Ballpoint for Travel and Office

Maybe you don’t care what you write with–anything at all will do. Chewed wood pencil, give-away ballpoint. If you aren’t fussy, you probably always have a pen with you. I’m fussy.  Fountain pen? Perfect for note-taking and some sketching, but not always good on airplanes. (Yes, I have a ballpoint with a valve for air travel.)

Ballpoint? Reliable and easy. Except I’m not a gel pen fan, want a fine point that doesn’t skid across the page, can cross-hatch without creating a mess, and doesn’t glob and smear.

What I was looking for (this time; I am a pen hoarder collector.) What I really wanted was one pen that worked in the office, and can be tossed in my bag and travel with me. It needs to be light, dependable, easy to use and have refills. Because I am a collector, it also needs to be aesthetically pleasing and feel good while writing.

On Jetpens (an addictive site I will choose over Pinterest any day), I found a Midori ballpoint.

It has a brass cover, a stainless steel end that allows you to post the top of the pen, and a place for a keyring or a lanyard, if you like to wear your pen.

On the aesthetic side, the pen itself is wood, which will darken with age. It’s small, but light, which makes it comfortable to write with. And yes, it is refillable. The refill comes in fine (only, so far) and in black (only, so far.)

The clip holds it in my Travelers Notebook, so it doesn’t get lost in my bag, and the quality of both the pen and the ink is wonderful. No smearing, no globbing.

It’s an inexpensive pen ($19.90) with an inexpensive refill ($1.60). How does it write?

It puts down a smooth, even line and can be used for cross-hatching and tiny lettering. It’s a crisp ink and holds up well. You can see the sample that shows other pens and a pencil for comparison.

Are you a Travelers’ Notebook fan? So are millions of others. I’ll write about that in a separate post.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, writing program developer, and creativity coach

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Fun with Neocolor II

Neocolor II come in various sizes: 10, 15, 30, and more. They come in a lovely tin.

Neocolor II is a wax crayon that is water soluble and can be used like watercolor or gouache. Because I am stuck creatively, I bought a set of Caran D’Ache Neocolor II to play with. Having no expectation of outcome helps build creative curiosity. Here’s how I experimented.

(No one asked me to write about Neocolors, and I am not getting paid to write this post. )

If you wonder what a creative drought looks like, you can read about it in the post called In Search of Lost Creativity.

First, in order to see how these colors work, I used them dry in a watercolor journal. Once I scribbled some dry crayon on the page, I used a brush dipped in water to blend and pull the color down.

Neocolors used on Yupo.

The colors are beautifully transparent and they do blend quite well. I could see these being used as travel paints without the mess.

Because I work with alcohol inks, I thought it might be interesting to try out Neocolors on Yupo, the plastic substrate so perfect for alcohol inks.

The results are really interesting.  Each color wets well and can be dragged. Blending colors works well, too. More water means lighter color. But you can add color in with a wet crayon as well.

The only drawback is that Yupo is a sealed surface, and the colors will smear and pick up, even days later. But if you frame a piece, the problem is solved.

Next, I ripped a piece of deli paper into a jagged, long piece.

I scribbled color along the edge, being careful not to smear it over the edge.

The colored edge is placed in a journal page. Using a damp makeup sponge, I brushed up, from the edge of the color onto the page, creating a landscape look. This has a lot of possibilities.

Please note that this is an experiment of a product, not a finished piece of art. Before I get serious about anything, I experiment. A lot. I encourage it to avoid disappointment and predicted failure.

The sky was made by dabbing the makeup sponge, which had been used to create the mountain range, across the sky. The dots appeared because the makeup sponge was thin and I applied a lot of finger pressure.

Neocolors are rich and apply easily. I’m still awkward with them, but I already know they are going to come with me on my next trip instead of a watercolor set. I can take a few and blend colors as needed.

I could see people using them in coloring books and to make cards. There is a lot of experimenting ahead!

Quinn McDonald is a writer and collage artist.

 

The DVDs Are Here!

monsoon2Last March, I filmed two DVDs to go with my books. One of the DVDs shows how to make Monsoon Papers, and the other shows several different projects that show how to store and carry your unbound journal pages.

Cloth, Paper, Scissors, the mixed-media magazine covered a Monsoon Paper project in their online magazine. It ran last week while I was in Houston teaching business writing, and I was surprised to see the link in my mailbox as I headed off to class. It took all my strength not to tell the participants to check out the DVD!

Here’s a preview:

You can purchase the Monsoon Paper  DVD here.

