Sunday, July 26, 2009


In The Moment

Anticipation is a killer.

You know when you have something cool coming up and it takes everything to keep from obsessing over it? These days I try oh-so very hard to live in this moment and not anticipate future events...but it's difficult.

On Wednesday I leave for my 4th year at Jim Donovan's Rhythm Renewal Retreat in Loretto, Pa. The event has 5 days of hand drumming workshops, African dance classes, shamanic journeying, didgeridoo lessons, and the most insane night jams... Oh and let's not forget Saturday night's mega concert, Night of 1000 Drums. This year will also be the my debut as a faculty member, teaching my workshop, "Mandala: An Artful Meditation." So to say the least, I'm pretty excited.

Rhythm Renewal is the one place where I feel totally at home and at peace. This is a community of some of the best people I've ever met. These are my peeps. Growing up I always felt like an outsider and out of my element in most every situation. But not at the Renewal- and the trick is to bring that positive energy back home and continue to ride it until the next most wonderful thing comes along, and so on and so on. To pass it along and allow the energy to become infectious.

The image above is entitled "In the Moment" and I painted it during the faculty jam at the 07 Renewal. It depicts my friends Harry Pepper, P.J. Roduta, Brian Fazio, Elie Kihonia & Jim Donovan. It has come to be my symbol for allowing my mind to be occupied by just one thing at a time.

Two more days, but I'll do my best to live each moment until I get in the car & drive out to Central Pa. I will be sure to document this year's experience, and share it here when I get back. Each year at the Renewal has gotten better & better, and I'm certain this year will be no exception.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

1 Week to My First Mandala Workshop


It's official. I am going to be teaching people how to make their own mandalas.

Next week, I will be doing a series of three workshops entitled "Mandala: An Artful Meditation" at Jim Donovan's Summer Rhythm Renewal retreat in Loretto, PA.

I am very excited to be doing this because I believe the mandala is a form of spiritual expression that anyone can do, even if they have no prior art experience. It's about releasing self judgments and simply allowing yourself to make marks on paper.

By injecting intention into the process, it can be used as a form of artful affirmation. Once completed, it can be used for reflection, or it can be destroyed as a form of letting go.

The video below shows some of the over 500 mandalas I have created in the last couple of years. It's set to music from the CD "Pulse" by Jim Donovan.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Review: Exacompta Forum w/ Chelsea Leather Cover

Exacompta Forum with Leather Cover

Looks like Inkophile beat me to the punch on reviewing the Forum. :o)

This is the Exacompta Forum journal with a red Chelsea Leather cover. The Chelsea soft leather cover can be filled with the Basic Forum refill #'s 1401, (365 undated pages & info) 1400, (blank) & 1404. (graph) When you buy the cover, it comes loaded with one refill.

Additional cover options include Club Leatherette & Nostalgie which are available in many colors and designs.

I've noticed on different sites that the Forum is sometimes referred to as "Basics" or as "Nostalgie." Be forwarned that the Livres d'or (also sometimes called "Basics") is a different product, in a different size. It will NOT fit the above mentioned covers.

Exacompta Forum with Leather Cover

The covers are 5x7" with the refills being slightly smaller. The Forum refills that have a "1" after the number, such as 1401/1 come with an elastic closure.

Exacompta Forum with Leather Cover

I'm not crazy about the elastic closure option on the refills. It's super loose. The refills have a stiff cardboard cover and they could be used without a protective cover.

Exacompta Forum with Leather Cover

And it has these metal ends that would make the book wonky to write in. I don't find them useful at all and luckily, they are quite easy to remove. (Refills without the elastic cost less.)

Exacompta Forum with Leather Cover

The Chelsea leather cover is soft, flexible and lies flat.

Exacompta Forum with Leather Cover

It has a slit in the inside flap where you can store business cards.

Exacompta Forum with Leather Cover

The refills simply slip into the cover, (remove the elastic first if yours has one) and you can also use the inner cover section as a pocket.

Exacompta Forum with Leather Cover

Pages are signature sewn.

Unfortunately, the forum does not lie flat. You will be writing in/out of a hump. If you only write on one side of the page, you will be fine.

