young artist I tried sketchbook after sketchbook, flirted with altered books, used loose paper bound by rivets or contained within handmade binders. In short I used every paper I could get my hands on, destroying bindings, scrapping books with bad paper, until finally I said, “Screw it!” and started to make my own sketchbooks. Simple single signature notebooks made of junk paper from work were bound one after another after another. I acquired book after book after book on binding books. I graduated from simple single signature books with limp covers to complex hardcover tomes sewn onto cords, and intricate coptic stitches. Leather was soon added to my arsenal, and I made thousands of books filled with paper for writing, art journaling, sketching and all kinds of art making. Those were the days.

The thing is, binding books is as much an obsession as any other hobby and I miss it dearly. I miss the gathering of sheets, folding of signatures, punching of stations, the smell of beeswax as I pass linen thread through the block of wax. The feel of the stiff waxed thread as it passes through paper and card. These days I don’t get to feed the sensory bit of binding, but I have started to make my own pocket notebooks and Traveler’s notebook refills. It’s dead simple, and you can do it too. Since I’m a fan of open source, feel free to share this info or just use it yourself.

Materials:

First, start off by loading 12 sheets of your favorite paper into your printer. Head to gridzzly.com and play around with the settings. I like lines and dot grids for my notebooks. I like dot grid at 5mm and lines at 7mm. Why? Dunno, those settings work for me. I also move the slider to about ¾ of the way to the right for darkness. The lines will not come out as a true black but more of shades of gray. Test out the site and see what you like. Start with mine and go from there. For my notebooks I work the printer setting to print without margins on any side. The printer can’t flood print, so I get a .25mm border with no printing no matter what I do. I deal with it. Print the lines/grids you like on both sides of the 12 sheet of paper.

Utility yellow… dot grid interior. #notebooks #maker

A post shared by LC Harper (@originallcharper) on

Stack your 12 sheets of paper and add a piece of cardstock as a cover. Use paperclips or binder clips to hold everything in place. If you are making pocket notebooks set the guide on your long arm stapler to 4.25 inches or 11cm. Starting from the center of the paper, place a staple at 4.25 inches, another at 6, another at 8, another at 9.75, now return to the other side and place a staple at 2.5, and one at .5 inches. You will  have a total of 6 staples.

Soon to be made into notebooks. Warm Neons, QUILTBAG, and midnight. #maker #bookmaking #booknerd #dotgrid

A post shared by LC Harper (@originallcharper) on

Cut the stack in half at the 5.5 inch mark, now fold the half along the staples, letting them guide your fold. Use a bone folder or butter knife to tighten this fold. Using a straight edge, trim the fore edge of the book at 3.5 inches. I have successfully used a rotary cutter as well as a craft knife so long as I’m slow and careful. Round corners if you so desire. Placing the books under weight for a night or two will help keep the spines creased. Several large textbooks serve the purpose well, while a board with a brick or two will also work.

If you are making a Traveler’s notebook, you will place 3 staples, one in the center of the book and one at each end, .5 inch away from the edge. Fold the notebook along the staples, letting them guide your fold. Use a bone folder or butter knife to tighten this fold. Trim the fore edge at 4.5 inches. Round corners if you’d like, then place under weight for a night. I do not trim the excess off the height of my TN, the proper height is 8.25 inches.

It is ridiculously easy to make your own notebooks with a minimum of investment. A long reach stapler is now only $11 on Amazon, while years ago they cost well over $30. If you keep an eye on thrift stores you can find them for less. Often offices toss them out when the person who did the office booklets quits or retires. I kick myself for turning down an old school cast off of a booklet stapler. Oh how I regret that choice. The investment for making notebooks is minor, but the reward is well worth the effort.

If you make some notebooks I’d love to see them. Hit me up on instagram with pics.

 

Enter No Brand Notebooks

For those of you who have been here since the start, you own’t be surprised when I tell you that I’m making books again, specifically pocket notebooks. This was, after all, my bread and butter for a good long time. Hell, it’s why I started the blog- to discuss my nerdy interest in all things bookbinding. Well, age and labor caught up with me and I have carpal tunnel as arthritis runs in the family. There are times when I can’t pull a needle though a signature of paper. The act of making stations in my signatures can be excruciating. The last time I made a serious number of books, well my wrist was in pain for days and I realized that I cannot make books in the same manner that I once did, so I put away my awl, sign vinyl, and stopped hoarding reams of paper. 

