Point Comparison: 2mm Lead Pointers

Sharpeners and lead pointers are giant rabbit holes and I’ve barely touched the surface of the many amazing lead pointers out there. I happened to luck into finding the KUM-onit 233 and 250 pretty early on and they give me a very nice point that I like for my general use or writing and light sketching. The Kitaboshi is garbage for writing but it is nice for sketching particularly if you are shading. The KUM automatic with included lead pointers is okay in a pinch but not my favorite.

The 2mm lead in all image is Staedtler Lumograph HB, what I have on hand at this moment.

Comparison of Sharpeners: Long Point

Here’s a little reference of points produced by long point sharpeners.

Included are:

  • Carl Angel-5
  • KUM  Automatic Long Point
  • KUM  5L or Stenographer
  • KUM Masterpiece
  • Apsara Long Point

These are all sharpened on a #2/HB Ticonderoga of som sort. The natural wooden pencil in the various pics is a factory sharpened General’s Cedar Pointe #1

 

First Impression: Butterfly Effect Book

This is my first impression of the Jane Davenport Butterfly Effect Book. Also known as a traveler’s notebook or Fauxdori, or one of many other names for a version of the Midori Traveler’s notebook- an ingenious take on an old fashioned version of a binder. If you want more info on the original Midori notebook system head over to my friend Patrick Ng’s blog Scription. Patrick really took the Traveler’s notebook to the next level with ingenious marketing and gorgeous photography.  He’s a master and an amazingly nice guy.

As much as I have always loved the Traveler’s notebook system I’ve never been able to spring for one. US$50+ for a flap of leather with some holes punched in it and some elastic always seemed a tad high, especially when I can head to eBay buy myself a large chunk of leather for $50 and make myself a full sized Traveler’s notebook as well as a few Field Notes sized. Which is the great thing about Patrick and Midori, they have always embraced the DIY esthetic, in fact when Patrick saw an image of my own boiled bucked skin version of the notebook he told me I shouldn’t denigrate it by calling it a knock off.

In the end I don’t use my Field Note size Traveler’s notebook, it no longer fits my needs. But my friend Jazmin pointed out that Michael’s is now carrying the Butterfly Effect Book(BEB)- a true knock off of the traveler’s notebook. This one fits the bill for people who don’t want to buy leather and who want to be able to decorate their notebook in wild and fun ways that you might not wish to do on leather*. 

Moving on. Inside the BEB package you get the white nylon canvas cover, a 16 page insert of unknown paper type, elastic closure and a single large book holding elastic.

First the cover is white nylon. I know this because a corner was frayed and I was able to sear it with a lighter to keep it from continuing to fray. It melted easily. It also feels like nylon. There are two pieces of nylon with what feels like thin cardboard sandwich between them and then stitched. From a little flexing and how the canvas moves on the outside but not the inside, the cardboard is glued to the inner canvas but not the outer. This makes sense from a bookbinding standpoint. If you don’t glue the inner fabric it’s going to bunch in ugly ways. 

The holes for the elastics are while painted eyelets. The eyelets on mine are well finished on the outside but the inside the aluminum shows through the paint. The closure elastic feels sturdy and is nice and thick. The interior elastic is too thick and the same thickness as the closure elastic. Further if you want to paint the exterior of your cover you will need to remove the interior notebook holding elastic by cutting it, or risk getting it covered in paint. Since it is so thick, I’m going to cut mine and replace it with thinner 1/16th elastic to create less of a bulge in my notebooks. Of course my local Michael’s didn’t have the full range of add ons so I was not able to get any differently colored elastics. The only color available was light teal. Luckily I adore teal.

The included insert is 16 pages, or 8 leaves, or 4 sheets of stapled paper. I’m not sure which of the 2 inserts was included because it’s not on the label anywhere. I’m going to assume it’s the marker paper because it’s heavyweight and smooth and doesn’t remind me of watercolor paper at all.  I’ll use it but it doesn’t feel like a Traveler’s insert to me. Rather it feels like… Someone stacked 4 sheets of paper, folded ’em, and then stapled and rounded the corners. Davenport inserts are $6 for 4 folded sheets of paper. *DAFUQ* In the next aisle you can get a 100 sheet package of cardstock for $4, and in another aisle you can get a corner rounder for about the same. Or you can go to the sketchbook and art paper aisle and spend your $6 and buy a whole sketchbook and tear it down to size. Because again *DAFUQ*