T3492You can see a preview of the projects in the second DVD, Art Journals Unbound on the Cloth, Paper, Scissors website. And you can purchase the Art Journals Unbound DVD here.

I am not super willing to be photographed, much less video’d, but I knew that it would be good to support the book. And to bring projects to people who can’t come to classes. It took a lot of discussing the project with my inner hero to get me to decide to do these projects. But one of my most vibrant inner heroes, The Risk Taker, finally broke down my barriers. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone from time to time.

-Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who encourages others to take ambitious steps for creativity’s sake. She could hardly do less.

 

Art Supplies Worth Having

Super-specialized art supplies are fun and can ease the tedious part of creative work. What makes special supplies most useful is combining them with the basics you love and use every day.

Here are my four new favorites for everyday journaling use.

Open notebook showing yellow first page (others are white) and pocket insert that does NOT come with the notebook.

Open notebook showing yellow first page (others are white) and pocket insert that does NOT come with the notebook.

Notebook: Mnemosyne 183. Unlined, 70 sheets (140 pages). Now that I’ve abandoned six journals for one–the Commonplace Journal, I needed something practical. So it has to:

  • fit in a purse (or carry-on)
  • fold over on itself
  • have paper that’s thick enough for sketching and writing
  • have paper that doesn’t have severe show-through
  • have pages that can be removed (and leave as a note for someone)

I’ve loved the Strathmore Mixed-Media journal, but the wire binding is just too bulky, and the paper seemed a waste for client notes, which go into the Commonplace Journal most.

Showing double-truck spread of Maruman Mnemosyne notebook. Right page has been deliberately blurred.

Showing double-truck spread of Maruman Mnemosyne notebook. Right page has been deliberately blurred.

Maruman is a Japanese company that makes notebooks for writers. Mnemosyne is the Greek goddess of memory. The notebooks are made with meticulous care. For example, the small-diameter wire binding is “short”–doesn’t go to the very top or bottom of the page. So you can easily hold the gutter side of the page when you tear out the perf’d page cleanly.

I got the notebook at JetPens, which has a huge variety of sizes, lined- graphed- and blank notebooks. Here’s what they say:

The way a paper interacts with a specific ink is as unique as a snowflake. Fountain pen users will prefer paper that produces the perfect inkblot levels, paper that absorbs too much ink would not be good. On the other hand, a ballpoint pen user might seek a paper that allows their pen to guide more smoothly across the page. Japanese paper manufacturers pay attention to these preferences by tweaking numerical values ever so slightly during the manufacturing process to create the perfect page for their customers.

Very little show-through on this book.

Very little show-through on this book.

It’s true–the pages are thin, and have an almost smooth, fabric feel to them. It has a black plastic front cover, and a chipboard back cover, which makes writing easy, even when folded over to save space.

Pack of 5 x 8 inch Post-It Pockets. A must-have for every journal-keeper.

Pack of 5 x 8 inch Post-It Pockets. A must-have for every journal-keeper.

Post-It Pockets. There are items I like to carry in my Commonplace Journal–the gift certificate to an art store, the business card I just got, a postcard (with stamp) to send to someone on the spur of the moment, the names and phone numbers of doctors and emergency contacts.

These plastic pockets work like Post-It Notes--they attach to the inside front cover of your notebook and peel off when you need to move it. A flap is held shut with velcro, so you have easy access to the contents.  These fit in a 5 x 8-inch notebook perfectly, and they do come in different sizes.

Pentel Hybrid Technica ballpoint, extra fine (size 04). I’m not a gel pen fan. I like Pentelpen1ballpoints. And this gel pen is perfect is you like extra fine pens. It’s crisp, black script is perfect for detail. It does what most gel pens don’t–it dries as soon as it’s on the page.

It’s a great sketching pen, too. Smooth, even, no blurring when you cross-hatch. Archival, acid free. Writes when you touch it to paper, so no “scribble start” with this pen.  If you draw and write in your journal, take sketchnotes, or doodle, (and like a superfine pen), this is perfect.

Drawing in a 9 x 12-inch wire-bound notebook is a nice way to create and keep your pieces the same size and together. It’s also hard, because you work consecutively, but not emotionally sequentially.

notebook1You also have to put the book aside to dry if you are doing something messy and wet. Patience is not always my strong suit.

Canson has solved your problem–they make a wireboound book with repositionable pages. (The link takes you to Dick Blick art supply.)

You carefully peel out a page, top to bottom, and let it dry or decide where you want to put it. Then you put it back in, carefully “clicking” the pages back into place.

