Saturday, February 28, 2009

Review: Exacompta Index Cards

Exacompta Index Cards

Index Cards (Also called "Bristol" cards.)

For notes, designs, organizing, planning and study aids
• High quality paper - use both sides, ink never bleeds
• Five subtle pastel colors: green, blue, yellow, pink, white
• Pale violet grid lines
• Acid-free, pH neutral card stock

Five assorted colors in each pack
Graph 100 cards 4 x 6 E10272
Graph 100 cards 5 x 8 E10273
Graph 100 cards 5 ¾ x 8 ¼ E10378

Note: My box of the A5's only had 4 colors in it. No white. Not sure if what I have is old or new stock as my box design is different compared to what I see on the Exaclair site.

Exacompta Index Cards

I really enjoy using these cards for note taking, list making, organizing my thoughts. This A5 size fits perfect in the journal I'm currently using; a Kunst & Papier Sketch Journal.

I started using these the moment they showed up on my doorstep. Immediately fell in love. All of my fountain pens glide smoothly over the surface, though it does take a few moments for the ink to dry.

As I started to test them for this review, I wondered if there would be a quality difference between the different colors and sure enough, there was. Of the 11 fountain pen inks I tested, a few of them feathered and spread on the different colored cards. Not horribly, but if you use a medium or bold pen it could be worse.

The pink card fared the best with no inks feathering or spreading, the yellow & blue each had two of the more saturated Herbin inks feather, (Rose Cyclamen & Bleu Pervenche) and the green was the worst, with 6 of 11 inks feathering. (3 Herbin, 1 Noodler's, a Private Reserve, and a Sailor.) Some of the feathering is visible to the naked eye, some I found when looking through a magnifying glass.

I still love them and will use up the whole box.

The 4x6 ($8.00) and 5x8 ($10.00) can be purchased Here and Here

Friday, February 27, 2009

Review: Clairefontaine Ingres Pastel Paper

Clairefontaine Pastel

From the Exaclair website:

"The paper used in Clairefontaine’s fine art paper is made by a mill almost 400 years old.

Established in 1618 during the Golden Age of Dutch Masters, the “De Veentjes” paper mill was located in the Veluwe region in the Netherlands. The rapid currents of the Heelsum brook were used to run the mill. In 1710 the Schut family bought the mill and continued to make quality papers for almost 300 years.

In 1998 Papierfabriek Schut was acquired by Papeteries de Clairefontaine. Though the machinery is modern, the mill still radiates a traditional atmosphere and applies the same degree of skill and care to every sheet of paper as it did in historic times.

The quality of the work has enabled the mill to prosper over the centuries. Once, one of many small paper mills in the Veluwe region, Schut is the only one that remains.

This paper was inspired by the French artist, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. In 1832 he developed for his own use a laid finish paper suited for pastel."

• 130 g laid paper
• High sensitivity to delicate shades of color
• White sheets – slight ivory tinge, light
– reflecting properties
• Colors – assorted muted colors – sand,
almond, ochre, sooty black
• 25 sheet pad glued on top
• 2 sizes: 9 ½ x 12” and 12 x 15 ½”

Clairefontaine Pastel

The packaging states that the paper is suitable for pastel or crayon, so I decided to first try out my Neocolor II crayons. They moved effortlessly across this fabulously textured paper, but for some reason, I had a little difficulty building up layers with these crayons.

Clairefontaine Pastel

I moved on to the black paper, because I know that these crayons always "pop" on black. They did, but once again, I had a hard time getting them to cover the surface as thickly as I'm used to. It's not a bad thing, simply different than what I'm used to with a smoother paper like Canson's Mi Teintes. You can really see the texture on this paper, which in itself, adds depth to the image. It is similar to Fabriano's laid paper found in their Artist's Journals.

Clairefontaine Pastel

In the above image, I tried using oil pastels. They provided more of the varying degrees of coverage that I prefer.

Clairefontaine Pastel

Close up of the textured surface. Imagine the possibilities!

Buy it Here in the US, or Here in the UK.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Review: J. Herbin Rose Cyclamen Fountain Pen Ink

J. Herbin Rose Cyclamen

From the J Herbin website:

"J. Herbin is the oldest name in pen inks in the world. M. Herbin created “The Jewel of Inks” in his shop on the Rue des Fosses Saint-Germain in Paris in 1700."

"Each bottle of 30 ml has an integrated pen rest. They are known as “D bottle pen inks. The “D” refers to the old French unit of measure “la Demi Courtine”.

* 30 beautiful colors!
* Non toxic and pH neutral
* Lightfast
* Water based
* Flows smoothly and is fast drying
* All natural dyes

J. Herbin Rose Cyclamen

The image above shows the Rose Cyclamen tested in a Canteo Journal with ivory pages on the left, and a Clairefontaine Basics with extra white paper on the right.

