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Lightfast Testing

Every now and again I go through my various art supplies and test them to see if they are lightfast. Here in the US, it is now unusual to find ink or stationery supplies that are highly acidic, but lightfast? Well that is a whole other ballgame. I conduct tests of the majority of my fountain pen inks, colored pencils, watercolors, and other art tools. Why? Just because it’s archival doesn’t mean it’s lightfast. Whaaaat? It’s true archival has nothing to do with lightfastness or lack of it. Archival is a museum term that used to mean that the item in question is reversible to museum archivists and that it does less to no damage to the substrate. Typically, this has nothing to do with the item in question being lightfast. Though, archival is bandied about with marketing as if it means lightfast as well as acid free.lightfast

I’ve ranted and raved about acid free and to a point, archival, now being little more than a ridiculous marketing term, when the more important item to focus on is lightfastness.

What does lightfast mean? That when exposed to sunlight the color and shade of the item in question, be it paper, ink, or other pigmented item, doesn’t shift or change. That is to say, exposure to sunlight, or light, does not change the color of whatever has been used to make the artwork.

Does lightfastness mater? Only if you decide to make art for sale, or for yourself, that you plan to hang on the wall. If you don’t plan on making art for anyone but you and you intend for it to stay within the confines of your art journal, then no, lightfast matters little.

How does one test for lightfast? I have a sketchbook in which I divide a page into 2 columns with a number of rows that span both columns. The number of rows depends on what I’m testing. Generally, I make each row about 1 inch high. I use graphite pencil, as graphite is lightfast.lightfast

I label the top of the page with the date. I then fill in each row, across columns with various scribbles, hatches and line weights of the item I’m testing. With watercolors and markers I use a variety of amounts of pigment in water. After I’ve filled in a page, I cut off the right half of the page and hang it in a south facing window. I’ll notice shifts in color as quickly as in a week. The Kuretake Clean color brush markers? Oh so pretty, colors shifted in a week. Copic sketch markers? Same. Sharpies? Gone in 2, massive alterations in shade in a week.

Basically, I look at the sheet in a week, then again in 2 weeks. Sometimes it will take longer to notice changes if it has been cloudy or raining. Testing can also be done with a bulb that emits a full spectrum of light. Using sunlight is cheaper.

Why do I test? Not all of my art is made for sale, a great deal of what I create will never see the wall or sunlight other than when the pages of my journal are opened. But when I do create art that is for sale, it is important (to me) that if someone has paid me for my art that it is still there for them a year from now. I’ve sold work in the past only to find out that the pen I thought was lightfast, was indeed not.lightfast

Oh before anyone asks, pencils made of graphite or carbon are lightfast. There is rarely any need to test them.

Review: TWSBI Precision 0.7 Mechanical Pencil

I’ve been seeing mentions of the TWSBI Precision for awhile now. When it first was introduced by TWSBI I drooled over it’s full metal body and retractable sleeve, all for $25. $25 is virtually unheard of when it comes to retractable tipped draughting pencils. Usually getting a retractable tipped pencil will cost $40 and up.

Initially, TWSBI was set to offer these in a range of colors, but it seems they are now set with just 2, silver and matte black.  I ordered a black 0.7 with retractable tip*. It is $25 everywhere I’ve looked. I purchased mine from Jetpens. I suggest ordering via a 3rd party vendor for a number of reasons, but the biggest being that I’ve had shipping issues when ordering directly from TWSBI.
TWSBI PRecision
The Precision arrives in a card sleeve over a plastic box, with a foam insert to hold everything in place. Inside the box you have your pencil, 3 spare erasers, and a box of HB leads that are not labeled. The leads feel like classic Pentel Polymer HB leads. They are smooth and appropriately dark, but if you are like me you’ll soon switch over to Uni NanoDia in B or 2B. The erasers are each 2 inches long and a nice firm sticky eraser that really works well. I’m more than pleased with the TWSBI erasers. It’s the first mechanical eraser I’ve used and been pleased with. Not only is the eraser good, it’s of a meaningful length.TWSBI PRecision TWSBI PRecision