Overall, this cover is a value if you plan on decorating the inside and outside with acrylic paints and don’t want to use leather. At $13 MSRP it’s not a bad price. However the line is subject to Michael’s coupons which range from 60% to 25% off. I picked up mine for 60% off or $5.53, which is a killer deal. Would I pay full price? Probably not. For the same price you can also pick up a line of pre-decorated covers with Davenport’s cutesy version of Suzi Blu/Willow/Insert another online instructor’s “girls.” these may not appeal to many people outside her “Davenpeeps.” I didn’t make that up, apparently that’s what she calls the people who follow her online.  I certainly would not buy her inserts which are highway robbery and aren’t even the right Midori size of 11x21cm or 8.5×4.5 inches, they are 8×4 inches.

Overall a fun experiment for under $6.

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Comparison of Sharpeners

I sharpened pencils with my collection of sharpeners (not all of them) and took pics of the points next to factory sharpened General’s Cedar Pointe #1 pencils for someone in the Erasable group. It’s good to preserve those images before they disappear into the abyss of the FaceBook group feed. (searchable yet never found again.)

In the pics you can see that the blade on my KUM brass wedge is dull.

In Defense of the Humble Pilot G2

I’ve railed against the Pilot G2 in the past. It blobs. It skips. It smears. It isn’t waterproof nor is it lightfast. It is everything I don’t like in a pen that I draw or sketch with, in fact it is horrible for either of the 2 purposes in which I usually use a pen. I’ve never understood the popularity of the Pilot G2, until I began my current DayJob*.

The DayJob require black or blue ink, and black ink on particular documents as some sort of herald to professionalism and for perceived legal reasons. I’ve blown through an astonishing number of black gel ink pens in the last 6 months in a search for the best of the best. What really blows my mind is how fast some of the gel pens were consumed. One of these days I must log the number of pages I’ve written/signed/filled out with each pen. I’ve used Papermate Gel InkJoy, Zebra Sarasa, Uniball Jetstream, Uniball Signo, Staples 0.5 Stick Gel pens, and the Pilot G2. All with black ink.

I loved all of them.

The DayJob uses the finest cheapest of all the available Staples recycled papers. It is as absorbent as a Brawny paper towel. In fact I’ve used it to mop up spilled coffee in the past. The InkJoy glides over the page like butter on a hot griddle. The Sarasa writes and writes without skipping or blobbing. The Uniball pens performed flawlessly, writing page after page without skipping or blobs- silk smooth on the page.

The Pilot G2 has surprised me and has become my go to gel pen for this cheap absorbent paper. Unlike all the other pens I’ve used it doesn’t absorb into the paper, it sits on the surface of the cheap paper. The pen still glides smoothly, less smoothly than the InkJoy or the Sarasa, but still smooth enough to be enjoyable. What really sold me on the G2 is it’s longevity when compared to the other gel ink pens. Most of the other pens lasted roughly a week to two weeks. The G2 in heavy use lasted three plus weeks.** Given the amount that I write in my job, that is a huge amount of time. It’s also nearly double the time of most of the other pens used.

I cannot believe that I’m going to write this, the Pilot G2 is the superior gel ink pen if you are writing on super cheap absorbent paper. It’s not quite as smooth as the others mentioned here but it writes for much much longer. This is enough for me to purchase a package of my own 

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Sunday Study: Journal Fodder Junkies Workshop

I’m going to start out by saying this is one of my favorite art journaling books. I enjoy the JFJ philosophy on visual journaling and their approach to art. I have a few criticisms of the book but we’ll save them for the end of the post.

For today’s study I’m looking in depth at Scott and Modler’s page on “Objectives.” It’s page 17 of the book and it details the JFJ philosophy of what a visual journal (VJ) is and can be. At it’s core the philosophy is that the VJ is an everything book. It transcends words and combines words and visual expression into one journal. It’s a place to reflect and explore emotions, ideas, and thoughts. It’s a record of everyday life as well as the inner life of the person who keeps it. It’s this everything goes philosophy that I so very much enjoy in this book about VJ.

As you get further into the book the everything goes attitude is reflected via their suggestions of simple materials that don’t cost a lot and the suggestion to use things you have rather than amassing a trove of fancy overpriced art supplies. They also don’t suggest that pages must be pretty or finished- rather the whole book suggests that the VJ is done “your way.” They encourage the reader to create their own methods and style rather than mimicking or copying theirs.

