Friday, August 29, 2008

Endless Summers... Goofy photo of me and friends circa 1981

Summer comes up so fast. It doesn’t officially start until Jun 21st, but I always feel like the best part of it is over by the 4th of July. The fireworks go off and the sweltering heat and humidity starts and lasts well into September. The days start to get shorter around June 20th and I feel that the days with the longest amount of light are the best.

If I could live somewhere where it always stayed daylight up until about 9 o’clock, I would. Short days depress me. I still have this memory of taking the 5-6 o’clock bus home from working at the mall and the interior bus lights were on because it was dark outside. I also remember working at the warehouse- going to work in the dark, and coming home on the dark. I hate that more than you can imagine.

The illusion of a longer day makes you feel like you have more time to get things accomplished, rather than parking your ass in front of the TV and feeling like the days are squashed into the tiniest space imaginable.

Summer also reminds me of days spent “Up Home” at my Aunt Evelyn’s house. The sound of blue jay’s calling always reminds me of being a child and having no responsibilities except having to come in for dinner when called.

We’d have sleepovers, staying up late to watch old scary black and white movies long after our regular bedtimes. We’d wake up early and go swimming in my cousin’s pool. The small above ground pool that took up their entire cement “back yard,” sounds coming through the windows of the adults playing cards inside.

I remember running 5 times down to the corner drugstore for candy, only to be yelled at by the clerk the 5th time around because I wasn’t wearing shoes. (She had claimed to have told me each time prior but because I was a young child pumped full of sugar and excited to be away from home and swimming on a beautiful day, I probably didn’t hear her.

We didn’t have a lot of money when I was young, and I often times remember never having all of the necessary changes of clothing when I would go and visit somebody. Meaning that I sometimes couldn’t go swimming because no one had anything that would pass as a suit for me. Or I’d have the wrong shoes. My feet were and still are very sensitive. I have a hard time finding things that don’t rub, or make my feet burn. So I don’t think I always had proper sneakers or flip flops for the occasions at hand.

One time I remember going down to the local community fair with sandals that were ripping my feel to shreds with blisters. I think my Aunt Evelyn managed to find a band-aid at the bottom of her purse and that kept me from losing my mind.

Written 05/30/08

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Doodling with a Binder Mod Fountain Pen


Many circle doodles, originally uploaded by biffybeans.

What's a Binder Mod? It's a fountain pen nib, (the part you write with) that's somehow been modified from it's normal state by a man named Mr. Richard Binder

Richard Binder is what is affectionately known as a "nibmeister," and a nibmeister is a person that does custom nib grinding work. Richard is very well known for the quality of his work. Some nib/pen combinations can be purchased pre-ground from his website, and you can also have him grind your nib - though I understand that due to high demand, there is a long turn around to get your pen/nib back.

And why would you want a custom ground fountain pen nib? Some nibs write thicker than desired and can be ground smaller. Some people want variation in their handwriting, and desire something like a cursive italic or a stub both of which can create line variation like that of a calligraphy pen.

The image represented above was the first time I tried drawing/doodling with my "Binder Mod." It's a .07 Cursive Italic in a Pelikan M200. I was doodling in a Canson All Media sketchbook, and the paper has a great deal of "tooth" (it's rough) and I really liked the way the pen wrote on the paper.

Close up of Cursive Italic writing from Lamy custom Cursive Italic in Moleskine

Close up of Cursive Italic writing from Lamy Safari custom Cursive Italic in Moleskine - ground by the nibmeister at Pendemonium

Moleskine Review of my new Custom Ground Lamy Cursive Italic Nib

Moleskine Review of my new Custom Ground Lamy Safari Cursive Italic Nib

Cool Flickr Group: Organized Collection

Fountain Pen ink samples from Pear Tree Pens

I belong to a lot of interesting groups on Flickr, but one of my all-time favorites has got to be the Organized Collection group.

For those of you unfamiliar with Flickr, it's a photo sharing website that offers much more than standard image hosting. One of the interesting things that you can do on Flickr, is to submit and share your images into user created "groups." Groups exist on most every subject - and some require you to join before you can see all of the images in that group.

A free Flickr account allows you to upload 200 images. If you with to upload more than 200, it's about $25 a year and the storage space becomes unlimited.

The Organized Collection group I mentioned above, is for showing off photos of any kind of organized collection. Like my ink sample bottles above, or my stones below. Taking photographs such as this, as well as viewing others, is very comforting to me. I like to see interesting things sorted and placed in a neat and orderly fashion. It's almost meditative- like when I draw a mandala.

Enjoy!

Stone Mandala - what do you see?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Vintage Smoking Memorabilia Collection. Ronson Table Lighters Galore!

Vintage Ronson Table Lighters

Sometime back in the mid 90's, I went crazy with collecting vintage smoking memorabilia. There was something I found interesting and a bit sexy with these old items, most from the mid 30's-40's. Maybe it's the old black and white movies from that time - the ones that have the most glamorous of women grabbing a Ronson table lighter and lighting their cigarettes without a lung-cancer care in the world.