I never thought I'd like using such a vivid color of ink. It's a very happy berry color. The color of the bottom of your feet after stepping on a ripe mulberry on a summer's day. I find it very difficult to write anything but happy thoughts with this color.

Rose Mandala - Lift it back up

Like many of the Herbin inks, it's a smooth free-flowing ink.


One of Herbin's more saturated colors, it shows a little bit of shading on the ivory, and more on the white. (Probably because the white is a smoother, heavier paper.)

Berry Mandala

I have noticed that on thinner papers, or on papers of lesser quality, that there can be a bit of feathering and bleed through.


I personally prefer using this ink on ivory/cream paper - it gives the shade even more warmth. On white, it appears to be a cooler shade. Doodles above are in a plain Pen & Ink brand journal.

For a few more images using this ink, click Here

Herbin inks run $8.75 per 30ml bottle at Pear Tree Pens

See a good article on Pentrace where I think they did a great job demonstrating the Herbin colors.

PS - So sorry for the image quality. I tried shooting these tests on 4 separate occasions, but this time of year just isn't allowing me the brightness to more accurately capture the inks. All of the images have been edited to the best of my ability to try and accurately represent the ink. To my eye, the last image is probably closest to the real thing.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Review: Comparison of 4 Black Fountain Pen Inks

4 different Blacks

Noodler's Bulletproof Black was the first fountain pen ink I bought for my first fountain pen - a Lamy Safari. It's been my "go-to" ink since the beginning. It's always in at least one of my pens.

I decided to do a test to see how my 4 different black inks looked on white paper. (A Canson Universal Sketch Pad) I was too lazy to flush & fill any of my pens 4 times, so I decided to use a Brause Calligraphy Pen with a Steno Nib (love it!) to try all 4 inks. Dip/Wipe much easier than Flush/Fill.

Of the 4, from lightest to darkest: (to my eyes)

Pelikan Brilliant Black
Sailor Jentle Black
Noodler's Bulletproof Black
J. Herbin Pearle Noire

4 different Blacks after flooding with water

Then I took a second sheet of paper and blasted under the faucet - hot water, dribbled some dish soap on it.... All of the inks hung in to some degree, though the Noodler's was clearly the leader. (Hence the "Bulletproof" branding) I like the blackness of the Herbin, so I'm glad to see that it came in a close second.

No idea why I bought the Pelikan, I guess I was hoping it would be darker than the Noodler's. No Dice. Bought the Sailor hoping it would be as smooth as their Blue-Black, but so far, I'm not really seeing that. Needs to be tried in another pen or two. Loving the Herbin... Perhaps it will come to replace the Noodler's.

1 oz of Pelikan Brilliant Black: $5.50
3oz of Noodler's Bulletproof Black: $12.50
50 ml of Sailor Jentle Black: $12.75 (1.69 oz)
30 ml of J. Herbin Perle Noire: $8.75 (1.01 oz)

Prices quoted are from Pear Tree Pens

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Spiritual Evolution: It's all About the Frame...

Ink & Pencil Mandala

The following is a golden nugget by Jim Donovan, from his blog Rhythm :: Ecstasy :: Evolution.

"The drive to grow is what keeps you progressing. If you desire progress, this drive will never stop for you, and you'll always want to share what you discover with those you love. While you can definitely have an effect on someone, you will rarely be able to put your hands on someone and twist them into what you want them to be.

A significant challenge in a relationship is to see someone you love that you know could benefit and grow from what you personally know, but the person is either uninterested or unwilling to "go there". Dealing with this kind of frustration, while unnerving, can also be viewed as a gift. It gives you one more part of yourself to come to terms with. This part has to do with just allowing life to unfold as it does.

Whenever you can reduce the emotional charge of frustration at someone else's lack of growth, you will have grown as a result. This is a way to change the frame of how you view your closest relationships. You have the choice to view them in terms of how much they aggravate you, or you can view them in terms of how much they can help you to understand yourself." - Jim Donovan

This is excellent advice, especially for a control freak like me. It makes a lot more sense than the old cliche, "taking people for what they are worth." To me, changing the frame *is* the way to better relationships, and the ultimate way to lead to your own progression.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Review: Caran d'Ache Neocolor II Artists' Crayons

From the Blick website:

"The quality of Neocolor II Aquarelle Artists' Crayons is universally acknowledged. Their excellent lightfastness, their high pigment concentration, and their adaptability to several techniques have helped to put them in a class of their own.