My issues with the book are minor. First is the use of the term “junkies,” language matters and using a term that is used as a general disparagement for people struggling with addiction is a little… off putting. Obviously, this is a minor objection as I still love the book and highly recommend it. The last objection is the references to weapons and ammunition. Again, minor, and these are occasional and though they make sense as they are used, I tend to like to have my art, stationery, and weaponry stuff kept separated.

Anyway, this book is a must have for anyone interested in art/visual journaling and developing their own style. Continue reading

NaNoWriMo 2016

This year I participated, and won NaNoWriMo. If you don’t know about Nano, the idea is that people sit down during November and write 50,000 words. That’s 1667 words per day, every day, for 30 days. Phew.Early

I’ve tried to do Nano many times and always failed. I had excuses- too busy with work, the holidays, travel for the holidays, work around the holidays included 12 and 16 hours shifts. All of that is true, and it makes it really really hard to sit down and write, let alone creatively write on any of those days. In fact, sometimes all I wanted after those hard and horrible work days was to plunk my butt down in front of the TV and vegetate. Frankly, in the past that is what I did.img_20161129_185013

So what was different this year? Well first I decided to write everything by hand- pencil, pen and paper. Second, I don’t have the same job I used to have- my schedule is still chaotic but I carved out time every day to write. Third, On days I had more time, I wrote more. I padded my numbers when I could. I had several days where I wrote between 2000 and 3000 words.  Finally, I decided I was going to win.img_20161120_174950

Let’s address these points one by one, writing by hand is not easy but it offers a tactile experience which I think I crave when drafting a piece of writing. I’ve almost always written drafts of my blog posts, papers, and other writing with pencil, pen, and paper. This is what feels natural and works for me. Even this post has the bones of it written in my pocket notebook. Not the full post, but the ideas I’m hitting, pencil and pocket notebook. After I get the idea drafted I then type it up, mostly without looking at the paper draft. Occasionally I’ll reference it as I write, but especially for shorter pieces like this, I find no need to refer back to the notebook. I’m sure that if and when I type the novel, I’ll be referring to the notebook more often. Or I’ll go through and make an outline of the major chapters and events and work off that.

The work schedule is still chaotic, but it’s much more of a managed chaos. Further my commute home is not panic inducing- I don’t have to be on a congested highway, often I can drive through beautiful rural scenery, so it’s actually relaxing. Oddly enough, my schedule this year included a lot of travel in November for family events and killed those days for writing. I also had to work extended hours the week of turkey day to meet my hourly requirements. So my actual work days were all over the place and the hours worked extended more so than in October. Nothing like the 12 to 16 hours days I worked 10 years ago, but not far from it. Combine the more regular hours with a shorter commute and I suddenly have an extra hour a day.img_20161116_231854

When I had time I wrote more. If I found I had a spare 10 or 15 minutes, I scrawled down 100 words, or even a sentence. 10 to 15 minutes here and there add up to an hour over the course of a day. I had several days where I wrote 2000 to 3000 words and a few days where I wrote more than 3000 words. This was key to success. I had 2 days where I was sick and literally got down only 180 words each of those days. Also on the days where I was traveling, I had only 900 words or so. Being able to write more on days where I had the time was crucial.

Last, I decided I was going to win. In years past I had already decided before I had failed that I was going to fail. I am horrible at month long daily challenges. I failed at NaNoJoMo (November is National Journaling Month) and every other monthly challenge I’ve tried. This isn’t hyperbole, I cannot commit to doing something everyday. I just can’t. You might say, “But, Less, you JUST did!” The thing is I didn’t. I setup my Nano so that I wouldn’t have to write every day. I made sure I had WAY more words in the beginning to give myself extra words so that I wouldn’t have to write on days if I didn’t feel like it. And on those days (2 of them) I wrote exactly one page. I forced myself to do so, even though I hated it whole I did it, and grumbled the whole time. But I decided that I would win and DAMN IT I was gonna win.

So what did I learn from this experience? First off, I CAN write 50,000 words in a month. Writing 50,000 words in a month is hard damn work. Not only is it hard work, but it’s physically demanding work. I wrote over 3000 words 2 days in a row and then had to fill out several 10 page assessments at work, my wrist is still in pain, in fact I had to do several smaller days and take frequent breaks after that, simply to rest my wrist. Because carpal tunnel and inflamed shit in your wrists and hands hurts like whoa! Especially WHOA when you are writing more than usual.  I learned that I cannot do 2000- 3000 words a day on the regular, but I can do less than a 1000.

