Wanted: Technique Today Ideas

I’ve done a TON of Technique Today posts and I’ve gotten to the point where I think of something and then realize, I’ve done it already.  I’m looking for ideas for Technique Today. Leave me a comment about a Technique you’re interested in and would like to know more about. I’ll do the research, separate the bunk for the gold and post ‘em.

If you have trouble leaving me a comment here on the blog, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook!

Review: Mitsu-Bishi Hi-Uni Pencils

In my last JetPens purchase I ordered a pair of Mitsu-bishi Hi- Uni pencils. I picked out the HB and B grade. I refer to these as the adult, in the non-dirty manner of speaking, pencils. Their smooth burgundy paint, gold foil imprints, and slick black plastic and gold caps simply look like the kind of pencil adults might use. These aren’t kiddy styled pencils. The plastic caps remind me of old Venus drawing pencils that had smooth white plastic caps. It just screams “serious art creation happening here!” The combined package of color and crispness makes these look like nice pencils. Those looks are not deceiving, these are nice pencils.Hi-UniHi-Uni

I popped the HB into my KUM Ellipse sharpener and was quickly down to the business of writing and sketching. The cedar sharpens well. The core is smooth in the sharpener, and shaves off a nice point. This pencil is smooth and dark. As HB cores go, this one is as smooth as a Palomino HB but holds the point well. I was able to write and draw without sharpening the pencil every minute or word. The experience of writing was nice and smooth. I did not find a  single hint of grit or scratchiness. This pencil simply puts down graphite.Hi-UniI sharpened the B pencil in my KUM long point. Again no issues here. The core was well centered  and sharpened  to a perfect point. The B grade was slightly darker than the HB but just as smooth. It needed slightly more sharpening than the HB but that is expected for a B pencil.IMAG1832While I’d use the HB for class-notes the B is less well suited to note-taking given it’s need for more frequent sharpening. Either pencil erases cleanly from paper through the use of a block or click eraser. In use, these pencils certainly obtain high marks. They look fantastic and perform flawlessly. The one BUT I have is that they are a little on the expensive side. JetPens sells these as singles for $2.35. A dozen costs $28*. To put that into perspective, they are pricier than the Palomino Blackwing, which are as good for sketching, though not available in 5B to 10B or 2B to 10H.  For a full range of use, the Hi- Uni wins out. It’s price is a tad off putting.Hi-UniAgain, if you are looking for a little something to get your JetPens order over the $25 mark for free shipping, a single pencil is a great way to do it. You won’t regret the purchase, it’s a damn  fine pencil.

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Review: Mitsu-Bishi NanoDia B Pencil

The shining star of my recent Jetpens purchase is the MitsuBishi (UniBall) Nano Dia pencil with a B core, in green and white. They are available in 2B as well and in the following shades green, pink and blue. The white finish of the pencil is pearlized. It’s very similar to the pearlized finish of the Palomino Blackwing Pearl. Howeve,r the NanoDia has green triangles printed over the creamy white finish. They are semi transparent and barely noticeable. There are 2 accents of a darker bright green. One is a diamond shape and the last is a band at the ferrule end of the pencil. Together the colors work well and make for a very nice looking pencil. The green reminds me of the Staedtler Wopex coloring.NanoDia

The ferrule end of the pencil is not finished. The core and the wood of the pencil are visible. the core is well centered. The pencil sharpened to a nice point in my Kum Ellipse sharpener. Because my allergies are interfering I cannot tell if this is cedar or not, however it LOOKS like cedar and sharpened well.NanoDiananodiaThe pencil is graded as a B, and it writes like a B pencil. It’s darker than most HB pencils and is softer and smoother. However, it held it’s point well and didn’t need to be sharpened after every word or scribble. It erased cleanly with both block and stick erasers. It is be well suited to sketching or note taking. If I were to compare this to a Blackwing, I’d say it’s VERY similar to the Blackwing Pearl in darkness and softness of the core.NanoDiaAlso, it is affordable priced, arriving in a 3-pack for $3. This is again, an option to boost your JetPens purchase to being over $25 to get you to free shipping. Don’t like green? You can get it in bright blue or pink. All colors are available in B or 2B. The green is a great spring color.NanoDiaFinal word? A good looking and affordable pencil that will make you happy. I’ll be reaching for this one more than any of the others I ordered in this Jetpens package. I would say if you want the Blackwing experience with a lower cost, the B NanoDia will give you that experience. I’d rate this at a very similar level as the Blackwing Pearl.

