Archive for June, 2010

Three Bees Prepare for a Night on the Town

Pen and Ink, Watercolor

I always thought being a botanical/textbook illustrator would be an excellent job.


Junebug Watercolors

I just ordered some new watercolor brushes… they haven’t arrived yet, but I’m trying to get back in the rhythm of painting in the meantime.

A College Career in Journals

My senior year of high school, I carried a moleskine notebook with me at all times. I was slowly (and painfully) detaching myself from high school, and I didn’t speak much that year– everything went into the book. It was sort of a compulsion, really: I had this tiny, meticulous handwriting, and I wrote in complete, cohesive sentences, often in essay-style. I copied down every quote that was meaningful to me, every conversation I overheard, nearly every unique thought that passed through my mind. And I neatly pasted in every receipt, ticket stub, every scrap of paper that I came across. My doodles were always photo-realistic, never imaginative. Looking back on it now, I see that year as a process of collecting the disparate scraps of myself before leaving for college.

So then, the turning point: I went to see a film with my dad, and my bag was stolen from under my seat. With my journal in it.

…and I learned the very important lesson, that you should always keep yourself whole enough to survive a stolen book.


I think my mistake was trying to make it honest and beautiful at the same time. I remember writing down horribly secret things that I had never spoken or written before: mortified, and brutally protective of the book afterwards. That honesty was necessary, but I had to set a lot of very restrictive boundaries for writing at the time: I only wrote in pencil, because I didn’t want to see any crossed-out mistakes. I would erase and re-erase until I had accurately articulated the feeling, event or thought that I wanted to convey. If I forgot to paste a ticket stub in, I felt furious– like something was missing and the book was incomplete. And I never allowed myself to go back and read my earlier writing.

After that book was stolen, I didn’t journal for my entire first year at college. It was too painful, and I was exhausted. I didn’t have the energy to put my life together so compactly again.

As it turns out, that painful transition was a Seriously Great Thing. For the first time in my life, I really embraced the place that I was in (which is to say, college). I explored it. I introduced myself to people, I put myself out there, I took risks. I cut my hair off. I got straight A’s, fell in love, twice, and began to see myself better, and more clearly. Basically, I put my energy into my life instead.

Back to the Book

But let’s face it, I’m a creative writing major: I need some paper in my life. I transferred schools, feeling infinitely grateful to my first college and peaceful about leaving it. This time, when I returned to the habit of writing things down, I began using a pen. Which meant I crossed things out, a lot, and my handwriting was larger and looser. I also discovered how inferior moleskine paper is.

And this time, I tried to be okay with leaving things out. I sought a balance between living my life, and distilling it onto paper. I reconnected with the art of writing itself, received my first fountain pen from my dad, and began to think more critically about the environmental impact of being a writer…

I can’t say that my three years of living at Kenyon were more meaningful than my first year at Hollins. But I can say that (slowly and consciously) I began to integrate writing into my life in a healthy way– a way that I could see playing into my future and my profession.

And shucks, it does feel nice to look at that stack of notebooks and know that my tumultuous, rewarding college career is messily contained within it.

Blank Book Showdown: Habana v Rhodia

…but really, they’re from the same parent company, so think of it more as a “meeting of similar interests” than a showdown.

Rhodia “Webbie” Webnotebook

  • 5-1/2″ x 8-1/4″
  • 90g blank ivory Clairefontaine paper
  • Orange Italian leatherette hard cover with an embossed Rhodia logo
  • 96 sheets (192 pages total)
  • Inner pocket, elastic closure, rounded corners
  • Ordered mine from Goulet Pen Company for $18.75 (thanks Brian!)

Quo Vadis “Looking For A Nickname” Habana Notebook

  • 6-1/4″ x 9-1/4″
  • 90g blank extra-white Clairefontaine paper
  • “Leather-like” semi-flexible cover (anyone know material these covers are actually made of?) with discrete embossed logo
  • 80 sheets (160 pages total)
  • Inner pocket, elastic closure, rounded corners
  • Got mine as a free sample for review, but available for $18.75 from Goulet Pen Company

Compared: First Impressions

So, as you can see from the top image (and the macros above), the Rhodia’s embossed logo is front and center, while the Quo Vadis logo is more discretely placed in the lower right corner. Neither are obtrusive, and the Rhodia logo’s placement fits with the rest of their line of notebooks. The  Webbie looks and feels sturdier, which I suppose is the difference between a “leatherette” cover and the Habana’s “leather-like” cover. The webbie is also a bit fatter, as it contains 96 sheets instead of the Habana’s 80.

Snuggling Notebooks

Although they are both square notebooks with rounded corners, the Habana’s spine is more squared off, while the Webbie’s is more rounded.

Pardon my Shadow!

As far as size goes, these are both very, very portable notebooks. Neither of these sizes is going to fit in your pocket, but they’re both definitely “tuckable” –into bags, notebooks, whatever. What the Rhodia has in its small size, the Habana notebook has in slimness.

Compared: Delving Inside the Covers

Inside the Front Cover

Looks like similar construction to me...

So the Rhodia has sort of a monotone-thing going on, when it comes to color scheme. The elastic closure and the ribbon bookmark are both as orange as the cover, and the covers are orange on the inside as well. Depending on your perspective, this could be seen as minimalist chic, or as just way too orange. Compare this to the Quo Vadis’ color scheme: key lime cover, white inside the covers, and black bookmark. Which, again, could be chic or gaudy, depending on your perspective.