The pencil itself sports a knurled grip that is quite unique. Most knurled pieces feature a series of cuts that create a pattern of pyramids. The Precision uses a series of grids to create a series of rounded over rectangles. It’s grippy but doesn’t feel like I’m holding an emory board.** The grip area is a touch narrower than the rest of the hexagonal body. While the pencil is weighty, it’s not overly so. I’ve certainly used heavier fountain pens. But the all brass body on this pencil is reassuring. Because it is heavy I was quite worried that this would be uncomfortable for longer writing sessions. Now that I’ve used it for some time I find that it’s quite comfortable. It’s well balanced so it sits well in my hand and feels good even as I write my session note drafts as well as when I jot down quick ideas.TWSBI PRecision

Because it’s a draughting pencil I had to take it apart and look at it’s guts. These are all metal all the way through. The guts are chromed and feel as sturdy as the body of the pen. I’m not sure what the inner bits are made of, but the body is brass. The tip and body threads are machined so well that I need to use a rubber band to gain enough grip to remove the tip from the body.TWSBI PRecision TWSBI PRecision

The nock mechanism is tight and sounds springy. By this I mean that I can hear the spring moving around as I depress the nock. Which has been described as metallic. It is a sharp noise. The nock itself is instantly engaged as soon as I depress it. This is in opposition to my KuruToga which has a spongy and less responsive nock mechanism. The Precision is louder than my Rotring 600, but not by much. I have to wonder if this is due to the metal body conducting sounds more directly than the plastic material in the Rotring 600.TWSBI PRecision TWSBI PRecision TWSBI PRecision

I keep reaching for this pencil over and over again, over my Rotring 600 which is also new to my stable of mechanical pencils. Because of the retractable tip I’m able to slide this into my NockCo Fodderstack XL and take it with me without fear of damaging the tip or having the needle like tip stab me.TWSBI PRecision

In short, I think if you enjoy mechanical pencils the TWSBI Precision is a must have. It’s really well made, feels great in the hand, and performs wonderfully. Thought TWSBI’s shipping is bunk, their customer service is wonderful. Should you have an issue, TWSBI will stand behind their products.

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Six Pencils for September

There are a lot of challenges on the internet- use this material, use that material, use only so many pens, etc… None of them really interested me. I dislike rules that aren’t my own… The first challenge that I’ve see that I really feel like I can do it the “6 Pencils for a Month” challenge that I first saw on the Erasable Facebook group.

Last month I struggled with which pencils to chose? I already had a pencil case full of 9 pencils. I chose not to take part in the challenge.

This month I decided to go with the following, with a few caveats, which I’ll detail later

  1. Musgrave TS 100– a solid pencil for note taking and sketching.
  2. Mitsubishi 4563 2B– Soft dark, but yet doesn’t wear down like crazy. Awesome for notes and sketching.
  3. Tombow 8900 B– A great pencil for notes and sketching. Dark but with decent point retention.
  4.  Staedtler Tradition B– I’m less familiar with this one, it’s dark and soft, we’ll see how it contends with the rest for notes.
  5. Palomino Blue HB end dipped– One of my last pencils of this fine iteration of the Palomino HB. I was sad to learn that these are no longer produced.
  6. Caran d’Ache SwissWood Dark HB– the only true HB of the lot, but a very nice HB. Smooth. It smells like a campfire. I wish this pencil came in a 2B. I say 2B and not B because I find Cd’A’s graphite to run substantially harder than more other brands. I am doing this for Toffer. He can consider my using a hard pencil like this his wedding gift.

My 6 for September.