Notebook2It works along the same lines as Circa, which uses removable disks to hold notebooks together.

This makes the book doubly useful. You can arrange the pages by date, media, technique, color, emotional content. You can rearrange them to your heart’s content, as long as you are careful.

Note: I paid for each of these products. I am not being compensated in any way by any company for the content of this blog.

Warning: Rollabind also makes those disks, but I can’t recommend them after reading the horror stories about non-delivery and non-communication. Even the BBB rates them with an F and has an alert out about them. The Ripoff report has a steady stream of complaints that go back several years and are added too almost weekly.

Quinn McDonald loves basic art and writing tools.

 

 

 

Tip: Use Highlighter tape

Highlighter tape comes three to a pack.

Highlighter tape comes three to a pack.

Sure, you can use it in your art journal, or your plain journal, but highlighter tape is saving the training side of my business this week.

Earlier this week, I was teaching a business writing class. There were students of different levels, and more material in the book than I could cover sensibly. On Day2 of the class, I had to choose what had to be covered, what could be covered if I had enough time, and what I could skip.

The instructor’s manual is heavily written in, and one more insert or note was going to get lost. How to make the material sound smooth and well prepared? Highlighter tape to the rescue.

Goes on easy, comes off clean. No, that's not the workbook, it's a copy of Raw Art Journaling.

Goes on easy, comes off clean. No, that’s not the workbook, it’s a copy of Raw Art Journaling.

I purchased the tape from The Container Store in Scottsdale, Arizona. It comes in a small square case containing three transparent colors–green, yellow, orange, so I can color coordinate– green for items I must cover, yellow for items I can mention if I have time, but can also skip if a discussion or exercise runs long, and red for portions that can be skipped entirely if time doesn’t allow for a closer look.

The tape sticks to a page, but can be lifted off cleanly, without a residue. It’s as wide as a line of type, so I can pinpoint material. Each tiny roll has a cutter in the box, so I can tear off as much as I need.

Three fluorescent colors make it easy to navigate the page.

Three fluorescent colors make it easy to navigate the page.

It’s brightly fluorescent so I can find it easily. It doesn’t damage coated or uncoated pages and won’t peel off color or ink. It’s a great tool. All I have to do is make sure I peel off all the evidence before I return the instructor’s manual.

The tape has no manufacturer’s name on it, other than highlighter tape, and the item number 128.

I recommend it highly for other uses as well–cookbooks, sewing/knitting/crocheting patterns, weaving instructions, sheet music (to mark your part), library reference books, as well as design elements on cards and gift wrap.

If you want to use it in art journaling, I’d suggest putting it down, rubbing it with a bone folder, then covering it with matte medium, so it doesn’t curl up over time.

The tape was an impulse purchase, but every time I use it, I save time. When you don’t know how many questions are going to be asked, it’s also great for speeches that have a time limit.

–Quinn McDonald is an instructor who always wants to add just one more idea. Sometimes that impulse needs to be stopped.

Pilot’s New MR Animal Collection

Pilot has come out with a new line of pens.  The only Pilot pens I knew so far were the disposable Varsity Pens and the parallel calligraphy pens–both of which I like to use.

The new pens come in five interesting colors, each with an animal print band. The pens, called Metropolitan, or MR, depending on the location (international or U.S.)  come as fountain pens, roller balls and ballpoint pens.

pen2The one I’m reviewing is the fountain pen–matte gold with a lizard-print band. The shape is elegant and the color stylish. My favorite part is that the cap is removable without unscrewing it–it snaps on and off, which means that I can use it with one hand, always a plus.

The pen comes in fine and medium nibs. Mine has a medium, which writes like a fine.

pen1I was amazed at the smooth feel of the steel nib. It doesn’t have the stiff feel of a Lamy  Safari, or the slightly scratchy feel of the Pelikan student pens, both of which I also like and use.

This one came with a cartridge and a converter. I filled it with Pelikan blue ink and grabbed my favorite journal. The writing is smooth, effortless and easy. I”m an admitted fountain pen geek, and this one is a real find.

The fountain pen (as well as the roller ball and ballpoint) comes in five different colors and styles: Crocodile (black), leopard (dark purple),  python (silver),  white tiger (white), and lizard (matte gold).

The fountain pen does not bleed through regular paper. And there is no show-through either, even on the fairly thin paper. Those are two more big pluses for me.

The biggest plus is the price–about $15. For that price, it’s easy to put it on the holiday list for a lot of people. I had to dig around for the price, and it surprised me.