If you don’t like wood cased pencils, Uni offers the lead for mechanical pencils. It’s as nice as what is in the wood pencils but offered in more of a range of hard and soft. I have a couple of packs and I’ve been happy with them.

Review: General’s Sav-a-Point

I’ve been wanting to get a package of pencil point protectors for awhile. I’ve had a pair of Sun Star “sect” point protectors for awhile, and they are okay, if ugly. I put the General’s Sav-a-Point 12 pack of point protectors in my Amazon wishlist a month ago. The protectors come with a General’s All-Art Red plastic sharpener, which is generally useless. I had issues getting a decent point on most of my pencils. Though it did okay with colored pencils.


The caps fit snugly onto all of my pencils, even the thinner Staedtler pencils. Points didn’t protrude from the cap and the caps have not fallen off in a few weeks of use. They really protect the points of the pencils from breaking or stabbing me as I carry them. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The caps aren’t pretty. They are an inelegant solution to a common pencil problem. The job they do is fantastic, they are just not all that attractive. One of these days I’ll find some of the sexy metal caps.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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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Tools I Use: Pencils

That discussion I had with Eraser Girl about erasers also got me to thinking about the OTHER tools I use, so today I’m going to explore pencils.

For years, through out high school, college and a few years after, I used Staedtler MARS Lumograph 100 HB- 6B for sketching. Back in the 90s they were available just about everywhere for a decent price, these bright blue pencils capped with black, screamed artist. I was able to get them in the campus bookstore and Staples. For holidays and my birthday my family always knew they could buy me a tin of them and I’d be happy.

Sometime in college I found a few boxes of vintage Venus 4B drawing pencils in a salvage store, for $2 each. I bought a half dozen boxes of 12. Of course, now I wish I’d bought everything on the shelf. These have been my go to drawing pencil since my last year of college. 4B is a great grade for good shade and tone while being able to hold a point well. The core on these was nothing short of divine. I have just a few of these  vintage pencils left. I did buy a half dozen boxes of the new version, now owned by Faber Castell… And they were just not as nice.*

For years, if I was writing in pencil it was with, gasp, a mechanical pencil. I’ve had a nice Koh-I-Nor Rapidomatic since my second year of high school. I’ve never been shy about using BIC mechanical pencils, though their disposable nature bugged me. However the soft dark lead in them was really nice.Recent

Lately, I’ve been very fond of testing out all kinds of pencils. Partially because  I like to see and feel what they are like but also because I’m really enjoying writing with pencil. It’s really interesting to test out each pencil to feel and see the difference in the core as i write and draw. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of sketching, no finished drawings. But the pencils I’ve been reaching for (are of course pencils that don’t have reviews up on the site, but will soon):

These three pencils are all distinguished by being soft and dark. With minimal pressure I get a strong dark line, with light pressure I can get lighter lines.  Because they don’t need a great deal of pressure to make a dark mark they are also well suited to writing. A downside to writing with these pencils is that they all tend to smudge. A side effect of their smudginess is that when you write on the reverse of a written page, that writing tends to transfer to the facing page. Because I’m sketching and not doing complete drawings I don’t need softer or darker pencils.

