Friday, October 30, 2009

Would you like to win a free Rhodia Webnotebook?

Most of you probably know that I am also the voice behind Rhodia Drive but for those of you who don't, I would like to take a moment to introduce you to the blog by inviting you to enter to win one of fifteen large 90g Rhodia Webnotebooks. These journals are in high demand as their smooth 90g fountain pen friendly paper is a dream to write on. Visit Rhodia Drive to enter to win!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Review: Diamine Flamingo Pink Fountain Pen Ink

Diamine Flamingo Pink

Diamine New Century Flamingo Pink Ink tested in an off-white ruled Paperblanks journal with an EF Lamy Safari fountain pen.

Decent flow, though a bit on the dry side. Another Diamine ink that I don't think is responding well on an off-white paper.

I'm not liking the color at all because it doesn't seem to know what color it wants to be. It's an orangey pink. Moderately saturated, it shows a lot of bright pink shading. Shows more pink on the white Rhodia paper. It's kind of like an original Hubba Bubba Bubble Gum pink. My favoriteDiamine pink is still Cerise which is a more bluish pink than a reddish pink.

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.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Review: Clairefontaine Triomphe Writing Tablets

Clairefontaine Triomphe Paper

Sailor 1911 fountain pen and Pelikan R400 Rollerball sitting on top of a 90g Clairefontaine Triomphe writing pad.

Clairefontaine Triomphe Paper

To put it simply, this is hands down the SMOOTHEST writing paper I've ever used.

With the exception of the Sharpie markers, nothing is bleeding, feathering or spreading. Fountain pens and inks LOVE this paper! All of the fountain pen nibs are writing true to size and this paper does NOT exhibit the drag that I've experienced with the journal bound Clairefontaine paper. This paper is smoother and does not feel coated. I love that this paper comes blank or lined. (Blank pad comes with a sheet of ruled paper that can be used as a writing guide.) The cover on the pad folds neatly back and the 5x8" size is very comfortable to use while writing on my knee.

As this paper is extremely smooth, it is more resistant to ink which means that water based fountain pen inks or gel pen inks will take a few additional moments to dry. Be patient or try using a blotter if you are a fast writer or are left handed. When tested, both lined and blank paper exhibited the same qualities. Great for letter writing or doodling.

Triomphe pads come in 5 ¾ x 8 ¼" and 8 ¼ x 11 ¾" sizes and also in 4 3/8 X 8 5/8" and 4 1/2 X 6 3/8"Self-sealing Envelopes

Clairefontaine Triomphe Test

I decided to try a number of different art products on the blank pad to see what worked/didn't work. All of the markers I tested (Sharpie, Bic Mark-it, Faber Castell Brush Pens) worked extremely well and the colors were nice & vibrant. The permanent markers (Sharpie & Bic) bled as expected.

As the surface is super smooth, pencils don't really love this paper. I tested Prismacolor colored pencils, Derwent Inktence pencils and Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils- the only ones that seemed to move nicely across the paper were the Albrecht Durer. I also tested the paper with various water based media - The Albrecht Durer Pencils, Inktense pencils, Daniel Smith Watercolor Sticks, Neocolor II crayons & a few artist grade watercolor paints. Watercolor paper in general is meant to absorb the water/paint while writing paper is meant to resist it. I never expect any paper that is not specifically designed for this kind of media to be great with water, and with the Triomphe, I found that the less water you use to apply any of these products the better your results. Neocolor II's and the AD Watercolor pencils are examples of products that allow you to touch them a wet brush to pick up the color- and on this paper, this technique worked better than applying the pencil/crayon to the paper and then washing over it.

Clairefontaine Triomphe Test

Reverse of paper.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My short lived relationship with Prismacolor Markers

010607 Breath, Mind, Spirit

Admittedly, I was probably using them on the wrong paper. Paper that pulled the ink from the pen faster than a slot machine eats your hard earned paycheck. At the time, this was one of those, "I have to have a set!" situations that drives me bonkers until I have the item in my grubby little hands. I had heard good things about these markers and had seen a lot of great art created with them but they just never really did anything for me. I didn't know how to blend, and I didn't really know how to layer without one running into another in a less than pleasing way.