I used to scour flea markets, yard sales, auctions, anywhere I could find vintage items, and I usually could find something to add to my collection. Ebay helped me find several items, and people started giving them to me once they learned of my collection.

It was fun while it lasted, and I used to have the whole collection on display on top of my old entertainment center. I guess I either got tired of looking at them, or tired of polishing off the tarnish, but they have been packed away for a long time.

I recently took them out with the intention of putting them up for sale on Ebay, but when I started looking at what's already up for auction, I found that most of these items are fairly worthless. Since I couldn't just let them go for nothing, I packed them back up and put them back in the attic.

Take a gander at the slide show below, and you see all of the various items in my collection. Of note, the Evans Egg, (missing the lighter) the Ronson Mayfair, (one of my favorites) the Iymco Ejector Cigarette Case, (from 1927!) and one of the most interesting items of all, the "Snuff-a-rette" ashtray. (.50 yard sale find)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mandala - Art on Black Paper Part 2: Successful Products.

Doodle on Black paper

For a while, I was on this kick to create art on black paper. Without the proper drawing impliments, it's somewhat of a challenge. You need a product that's highly pigmented so it will show up well on black paper.

I also had a little difficulty in finding black paper that I liked working with. Artagain and Strathmore have black paper tablets available, but my favorite black paper is Canson's Mie Tientes. It's not a cheap paper, but since I don't work with it all the time, it's worth it to me to have a little on hand for when I do want to use it. It's silky smooth....

I tried lots of different implements on the paper that didn't work out. Crayons, (like Crayola) had too much wax content to show up on the paper at all. Oil pastels worked but smeared easily and have a very offensive odor. They were also too large to work with for small detail. I didn't want to work with pastels due to the smearing issues. (I have a hard time keeping my hands from touching the paper as I work.) I also tried gel pens. Have I mentioned how much I hate them? I had about a dozen different kinds and none of them would write without skipping on any kind of paper I tried. Paint pens worked pretty well, until they start to run out and you have to shake them to get them going again.

My favorite product for working on black paper are the Caran D' Ache Neocolor II water soluable crayons. They can be sharpened, they don't smear on the paper and are very vibrant in color. They were used on the above image on the Mie Tientes paper. The Neocolor crayons come in both regular and water soluable versions. The water soluable version is just that - draw on paper, run a wet brush over it and they act like watercolor paints. (They are not suitable for painting on the black paper.) You can also take a wet brush and just touch the tip of one of the crayons to add a bit of color to your brush for painting. They are very versatile. They sell sets of 10 that could be used in place of a pocket watercolor set.

051307 Prismacolor Mandala on Black inspired by Blue Sea Art

The image above was created with Prismacolor colored pencils, but there's a trick involved. I did not test every brand of colored pencil to see what worked on the black paper. I tried my Prismacolors and a few colors, (mostly pastel) would show on the black and then others wouldn't. The above image was created by drawing the design in white colored pencil first, and then adding color on top. The white pencil acts as a primer for the colored pencil.

022807 Jamani Mandala

In this last image, I used one of the cheapest methods of getting color on black paper. The red came from a what I call a Grease Pencil. Some call them wax pencils, or China Markers. The cost about a dollar and are nice & pigmented & smooth to write with, but the available colors are limited. The silver in this image came from a paint pen.

I had not set out to paint on paper, but if you do- there is a type of watercolor paint called "Gouache" that is highly pigmented and should work well.

Strathmore Artagain Pad
Caran D'Ache Neocolor II Watersoluable Crayons
Prismacolor Pencils
Canson Mie Tientes Paper
Grease Pencils
400 Series Black Field Drawing Books

Monday, August 25, 2008

Me with Kirk & James of Metallica, & the upcoming "Death Magnetic" disc.

Me and Kirk Hammett of Metallica 03/02/1989

Let me start by saying, yes, yes, yes. That is me. I was thinner, had bangs, rose colored glasses and wierd colored hair. Forgive me, for it was still the 80's.

Metallica has been one of my favorite bands since 1988 when a guy I was dating popped in a tape of "Kill 'em All" and I heard "The Four Horsemen" for the very first time. I was soooooo hooked. Like most of us old timers, I'm pretty partial to their first three albums. "Kill 'em All," "Ride the Lightning" and "Master of Puppets," but that doesn't mean that I haven't continued to support them over the years. I have every disc, all the way up through St. Anger. Some I like, others I don't.

I never got pissed with the whole Napster thing, and I didn't call them sell-outs when they picked up Bob Rock on the Black album. I just continued to go with the flow - always hoping for a song or two that goes back to the good old days of duel leads and Kirk solos. (I was however, disappointed to hear the way former bass player Jason Newstead was treated by some of the other band members.)

I had heard that they were supposedly returning to their roots on this new disc, but that's what they said about St. Anger. (My least favorite Metallica disc.) Then just the other day - I head a new song from the upcoming Death Magnetic disc. It was ironicaly called, "The Day that Never Comes." Ironic because it takes Metallica FOREVER to release a new disc.

And you know what?

The song kicked major ass. I can't WAIT to hear the rest of the album.