Now if only it came in a pressurized cartridge that didn’t leak on an airplane it would be amazing.

Note: I received the pen for free because I am an Amazon Vine reviewer.

—Quinn McDonald loves fountain pens. She favors demonstrator fountain pens and won’t write with a pen she doesn’t like.

Tutorial: Marbling With Splash Inks

Splash Inks are versatile fun in a bottle. I’m on the Yasutomo Design Team, and Splash Inks is one of the products I got to use. As soon as I found out you could marble paper with the inks, I had to try it. Here’s how it works:

Niji1_parts

In addition to the Splash Inks, you’ll need a flat deep, non-reactive pan about 10 inches long and at least 2 inches deep (25 x 5 centimeters).  Shown  (above) is an enameled meat tray you can buy as a palette in most art supply stores.

Niji1A_StarchThe medium to float the inks is Sta-Flo liquid laundry starch. It comes in a blue half-gallon bottle.  A spray bottle with a fine, misting spray and a roll of paper towels come in handy, too.

Add an eye dropper, a big-tooth comb, a shower squeegee and a group of small containers to mix your favorite color inks and you are ready

Choose a sturdy paper to marble:  I like Strathmore and Canson Mixed Media papers. You can also use Arches Velin, or 90-pound watercolor paper by Bee.  Start by protecting your worktable with newspaper and wearing gloves if you want to keep your hands ink-free. Niji3_smalldotsShake the bottle of starch to blend the ingredients. Pour the starch into the dish so you have at least an inch of fluid in the dish. Stir gently with the comb or a gloved finger to remove the bubbles.

Using an ink dropper, add several drops of ink to the surface of the starch. The first time you do this, the drops will be small and sink. Expect one or two test sheets till the starch is tempered.

Niji_InkmixYou can use colors right out of the bottle, or you can mix inks into small containers. A color blending chart is included along with the four bottles of Splash Ink.

Niji4_stonemarbSave your test sheets  for collage work. When  the ink drops  get larger and float well enough so you can put drops within drops, you are ready for marbling.  The  pattern above, (called ‘stone’, is fine, or you can use the comb and gently drag the teeth through the liquid.

Niji5_comb

Drag the wide teeth of the comb left to right.

Niji5_comb2

Drag the narrower teeth up and down. The more you comb the finer the pattern. Colors will blend with a lot of stirring.

marbledpaperWhen your surface has the appearance you like, you are ready to place the paper on the surface.

Niji7_paper

Place one end  of the paper onto the surface then “roll” the paper and drop the other end to keep air from getting trapped under the paper and leaving a white spot. You can see  (above), that the bottom, left-hand corner of the paper is picking up from the surface. That’s a sign to pick up the paper, the marbling is done. It takes about 10-15 seconds for the color to transfer.

Niji6_papermarbCarefully pick up the paper and put it on the newspaper. To get the starch to run off, tilt the paper slightly by putting it on a piece of crumpled newspaper. After about one minute, spray the paper with a mister to rinse off extra starch.  If you like a very crisp look with distinct lines, wipe the excess starch off the paper with the shower squeegee. It will take off some color with it.

Niji8_sinkTo make pastel shades of paper, drop the sheet on the surface, let it absorb color, then use a palette knife (or the comb) to push the paper under water. The back will become marbled in a pastel swirl of color.

Niji9_papers

Make many sheets at once to have choices. To clean the surface of the starch, float a paper towel on it to absorb the ink, then add more ink. Above, you can see several sheets–upper left is a sheet made with the four colors in the bottles; upper center, a pastel effect by sinking the paper; bottom left is a piece scraped with the shower squeegee.

The papers may curl while they are wet. To get them flat, put them between two sheets of parchment paper and iron them on a medium setting till they are flat.

You can also marble directly onto your looseleaf journal pages, then write on the front or back (or both). Here are three examples of that:

pagemarble This is part of a Robert Jeffers poem. It completes on the back, along with some comments I made about the poem.

WavesmarbleI found this a handy way to use those quotes I save for journaling. And “llustrating” them with abstract marbling poses an interesting challenging.

fishmarbleThis is one of my “fish out of water” pages. It’s an interesting theme I explore–what makes us feel uncomfortable, what gives us community? So the background is blended in blue (water) and green (land) and the fish is adapting.

On the Niji Design Blog, I used the marbled pages to make two different kinds of postcards. You can read about that project here.

dtbutton1Quinn McDonald is a member of the Yasutomo Design Team. She experiments and designs projects for Niji/Yasutomo. She receives free product from the company to complete the projects.