Exacompta Forum with Leather Cover

The Forum journals have these little tearaway corners that you can use like a book mark. Finish the page, tear off the corner. I'm not a big fan of this feature. I tried it for a while and for whatever reason, the little paper bits never found their way to the garbage can and they were all over the place... I do love that the refills have rounded corners, but it would have been much better if the covers also had rounded corners. Chelsea and Club Leatherette covers have square corners, and some of the Nostalgie covers are rounded and some are square.

Exacompta Forum with Leather Cover

The paper in the forum is a smooth, satin finish, ph neutral white 80g 64g paper. While this paper feels very thin to me, I tested a ton of fountain pen inks and there was NO feathering or spreading. Only the tiniest of bleeding and that was only at the beginning of a line, near the inner crease of the book. However, you wil notice a good deal of see-through on the other side. if you use highly saturated inks, it could be a distraction.

Exacompta Forum with Leather Cover

More fountain pen inks tested in the Forum. Note that fountain pen inks take a little while to dry on this super smooth paper. When in doubt, use a blotter.

Exacompta Forum with Leather Cover

Stabilo markers loved this smooth paper.

Exacompta Forum with Leather Cover

The paper took watercolors just ok. Most super smooth paper is resistant to ink/water and that makes painting a little difficult unless you use a limited amount of water.

All in all, the Forum is a good product and the Chelsea cover appears to be well made. IMHO, the only real downside to it is it's inability to lie flat.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Review: Diamine Vermillion Fountain Pen Ink

Diamine Vermillion

Vermillion is a "New Century" Fountain Pen Ink. "Launched in January 2006, New Century Fountain Pen Ink is available in 30 vibrant shades also suitable for any fountain pen brand"

Tested in a .5 cursive italic Lamy Safari in a Paperblanks lined journal with off white pages.

It's the color of a ripe tomato - an orangey red. Saturated with a little shading. This ink is very dry and it took effort to push the nib across the page. When that happens to me I want to flush the ink out of the pen and just be done with it. Nothing frustrates me more. I'd rather write with a less than ideal color with great flow than a perfect color with bad flow.

It's close in shade to my now-favorite Poppy Red though nowhere near as saturated. I'm sticking with the Poppy Red.

Buy Diamine Inks in the UK at The Writing Desk or directly from Diamine and in the US from The Pear Tree Pen Company Ink is sold in 80ml glass bottles, 30 ml plastic bottles, and selected colors are available in cartridge form.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Review: Diamine Kelly Green Fountain Pen Ink

Diamine Kelly Green Mandala

Kelly Green Mandala in a Fabriano Classic Artist's Journal.

Diamine Kelly Green

Kelly Green is a "New Century" Fountain Pen Ink "Launched in January 2006, New Century Fountain Pen Ink is available in 30 vibrant shades also suitable for any fountain pen brand"

Tested in a Paperblanks lined journal with off white pages in a medium nibbed Sailor Sapporo fountain pen.

The color? I'm thinking pea puree, or maybe one of Iron Chef Bobby Flay's signature herb sauces. This ink is saturated with great shading. I'm actually surprised at how saturated it is. It's the color of wheat grass juice from Jamba Juice. Good flow - but note that I'm testing it in one of my widest nibbed pens.

I'm not usually a big fan of green inks but this one? Three words. I'm keeping it. It's vibrant and fun and any ink that makes me want to draw is usually one worth holding on to.

Buy Diamine Inks in the UK at The Writing Desk or directly from Diamine and in the US from The Pear Tree Pen Company Ink is sold in 80ml glass bottles, 30 ml plastic bottles, and selected colors are available in cartridge form.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Review: Diamine Sunshine Yellow Fountain Pen Ink

Mandala Doodle

Sunshine mandala drawn with Diamine Sunshine Yellow ink on Clairefontaine Ingres/Pastel White Laid paper.

Diamine Sunshine Yellow

Sunshine Yellow is a "New Century" Fountain Pen Ink "Launched in January 2006, New Century Fountain Pen Ink is available in 30 vibrant shades also suitable for any fountain pen brand"

Diamine Sunshine Yellow tested in a lined Paperblanks journal with off-white paper.

This is my favorite shade of yellow, and in watercolors, it would be New Gamboge. A bright yellow that leans more towards orange than lemon. The ink is saturated enough that you can see (for the most part) what you are writing. There is shading but you really have to look for it.