Me and James Hetfield of Metallica 03/02/1989

Me and Kirk Hammett of Metallica 07/29/1989

Me and James Hetfield of Metallica 07/29/1989

All photos were from 1989.

The five times I've seen Metallica:

04/18/86 Ozzy/Metallica Damage Inc. Tour (YES - with Cliff Burton)
03/02/89 Metallica/Queensryche "Damaged Justice Tour"
07/29/89 Metallica/The Cult "Damaged Justice Tour"
07/05/92 Metallica/Metal Church "Wherever I may Roam Tour"
06/07/94 Metallica/Danzig/Suicidal Tendencies "Shit hits the Sheds Tour"

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Blind Faith

Blind Faith

There is a blind man that lives in my neighborhood.

Over 20 years ago when I worked in a mall, my friend Don worked in a shoe store across the hall from me. That same blind man entered the shoe store and my friend Don sold him a pair of shoes.

After the sale had been completed and the man left the store, Don came over to me with tears in his eyes and said, "I just sold a pair of shoes to a blind man."

I understood where his tears came from- that the blind man had to have faith that Don would sell him a pair of shoes that fit well, were reasonably priced and respectably fashionable- a pair that wasn't some ugly cast off from five years ago that nobody wanted to buy.

He entrusted Don to not take advantage of him because he was blind.

Every time I see that man, I think about a person placing their complete trust in someone else's hands.

Sometimes placing blind faith in a person can be difficult, especially if you've been hurt before. It's just too easy to shut down and become distrustful because you don't know a person's true intentions.

Not everyone in life is going to extend you this level of trust, but when they do, try to do everything you can to not sell them an ugly pair of shoes so that your relationship will continue to grow stronger with every action.

As with every relationship, it boils down to an equal exchange of energy. If someone is willing to put themselves in your hands, honor them by giving back until the exchange feels right.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Salvaged from the Point

Ever stay up too late and try too hard to create art? It's even worse for me when I'm feeling hormonal. On this night, I was watching a documentary on HBO called "Hookers at the Point," about prostitutes in Atlantic City. I had seen it before, and it always makes me sad. I started out with this one - way too much paint and ended up frustrated that it looked too much like my other recent painting. I had been working on it for a long time and I was ready to throw it in the garbage. In frustration, I started throwing water on it - the colors started to run, and I wiped the whole painting from left to right with a paper towel and what shows here in the background is what was left.

Still not sure what to make of it, I poked at it randomly with the end of a paintbrush dipped in China White.

The next day, the white circles had faded and were hard to see. I took a permanent marker (that kept running out) and drew the suns around the dots. Then I filled in the centers with a watersoluable crayon. Picked up another crayon and did the purple squiggles. Picked up my waterbrush and wet those spots so they blended like paint.

I put the painting aside and didn't look at it til the next day. I was quite surprised that it turned out as well as it did considering it almost went in the trash.

(Written 06/17/07)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The fountain pen I owned for the shortest amount of time : Namiki Vanishing Point.

Namiki Vanishing Point on Hand*Book

When I first became aware of the Fountain Pen Network, an online community of fountain pen enthusiasts, I did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions about what pen people most recommended as being a smooth daily writer.

If you are using a fountain pen to write on a regular basis, it's preferable to find one that has a nib that has little resistance against the surface of the paper - a smooth writer. The opposite of a smooth writer would be a "toothy nib."

Since fountain pens needs relatively little pressure on the paper to make the ink flow, it's my personal preference to make that experience even more pleasurable by finding the "ultimate" smooth writer.

So after booping around the FPN, I hear talk about this amazing pen called "The Vanishing Point" by Namiki. The Vanishing Point is an unusual pen in that it does not have a cap. It is a pen with a retractable fountain pen nib. People sang it's praises as being one of the smoothest writers, as well as it's unique construction. Others did not like the pen because of the way the clip was at the nib end of the pen, because they found it got in the way of trying to write with the pen. (The clip is at the top of the pen so the nib stays upright in your pocket. Fountain pens should always remain "nib up" to avoid leaks.)

The Vanishing Point is not an inexpensive pen, selling at around $100. Limited edition colors like purple & yellow had been selling for around $180. I found a used one in excellent condition and couldn't wait to receive it.

Once I got it, it didn't last a week.

The pen wrote smooth enough, the clip didn't get it the way, but the pen itself (to me) was very, very heavy. My hand would cramp from using it and I sold it almost as fast as I got it.

Sometimes I get frustrated at the lack of a local pen shop- a place where I could go and see pens in person, try some inks...rather than have to always buy things online.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fine! I'll admit it! I have a slight problem when it comes to paper....

Art to be photographed.  I'm so behind....

Ok, I'll own up to it. I have a "thing" about paper. Ever since I was a child and my Mom would take me into the local stationary store, I just loved the smell and feel of paper. And I'm not really sure which I like more - holding a brand new journal up to my nose or flipping through the pages of a recently completed one. Either way, there's a certain Zen-like satisfaction involved.

With all the the various books in my arsenal, some have definitely risen above the rest.