Anyway. I picked up a long reach stapler off the clearance rack at staples a few years ago. I let it gather dust until recently I wanted dot grid in a notebook and none of my hoarded Field Notes, Word Notebooks, or Story Supply Company had dot grid. I had some 24lb HP laser Jet from my experiment making my own planner books (still do this, still need to write a post about it) so I printed off some dot grid and pulled out that stapler and started making books.

For the most part this is not bothering my wrists. Which makes me so happy.

that said. I’m happy to begin offering my notebooks again. You can find them on etsy here.

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Follow Up: Lightfast Testing

A month ago I created some samples of art and writing materials to see if their pigments were lightfast or fugitive. I’ve checked them here and there throughout the month to see which pens fared the worst. There were some surprises and with other expectations were met.

Let’s start with lightfast expectations met. The Uniball and Zebra pens all proved to be lightfast. This was expected, every Uni pen I’ve ever tested has been lightfast. In this case I tested the Air and  Jetstream 3.0. I also tested the Zebra Surari 3 and Sarasa 3, both were lightfast.IMG_0056

The lightfast surprise was that all of the highlighter pencils did not fade, at all. I tested all shades of the Yoobi,  Very Best, Koh-i-Noor Dry Marker, as well as the Koh-i-Noor MagixFX series. None of the colors shifted, changed or faded. Quite amazing given that the general rule is that highlighter and neon colors shift.

For fugitive properties I expected that all of the Bic colors would fade or shift within a short period of time. Most met this expectation in both tip sizes. Purple, red and pink all shifted in a week and at the end of the month we’re extremely faded. I have no doubt that if I were to continue with the experiment these colors would be gone in months. Blue and Black had noticeably shifted in shade and begin fading at the end of the month, with the black fading the most. Interestingly light blue, light green and dark green exhibited the least amount of color shift and fading.  I would not suggest that these 3 colors are lightfast merely that they did not shift as much as the other colors.IMG_0060 IMG_0059 IMG_0055

I also expected that the 4 fountain pen inks I tested would show fading and color shifting. There was no surprise here. Both Edelstein shades faded within a week, and by the end of the month the Turquoise was on it’s way to being gone and Tanzanite had only the black left behind. Emerald of Chivor had shifted shade noticeably and was showing signs of fading. Interestingly of the fountain pen inks tested only one was lightfast, the Platinum Preppy black cartridge used in an EF Preppy pen.IMG_0054

I tested 2 ballpoint pens- the Retro 51 REF71 (a Schmidt refill) and a Schmidt mini refill. Both proved to be fugitive but still easy to read at the end of the month. The black ink was quite faded.

Finally as predicted the Papermate Flairs proved to be incredibly fugitive. They showed rapid color shifting- radical color changes in a week and several colors complete gone from the page at the end of the month. Both shades of purple and pink were gone and no longer at all visible. Yellow and Peach were nearly gone. Red, both shades of blue, black, both shades of green showed fading and massive color shifts at the end of the month.IMG_0058 IMG_0057

What does all of this mean? For me, anything that shows color shifting or fading should only be used in an art journal, or something that will not be displayed. Because even artificial light can fade and alter colors it’s not safe to allow work done with these fugitive pigments to be anywhere the sun or light shines.

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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Portraits of “Presidential” Candidates

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

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

granulation granulation

Technique Today: Mandalas

This week I'm looking up videos about one of my favorite topics, mandalas. Mandalas are great tools for relaxation, mediations, and adding a touch of focus and calm to a journaling practice. You can get out a compass and make precise circles or make shapes that are loose. It's your choice.

If you have issues viewing the videos here on my blog please click the title of the video on the upper left of the video and it will open up in YouTube for your viewing pleasure.

 

 

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Technique Today: Watercolor Pencils

Watercolor pencils make me incredibly happy. A 12-pack will give an infinite range of colors allowing for bright jewel tones to dirty muddy earthy colors. Anything is possible with watercolor pencils.

If you have issues viewing the videos here on my blog please click the title of the video on the upper left of the video and it will open up in YouTube for your viewing pleasure.

 

 

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Technique Today: Color Theory

Color is often discussed but understanding the theory of it can helpful for mixing paint, layering markers, and color choices. Like composition we talk about it, some understand it intuitively, and other study color theory. Like anything some understanding of the theory is helpful.

If you have issues viewing the videos here on my blog please click the title of the video on the upper left of the video and it will open up in YouTube for your viewing pleasure.

 

 

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Technique Today: Ink

I love ink. It's a great thing to fiddle around within art journals. It also goes well with last weekk's topic, lettering.

If you have issues viewing the videos here on my blog please click the title of the video on the upper left of the video and it will open up in YouTube for your viewing pleasure.

 

 

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