The Mystery Mead Clipboard

12 10 2020

The Five Star Mead tag line is “built to last,” which is pretty accurate given that I acquired this clipboard thing so very many years ago that there seems to be no record whatsoever on their website of it, so I can’t tell you what it’s actually called. In my daily quest to sublimate the anxiety of this nightmare world into random little drawings, this clipboard has become for me a sort of portable desk (my actual desk has become a monument to how many unorganized objects I can pile on it without them falling over).

You can see the foundations of reality itself fracturing in this photo!

My DIY notebooks are great, but need a harder surface behind them to draw on, which this clipboard provides perfectly with its fairly firm plastic. The fabric trim all around makes it comfortable to hold onto. The lever to open the clipboard folds down, for those times when I need to put down my pencil and stare off mindlessly into the screaming void of existence but don’t want my pencil to stage an escape of its own. The metal on the clip did rust at some point, but that defect was easily covered up with some washi tape.

Ignore the eldritch hand

But the real bonus about this clipboard is not one but TWO pocket systems on the back. Up top, the big pocket holds standard-sheet-of-paper-sized documents, with a Velcro flap to keep them securely in place. On the bottom, a smaller zippered pocket which fits pencils, writing utensils, smaller notebooks/bits of paper/what have you. It’s an altogether quite handy little organization system that I’ve used in the past for several keeping-track-of-official-and-important-documents projects, and now simply use to hold my sketchbook.

If only all of life’s problems could just be covered with washi tape!

I’m pretty certain I got this from Crazy Alan’s Emporium easily over half a decade ago or more. Do these clipboards still exist in the wild? No telling. If you see one though and would like a handy clipboard for yourself, I recommend it.





An Experiment: Fountain Pen Ink in a Waterbrush Pen

5 10 2020

As I wondered in my last post about the feasibility of putting water-based fountain pen ink in a waterbrush pen, this week it’s time I follow through on that half-conceived thought and put my own possessions on the line to see how this plays out.

The dog is an optional but encouraged step

Step one: gather the materials. You’ll need a waterbrush pen—I’ve decided to use a Caran d’Ache medium water brush because it was the first water brush I found among my scattered possessions. Step two: realize the water brush still has water in it, frantically eject and violently shake water out of the water brush to the best of your ability. Accept that there are still some stubborn fragmented water droplets in the water brush, and that you have no patience to wait for it to dry out further. Step three: summon up your very frighteningly be-needled ink syringe and ink of choice (for this experiment, I chose J. Herbin’s Gris Nuage, because in my time I’ve found J. Herbin inks to be well behaved, and the light grey ought to do well for sketching), and use the dangerously stabbity syringe to transport ink from the bottle to the belly of the water brush beast. While I could have used the plunger mechanism on my water brush to suck up ink, I didn’t want any backwash from the brush to end up in the ink bottle, so this seemed like the better way to go. Then push the little squeeze zone and wait for the ink to make its way to the brush.

You know what would have been better? A gif of the ink, timelapsed, saturating the brush tip. But you know what you’re getting? A still picture because I realized my great idea several hours too late.

First thoughts: this can hold a lot of ink. That will be handy. And this particular water brush, since it has a hard body is a lot more secure to transport around, while still having a little squeeze section to control the ink flow while working. But the ultimate question: Does it work?

You can see in the upper right corner where I was still getting the leftover bristle-water out of the system. Also, color correcting? Pfft, never heard of that fancy-fangled nonsense

The ultimate answer: apparently! So far, anyway. I’ll continue testing this bad boy and see if any unforeseen consequences pop up (anticipated scenarios: the pristine bristles get stained by the fountain pen ink; if I ever want to use this as a water brush again, what if I can’t get the ink washed all the way out so the water is always tainted???), but for now, especially for a cheap water brush, filling it with fountain pen ink seems like something you can do with minimal downsides. Time will tell if the water brush rises up to choke me in my sleep, or gets dried out ink clogged in it or something. But my shiny first impression is that, rather than try to clean ink out of an ancient ink-filled brush pen, filling up an empty water brush may be the better way to go.