For example:

For writing, I prefer Moleskine large ruled hardback journals. While the paper quality is less than perfect, (the thin paper sometimes allows certain fountain pen inks to bleed through) I prefer to use them for one main reason. They lie flat when opened. Most of my writing is done with the book propped on my leg- never at a desk. The size of the large opened Moleskine allows perfect balance for me to write easily on both the left and right hand sides of the book. I'm also quite keen on the light ivory color of the paper.

The spiral bound Apica "Exist" notebook has a much better quality paper than the Moleskines, but I just don't care for writing in a spiral bound book. They don't provide enough surface balance when they are folded back. (For my popular "leg writing" method.)

While not hard bound, the Moleskine Cahiers are a thin alternative to carrying a full sized journal. At about 80 pages, I like to use them for specific projects, and on-location note taking. I have both the large and small sizes, but prefer the large for the margin space at the top of the page.

Rhodia notebooks have a very good quality fountain pen friendly paper. (But it IS a very bright white) They have many notebooks in all different sizes and configurations, and I always like to keep a small 3x4" pad in my bag to jot down information I may need to refer to at a later time. I see that they have added a number of new ruled products to their lineup - I'll have to get some of those.

As a less expensive alternative to the Moleskines, I've tried one of the Hand*Book Artist Journals, and no sir, I don't like them at all. (Flickr review on Hand*Book) Once you get past the nice fabric cover, you find light ivory pages with the strangest of textures. While I might not care for this texture, it has held up well to pen, pencil, some markers, and light water color washes with little to no buckling. Sadly, though I barely use this book, it's starting to fall apart. The signatures are sewn in with only two stingy stitches and they started to give (then finally gave in) with very little effort. I will not be buying another.

Notebooks, sketchbooks, journals

For all purpose sketching/drawing with pen, pencil, fountain pen, marker, etc., I'm quite partial to the Canson Sketch Pads. It's a heavyweight sketch paper that's 100% recycled. It's help up well against all the dry media I have used on it, as well as some light water color washes. (The pages do slightly buckle.) I have these in just about every size available.

Canson also makes what they call an " All Media" book that's supposed to do just that. It's a heavier paper that's supposed to be better for taking watercolor, but in my experience, it buckles too much and I don't like the texture of the paper or the weight. I will not be buying another.

021508 Art waiting to be scanned

For drawing with markers, Borden & Riley #234 Paris Bleedproof paper for pens is very smooth, very white, and practically bleedproof. I have to say practically because my Staedtler Lumocolor markers seem to have the ability to bleed through brick. I really like this paper a lot, but because of it's ultra-smooth finish, I haven't yet found a use for it other than for markers.

My Stack

I have a number of different books/tablets/pads for watercolor, but in my opinion, there is one product that is my clear favorite. Cachet Watercolor Sketchbooks come in 7x5" and 10x7" sizes, have a sturdy double spiral binding, are Dutch linen bound, and are filled with 25 sheets of medium tooth 80lb paper. Saturate this paper, and you might get a little buckling, but it flattens nicely once you close the cover. (Wait til dry to close!) The sizes (and durability) of these books makes them excellent for travel. Since I am admittedly in love with these books and the quality of the paper. it's quite difficult for me to use them only for painting. I've used marker on this paper, and drawn on them with fountain pens. The books themselves aren't cheap- ($9 for the small, $13 for the large) so I reserve buying them for when I receive a 30% coupon for my local art supply store.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Doodling on Black Paper - Part 1

(Originally written 03/07/07)

This is a bunch of scribbles & doodles from trying out different pens on black paper. This is Strathmore paper, which I just can't stand. I just bought some Canson Mie Tientes black paper but haven't tried it out yet. (See a future blog posting on how much I love the Mie Tientes paper.)

There's several types of Gelly pens represented here. Did you know that there were different types? While most of them will put down nice color on black, they skip, get thin and are otherwise inconsistent.

My favorite was a silver/blue pen that had a lightning bolt on the cap - and while it laid down a perfect silver line, sadly, the silver smudges when dry.

There's a Pilot Extra Fine Silver marker here, and it's pretty nice except when it starts to sputter & run out. (Then you need to shake it to continue.) Nice to doodle with but don't get into something detailed or you might end up disappointed.

Crayola crayons are too waxy, and other than the white, are pretty much useless on black. There's a Stabilio yellow multi-surface marking pencil that did ok, but not great.

Next up are the Caran D'Ache Neocolor II Water Soluable crayons. They were pricey, so I only bought 2 - purple and white. Wow Wow Wow. They are niiiiiiiice. Oh - and they can be blended with a wet brush, and you can do wet on wet with them. This is a mighty bad-ass product. I want more.

Lastly, are the winners - el cheapo China Markers/Grease pencils in white and red. (Of note is that I've also tried various colors of Prismacolor colored pencils and some laid down better than others - but they are not represented here. Same goes for my Cray-Pas oil pastels.)


Strathmore Artagain Pad
Caran D'Ache Neocolor II Watersoluable Crayons
Prismacolor Pencils
Canson Mie Tientes Paper
Grease Pencils

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Mandala is a Form of Self Exploration Through Meditation


081608-Mandala, originally uploaded by biffybeans.