I put this ink into one of my smoothest writing pens - one with outstanding flow and this ink was really very dry. I had to work to push the nib across the paper and that's a total bummer because I love the color so much. Perhaps the flow might be better in a wide-nibbed pen.

I'm struggling to decide whether or not to keep it but if I do, I'd only be using it to paint with as I don't want to struggle to write no matter how awesome the color.

Buy Diamine Inks in the UK at The Writing Desk or directly from Diamine and in the US from The Pear Tree Pen Company Ink is sold in 80ml glass bottles, 30 ml plastic bottles, and selected colors are available in cartridge form.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Review: Jim Donovan's new CD entitled, "Let Go"

A while back I introduced you to my friend Jim Donovan, then I later wrote about how he graciously granted me permission to use a piece of his music from his CD "Pulse" for my mandala video and now I'd like to share his new CD with you, entitled "Let Go."

What kind of music is it? It's "a deliciously hypnotic compilation of down tempo ambient chill music with a groove designed to sooth your soul" and to me, it's absolutely glorious. One day while I was writing, I allowed the CD to repeat 4 or 5 times and the words just kept pouring and pouring out of me... they were filled with so much emotion. It's truly a magical thing when you find a particular piece of music that just lets you tap into that kind of energy. Ambient/chill music always seems to do that for me. It pulls me out of my head and allows me to drop into the moment. "Let Go" - this is the good stuff...

Reading through the liner notes, I was fascinated with the process that brought this project to light:

"Over the years, I have created music that reflected my current inspirations. The styles of music have been varied- from electronic to percussive to ambient, and each piece was charged with a specific intent. In listening to over a decade’s worth of these recordings, I found that there was a common thread that ran through all of it, and that thread was openness. Being open to what life has to offer and in turn, letting go of patterns and habits that no longer served me.

In this compilation, I selected music from three very distinct periods of my life. I have chosen not only to re-master and present each piece in an updated format, but to re-frame them into a new body of work with the intent that the listener can connect to that openness." - Jim Donovan

I just love that because it really speaks to me as an artist. You create something in a particular moment with a specific intent, and you become intimately connected to it. As time passes and the emotional charge that inspired the initial creation has decreased or disappeared, you can start to look at your body of work in a whole new light. You may have once never thought that your varied creations could ever be connected to one another, but with the passage of time, you can't see it as being any other way.

Listen to samples of "Let Go" and then buy it from CD Baby.

For other CDs, DVDs, workshop and tour dates, visit Jim on the Web:


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Review: Faber Castell Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils

Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils

Since I love to paint with watercolors it was only a matter of time that I tried working with watercolor pencils. I actually bought a small set of Derwent Inktense pencils a while back, but they are permanent once dry and do not work the same as a regular WC pencil. They will be discussed in a future blog post.

Though slightly more expensive than other brands, I decided to go with the Albrecht Durer pencils after Cathy Johnson gave them the thumbs up. I wanted pencils that would be smooth to work with, would lay down a high concentration of pigment, and also blend well with each other.

Seeing that I could purchase individual pencils at roughly the same cost of a set, I chose the above colors on a recent trip to Blick. Since most all of my work is abstract, I picked what I felt were the brightest and most fun colors they had to offer. Once home, I did the obligatory color chart. I found the pencils to be just what I wanted - smooth and vibrant.

The color chart is important because the dry pencil marks look very different once you add water. They go down very dark, get super vibrant when wet, and dry lighter than you might expect. I understand this is typical of watercolor pencils.

Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils - Kandinsky Inspired

Kandinsky inspired pencil testing. Multiple colors drawn in circles to see how well the colors blended. I'm happy with the results.

Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils

I then moved on and played around with attempting to mix specific colors. Seemed to work quite well.

Watercolor Pencil Mandala

I then jumped in and decided to color in this mandala. And that's just what I did. I completely colored it in and then I carefully painted water over it with a Niji Waterbrush. It ended up a little sloppy because you can't really allow one section to touch another while wet or they will run together. I also found that it's really not necessary to completely fill a section in with color - it's overkill. A few strokes will suffice, and you can always go back and add more later.

Watercolor Pencil Mandala

On this next piece, I used less pencil. I would draw a few lines with the pencil and then pull out the color with the waterbrush. If I wanted to darken an area, I'd add more pencil once an area was dry then re-wet.