Old Pentel Brush Pens: a Short Cautionary Tale

28 09 2020
Make your garage floor more photographically interesting by using an ancient locker shelf

This will be a quick post, just to tide you over. A time may come in your life where you find an old Pentel brush pen, one that has perhaps been slightly chewed on by a cat at some point in time, a brush pen that you can say with confidence you have not used in at least two years, but possibly five or more. You may shake the brush pen, and hear no liquids jostling within, and you may attempt to use the brush pen and note how dry and barely depositing on the page at all the whole operation is. You may then notice that the brush tip unscrews from the body (in exactly the opposite direction of the way you want it to), so the thought may occur to you, “can I possibly clean out this brush pen and fill it up with a fountain pen ink of my choosing?”

CAN I????????

Dear reader, do not fall for this trap you’ve created for yourself. It has been days of me trying to clean this thing out, including use of the magical miracle Rapido-Eze pen cleaner, and STILL there is ink that comes out. If you want this concept so badly, just buy an empty waterbrush and fill it with ink.*

*Note to self: test whether this actually works.





Tag Team: Copic Markers & Old Moleskine Watercolor Notebooks

21 09 2020

Copic markers occupy a weird place in my psyche where I could be holding a fistful of them in one hand, a single fountain pen I spent the same amount of money on in the other hand, and yet think to myself that the Copic markers are what’s expensive here. Logically, that makes no sense but emotionally? That’s where my head is at.

That hasn’t stopped me from acquiring a small army of them, I just think to myself “oo, pricey” whenever I add a few more

When I noticed a couple months ago that my local enabler, Crazy Alan’s Emporium, carried Copic markers now and I still had cash leftover from working the Baltimore Pen Show (ah, remember pen shows in the beforetimes?), I decided to nearly double my hoard of markers. Copic is pretty much the top name brand in the art marker world, and for good reason. In the hands of a skilled artist, they make magic happen. And even in the hands of an amateur like myself, you can make some cool art with Copic markers. They blend amazingly well, and no other markers I’ve tried can compare. When you hit on marker gold, why try anything else?

Not saying this is cool art, mind you, I just still like the blending on this drawing I did years ago and colored with a friend’s Copic markers

Some quick notes about Copic markers: the ink is alcohol-based, non-toxic, and low odor (though it does have a specific, particular, and not altogether unpleasant smell). They are refillable. The plastic bodies of the markers feel quite durable (this isn’t cheap plastic, and at these prices better not be). There have been stretches of time where I’ve certainly not used the original markers I had for over a year without any detriment in the performance of the marker (undoubtedly more than a year, I just have no clue how many years we’re talking). I enjoy the oval-bodied sketch markers the best, and nearly exclusively use the brush tip to color my art. And for whatever cockamamie reason, I decided that the paper I would use to make a lot of new sketches after acquiring a bunch of new markers would be a Moleskine watercolor pocket notebook picked up on sale years ago when Borders went out of business.

Given enough time, the elastic band on one of these bad boys will blow out, like an overtaxed pair of sweatpants after too many Thanksgiving feasts. Then you either have a loose and dangly elastic band, which sounds terrible, or you rip it out as demonstrated on the one on the bottom

Unlike standard Moleskine paper (which was so terrible the last time I checked, I swore off buying any further standard Moleskines—if this has changed in the past few years, please let me know and also send me a sample of good paper from a Moleskine as proof, because I don’t believe you), the watercolor paper is good for both its intended purpose (watercolor) and the juicy medium of liquid-based sketch markers. For the most part, I’ve not had any bleed through so far, and that’s including the time an overfull marker dropped a big honking blorp of ink on the page. I did find a couple spots that finally bled through elsewhere when I colored over a section approximately ten thousand times, which is not recommended.

I had to set this down, walk away, and have a good long think on my life and my choices before I was in a place emotionally where I could try to fix this.

Those of you with keen eyes might notice that the above image is lacking lineart. Here’s another Copic fun fact: it does not play well with anything besides more Copic. Copic Multiliner pens? Fine, great, no problem. But Sakura Pigma Micron pens, Col-Erase colored pencils? Well, the Copic marker treats your lines more as suggestions that it doesn’t particularly agree with.