So keep in mind that I’ve been using the Quo Vadis as a journal for a while now, which is why it looks a little stuffed in the above picture. But this image might give you an idea of each notebook’s color scheme. As an artist and graphic designer, I honestly would never have picked ivory paper and orange covers, but between the two of us, the Webbie’s combination does seem a smidge classier than the Habana. (It’s a shame that the Habana comes in my least favorite notebook colors: raspberry, red, lime, and black. I was really hoping for the taupe version with blank paper…)

Back Pockets-- both equally handy!

One of the most significant differences, though, is the actual paper that you’ll be writing on. This is, after all, the reason that you buy a notebook in the first place, is it not? Although both these paper are listed as 90g, I find that the Habana’s paper seems a bit thinner. I think this is because the bright white color seems more transparent than the Webbie’s ivory paper, and the larger size makes the paper feel more, um, “floppy.” In any case, both papers perform superbly with fountain pens– and there have been enough tests on this already that I don’t really need to do another.

So, there are the varied hues of your new writing surfaces. Ivory and bright-white are very different to write on, and both have their pros and cons. If moleskine-lovers are having trouble transitioning, they may enjoy the Webbie’s ivory tint. Designers, comic book artists, and some illustrators may prefer the bright white of the Habana for more color pop.

The Big Difference, Though…

…is that I’m using one as a journal:

and one as a wine journal and a recipe book:

The Best Things In Life Are Used

"New" cabinet/bench, about to be painted.

Anyone who enjoys fountain pens, typewriters, vintage furniture, visiting Rome, or other antique-y type hobbies knows all the touchy-feely reasons why used is better. Used things are worn in. They’re individual, not mass-produced. We feel that they’re simpler, and yet more romantic, and more valuable. Things that are used contain histories and stories (which are often the same thing).

Of course, “used” is often an ebay catchword for “mistreated” or even “unusable.” But even the “unusables” have a story behind their current state– some child who spilled on it, some backpacking trip where it fell between the rocks… still, the best used items are the ones that are still usable.

And the biggest heartbreak for an environmentally-minded artist (or any vintage scavenger-type) is how many usable used items go into the landfill, where they pretty much lose all chance of ever being used again. And one of the biggest sources of waste in our society is commercial buildings, and their construction.

Especially in the construction. There are some serious problems with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. The sustainable checklist for new buildings rewards only the sexy side of sustainability: the shiny new technologies and innovative designs. And architects will design a building specifically to get LEED points, instead of aiming for a design that is actually most sustainable and suited to the environment.

(So, for example– LEED gives you points for installing solar panels. But if you’re designing a building in Seattle, otherwise known as the “rainy city,” installing solar panels is a huge waste of money and resources. But hey, if you’re an architect, and you were hired to design a gold-standard LEED building, you go ahead and put those panels on the blueprint.)

But back to my subject. If your city has a place to buy salvaged/rescued construction materials, GO. Just, go. It’s a DIY-ers dream. Back in Charlottesville, we had a Habitat for Humanity Store, and here in Boulder, we have Resource 2000, a huge yard and warehouse, where I got this:

Art Shelves!

I’ve always had terribly awkward storage for art supplies, especially with my papers and sketchbooks. So these roll-out drawers were the perfect find.

Top Shelf. Plants and Pencils.

The first shelf (under the top) is stationary, so I keep my laptop and little pads of watercolor paper in there. Oh, and a deck of SET cards, of course.

Drawer 1. Ink Samples in a Cigar Box, and Paper Pads.

Drawer 2. Ink! And a salvaged wooden box that I fill with little office supplies.

Drawer 3. Miscellaneous papers, and a box of pastels that got dumped on the airplane 😦

And my new dream (after browsing Resource 2000) is to have a sink-garden, where I plant vegetables in salvaged porcelain pieces. I have visions of painted toilets and tubs, sprouting with tulips…

Halfway Between a Wish-List and a Need-List

So I just put together my Official Graphic Design Portfolio, which helped win me an internship that I was applying for. But in the process, I realized I’m not going to be able to go much further with design until I get a few items. Right now I’m relying on public resources– using the Internet at my neighborhood coffee shop, printing at Staples, taking pictures with my iPhone and my little point-and-shoot… Sigh. Time to upgrade to a professional life.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i

Canon Pixma MP990

Adobe Creative Suite 5 ...maybe with a student discount?

Raphaël Golden Kaërell Short Handle Brushes

J. Herbin Redux

I was pretty excited about some new J. Herbin inks when I made this quick post. So I was obviously a little embarrassed when the Quo Vadis blog decided to feature them in a post… yikes.

Anyways, after reviewing the Kalligraphie pad recently, I decided to revisit that concept and came up with this:

My Current Collection of J. Herbin Inks. And yes, I know Perl Noire is misspelled 😦

The thing about dip pens… is that they always show an ink to be more saturated than it really is. So I tried to smoosh them around a bit (professional terminology) to show their real range of color. When used in a fountain pen, these inks will write in the color that you can see in the smear.

The other thing about dip pens… is that they require a really saturated ink. They’re best used with India Ink, not fountain pen ink, which is less viscous (read: more watery). I’ve had some luck using Private Reserve inks in dip pens, but on the viscosity scale of fountain pen inks, J. Herbin is by far the least saturated, least viscous ink. So making this page was a total drip-disaster. That’s why there is some pretty uneven line work here…

I find that I use J. Herbin inks a lot with brushes, which I really enjoy. And of course, in pens. I currently have two pens inked with Cacao du Bresil, actually.

Art adventures, literary hangovers, rural politics and other songs worth sharing.

Flickr Photos

Recent Tweets

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.