The experience has shown me that despite my misgivings I CAN do a daily challenge so long as I pad my results so I can take days where I work less than others. I write a lot pretty regularly. Generally I write quite a bit for the blog, and discard it, at one point I was probably producing 1500 words a day for this blog, and never publishing them. I have FILES AND FILES of blogs posts that never developed past an idea. I’ve got notebooks full of idea seeds that never germinated. But this month I pushed out a 50,040 word draft that can use another 100,000 words to complete and be a finished novel. Frankly thought what I’ve written thus far needs a lot of work, it is a first draft of something that COULD be more. That is huge for my writterly self esteem.

Frankly I think when you boil the experience of NaNoWriMo down to it’s core, it’s all about gaining self esteem as a writer. Sure it’s been said (over and over) that to write a good book you need to write a lot, everyday and fail at writing until finally you figure out what you are doing. And by gosh, I think I’m getting it now. Maybe I have a long ways to go before I’m not just a blogging hack, but hey, I’m on that road now.

NaNoWriMo

No Secular Sunday Study this week. I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year so I’ll type up a few observations which will sadly NOT be included in my word count.

First, while Nano says it’s all about “writing a novel in a month,” it’s really about gaining confidence in your writing ability and committing to writing everyday. If you can gain confidence in writing and start to do it MOST everyday you really Can write a novel, maybe not in a month but certainly over the course of several months. Commitment is key.Casemates

Second, writing a novel at the pace of a minimum of 1667 words by hand a day is brutal, IF you also write that much or more at your DayJob. My DayJob has me filling out 10 plus pages in forms every day i’m there. I had to buy a wrist brace for the first time since I left my previous job. My wrist is killing me. Breaks are key to hand and wrist happiness. (As are pain relievers.)Casemates

Third, picking one pencil and sharpening up a bunch of them is helpful to combat that whole, “Which pencil or pen do I use?” problem. I started out with 13 Casemates cheapo multi colored pencils from Wallyworld. At 1 cent each I wasn’t worried about blowing the bank or having a  lot of them sharpened. I know I like them enough to use- I’ve destroyed 3 of them already in my quest for journal filling. So I know I can use them for long periods of time with happiness. That said, when I take my Nano on the road I use pens, I used a blue Bic Cristal Xtra BOLD for around 10 pages. I also figured this was a good way to test out some new pencils so I sharpened up a Baron Fig Archer and used that for another 10 pages, and then I had the stub of a BWV 24 that I decided to finish up.Casemates

Fourth, it is NOT easy to do Nano. If you are competing, give yourself a nice hot cup of whatever you drink and a pat on the back for however far you’ve gotten. It’s amazing to just sit down and write every day. It is even more so  important in this time in history that we write our stories, and maybe later share our stories.Casemates

Some observations on the pencils that I’ve used thus far. The Wallyworld Casemate’s that have the multicolor paint job and sell for about a dollar for a 20 pack regularly are great pencils. They are NOT the same as the regular yellow Wallyworld caremates that are in a 10-pack for 50 cents or the Casemate’s Premium sold in an 8-pack tube for a buck. Not the multi colors are more like the Neons. It is important to note  I’m writing about the Casemates that are made in INdia, the made in Mexico and other places Casemates are crap. I’m using a rough paper- Roaring Springs and Norcom composition notebooks. More observations on those later. The casemates keep performing well. There is an occasional broken lead as would be expected from department store pencils that have been tossed from case to shelf to clearance rack.. I’ve given them a pretty decent workout and find them quite enjoyable. CasematesI’ve also used the Baron Fig Archer, which I have written a few dozen pages at this point. Though the paper in both my Composition notebooks is rough, the Archer really grips the page. I’d call it almost gritty, but that’s not the right description. My favorite pencils glide, more like an ice skate than a skateboard. The Archer is more like a skateboard. It takes effort to use. Even the Casemate is smoother and more enjoyable to me.Casemates

I also use the Blackwing Volumes 24, a favorite of mine, but it hasn’t been a favorite on this paper but it has been nice.