I no longer have the markers, but I do have a few pretty cool pieces of art that I created with them including my first ever - you heard it right, my first EVER mandala

010607 Prismacolor Meditation Mandala

Monday, October 26, 2009

Review: Diamine Prussian Blue Fountain Pen Ink

Diamine Prussian Blue

Diamine Old English Prussian Blue tested in an off-white ruled Paperblanks journal with an EF Lamy Studio.

Blue-Black for sure. Similar but slightly more blue than Sailor Blue-Black but without the horrible Sailor ink smell.

Flow is good, (Sailor Blue-Black flow is outstanding) ink is saturated. Slight shading is evident.

I prefer to use off-white paper but this ink doesn't do anything for me on off-white. I think I'll stick with the Sailor despite it's awful smell.

Also tested on a Rhodia graph pad. Color is easier to discern on white and appears to be slightly less saturated and is showing more shading on this paper.

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.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Painting it Mine...

Painting a plate
Colors below the black are dry - black is starting to dry from the middle outward.

This is the finished piece I left behind tonight to be firedat my local Color Me Mine shop. Color Me Mine is one of those places where you go in, select a piece of pottery, paint it and then go back and pick it up once it's been fired. I had been wanting to try this for forever and a day.

A billion years ago, I used to paint ceramics when I was a member at the local Girl's Club. I remember that you had two painting options. Paint it with one kind of paint where you had to wait for it to be fired, or paint it with a different kind of paint (I think it was acrylic) where you could take it home right away. I remember the "right away" paint as being incredibly vibrant and that's the look I was hoping for when I stepped into the shop.

Painting a plate
Colors in this picture are still drying. I sped up the process by using a hairdryer.

Unfortunately, these paints didn't work like I had imagined. You had to paint from light to dark, and you had to do at least three coats if you wanted the colors to be somewhat opaque. The paints were thick and chalky and were difficult to apply. They would go on thick and you couldn't work them too long or they would start to dry. To avoid showing the brush marks, I sloppily slathered on coat after coat of this paint and to be quite honest, I was a little frustrated at how long it took. And the colors? They are close to impossible to tell what they will look like until they are fired. They had samples of the finished colors, but I still had to do my best to guess at how this will turn out. I used my "typical" palette of pinks, oranges, reds & burgundy. That purple in the image? It will be burgundy, not purple. My favorite part was adding the black, which was applied using a little squeeze bottle with a needle tip. In fact, I liked doing that part so much that once the above piece was finished, I selected a smaller plain plate and just did a simple black design.

Painting a plate

The total cost? About $30. The sitting fee was $10 (and you can sit there and paint all day if you like...) the large plate $12 and the small $8.25. It will take 7-14 days for my pieces to be fired because the kilns are off site.

I was lucky to pop in on a Thursday night - I was the only one there and I appreciated the solitude. Will I do it again? Not sure. It depends on how that top piece turns out. if it's spectacular, I might do it again. If not, maybe I'll buy some acrylic paint and paint on some of my old record albums instead.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Review: Paperblanks Handstitched Tao Blossoms Blank Journal

Paper Blanks Hand Stitched Tao

From the Paperblanks site:

Handstitched Tao: four masters of stillness

"Traditional Chinese painters aimed to capture the inner essence of the visual form. Their rhythmic brushstrokes on silk or paper were attuned to give form to the invisible forces of the universe — the Tao that pervades the world we inhabit. These paintings by four Chinese Masters of the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries reveal the workings of the Tao through the vitality and expressiveness of their brushstrokes and the harmonious rhythm of composition. "

Ultra — 7″ × 9″ — 128 pages
Midi — 4¾″ × 6¾″ — 128 pages
Handstitched binding — Memento pouch

Paper Blanks Hand Stitched Tao

Paper Blanks Hand Stitched Tao

The way this binding is stitched allows the book to open and lie very flat.

Paper Blanks Hand Stitched Tao

My only issue with this book is that since the cover paper/design is flat on this model, it allows the cover to become easily scratched.

Stabilo Marker Mandala in Paperblanks journal

Off white paper makes markers look bright and vibrant.

Sketching in a paperblanks journal

Fountain pen inks work well on this paper and you can refer to my original Paperblanks review for more fountain pen ink comments. In fact, I've been using a different lined Paperblanks journal for all of my Diamine ink tests.