Gaze closely and ESPECIALLY at the smudging

When I saw that the Sakura Micron pens would smudge, I decided I would add the lineart after coloring, and I would just sketch in Col-Erase pencils first instead. Guess what, the Copic ink will also push around the pigments of the Col-Erase pencils. Those pink ears there? I deliberately used the Copic colorless blender to push pink Col-Erase pencil around on the page. In my experience, it seemed like the blue Col-Erase pencil would get smudged the least, but all in all my strategy became sketch lightly, color with the markers, and then put lineart over top all while hoping for the best. The benefit of this strategy is when that blob up there happened, I was ultimately able to fix the drawing since I wasn’t yet confined by any lineart.

So I guess the moral of the story is that we all learned a valuable lesson about…something.

I still have much to learn in terms of properly wielding these markers, but I’ve enjoyed using them to make color drawings of my characters. I will continue to expand my Copic collection at every opportunity I can, because these markers are worth it.

Unless you don’t want to color artwork, in which case these markers probably aren’t worth it for you!




Tag Team: Akashiya Bamboo Brush Pen & J. Herbin Diabolo Menthe Ink

14 09 2020

Once upon a time, I thought it would be a good idea to go back through my reviews and update them with how a product held up over, say, several years. A pen can be great right out of the gate but if it kicks the bucket after a few months, that’s an important thing to consider in terms of whether it’s worth it. Unfortunately for the greater cause of knowledge, I never felt particularly inspired to actually take up this quest.

The road to incomplete pen knowledge is paved with good intentions

And while I still don’t feel especially compelled to launch that project, this ramble of a review certainly falls in line with that intention. I first reviewed the Akashiya Bamboo Body brush pen over 8 years ago, when JetPens apparently sent it to me for free (wow, thanks y’all, that was mighty kind and luckily I’ve gotten much better at using this thing since then). I also forgot that it used to have white writing on the barrel, because that has long since worn off. The rubber finial is a little scuffed, and the barrel now has a couple small cracks toward where it screws together, but it’s not something I notice when using the pen.

More cracks than a hackneyed joke about a 2-plumber convention. But less cracks than the same joke if there were 4 plumbers.

But this isn’t just about the brush pen, which has somehow survived 8 years of probable abuse and neglect. This is about that rare combo that elevates the pen into something better: J. Herbin Diabolo Menthe fountain pen ink IN the brush pen.

There’s the magic

Back when I was first using this brush pen, I fell into a trap thinking that it needed to be inked up with black ink. There’s no good reason for why I fell into this trap. I certainly noticed that the ink cartridge the pen came with was the same as a Platinum Preppy cartridge, but it took a shameful amount of time before I put together the realization that I ought to be using other colors of fountain pen ink in this brush pen for maximum drawing satisfaction–I don’t see evidence of me using colored ink in this pen for drawing until around 2015, and even then the inks I used (Sailor Yama-dori, J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor) did not inspire a renaissance of brush pen sketching like the Diabolo Menthe has.

Nothing will inspire a renaissance of color correcting all my images so they look like they took place in the same dimension

I’ve mentioned before that the turquoise family of colors is magical, and this holds true for the Diabolo Menthe. It’s light enough to be a great sketching color that looks good with darker lineart over top (the lineart also being the only means by which to correct mistakes), while also being dark enough to make visual sense for the frequent times I just don’t feel like making the effort of going back over a sketch with another pen.

Of course, sometimes lineart is the only way to salvage these things, like the hand on this sketch. I tried

The other great benefit of this particular ink is how well behaved it’s been in two unlikely places: the sketchbook with the paper I didn’t like where the Pentel brush pen ink liked to fuzz and feather without any regard for my feelings, AND on the Mead typing paper where I simply assumed, due to the astonishingly light paper weight, that anything heavier than a pencil sigh would be a disaster.

Pentel brush pen up top, below the magic duo on Mead typing paper, left, and toothy Monologue paper, right

I’ve already filled this brush pen back up once, and foresee this becoming the sort of regular in rotation that I never let run dry.