The notebooks have been great. Thus far I’ve like the Roaring Springs the best, but the Norcom is much much better than I expected. The big downsides of the Norcom is that the lines are a super bright blue, which I’m finding I like more and  more. The other negative is that the covers of the Norcom are super floppy. The the point of being useless for writing in hand, quite the opposite of the Roaring Spring. Interestingly the Norcom paper is smoother than the Roaring Spring not a lot but enough that I’m noticing it with all the pencils I’m using. Another thing, the Norcom is not stiched as tightly as the Roaring Spring, not even close.

I’m about 23500 words (as of this writing) into my novel. I’ve written every day for 13 days. That;s an accomplishment even if I don’t finish 50,000 words.

SSS: How to Make a Journal of Your Life

I’ve written on here about How to Make a Journal of Your Life (HtMaJoYL) in the past, I’m a fan of the simple stripped down journaling style Price promotes, as well as his anything goes attitude toward journaling. Boiling it all down to one line- if it moves you, put it in your journal.Price how2Journal

In more depth, Price suggests writing, photography, rubber stamps, drawing, doodles, and taping in flowers and other stuff you find on your travels. Each chapter of the small book details Price’s philosophy surrounding these various techniques. His philosophy leans toward simplicity with a focus on observation and recording those observations. He also suggests using pens and markers and not worrying about mistakes as those are part of the process.

An additional part of the HtMaJoYL process of journaling is to use whatever materials work best for you. Price used Sakura Pigma pens, but he also used rubber stamps he found along the way, and clear scotch tape.

You’ll notice that even in his writing he follows a simple philosophy of telling a story. Each image or line of writing tells a story about the artist or author recording it. What you chose to record in your journals reflects the story of who you are. This is probably the biggest and best take one can get out of the book- to record whatever reflects you.

The final part of the book includes some of Price’s journaling and then finishes off with areas for the reader to begin journaling.

Next week I’m going to explore Art Journals & Creative Healing. No link for it this week, I want to make sure that my thoughts are up so you can make an informed choice before purchasing the book.
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SSS: Writing as a Way of Healing

Writing as a Way of Healing by Louse  DeSalvo, was required reading in my bibliotherapy class, and it’s well worth the piddly amount I spent to buy it and the amount of time I spent reading. (Seriously the ‘Zon has it for a mere 70 cents right now.) It focuses on writing, and specifically the Pennebaker Paradigm* (PP.) The basic idea with the PP is that you write for a set period of time about something that bothers you. You do the same thing for a day or two, telling a story- with a beginning, middle, and end; and eventually you find some relief from your depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc…  There’s a been a great deal of research into the PP, and I won’t bore you with the details but the gist of it is that if you can tell a coherent story about the thing that bothers you (that beginning, middle and end are important) you start to feel better. The PP is used to back up a great deal of the support out there for journaling as a healing tool.writinghealing

The chapter I chose to look closely at for this SSS was Chapter 3, “Writing as a Therapeutic Process.” It’s a good one to look at because it delves quite deeply into the desire to write and how damaging it is to not write if you really feel the need to do so. This, also applies to making art. If someone really feels a great drive to make art but they leave behind “childish things” in favor of work and other adult pursuits, they are leaving their creative self unfulfilled. A journal maybe a tiny drop in the bucket of creativity, but it is a necessary outlet, no matter if it is written or art based. One of the most interesting bits in this chapter is the various accounts from writers who used writing as a way to heal themselves.

Sadly, this chapter also flogs the age old untruth that “creativity comes from pain.” Yes, many people who have experienced some sort of traumatic event or pain in their life are creative people but also there are many people who are creative who have not experienced trauma. It really does a disservice to the community of creatives to portray us all as “broken” people who create out of desperate need. Perhaps this is an unfair critique of a book where the entire premise is based on “writing as healing” but frankly, it’s tiring to read the lame trope that artists are damaged. Yes, pain can bring about wonderful creative works, but pain does not beget creativity. Rather, creativity is a salve for wounds. This, I think, is what DeSalvo is attempting to get at by writing about pain and creativity, but sadly misses the mark with the blanket statements about creativity and pain.

The rest of the book is well worth the effort to read and delve into, though it is about novel writing, much of it’s contents also relate to visual journaling. Telling a story is telling a story regardless of how the story is told- through images or words or some combination of the two.

Next week, I’m going to review an old favorite, How to Make a Journal of Your Life, by Dan Price.

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