Neocolor II crayons are softer than colored pencils, denser than children's wax crayons, and extremely responsive to a wet brush. Wet and dry techniques can be combined in the same drawing. Because of their strong pigmentation, light colors cover dark colors and vice-versa.

Try the sgraffito technique by scraping off one or more color layers to create an engraved effect. Neocolors are soft enough to smudge with fingertips, yet they are much firmer than oil pastels. Best of all, they are water-soluble.

Individual crayons measure 105 mm in length and 10 mm in diameter (4-1/8" × 5/16")."

042107 Neocolor Mandala 1 on Black

My local Blick store sells the Neocolor II's as open stock, and when I was looking for media to use on black paper, an associate at the store pointed them out to me. My initial purchase was for just two of the crayons, but once I got home and found how well they worked on the dark paper, I went back and bought a set of 30.


The crayons are highly pigmented and do not contain the high amount of wax like a typical children's crayon. Most of the colors are extremely vibrant when used on black paper. (My favorite black paper is the Canson Mi-Teintes. )

One of the things that I like the best about these crayons is that they don't smudge in the way an oil pastel would. So if you are an art slob like me, you won't end up smooshing your art all over the paper. On the other hand, this also means that you cannot blend the colors like you can with an oil pastel.

Colorful Mandala Hand in Sketchbook

The Neocolor II's are watersoluble, which means that you can apply water and they will act like watercolor paint. I created the image above by wetting the tip of the crayon with a Niji Waterbrush. (which applies the "paint" to the brush) and then putting the brush to the paper.

You can also draw on paper with them and then wash over it with a brush, but I've never really been able to get pleasing results that way. It's hard to tell if you've applied too much crayon on the paper before wetting it, and your results may not be as intended.

You can also dip the tip of the crayon in water, and draw with it like that, keeping in mind that this method will probably make you use more of the crayon than any other method.

In my experience, I haven't been able to utilize these quite the same as watercolor paints. The colors seem to sit well with and on top of another, but blending seems to be a little different than when using an artist quality watercolor paint. Admittedly, I did not buy them to be used in that fashion, and I have not taken a great deal of time to explore them in that manner.

I sometimes struggle with media that can be used in multiple ways, like watercolor pencils. It's almost like you have to master two forms of media to get pleasing results. I'm personally quite happy using the Neocolor II's as an "adult" crayon. Caran D' Ache also makes a water-resistant Neocolor I but I have not yet tried them.

0407 Neocolor II Watercolor Mandala

I've used them straight on white paper, but I still prefer using them on the darker paper. The colors just POP on black.

Neocolor II

Blick sells the Neocolor II's in varying quantities. Check them out Here

Monday, February 16, 2009

Review: Exacompta Livres d’Or “Basics” Journals

Exacompta Livres d’Or “Basics” Journals (And friends)

Exacompta Basic Journal. (In front) Similar in size to the Pen & Ink Sketchbook, Clairefontaine Basics, and Large Moleskine. (Exacompta Sketchbook is to the left of the Journal)

These are: Livres d’Or “Basics” Journals and Blank Books. Not to be confused with the smaller "Forum" series, which use completely different paper and have product numbers such as 1400 & 1401. These have product numbers 992 & 993, and they also have the graphics on the covers, while the forum basics do not.

Product Specs for the Livres d’Or “Basics” Journals and Sketchbook:

• Lined with tan cover & gold edge (993/1)
or black cover with silver edge (993/0)
• Blank with black cover & silver edge (992/0)
• Cloth binding to match cover – grey or brown
• Textured hardboard covers
• Sewn binding
• 100 sheets (200 pages) 25% cotton, pH neutral, 100g off white paper
• Ribbon marker

Exacompta Livres d’Or “Basics” Journals (And friends)

Exacompta Sketchbook - the cover is black, despite how it appears in this photo. Some people don't care for any images on the front of their journals, but I find the designs on the Journal and sketchbook to be rather unobtrusive and somewhat classy. Similar to the Clairefontaine Basics journals, the Exacompta Basics have a stiff cardboard/hardboard cover. Unlike the Exacompta Forum journals, they do not offer covers. Perhaps you could get Renaissance Art to make you one?

Exacompta Livres d’Or “Basics” Journals (And friends)

A little birdie suggested these journals to me based on their paper quality. I would have *never* tried them simply because I don't care for gilded journals. The journal is gilded in gold, and the sketchbook silver.

I am mostly going to be discussing the use of the sketchbook.

Exacompta Livres d’Or “Basics” Journal

The Basics books are clothbound and include a festive multi-colored ribbon. Signatures are sewn.

Exacompta Livres d’Or “Basics” Journal

Ahhhhhhhhhh... One of my favorite features in a journal. Rounded corners are so much easier on the hand as you reach the end of a page.