Still trying to figure out these Derwent Inktense pencils

Doodling with a Pitt Artist Pen and Derwent Inktense pencils. Water was applied with a Niji Waterbrush to the first layer of pencil. Colors came out vibrant on this paper.

Groovy people

Painting with artist grade watercolor paints. As this paper has a high clay content- which allows it to resist inks, (this means no feathering or bleedthrough) it's not the world's greatest paper for painting with watercolor. It seems as though the less water you use, the better.


Image was colored with Neocolor II Water Soluble Crayons and then brushed over with water. See the way it's difficult to get the strokes to blend?

Watercolor mandala in a Paperblanks Journal

On the above image, I touched the tip of the wet brush against the crayon to pick up the color and then painted with the brush. This method allows you to use less water and apply a thicker layer of color.

All in all, I like Paperblanks products. I like that their paper is fountain pen friendly and that they have about a million cover options. (Except for plain black. LOL) I think this book would make for a pretty decent art journal with its ability to lie flat. Pencils, pens, markers all love this paper - and when you paint with watercolors, I recommend doing it in a way that uses less water than more.

Buy Paperblanks at Barnes & Noble, Borders,, and

Product was provided by manufacturer at my request for purposes of review.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Review: Diamine Onyx Black Fountain Pen Ink

Diamine Onyx Black

Diamine New Century Onyx Black ink tested in an off-white ruled Paperblanks journal with an EF Lamy Safari fountain pen.

IMHO - the darkest, most saturated of Diamine's 3 black inks. In fact, it seems as though it may even be darker than Herbin's Perle Noire - my current favorite black ink because of its saturation and flow.

Right now, I have this Onyx ink in one of my favorite Lamy Safari's and it's flowing effortlessly. Very saturated and I can't really see any shading.

This ink may beat out the Herbin as my favorite black ink. I've noticed that the Perle Noire will sometimes push through on certain papers. If the Onyx does not, it just might become my number one black ink. Further tests & comparisons will need to be performed but for now, I am definitely keeping this one.

Diamine Onyx Black Mandala

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, October 20, 2009

Inside Out Mandala on Clairefontaine Laid Paper

Inside Out Mandala

Working larger than usual, this was done on 12 x 15.5" Clairefontaine Ingres/Pastel White Laid Paper. I have absolutely fallen in love with this paper for all things marker, pen & ink. This time I first outlined the mandala with a Faber Castell Pitt Artist Brush Pen. I then used watercolor paints in the center, but was a bit disappointed at how they came out. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. This isn't a paper that's designed to be used with water but ironically, a similar laid paper (but in a heavier weight) made at Clairefontaine's Schut Mills in the Netherlands is used in the Exacompta Sketchbook and that paper does seem to take watercolor paint better than this lighter paper which is designed for pastel use.

Deciding that the center color wasn't up to my standards, I colored over the watercolor with colored pencils. Forgive me, but I can't remember which. I think it was regular Prismacolor.

I have to be honest & tell you all a little secret about this piece which is that I don't really have a lot of patience for filling in my designs with color. I can only go so far and "that's enough." And then I move onto something else. :o)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Review: Diamine Mediterranean Blue Fountain Pen Ink

Diamine Mediterranean Blue

Diamine Mediterranean Blue ink tested in an off-white ruled Paperblanks journal with a .7 Cursive Italic Pelikan M200 fountain pen.

To me, one of the best tests of an inks flow is to put it one of my pens that has a cursive italic nib. If I can't "feel" the corners of the nib on the paper as I write, then I know it's got good flow. If I can feel the corners dig into the paper, then I know it's too dry/thin for my tastes and I will not likely care for it in a thinner nibbed pen - like an Extra Fine.

This ink has excellent flow.

I sometimes get stuck on how to describe blue inks because it's not what I'm used to using and if I do, it's usually a much darker blue. I'd call this a bright middle blue. Moderately saturated with great shading. (Similar in saturation to Diamine's Royal Blue) Remember the color of those blue freeze-pops from when you were a kid? This is that same color. It reminds me of a darker version of Herbin's Bleu Prevenche - which I am a fan of. I am going to keep this one around for a while - especially in this pen.