Much to my amazement, JetPens still has the black body and natural body versions of this brush pen in stock. It’s still a very big pen, the cap neither posts nor has anything to keep it from rolling away into oblivion, and I’m sure there are more practical brush pens to use this ink with. But they just don’t look as cool, and that’s the majority of what matters. This is a cool pen that I still haven’t completely destroyed 8 years later, and this ink makes me actually want to use this pen. What more can you ask for?

You can ask for this drawing of my friend as a socially distanced boba tea mermaid. Yes, excellent choice, how did you know to ask for that?





Tag Team: Assorted Brush Pens & Slow-Moving Paper

7 09 2020

The interesting problem with self-made notebooks is that you actually have to make them. Yourself! It sounds all well and good until you’re actually kneeling on the garage floor, cutting paper with your little old X-acto knife because for some reason you wanted the notebook to be smaller than the paper folded in half, but bigger than the paper folded into quarters, sloppily stitching notebook signatures together in accordance with the best tutorials a quick internet search could find. And perhaps your supplies of cheap typing paper are running low, so as you get to the end of your last handmade notebook you think to yourself, “I’ll just use one of the dozens of blank sketchbooks I have. No big deal.”

incorrect.

Why someone like myself would give so little consideration to the actual paper in the sketchbook I chose remains a mystery. Perhaps I had the misapprehension that pencils just write on anything, and there’s nothing that drastically different about the paper involved.

SO WRONG

Obviously that right there is some amateur hour thinking. I’d love to tell you more details about this sketchbook model, the paper weights, and so on but I peeled off the sticker and helpfully THREW IT AWAY. After leaving the peeled sticker on my desk for weeks in which I could have potentially referenced the information on said sticker. So, it’s a Monologue brand hardcover sketchbook with 64 perforated pages and textured mystery weight paper, that’s what I remember.

and that’s all you need

Oh fine. A bit of Googling tells me this is a Basics Monologue with 148 gsm Italian heavyweight acid free drawing paper, and in all likelihood this was sent to me by Grandluxe to review……..many many years ago.

I’m so sorry

The important thing is I quickly discovered that the textured surface of this paper pumped the brakes hard on my fast and loose Col-Erase-based sketching style. I’m sure if I wanted to do proper pencil drawings with nice shading and blending it would be great. But that’s not what my heart desires right now. I want to have a cursed thought and have it drawn before my friends can even begin to threaten to have my imagination taken away.

I’ve made literally hundreds of drawings in quarantimes, and so few are actually suitable for public consumption

And not only do the pencils go slow on this paper, but it takes up seemingly a lot more lead. I probably struggled through about ten pages of pencil drawings before accepting that I needed to find a better sketch combo to use. You might look at the double bookcase crammed half-full of mostly or totally empty notebooks and sketchbooks and think, just. Just use a different sketchbook. You have so many jus-JUST USE A DIFFERENT SKETCHBOOK????

You fool. You absolute fool

No, friend. I am committed to finishing what I’ve started here. And besides, this presented me with a challenge to find writing implements that would replicate the quick sketching experience I’d fallen in love with using my previously blogged about tag team combo. Enter the brush pens and other assorted pastel felt tips:

They are my children and I love them all equally. Just kidding, some children are better than others

The number one spot goes to a combo so great, it’s going to get its own review: the Akashiya bamboo brush pen loaded with J. Herbin Diabolo Menthe ink. This is the perfect stand in for a light blue sketch pencil, except for the part where I can’t erase anything and have to live with my horrible mistakes forever. If I’m feeling lazy, I can stop the sketch there, in shades of blue, or pick out another brush pen to lay down some lineart on top of it. For working big and fast, I favor the Akashiya bamboo brush pen, Faber-Castell PITT artist brush pens, or Koi coloring brush pens, with guest appearances by the Pentel brush pen.

For a more detailed or fine-lined sketch, I grab either Marvy Le Pen Flex pens or Sharpie Pens, both in soft pastel colors.