The Mandala is a form of self-exploration through meditation. It doesn't matter where you start, or where you end up... What matters is tha tyou took the time to be introspective. To be creative without judgement. To allow yourself a moment of time to be PRESENT.

For me, much like drumming or chanting, the repetitive nature of the work puts my mind at ease.

Art heals your mind, AND your soul.

Create it, ponder it, then give it away. 08/08 SMS

Mixed Media Mandala -

Lamy EF Safari filled with Private Reserve Burgundy Mist ink.
Pelikan M200 .07 CI filled with Noodler's Bulletproof Black ink.
Prismacolor (yellow) colored pencil
Winsor & Newton watercolor paints (Bijou Box)
Cachet 7x10 watercolor book

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Why do I write with a fountain pen?

072708 117

So why a fountain pen?

I'm sure that there are many reasons why an individual chooses to write with a fountain pen, but I can only answer for myself.

A good fountain pen, (note that "good" does not necessarily mean $$$) writes extremely smooth with a very light pressure on the paper. They allow me to write for extended periods of time with little hand/wrist fatigue.

So why do I have 9 of them?

Because once you buy one, you continue to look for other, smoother pens. You want to have them in varying nib widths, filled with different colors of ink, and you want to have more than one on hand in case one of them runs out of ink.

Are they expensive?

You can find disposable fountain pens like the Pilot Varsity, for about $3. A great refillable starter pen is the Lamy Safari, which costs around $25. (I have 4 of them) Mid range pens can run from $60-$100, like my favorite Pelikan M200, ($60) or my ultra-smooth Sailor Sapporo. ($105) Then there are pens that are more expensive - considered to be status symbols, like the brands Montblanc and Omas pens, ($200-$400) and also the limited edition collector's type pens that can run $1000-$5000 and up.

There are also many people that prefer to use vintage pens - ones produced as far back as the 1920's. Some of these pens are the best ever made, and they can be purchased fully restored, or in "as-is" condition for a few dollars at a local flea-market/swap meet.

The pen restoration business is a brisk one- with people like David Isaacson and Ron Zorn that will bring a sick or wounded vintage pen back to it's new found glory.

I myself have dipped into the waters of vintage pens, (I own an Esterbrook J and I once briefly owned one of the highly regarded Parker 51's) but I've come to the conclusion that I prefer modern pens for two reasons. The first is that I'm always worried about damaging a vintage pen that's not easily replaceable, and secondly, because I prefer to start new with a pen - instilling my own energy into it.

I spoke about having multiple pens in varying nib sizes, and there are also people like Mr. Richard Binder and the good folks at Pendemonium that can custom grind pen nibs into shapes that allow for more artistic and creative writing. I have two such pens - a Binder ground .07 Cursive Italic nib in a Pelikan M200 and a .05 Cursive Italic in a Lamy Safari that the nibmeister at Pendemonium ground for me. Nib grinding prices can vary - depending on who is doing the work, and what you are having done. It cost me $15 to have the CI ground by Pendemonium.

And what about inks?

Fountain pen inks come in every imaginable color, and on average cost about $8-$10) a bottle. A bottle will last you a long, long time. My favorite inks include Noodler's, Diamine and Private Reserve.

Of note - many types of fountain pen inks are not waterproof because they are water based inks.. (Never use India Ink in a fountain pen - it will destroy the pen.) If archiving your writing is important to you, check out the "Bulletproof" inks made by Noodler's.

So where can I buy a fountain pen?

While you might not find them at your local art supply store, fountain pens can easily be found at many online retailers. My personal favorites include Pendemonium, Swisher Pens and Pear Tree Pens. Pear Tree Pens has a fantastic ink sampling system...

Can I use a fountain pen on any kind of paper?

Great question. While it's a matter of personal preference, I have found the better the quality of the paper, the better the writing experience. It's a delicate balance to find a paper/pen/ink combination that meets (at least my) satisfaction. Some of the thinner, cheaper, (like the Moleskine journals that I use) can cause various inks to bleed through the paper or feather - leaving little spider web lines off of the inked lines. Some of the better quality papers and journals include Rhodia, Apica, Clairefontaine and Quo Vadis. That's not to say that a tablet from the office supply store won't work for you - it's just a matter of trying it out.

I prefer to use the hard backed Moleskine journals because they lie flat (easier to write in) and that's a difficult feature to find unless you chose to use a spiral bound book. (Which I don't like.)

So put it all together and well, using a fountain pen can get a little expensive if you are like me and are constantly trying to improve your writing experience.

What am I currently using?

This article was originally hand written using a medium nibbed Sailor Sapporo, Noodler's Bulletproof Black ink, in a large hard backed, ruled Moleskine journal. (Noodler's BB seems to be one of the least problematic inks on this Moleskine paper.)

I also commonly use a fine nibbed Pelikan M200 filled with Private Reserve's Burgundy Mist ink. An Extra Fine Lamy Safari filled with the same Burgundy Mist ink, and the Lamy Safari with the custom ground .05 Cursive Italic nib filled with Private Reserve's Arabian Rose ink.