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My caveats, because I cannot follow someone else’s rules without also imposing my own to flaunt them, are as follow:

  1. If I use a pencil down to a nubbin, I can replace it with one just like it.
  2. Or not if I don’t like it very much, or it proves to be a pain in my ass.
  3.  I can also chose to replace it with something else from the pencil cup.
  4. I’m free to use whatever I’ve put into my bullet pencil.
  5. Art pencils and pencils used for art don’t count.
  6. Pencils may not be replaced until worn down to a nub.

Another issue that I will be running into is that all summer I’ve knife sharpened all of my pencils into delicate hummingbird points. I’ve found that I can write for 4 or more pages with a pencil sharpened as such, and have grown quite fond of these points. The issue that I’m going to run into is that if I don’t point up my pencils before heading into school, I’m kinda screwed. I feel like I have to decide to either remember to sharpen the pencils the night before or sharpen them with the “long” point sharpener. *grumble* Knife sharpening in a outside of the art rooms is not looked upon kindly.
So that is my personal challenge, with caveats.

Highly Visual Calendar

Because I am a visual person, I’ve always used some manner of large wall mounted calendar to keep track of the things I need to do. When I had a nifty office for my job, I had it mounted right next to my monitor and wrote in stuff as far in advance as I knew it was going to happen. I’d also add in a variety of things that were reoccurring. I attempted at one point to use a fancy Palm Pilot but it didn’t get my visual nature as well as a simple calendar.

Then I left my job and I used pocket planners alone, but I found that stuff would slip my mind. Last fall I started out with a simple piece of cardstock in a Trapper Keeper folder with a clear pocket on the front. Each class was assigned a color and I’d write out each assignment and the due date onto a Post-it  of that color. I used the small 2×2 cube Post-its.

Not only was this visual, but when each task was accomplished I was able to rip the Post-it off, crumple it, then toss it into the trash. I’m telling you the feeling of tossing the Post-it was better than a gold star.

Enter this fall and a slightly fuller class load than the previous semesters, plus the looming possibility of having to write a thesis, and my  simple piece of cardstock isn’t BIG enough. Yup, I’ve only got 2 of my 4 syllabi and the single sheet is full. Some of the notes are redundant- Blackboard responses to readings, ongoing art responses, etc… But for the most part, if I subtracted those, I’d still have a metric ton of Post-its. Plus, 2 more classes need to be added.

To accommodate the additional course load I decided to make a 5×4 landscape table in publisher, with a super thick grid. (PDF here.) Notice that there are no labels. I just write above the grid M-F. I omitted Saturday and Sunday because the grid was too small with them, and those days will simply be days for reading and writing, with the exception of weekends where I have class. I’ll have special Post-its for those weekends… Probably.Visual Calendar

What this gives me is a flexible and HIGHLY visual calendar. I can see at a glance that the week of October 12-16th is going to be busy while the week of September 14th through 18th is going to be pretty quiet.Visual Calendar Visual Calendar

You can buy this already printed and with all 7 days from Post-it themselves. Or make one that works with whatever sticky notes you happen to have on hand. The grid was easy to set up in Publisher, but would also be just as easy to do in any word processing program like google docs.*

I also use Google Calendar to remind myself of reoccurring items like my Blackboard assignments. I tend to forget about things like that. though the due date is the day of the class, I tend to not have time on the day of the class and self impose that those assignments are finished in advance of the actual due date.

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Portrait Process

I thought I’d show you some of the process of creating the images of the presidential wannabes.