Of course this list will change in the next day…

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Review: Palomino Blackwing Pearl

The final pencil I’ll review from the Pencils.com Palomino pack is the Blackwing Pearl. It is by far my favorite of all the Blackwing pencils. It’s in the middle of the Blackwing pack in terms of darkness and hardness. It’s slightly darker than the 602 and slightly lighter than the “original” Blackwing. The writing experience is just as smooth as any other Blackwing pencil. It glides across the page like a high end fountain pen. For sketching it’s just fantastic. While it won’t produce deep dark blacks on the page, it does give a great range of shades, but for deep darks you’ll need a 4B or 6B pencil. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The pencil looks great. The creamy white finish is ever so slightly pearlized, which cannot be picked up by camera. The imprint is sharp and black. Unlike my other Blackwings, the imprint doesn’t wear off through use. It has stayed sharp and doesn’t show any flaking. The ferrule has stayed tight to the pencil through repeated use. The included black Palomino eraser is sub par for cleaning up sketches, is okay for cleaning up writing, but for real clean up a good stick or block eraser is needed to do the job.*OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As for sharpening, the pencil is made of incense cedar and sharpens well with my KUM long point sharpener or the KUM ellipse or my no name wedge. Because it is soft it does need to be sharpened pretty often while writing. But when drawing I found I sharpened it less, mainly because I was able to switch up grips and how the point was used.


Anyway, this is a great pencil for sketching or writing, and has secured a spot in my pencil arsenal. To really get a feel for how great this pencil looks, you have to hold one.

So far, this is the only pencil of the Blackwing series that I’ve actually been so enamored with that I’ve bought a dozen of them. For my use, it’s the perfect pencil for writing and sketching. If I’m heading out of the house with only one pencil, it’s a Blackwing Pearl.

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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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Saying Goodbye

A non-art related post, please bear with me for a moment.

As a long time pet owner I’ve never had to have a pet put to sleep. I’ve lost cats to coyotes, cars, and mysterious disappearance. One even curled up on the front lawn and passed away, a cause other than old age unknown. So, while I’m familiar with pets dying, making a plan and scheduling an appointment seems alien. Thrusting myself fully into that alien feeling we have to take our 17-year old Cocker Spaniel to the vet to be “put to sleep.”

Her decline in the last few months has been sharp and drastic. She’s lost weight, she has trouble getting around, and worst of all she would prefer to sleep than go outside. Up until this weekend she seemed, for the most part, okay.

Until, you know, she didn’t.

Last night I was up until 3am, sitting with her listening to her raspy breath and wheezing.

Ruby was not the sort of dog that wanted to be in your lap. Rather she saw her humans as tools to let her in and out of the house, retrieve treats from the counter, and throw balls. (She lost interest in playing fetch a year ago.) When she wanted a scratch, she’d come to you, nuzzle up to your leg, stare. When she was done, she’d walk away. That was that. She was by all accounts an odd dog.

Perhaps we’ve waited too long. Perhaps we weren’t ready. Maybe she wasn’t ready for us to let her go. Sadly, it’s time. As I say goodbye to this strange fur ball that has lived alongside us for the last 17 years, I like to think of her several years ago, pulling the fur off a tennis ball than of her now, arthritic, and not wanting to go outside.

New Field Notes Covers

I’ve been working on some prototypes of recycled sign vinyl covers for Field Notes. I’ve made a number of prototypes and have listed a few of them are for sale on my etsy shop. I’ve priced them below what the final design will sell. While they are perfectly serviceable there are little things that I want to change to make the covers better. However, you can get these for a good price. Mostly because they don’t make me perfectly happy. I’ve got some that hold 1 notebook, others that hold 3 and one that holds 4.

I’ve been toting around one that holds three for the last few weeks. The vinyl is a perfect for making a  cover for these notebooks, it’s sturdy and survives abuse. They are perfect for a vegetarian or vegan. Also the covers are recycled, so are ecologically minded.

Vinyl Notebook Covers Vinyl Notebook Covers Vinyl Notebook Covers Vinyl Notebook Covers Vinyl Notebook Covers Vinyl Notebook Covers Vinyl Notebook Covers

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