Mediterranean Blue Mandala

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, October 15, 2009



It's unusual these days for me to have this much patience to work on a single piece but I'm glad I stuck with it because I'm really happy with how it turned out. Not sure which black pen that was... maybe a Black F Pitt Pen? Red is Diamine's Poppy Red - in a cursive italic Lamy Safari fountain pen. This piece was created in a Fabriano Classic Artists Journal.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Review: Diamine Scarlet Fountain Pen Ink

Diamine Scarlet

Diamine Old English Scarlet fountain pen ink tested in an off-white lined Paperblanks journal with a .7 (Binderized) Cursive Italic Pelikan M200 fountain pen.

Isn't Scarlet supposed to be Red? This is a dark pink if I ever saw one.

The flow is difficult to describe in this pen. It flows freely but it seems...thin, because the edges of this nib are catching on the paper... It could be my writing angle - so I'm not sure I would call it dry - maybe just thin.

Ink is moderately saturated with lots of shading. A super vibrant dark pink that I would probably call fuchsia. This one isn't for me - I really like my colors darker - like Diamine's Amaranth.

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, October 12, 2009

Review: Diamine Orange Fountain Pen Ink

Diamine Orange Mandala

Mandala drawn with Diamine Old English fountain pen ink.

Diamine Orange

Diamine Orange tested in an off-white lined Paperblanks journal with a medium nibbed Lamy Safari fountain pen.

This ink appears to be the ULTIMATE orange ink. As in Sunkist Orange. Syracuse Orangemen Orange, Rhodia Orange, Halloween Orange.

Orange Orange Orange

Super flow in this medium nib. Ink is very saturated and shading is difficult to see. Diamine Pumpkin is a darker orange - more like what I would refer to as a "blood orange."

Diamine Orange is a very vibrant ink - but not something I would normally use, (I actually prefer the Pumpkin) but for fans of good old orange, this one is for you!

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.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Photo Editing Frustrations

Taken in bright sunlight with Canon Elph - no manipulation

As I really like to maintain copies of my original artwork, I usually photograph them with my Canon PowerShot SD 1000 7 megapixel Digital Elph. While I have been doing this for quite a while, I can never seem to get it right. (On a consistent basis) This top image was taken in full sunlight. I try auto mode, manual mode, macro mode and several different white balance settings and this is what I often end up with. This image is completely unedited and unusable as is.

Taken in bright sunlight with Canon Elph - Picasa Auto Contrast

When I got my new computer, I decided to forgo installing the resource hog that is Photoshop and started editing everything with Picasa - Google's free image editor. Usually it works out pretty well for me, but in this case, it's not. My usual routine is to balance the image by using the neutral color picker by clicking on a white area in the image, then use the auto contrast function, then add a bit of sharpness. In the above image, all I used was the auto contrast. Further tweaking with the Fill Light, Highlights, and Shadows sliders couldn't do the image justice. It still looks dull & flat. Unusable.

Taken in bright sunlight with Canon Elph - Picasa I'm feeling Lucky

For grins, I try the "I'm feeling lucky" button. Um.... No. As far as I'm concerned, I can't get a usable version of this print so I will need to try photographing it with late afternoon sun to see if it will come out any better. What irks me is that the images always look good in the viewfinder - even when I zoom. It's not until I put them onscreen that I see how horrible they are.

Scanned - no manipulation

This time I try scanning it with my Canon D660U scanner - but I already know what's going to happen. It's going to blow out. White paper always seems to create a blown out image such as this and I have tried & tried to adjust any and all settings in relation to my scanner & it's software & this is what I get. This is an unedited 180spi scan. Unusable.

Scanned - Picasa Auto Contrast

I give Picasa's Auto Contrast button a go and no way... Completely oversaturated with no detail on the rough surface of the watercolor paper. No manual tweaking can better this image.

Scanned - Picasa I'm feeling Lucky

Once again, I hit the "I'm feeling lucky" button and no better. Still oversaturated & blown out.

I feel like I'm missing something obvious. Is it the camera that just can't handle the white paper in bright light? Is the white paper going to always make my scanner go bonkers?


Any suggestions? I've already decided to pick my "favorite" images and have them (high-res) scanned at a local camera shop but I wish there was a way I could do this by myself with consistent results.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chocolate Covered Strawberries and Happy Birthday Gram


When I was maybe 12 years old, Gram and I would walk downtown for lunch at the local department store. Yes, you heard right. Department stores used to have their own built-in restaurants. Ironically, while that store is now long gone a restaurant is now housed in that same location and whenever I eat there, I can't help but think, "This used to be the shoe department where I would throw a fit and kick the salesman whenever he tried to place a shoe anywhere near my foot."