Exacompta Livres d’Or “Basics” Journal

The Basics opens and lies mostly flat. It gets even flatter with a tiny bit of encouragement. (It's flat enough for me.)

Exacompta Livres d’Or “Basics” Journal

Paper in the Basics are a glorious shade of off-white. The sketchbook is plain, and the journal has 10mm ruling (???) that doesn't run the full width of the page. I'm used to the 6mm ruling in a large Moleskine. (shown on the left) 10mm ruling reminds me of a children's diary. I just can't take it seriously, though I know there are some of you that use broad nibbed pens and prefer a wider line. The ruled Basics journal is not for me.

Exacompta Livres d’Or “Basics” Journal

100 sheets (200 pages) 25% cotton, pH neutral, 100g off white paper. LAID paper.... as in the little glorious grooves that you find on quality stationery..... As with all laid paper that I've seen, the grooves are heavier on one side of the paper than the other. In this example, I tested both sides of the paper. No problems with either. Every fountain pen tested, regardless of ink or nib used, wrote super smooth. No bleeding, no feathering, no spreading or see-though. I was kind of knocked over by this paper.....

This is not Clairefontaine paper, but instead, comes from a paper mill that Clairefontaine owns in the Netherlands that also manufactures the Lalo paper. You can read more about the mill, Here.

Close up of laid lines in Exacompta sketchbook

Close up of the laid lines.

Watercolor in Exacompta

100g plain quality paper? I decided to throw everything I had at it.... In this image, watercolors & Pitt Artist pens. Watercolors work WELL on this paper. They can be blended on the paper, and re-wet once dry. Yipee!

Colorful Mandala Hand in Sketchbook

Mandala Hand painted by brushing the tips of Neocolor II crayons with a Niji Waterbrush then applying directly to the paper.

Mantra doodles in Exacompta

Sennelier China/India Ink applied with a Cretacolor Calligraphy pen. Derwent Inktense pencils.

Watercolor expression in Exacompta

More watercolor, Noya Calligraphy Marker & Stabilo 88 marker.

Deep thought in a sketchbook

Caran D'Ache Neocolor II Water Soluble Crayons. Sharpie Marker & Staedtler Lumocolor. Sharpie & Staedtler bled, but not through to the next page.

Inky doodle in Sketchbook

Page painted with Private Reserve's Burgundy Mist Fountain Pen Ink. - note that the image is showing the ink WAY lighter than it looks in person.

Acrylic paint in journal...waiting for more

Page painted with acrylic fabric paint and is waiting for it's next application. This paper is remarkably resilient to all media I tried on it. It seems to love and welcome mixed media.

While I would love a hard cover and an elastic closure, this is one of the most unbelievable products I've found so far. It's so versatile. I want more. A whole bunch more. The sketchbook works great as a journal, or an art journal.

HIGHLY recommended. Love, Love, Love it. I had a hard time putting it down long enough to take the pictures. Additional pictures from the Exacompta review can be found Here.

This product was provided by Exaclair for the purpose of review.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Call me a paper snob if you want, but here's the deal...

092807 Flowers

All paper and art supplies are not created equal. Through all my research, that's as simple as I can state it.

If you have ever found yourself frustrated with thinking you can't do anything worthwhile with those colored pencils or watercolor paints that are sitting in your closet, it might be because the products may be of inferior quality, or you aren't using the best paper with your chosen media.

I'm well aware that some people are happy to use whatever is available, but there are also people that think they can't *do* something, and it's not necessarily for lack of talent.

Just today, I was testing two different brands of seemingly similar sketch paper. I found that despite them feeling similar to the touch, and being almost identical in weight, they performed quite differently when I tried using graphite pencils, colored pencils, Neocolor crayons and oil pastels. The one paper left me frustrated, and the other made me feel like I just wanted to sit and play with it all day.

So how do you know what's best for you? Start by asking a lot of questions, and do your research. Ask other artists their preferences - try the forum Wet Canvas or ask the people working at your local art supply store. Call Blick, or Cheap Joe's, or Daniel Smith. You won't really know if something works for you until you try it, but hopefully in the long run this might save you some money and frustration.

In my opinion, if you want to be creative, aim to select the tools that will enhance the experience rather than hinder it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Heart Day

Red Safari on Black Moleskine on Red Habana on get the idea

Whether or not you have a special someone to share today with, be sure to love yourself. Take a few moments just for you. :o)

Red Black Doodle

Mood (2)

Red Mandala - I like this one

Grande Red Ciak Journal

Colors of my Heart


Mandala Doodle

Fabriano Venezia Book

Red Hand*Book Doodle
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