I start by looking through google and assessing the kinds of pictures they have available. I don’t use just one as a reference, sometimes an image will wash out the nose, or the lips. Quite often all of the images made the candidate look pink, really really pink. Occasionally they’d be orange or gold. I think it depends on the photographer, but man, many of them should get their blood pressure checked, because their faces are RED.  After I find 3 or 4 images to reference, I start with a sketch, it’s basic. I was using a “iron blue” (AKA payne’s gray) Derwent Inktense. However, my local stores only carry Inktense in tins, and I have no interest in having a tin of them. I like them for under drawings for watercolors because after I add water and they dry, they stay put. However, they aren’t light-fast, or all the colors aren’t. So I don’t want to rely on them because I don’t want to use them in anything but my journal. I have moved to other brands of watercolor pencils and I’m debating which I like best.processprocessAfter the under drawing us finished, I hit it with water, blending the color out and into the proper tone.process processAfter this I start to layer on the actual colors. I and working with a bright and dark palette of not true to life shades. I start with pale pinks and yellows, brushing these on in broad strokes. I’m using a #10 synthetic brush. I then layer on medium shades, and finally the fully saturated dark colors. I’m a huge fan of mineral violet and indigo. Such amazing colors. process

Attention! Kickstarter Cerat Pencils Not a New Product

A few days ago I found this Kickstarter for Cerat pencils of Britain. I’ve seen the gem or jewel topped pencils around for ages, usually being sold on cheap import shops. So to see them on Kickstarter being sold as something new and of quality, well, I found that kind of funny.

Anyway, I’m not sure if the pencils are really a quality item or not, but that they are being hawked on Kickstarter as a new item is untrue.

Anyway, this is one of those Kickstarter beware campaigns. Oh you can find the same pencils on ebay and amazon for about the same cost. If you are going to buy them get them from Amazon or the ‘bay instead. Don’t encourage Kickstarter fakers.

From Cerat’s own kickstarter page it states:

Here are the approximate breakdowns:

– Around 10% will be taken as fees by Kickstarter and transaction fees.
– Production takes 45% due to the labor involved as these pencils are partially hand made.
– 15% will be reserved for materials cost including acrylic blocks for the crystals on each pencil.
– A maximum of around 25% will be going into Postage and Packaging of the pencils.
– Any remaining funds after the rewards have been completed and backers are satisfied will be invested into & by Cerat Creations for new projects in the future.

Let’s break this down: The fees are about right. The production costs may be correct. The crystals made of acrylic look to be molded on every other iteration of the pencil. Earlier in the Kickstarter they mention these being “carved” from acrylic blocks, I highly doubt that. Postage may be correct. However, the cost to back this project is about what these cost on eBay or Amazon.

Also a quote from their page:

The pencils are all in stock, we have plenty thanks to a batch production we undertook, there really are no risks present and we’re prepared to ship immediately. Of course all costs have been considered and reward prices set accordingly.

The only risk that we may encounter is the over-funding of this project, which isn’t a bad thing at all! In this case, we’ll send out as many as we can fulfill the rewards by December where our production will have begun by.

The pencils are in stock. I’m not sure what you’d be backing here? Shipping? Them opening up the packages and repacking them by color? Again, not sure.

Be sure to read some of the Amazon reviews of a VERy similar product that basically state that these are cheap. The rhinestones fall off before they even arrive.

Opinion: Adult Coloring Books and Art Therapy

By now I suppose everyone has read about the “adult coloring revolution!!!”, from one of those click-bait shares on the book of face. Some of these articles suggest that the use of these coloring books is as effective as art therapy or IS art therapy. To make either of these two suggestions is incorrect and innocently ignorant of what art therapy is and isn’t.

I will start this out by stating that coloring is an effective tool in reducing agitation, easing anxiety, and helping someone to contain their emotions in the short term. It is often a tool used in hospitals and by art therapists to assist clients in the short term. It is not a long term solution and can be something someone uses to simply shut off their feelings, which as I previous wrote, can be useful when containing emotions. But art therapy (and regular old talk therapy)  teaches us how to understand our emotions and how to cope with them. Rather than just shut off the emotions, we use skills and tools to understand. That’s therapy- the teaching of skills, tools, and understanding. While coloring is but one tool to assist in containing emotions.