Where can I learn more about fountain pens, inks and paper?

The Fountain Pen Network is an online community of fountain pen enthusiasts. From the novice to the long time user/collector, you will find all kinds of information in the way of conversations, reviews, photos, etc.

I hope you have found this article informative, and if you have any questions, I'll do my best to answer them or to point you in the right direction to find the information you are looking for.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mantra Mandala Hand with Seeing Eye

From 07/01/08: Fountain pen art. Drawn with a Pelikan M200 Fine nib, with Noodler's Black ink in a Blick 8x10 sketch pad. Yes, a little larger than I usually work with. I would have worked on this one straight through but I had to put it down to watch Hell's Kitchen. The eye came out in the 2nd session.

The mantra is for removing obstacles: Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha.

PS - Happy Birthday Mom!

Mandala - The People in Your Life

I have come to the conclusion in my almost 40 years on this planet that all of the people you encounter in your life, be they friends, relatives or co-workers, have all entered your life for a very specific function.

The purpose may not always be immediately evident.

Sometimes they are there to console us through troubled times and sometimes they are there with us to enlighten us to our own higher purpose in life.

Sometimes they are there to bring joy into our lives, and sometimes to make our lives more difficult but with the purpose of us learning from these encounters.

Sometimes these people are aside us throughout most of our lives, and sometimes they are there for only a fraction of a second to pass along a simple message about ourselves.

Upon occasion, it becomes frustrating when people seemingly vanish from our lives without so much as a goodbye, but those people are often the ones that we should consider as having served their purpose and look closely at the message our relationships with them have left behind.

Sometimes it's also necessary to re-think a particular relationship if it is no longer serving your higher good. People can change, and your relationships with them can change as well.

Be grateful of the people in your life now, as well as those you are no longer in contact with. They have all served a purpose in your life and without them, you would not be the person you are.

Every relationship is important. Overlook no one. It's all important. And remember that you are just as important to another person as they are to you.

Remember you are at the center of it all. Take nothing or no one for granted. Appreciate everyone no matter how frustrating at times. Everyone is a part of you and you are a part of everyone else. Take nothing for granted. Appreciate everyone in their own way.

06/15/08 Stephanie

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Another Transformative Experience at Jim Donovan's Summer Rhythm Renewal


With Jim Donovan, originally uploaded by biffybeans.

Stephanie with friend and mentor - Jim Donovan.


I just back from Jim Donovan's Summer Rhythm Renewal and it's really difficult for me to put this experience into words. It was my third year attending the event, and each year has been more transformative than the last.

The Rhythm Renewal is held in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania, at St. Francis University, where Jim is an instructor of music. The event consists of 4 days of drumming, dancing, concerts, impromptu jam sessions and plenty of opportunities for self exploration.

Although held on the grounds of a Catholic University, the event is not religious by nature, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that there is a certain spiritual and uplifting nature that comes from the music, the dancing, and being around so many like minded people.

Jim Donovan is at the center of it all - teaching a workshop each day, and having his band "Drum the Ecstatic" perform at a concert on Saturday night. Jim is one of the founding members of the band Rusted Root, but left the band in 2005 to raise his family and to teach - something he felt that he always was meant to do. (And he's pretty darn good at it!)

Having been a longtime Rusted Root fan, I first because aware of Jim in 2005, when he came to perform at a local music festival. Shortly after that, I attended one of his "Yoga of Drum and Chant" workshops, and I can literally say that the experience changed my life forever.

I attended the Yoga of Drum and Chant workshop because I wanted to drum - but ended up walking away with so much more. In this particular workshop, Jim uses simple drum rhythms played on a West African goblet shaped drum called a djembe, combined with vocal toning, (chanting) to allow people to turn off the constant mind chatter and learn how to be more "in the moment." Repetitive drum patterns played at a specific tempo allow "entrainment" to occur. Entrainment happens when both halves of your brain come into balance (synchronize) which can result in a truly transformative experience. The chanting, typically ancient Sanskrit and Tibetan mantras such as "Om" or "Om Mani Padme Hum" and are made up of syllables which can be thought as vibrational devices for deepening one's thought.

So if the drumming and chanting weren't already enough to keep me coming back, there was Jim's underlying messages of presence, (the opposite of multi-tasking) of removing bad habits and patterns that no longer serve your higher good, as well as openness and internal growth.

And so for the last three years, I've attempted to get to every one of his workshops within reasonable driving distance, culminating each year with the Rhythm Renewal in Loretto. You start to see familiar faces at each event, because so many people are tuned into what Jim is all about. Registration day at the Rhythm Renewal is always a treat - meeting up with such wonderful people that you haven't seen since the previous year's event.

The Rhythm Renewal also brings together a wonderful faculty of instructors that teach such classes as African Drum and Dance, North Indian (Tabla) drumming, Didgeridoo, Introduction to Shamanism, percussive workshops, and Women's Rhythms for Everyone. There is also an opportunity for any participant to be part of Saturday night's concert event by performing with the Rhythm Renewal drummers.

This year, I made new friends, talked to old friends, played a lot of drums, (kit & djembe) danced my ass off, took my shekere playing to another level, spent time to be introspective and generally had a fantastic time.