I can remember us walking past a deli and I saw something completely new to my young eyes. Giant strawberries the size of my 12 year old fist covered in chocolate. "Gram, can I have one of those?" Dipping into her pocketbook, (the one that always had a few fuzzy butterscotch candies at the bottom) she bought one for each of us. Taking a huge bite, she must have seen my eyes widening in delight because she said to me, "Next time, I'll make these for you." And that she did. Every year she would buy all of the leftover chocolate Easter bunnies from the drugstore down the street and melt them over a double boiler on her stove. She'd dip one strawberry after another and place them wax paper then into the fridge to cool. Not long after, I'd pull the plate from the fridge and she would let me eat every single one.

Gram loved me and I loved her.

She would have been 87 today.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Green and Blue Mandalas

Andy's Mandala

This first mandala was a special piece that I created for my friend Andy. I created it on Clairefontaine watercolor paper first by painting it with artist grade watercolor paints and then adding the design with marker. The mantra surrounding the mandala is one of illumination - the Gayatri mantra.

Watercolor Mandala

Another watercolor mandala on Clairefontaine watercolor paper.

Blue & Green Mandala

This mandala was drawn on off-white laid Fontaine pastel paper with marker and then colored in with Prismacolor colored pencils.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Review: Diamine Quartz Black Fountain Pen Ink

Diamine Quartz Black

Diamine New Century Quartz Black ink tested in an off-white lined Paperblanks journal with a F nibbed Sailor 1911 - one of my thinnest nibs which can sometimes be a bit of a dry writer.

This ink goes down dark but lightens as it dries. I'm a fan of super black inks and this isn't as saturated as I would prefer. (Perhaps a wider nib would put down a wetter, darker line.) After finding Herbin's Perle Noire, no other black ink seems saturated enough for me. The Quartz Black seems to have good flow - reminds me (in color) of Pelikan Brilliant Black or Sailor Gentle Black. (Not the Nano but the regular Gentle.) You can see shading with this ink and for me, if you can see shading with a black ink, it's not black enough for me.

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, October 1, 2009

My Trip to NYC: Exaclair, Art Brown, Mr. Nagahara Pen Tweaks & the new Sailor Realo

Me & Karen at Exaclair

Last month, I took a trip into Manhattan to meet with Karen Doherty at Exaclair to discuss Rhodia Drive. I know many of you have communicated with her and isn't it nice to finally put a face to a name?

Karen's "Stash"

Karen's office stash of Clairefontaine, Rhodia and Herbin goodness.

Art Brown in NYC

We took a trip to Art Brown International Pen Shop because Mr. Nagahara from the Sailor pen company was going to be there doing pen clinics and we wanted our Sailor pen nibs tweaked by the master. (Kind of like having Gordon Ramsey sharpen your kitchen knives.)

Mr. Nagahara tweaks my Sailor

Mr. Nagahara examines the nib of my Sailor 1911.

Mr. Nagahara tweaks my Sailor

Mr. Nagahara perfecting the surface of my pen nib.

Mr. Nagahara tweaks my Sailor

Adding the finishing touches. I had him tweak my 1911 and my Sapporo. Each tweaking took only minutes to perform and it was free.

Karen having her Magellan tweaked by Mr. Nagahara from Sailor

This is Karen having the nib of her Sailor Magellan tweaked while Exaclair intern Max watches.

New Sailor Realo

It appeared that there were Sailor sales reps on hand to demonstrate the new Sailor Realo - Sailor's first fountain pen utilizing a piston filling system. (That woman should be a hand model)

New Sailor Realo

The Sailor Realo up close and personal. It appeared to be a very large pen. As I was pressed for time and since there were people looking at it that seemed to be interested in buying it, (at $400) I decided to not interrupt a potential sale with questions or additional photos..

All in all - a glorious day which included the BEST falafel EVER from a place in Chelsea called Pita Pan. I need to get back to the city fairly soon so I can spend a little more time at Art Brown and maybe also New York Central Art Supply. NYC has so many glorious old fashioned specialty stores and I could spend all day there!
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