I have personally witnessed  and worked with a client who used coloring to contain agitation and anxiety. The client had early stage dementia and would often be confused as to time(as in what year/date/month) in the morning. This would cause a great deal of anxiety and the client be quite agitated and angry. Using crayons and a selection of coloring sheets gave a moment to calmly color. It decreased anxiety, focused attention, distracted from confusion, and in a short period of time the client was calmer, and in a significantly better mood. The coloring allowed the client to focus attention away from anxiety of being aware of disorientation. This didn’t help to orientate to time or place but allowed the client to be calmly distracted and contain emotions. The elevation in mood didn’t last either. The client would be calmer for about an hour. The coloring was a tool to assist in the moment of agitation.

The main difference in the coloring and art therapy was that the coloring allowed the client to become calmed while art therapy allowed for exploring anxiety, understanding it, and normalizing emotions. Through coloring she became comfortable with color, making color choices, and knowing that art felt better.

In my mind coloring books are a tool to helping people to explore art as therapy, but art therapy is a powerful tool for healing. There is potential for coloring books to be a gateway for art therapy. Perhaps if someone begins to color as a way to relax, they will look up a registered art therapist in their area. I certainly won’t slam coloring books as ineffective, but instead look at them as a tool that has been a staple in the art therapist’s toolbox for ages. Instead of hissing and booing at the new boom in popularity, art therapists should capitalize on this popularity, and attempt to garner more positive attention on ourselves. I encourage people to look up some of these adult coloring books but to also understand that they are a tool, but to further understand themselves they should seek out an art therapist. If one is not near them, seek out a therapist who is open to you using art in your sessions.

So go ahead, color away, but be aware that there are art therapists out there who can help. (Links go to amazon affiliate links of coloring books I think look interesting.) Continue reading

It’s Been Awhile

It’s been awhile since I wrote anything on here. I’ve been hard at work on papers and other class related things. I’ve not had time to write anything but papers. Though I’ve been sneaking a few words here and there on my novel for Nanowrimo Camp. I’ve written 7000 words on my novel since April 1st.coffee

For those of you who have been reading for awhile, you know that I’ve been diagnosed with diabetes. I’ve been doing really well with my diet and exercise. I’ve lost about 25 pounds and I’ve been feeling a lot better, except for a few weeks ago where I just felt like crap. At first I thought I was getting a cold. But the feeling persisted for a week then 2. I did a little research and my blood sugar was good, really good. But my blood pressure was low. It turns out I was overdosed on my blood pressure medication, likely due to the weight loss and exercise. I’ve been tapered off the BP meds and I no longer feel drunk.

It really hard to try to think and to study when you feel kinda drunk all the time. Needless to say, it was weird and I’m glad I feel normal again. Or as normal as I can. 😛

I’ve got a bunch of new pencils to review once the semester is over. I’ve decided that each of the pencils that I review will get at least a week or so of continued use. I’ve got a rotation of pencils  in a pencil case that I sharpen and get ready for class and rotate through them. But the point is that each pencil reviewed will get some serious use before I review it. I’ll have a “first impression” sheet in my notebook, but then the rest of the review will be based on real use. You won’t see a full length pencil in my reviews, unless I shoot a pic of it first. More likely, you’ll see a half used and abused pencil.

Anyway, I’ve been learning a lot of good stuff and I have a paper mache clay recipe to share with you in the upcoming weeks. As well as a few things you can use in your art journal.

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NEXT! Using up pencils till i can’t sharpen them anymore! #Measuredlearning

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The inside of that bowl.

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New Tool/Review: INDXD

I have written about my indexing method for my pocket notebooks before. I had mentioned that I use a master index, but failed to show an image of the index.

To recap- at the start of every one of my pocket notebooks I create a 2-column index. Basically, I write the numbers 2-48 on the first page, with just enough room next to it to log the topic in a word or two. In my master index book, each book gets a single page. At the top is a brief description and dates of use. Under that the same index is repeated. At the bottom of the page I write down any loose inclusions- such as letters from friends, post it notes, and other odd items. These are always tucked into the back of the book.

