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.




Pen Review: JetPen Spica and a Giveaway


PEN WINNERS: Congratulations to Marianna of RedDancerStudio; Jamie of MyPurpleDoorStudios, and SimplyTrece for winning the pen giveaway! Winners have been emailed, and I’m waiting for their addresses to send the pens out.

Thanks to everyone who entered–especially those who left clever notes. I’m still working my way through, visiting all your blogs. Amazing work!  Here is how I chose the winners: I used a random number generator ( ) and chose one person from each page of comments. That allowed people who entered early to have the same chance as people who entered later. Again, thanks for entering, and yes, there will be more giveaways!

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Yesterday, I reviewed three white pens from, today’s pens are completely different–they have a sparkle, come in colors, and are transparent.

Copic makes the “atyou Spica glitter” pens. The glitter is micro glass, smooth with a fine, gentle sparkle. The ink is water-soluble pigment and archival. The pens write on coated (slick) or uncoated stock and put down a fine, even line. On coated stock, the liquid does pool slightly, which means that the last place you pick up the tip will leave a slightly darker dot. I did not have the same problem on uncoated stock.

The pens are fiber-tip, for which I have a preference. I tried out the pink, purple, blue and green. They write on a variety of surfaces (see the video), but do not show up on dark stock–they are transparent and can be layered. I tried them on a variety of surfaces–watercolor, acrylic, and they write over it all. They are not meant to write on glass, plastic or metal. Unlike Copic markers, they are water-based pigment. This means they won’t bleed through any of the papers I tried.’s website says the pens write for 360 yards.

Spica pens come in 24 colors, $2.25 each, or in in two, pre-selectetd color sets of 12 for $27.00 from JetPens.

Pen Giveaway: I’m giving away 3 pairs of 2 pens each–one of the white gel pens and one color Spica. I’ll choose  the colors for you. All you have to do is leave a comment below and let me know you want a pair of pens. I’ll pick a winner at random on June 5, so get your comments in.

That also means you have to sign in with your email address (it doesn’t show on the blog, but I can see it) so I can contact you for your mailing address. For this giveaway, I’m going to limit this to U.S. residents only.

Don’t forget to leave your comments! FTC-required disclosure: provided the pens at no cost.