Truly in the moment

If all this wasn't already enough of a blessing, Jim invited me onstage to play shekere during the last song of Saturday night's Drum The Ecstatic International concert. The song was Santana's "Jingo" and yes - there is a video, and I will post the link as soon as it's available.

Playing shekere with Jim Donovan's band - Drum the Ecstatic International


Sunday, August 10, 2008

080808 Stone Temple Pilots at Musikfest

Some incredible soul at Arts Quest had the incredible foresight to book the "doomed to inevitably implode" band STONE TEMPLE PILOTS as one of this year's headliner acts at Musikfest.

This being the 25th anniversary of the festival - this was the only act to sell out prior to the show date - (6500 seats) and it very well may have been the only headliner to sell out through the entire 10 day festival.

Even though they got a late start, (about 40 minutes) and Scott Weiland muffed a few of the words to the bands opening number "Big Empty", they heavily rocked a solid show that took us through all the hits through their first 3 albums - three of my all-time favorite albums.

Last Sunday I sat on my porch and listened to Kool & the Gang. Last Monday - went to see a kick ass band called Entrain - playing Musikfest for the 13th year in a row, but I had somehow never made it out to see them. Tuesday, sat on the porch & listened to Poison - who sounded amazing. Wednesday, went to see another headliner - Earth Wind & Fire. Friday, STP. Saturday, went to a friend's party that lives right near the fest. Drum circles on the corner.....

And now I sit in my kitchen hearing John Fogerty singing "Bad Moon Rising" and awaiting the booms that signal the end of Musikfest - the fireworks.

This year - it was all good......

Maybe next year they will book Metallica.



080808 STP performs "Wicked Garden" at Musikfest.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

02/02/08 Lehigh Valley Day of Drumming : Moe Jerant and the Jamani Drummers perform "Fire" with special guest
Jim Donovan (Rusted Root)



February 2nd, I co-organized an event called The Lehigh Valley Day of Drumming.

Morning and afternoon drumming workshops were taught by
Moe Jerant and Rusted Root drummer, Jim Donovan.

Later in the evening, we held a concert which featured Moe Jerant and the Jamani Drummers, with special guest, Jim Donovan.

The video above is a performance of the song "Fire" an adaptation of Ubaka Hill's song, "Fire on the Mountain."

While I am no longer performing with Jamani, I owe a great deal of gratitude to each of these people. To Moe Jerant, for everything she has done for our local drumming community, and for giving me the opportunity to perform with Jamani. YOU helped get me to that next level and I will forever be appreciative.

To my fellow Jamani sisters, I love each and every one of you. Each one of you had so much to teach me about myself. You are all unique and wonderful souls. Don't be strangers.

http://www.myspace.com/jamanidrummers

Moleskine Doodle. Boston to Philadelphia

Originally written 02/22/08

Was in Atlanta on a business trip Tuesday-Friday of this week. Was to fly back from Atlanta on an 8pm flight, Friday night. (Through Philly, as I couldn't get a direct flight from my local airport.) So around dinner time on Thursday, we hear of the impending snow/ice storm that's due to hit the Northeast. I jump on the phone to US Air and manage to book us an earlier flight (2:40pm) in which they have miraculously waived the $100 change fee (because of the weather) and $240 difference in price. (Strange, the flight time & price difference was the same...)

Leaving work at about 11:15am, we head to ATL. Having checked the web numerous times before we left, we see that planes to the Northeast are running about 5 hours behind, but amazingly, our 2:40 flight is still on time. 3 miles from the airport, I get a text message that our flight has been canceled. We take the rental car back and head in to the US Air ticket counter and sit in a line with about 20 people in it that does not move for what seems like an hour. An hour and a half later, we make it to the ticket counter and are told that everything is booked, no flights, flights canceled, other carriers full....

The agent (ED) finally finds a way to get us home. He books us from ATL to Boston, then to Philly, and then to ABE. Ha. I surrender (check) my bag and never expect to see it again.

We push, bully & beg our way through the millions of people going through security because we have less than 45 minutes to make it to our gate, and it takes about 30 minutes to get through security, (on a good day) then another 10 to take the train (inside the airport) to the D terminal, which of course, is the last stop. We run to our gate and make it with about 5 minutes to spare.

But everyone is still just sitting there. For 5 minutes, 10, 15..... I finally go up to the counter and ask what the delay is, because nothing was posted at the agent's desk. I'm told that they are waiting for the Captain to come up to let them know if we are going to fly. (??????) And so I say to the agent, "You mean this flight might get canceled?" to which she responds, "Yes. It's probably going to get canceled." I try deep breathing, I imagine my happy place, but I can't help getting a bit snarky & frustrated. I go back to my co-worker and tell her that I'm furious with the guy back at the ticket counter (Our buddy Ed) that booked this flight, since he probably knew that this flight was also going to get canceled and he just needed to do something for us to get us out of line and on to the next person.

I sit down, sulk, trying to surrender to the fact that weather is not something I have control over.