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Generally, when I copy the index to the master book I will expand upon the topic on an as needed basis. Sometimes I’ll have written “novel” and I’ll change that to “NOV. Character Name” or “NOV. Scene.” This helps me find info quickly in the master book. Then I know to pull the green field notes from January 2015 and turn to page 25. It definitely helps me to find stuff faster.

I recently began using INDXD, a nifty little website where you create an account and log your notebooks. I was quite skeptical at first. I have been holding off on going digital with my index for awhile. Now that I’ve logged 21 books in my master index it’s getting to be confusing as to which book that novel idea or cord wrap design was in, so I find myself paging through the index searching, and searching. I considered creating an index on a spreadsheet where I logged a topic and then logged each page and book, but the idea was cludgy and seemed like a pain in the ass to set up, so I decided against it. And here is where I kind of just stopped thinking about it. I knew I wanted something as simple as my master notebook, but something more searchable. I considered getting a scanner and scanning each book into Evernote, but the idea of scanning 21 48-page notebooks (not counting the notebooks I’ve drawn and journaled in…) was painful, and who has the time. The idea for me isn’t to recreate my books digitally (though I’ve played with that in my zine, Evidence.) but to make them searchable digitally.INDXD INDXD

That is where INDXD comes in and works beautifully. The reason it works and works so well, is that it’s powerfully simple. You set up a “book” give it a title and dates of use, then log the topics and pages they are on. Also it’s ridiculously simple to use. It takes me between 5 and 10 minutes to log a book, depending on number of topics and how bad my handwriting was when I recorded it.INDXD

Once logged, you can search. Enter in one term and up pops the pages and BOOKS it lives in. Enter another term and the search is dialed down to those two terms. You can then pull the book and find what you need, fast.INDXD

I’ve tweeted at the creator, David Rea, and he says that both Android and Apple apps are in the future. Having INDXD on my phone or tablet would make this even more flexible and easy to use.

As someone who clings to her analog tools and resisted moving toward a digital system this powerful simple tool makes it easy.

A suggestion. I’d like to see the date entry method offer different layouts or more flexibility for entry. I use 20150325 for my date style; year, month, day with no spaces or interuptions. This isn’t an option when entering in chrome. Fortunately the date entry doesn’t work quite right in firefox (don’t fix this yet) so I’m able to enter in my dates the way I use them. On the topic/tag page it would be easier to read the large amounts of text on the screen a little easier if the lines alternated color- cream-tan-cream etc. This would also help on the search results page.
Honestly, this is a great tool and I’m looking forward to entering in all my books

Friend in Need

Well folks, I just learned that Jay of Huckleberry Woodchuck’s home burned down. He’s part of the duo that brought us the awesome Twist Bullet Pencil. He’s a nice dude and Jon Fontaine is trying to raise some cash for him to help him through this troubled time.

This is from Jon:

As you now know Jay [Huckleberry Woodchuck] lost his home and shop in a fire the other night. I’m hoping to raise some funds to help him out through a raffle of one of our prototype bullet pencils. After the first prototype we made 6 other for the Kickstarter photos. These are slightly different than the production ones. Biggest difference is the eraser end is not threaded so it will not hold the pocket clip & cap system we have. It also only accepts the white erasers (I’ll include a bunch).

So the raffle is for the pencil shown with all four bullets. A bunch of erasers and some Blackwing 602 pencil nubs. Thanks to Cliff Gillies we also will include a Northerly Edition single.

Each raffle is $5 paypal friend and family to jon@gosimracer.com I was originally targeting 3/31 but may extend a bit to raise more.

There are a bunch of great things that will be given away in this raffle, so even if this isn’t a 503c charity with tax exempt status, Jon and Jay are great guys, and Jay could use some help. Buy a raffle ticket and be entered to win one of the many great prizes.

Practical Carry

You can see my Twist on the right next to my Kershaw Chive knife.