Watercolor Pencil Doodle

An experiment in blending. Scribbled multi-colored lines were laid down first, and then I applied water. Black marker was added last.

Dotted Mandala

This piece was drawn with the pencils, water was applied, then the marker.

Inspired Mandala

And lastly, this was probably my favorite technique of all - picking up color from the tip of the pencil with the waterbrush and then painting with it. That makes for some extremely portable painting supplies - just a few pencils, a waterbrush and a paper towel to wipe the tip of the brush. Splendid!

I am quite happy with this purchase and would recommend these pencils to anyone. A set of 24 runs about $40 and you can buy them at Blick. They can also be purchased as open stock to test a few at a time or to build your own palette the way I did.

A cold pressed Clairefontaine Watercolor Pad was used for each of these examples. Your results will vary depending on the type of paper used.

Monday, July 6, 2009

What is your favorite shade of blue or green ink?

Diamine Greens and Blues

A few weeks ago when I posted a blog on how I had swabbed all 60 Diamine Fountain Pen Inks, I broke them down into three color groupings: green to blue, yellow to red, and purple to brown. Of each of the three images, the greens and blues got twice as many hits as the other two and it led me to question, what shades of blue and green are people most searching for?

Are you looking for a bright shamrock green or a vivid blueberry? Or do you prefer more muted shades - like an olive green or a Prussian blue?

I've already worked through quite a number of these inks - Emerald, Umber, Kelly Green, Jade Green, Steel Blue, Aqua Blue, Royal Blue, Sapphire Blue, Prussian Blue and Majestic Blue. (Reviews are in the works) While I'm typically not a blue/green sort of ink user, I surprisingly found myself liking more of these colors than I initially thought I would.

So how about it folks? Which shades of blue and green are your favorites, or which are you still searching for?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ever try painting with your fountain pen inks?

063008 And this is my Reality. Elemental Mandala Doodle

As most fountain pen inks are water based and non-permanent, it was completely by accident that I found I could do more than simply write and draw with my inks.

This piece was done on Fabriano Hot Press Watercolor paper. I drew it with a Lamy Safari fountain pen filled with Private Reserve's Burgundy Mist ink. I wanted to add some color around the drawing so grabbed a Niji Waterbrush to paint the border a reddish brown. (Using watercolor paint) Because I wasn't working as carefully as I should have been, I accidentally got some of the ink lines wet, but quickly realized that I could use this to my advantage. All of the pink(ish) color you see was created by running the wet brush against the ink lines.

Purple Haze - a mistake turned to inspiration!

These next pieces were created by dipping a watercolor brush directly into a bottle of Private Reserve's Purple Haze ink then painting with it. I loved the shading that resulted from using the brush. Note: I often have a difficult time re-creating the color purple with my camera and scanner, but I assure you, this is purple.

Mixed Media Mandala

This piece started as the one in the upper right corner of the previous image. I used Fabriano Hot Press Watercolor paper, Private Reserve's Purple Haze ink, a Faber Castell Pitt Artist pen, and Prismacolor colored pencils.

Ink Mandala

Private Reserve's Burgundy Mist ink painted with a brush.

I filled my waterbrush with Rouge Opera

For the above image, I filled a Niji Waterbrush with J. Herbin's Rouge Opera ink and then painted with it on Clairefontaine fine art watercolor paper.

Mandala Doodle

This piece was drawn with a Lamy Safari filled with Diamine's Coral, which is an orangey-pink ink. Washing over with a waterbrush brought out the pink.

Mandala Doodle

Similar scenario to the above image though I believe this is Diamine's Sapphire Blue.

Ink & Paint Mandala

And lastly, this piece was first drawn with a permanent Staedtler Lumocolor marker on thick Clairefontaine fine art paper. I then used the waterbrush filled with Rouge Opera, to fill it in, and some Winsor & Newton pan paints from my Bijou Box to add the yellowish orange sections. I went back over certain parts of the image with the Rouge Opera to add depth and I do believe it builds up nicely.

New Niji Waterbrush

Niji Waterbrush. I buy mine at Blick - though I am aware that similar products exist from other manufacturers. It's basically a paintbrush with a built-in refillable water supply.
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