Unbelievably, we are eventually called up with a quick "Flight 9011 (yes, that was really the flight number - and trust me, I got the heebie-jeebies when I saw it) is now boarding and the gate will close in 1 minute. There are only 13 (OMG - not thirteen.... I'm afraid of the number 13.....) of you, come on up."

As I clap with joy and run to the jet way, I hear a man say, "But they said there weren't any more flights going to Boston...." and that cooled my heals and made me sad. I didn't even want to go to Boston, but it's the only way I could get home.

Once on the plane, the captain comes out to talk to us about the flight. He too mentions that with there being so few of us, that we are welcome to spread out and sit where we like. I tell the captain about the man that said he couldn't get to Boston and how there might be people out there that would like to get on this flight. They call back out to the agent, who I assume makes as announcement because they found about 20 more people who were able to switch their tickets and get on this flight. (Ironically, the man that made the original comment did not get on the flight) This holds up take off for about 45 minutes. But it doesn't matter, because we are still going - yay! It doesn't even occur to me that we might get stuck in Boston, because nothing is really flying anywhere. We are also told that this particular flight will eventually be flying back to Philadelphia and we ask if we can just stay on board. :o)

And so, we take off for Boston. A 100 mile an hour tail wind gets us up there in no time, but.....the airport is closed due to snow removal. Sigh. We sit in a holding pattern, (read nauseating circles) over Provenance, Rhode Island for about an hour.

We are eventually cleared to land, and my friend smartly avoids telling me that planes slide off the runway at Logan airport all the time....

We have to get off the plane and re-book our Philly flight because due to all of the delays, we have now missed our connection to Philly. We only have a few minutes and as I run to the bathroom, I try looking for a store where I can buy a Red Sox hat for my Braves loving husband. No dice - not enough time. Ironically, we do end up getting right back on the same empty plane, same captain, etc. We will now not be able to make our final connection and are placed on a stand-by flight for 11:05 to get back to ABE. I am fairly certain that we will not be flying into ABE that night.....

We sit on the ground for another good hour until the plane is de-iced and we are cleared for take off. Because of the delay, it's almost certain that we will not be making our final connection. (And where are our bags? Where are they going to end up?) Luckily my co-worker has called her husband and has asked him to pick us up at the Philly airport. We land in Philly, pick up our ride, and an hour and a half later, are home. This doodle was created while in the air from Boston to Philly.

Whew.

Just in time to kiss my husband and wish him a happy anniversary which had actually ended at midnight, but since I hadn't been to bed yet, it still counted. :o)

US Air did a great job of taking care of us in this crappy weather and to Ed, the ticket agent in Atlanta, I'm sorry I was silently cursing you out when I thought the Boston flight was going to get canceled.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Clear Your Mind Through Art - Mandala


Clear Your Mind Through Art, originally uploaded by biffybeans.

Clear your Mind through Art

Be Free if only for a few Moments

Breathe then let it go.

Sometimes,

Sometimes you need to take a little time to do something.

A little something that lets you clear your mind. To rid your mind of the constand chatter. The chatter that keeps you from thinking clearly. to clear your mind so you can hear the right things to do.

Intentions.

03/23/08

In memory of Bob

In Memory of Bob

For 6 years, I created and sold my handmade jewelry at craft shows, art festivals, etc. I started with simple beaded designs and ended up doing a lot of wire weaving and metal work. Everything I did was cold connected - cold connections being various ways to attach things together without the use of heat.

All of the skills I acquired through the years were things I taught myself through books, or by reverse engineering a design I found interesting. The piece shown above was my first completed piece of metal work. I had been inspired to work with copper after seeing Jesse James (the bike builder) build a motorcycle out of copper. (Copper Chopper)

Once completed, I named this piece in memory of a former co-worker.

I used to work with a man named Bob- a simple guy that used to enjoy walking around the hardware store to get ideas for home improvements. Sadly, Bob died at an early age from an inoperable brain tumor. When I first started doing metal work and was stocking my toolbox, I couldn't help but think of Bob. This piece was sawed from copper sheet, hammered for texture, filed smooth, drilled & tumbled. I attached the handmade jump rings and oxidized it with liver of sulfur.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What am I listening to? What are you listening to?

People see me with my iPod, and they are always asking me what I'm listening to. So here you go - I sorted my iTunes library by number of times a song has been played and took a screen shot of it.

Yes - I'm a big Jim Donovan/Rusted Root fan. What, you aren't?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Alien Creature? No - it's a Hummingbird Moth


Hummingbird Moth on Verbena, originally uploaded by biffybeans.

This little alien, is a hummingbird moth. It hovers about and drinks from the flowers much like a real hummingbird. It looks quite alien - part bee, part lobster, part bird.

It's the first time I had ever really seen these before, and there were several of them drinking from these verbena flowers. They move quickly, like an actual hummingbird - so I shot about 200 pictures to end up with just 4 or 5 good ones.

Hummingbird Moth on Verbena

This next image shows one with slightly different colors, and a lobster like tail.

Hummingbird Moth on Verbena

Here it looks even more like a lobster.

Hummingbird Moth on Verbena

Another close up.
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