If I weren’t lazy, I’d ink over the pastels with a dark lineart. But that’s not the life I’m living right now

Are these combos perfect? No. This paper likes to fuzz and feather, look close at this Pentel brush pen inking:

BUT I AM COMMITTED TO THIS BAD IDEA

Nevertheless, I persist in this sketchbook. Only about 15 pages left, and I’ve learned a valuable lesson about what kind of paper I prefer to sketch on and why. Plus, mixing things up with color is fun. I miss erasing, but I like the way I’ve been forced to experiment with my writing implements to find something I like sketching with here.

I have nothing witty left. Take these sketches and run off into the sunset, friends





Tag Team: Prismacolor Col-Erase Pencils & Mead Typing Paper

31 08 2020

Let’s start with an introduction to my number one quarantimes combo: Prismacolor Col-Erase pencils used to sketch in homemade notebooks containing Mead-brand typing paper. As I’ve mentioned before, nothing fires up my creative engines quite like outrageously cheap paper, and I’ve made a great habit turning my hoard of typing paper into cheap DIY notebooks.

These are the Mead typing paper notebooks I’ve filled up in Quarantimes. I’ve filled up a couple other notebooks, but this isn’t about those notebooks

What I haven’t mentioned in sufficient excess before is how fun Col-Erase pencils are for sketching. I have mentioned the scientifically verified fact that drawings look statistically cooler when drawn with colored lead vs regular boring graphite, but I haven’t perhaps reiterated this enough.

This isn’t all the Col-Erase pencils I own. They wander in and out of my conscious knowledge according to their own whims. These are just all the ones I could immediately corral from the vortex of my desk

The top sketching colors for me are Blue and Vermillion, with runners up lavender and light blue. Why I like using these pencils:

  1. Drawings look cool
  2. Seem to not really smudge when I’m drawing
  3. Erase suitably well, provided I’m erasing lighter guideline sorts of marks

Why I like using these pencils on this cheap, smooth Mead typing paper:

  1. Pencil goes zoom fast make drawings
  2. Seriously that’s it. I draw so fast using these pencils on this paper

On average, this combo will have me churning out a decent sketch every 10-15 minutes, inspiration willing. Lightly sketch my guides and rough outlines, erasing as needed, then go back over the drawing either darker with the same color, or with a different darker color depending on the look I want.

As the drawing demons of my subconscious would say, draw the final outlines darker. No, DARKER. Do I listen to the art demons? Ehhhh not as much as I ought to

The drawing demons would also be more pleased if I erased my guidelines, but who has time for that

Sketching quickly, expressing an idea, and then moving on to the next drawing has allowed me to greatly improve from the level I was drawing at a few months ago.

For one, I’m drawing a lot more hands that I’m pleased with

I would be remiss not to give a dream team honorable mention to this unknown model Kum brand pencil sharpener. I didn’t realize what a difference a good sharpener makes until I lost the green one of these I’d been using and attempted to make do with some wood-bludgeoning Staples brand alleged pencil sharpener.

the results would make trees weep

So when it came time to pick up some fresh supplies from Crazy Alan’s Emporium, I made sure to grab another one of these bad boys. It looks like it might be the Kum Pencil Pal, but with just one hole rather than two. Is that the definitive answer? No, but I’m tired of trying to look up the definitive answer.

it rounds up to “close enough”

By these powers combined, I’ve turned out literally hundreds of drawings since March. Now, thin cheap typing paper isn’t great for high class art–the pages show thru (I had to put a blank piece of paper behind each drawing to take pictures for this review) and if you like a toothy paper, this is nothing but gums. But for speed? And price? It’s my top pick.

Self portrait in which I am clanging a pot with a wooden spatula, yelling at my muses to inspire me. The way muse-creator relationships were always intended





Here I Go Again

29 08 2020

Oh hello! It’s been a long minute since I’ve posted here, huh? For a while I didn’t have much of anything I wanted to say–I got tired of the endless chase to acquire new pens, and if I wasn’t posting about the hottest newness then what was the point? Well, good news. I want to post–reviews? thoughts? barely coherent ramblings?–about some of the enduring combos I’ve been using, especially during quarantimes. My personal way of emotionally dealing with the world as it is has been to generate outrageous quantities of hastily sketched drawings, so I’ve been putting a lot of writing implements and associated paraphernalia to good use. And I want to write some words about them. Brace yourselves!





Yak Leather Pen Case Giveaway Winner

3 06 2018

Sorry y’all, got distracted by the fun of the Triangle Pen Show. The pen case winner….

Bruce! Email me so I can get your mailing address and get this case on the way to you. Thanks everyone who entered :)





Yak Leather Pen Sleeve & Pen Case (with GIVEAWAY)

30 04 2018

The good people of the Pen Boutique Ltd. sent me a pen sleeve and a 12 pen case for review. I’ll start with the one I liked, the single pen sleeve in brown.

Fun fact, we can’t remember the last time the complex mowed the grass. I’ve got catnip growing in my backyard!

The leather is smooth and sturdy, with the Yak Leather logo stamped at the top. It’s been a perfect little holster for one of my currently inked clipless Vanishing Points. In spite of not having a secure closure at the top I’ve had no issue with my pen falling out. The stitching is neat and even. And the leather smells AMAZING. I wish there were some way for you to be able to smell this through the internet. It smells like Good Leather. Picture me, sitting at my desk, covertly sniffing this leather pen sleeve, because it’s so good I just want to keep smelling it.

I also kept smelling the catnip. It smelled like mint!

There’s not much else to say about the pen sleeve—it’s a straightforward product, made well. The sleeve, I’m keeping.

Then there’s this 12 pen case.

This could be yours someday, if you’re lucky. Or if you buy your own

The good: it’s also seemingly well made. You’ve got protective cushioning to the covers, two zippers with leather pulls. The leather is a pebbled texture, which I’m guessing will better hide any blemishes it may pick up. The zippers unzip far enough to almost get it to lay flat when open (perhaps with time the leather will relax to do this without needing help). The velvety divider in the middle is removable, presumably so you can use it to lay a pen out on, the better to look at.

Or the better to one day forget to put back in and lose. Hey, look, a size comparison!

Now for the perplexing and annoying. This case is an inconveniently large size to only be carrying 12 pens. I can easily fit 12 pens in a Nock Sinclair and only take up half the space. Maybe if all of your pens are those honking jumbo oversized novelty fountain pens–but even those don’t fit!

I will award points for being unusual, but minus all those points for practicality

The pen loops used here are not intuitive. At first I thought these were just excessively wide leather loops, and this case was only for people who like big, chunky fountain pens. It wasn’t until I saw a YouTube review of the case that I realized there were elastic loops underneath the inflexible leather loops to hold pens in place. But unless the pen you’re putting in comes to a point, you’ll have to use two hands to finagle reaching under the leather loops to hold up the elastic loop and slide the pen in.

It took more time than I feel it ought to putting 12 pens into individual loops

When the case only holds 12 pens, I presume it’s meant to be carried on the go. But this case is too large and cumbersome to properly put pens back into to be one I wanted in my everyday carry. But it might just be me, that’s why I’m giving it away!

You might love it! I might just be crazy!

The rules:

  1. Since I can only afford so much postage, I’m going to limit this giveaway to the U.S. only. Just leave one comment on this post any time between now and May 31st 2018 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time.
  2. One winner will be picked at random from the comments section of this post. Only one comment per person! Comments in excess of one shall be deleted. The comments will be numbered in the order they are received, i.e. the first comment is #1, the second #2, and so on. I will hand-number the entries because that’s still just how I roll. The Random Integer Generator at random.org will be used to pick the number of the winner.
  3. I’ll post the contest winner on June 1st 2018. Winner will have one week to email me. There’s a link to my email at the top of the right sidebar.

Yak Leather Single Pen Sleeve (Brown) at Pen Boutique

Yak Leather Premium Leather 12 Pen Case (Black) at Pen Boutique

(Pen Boutique provided this pen sleeve and pen case at no charge for reviewing purposes — opinions entirely my own)