Archive for September, 2010

Appalachia Rising

“Activism is my rent for living on this planet.”

–Alice Walker

roots

One thing I didn’t consider when moving across the country was that I was going to miss Appalachia Rising, a conference of several thousand people vested in Appalachian interests in Washington, D.C. And no, I’m not talking about a bunch of mountain folk taking a quaint trip to the city.

I’m talking about mountain folk meeting with climate change experts and artists. And the widows of coal miners mingling with tattooed college students (who happen to go to school that gets its energy from a coal-fired power plant). And wealthy filmmakers talking to Appalachians who have lost their homes, or who have cancer but no health insurance.

Quite an eclectic bunch, to say the least. Maybe you saw 100 of them get arrested earlier today? A group of my friends attended all weekend: although they didn’t get arrested, they did join the protest and the direct action.

Check out this slideshow of the 15 most toxic places to live on earth (from MNN). Of those 15, only one is in the United States: Appalachia. But I’m not gonna lie: it’s kind of heartbreaking, being so far away.

MIA: Multi-tasking In Action

I’m in the middle of a few different projects right now, but nothing is really completed enough for a full post. I’m sure I’ll have a finished post for each of these eventually.

But for now, let us remember that most of Life is a Do-It-Yourself project… unless you have a wife, of course. Or nanny. Or housekeeper. Or personal assistant.

Okay, it turns out that many people don’t build their own lives. Shame on them.

Re-tiling the shower. And avoiding mold infections...

Painting the exterior of our apartment.

Making chicken salad, banana bread, and salsa. The salsa is in-progress, but the banana bread is in the progress of being eaten.

Oh, and this huge-ass painting.

and art.

Another Watercolor Figure

Painting the figure in watercolor is tricky. Watercolors don’t have the three-dimensionality of oils or acrylics, so it’s harder to build up the “meat” of a person in a painting. Sometimes it’s best to go for a looser, more abstract style.

I almost scrapped this painting. I tried to aim for a realistic style, and the paper didn’t hold up as well to scrubbing and lifting as I thought it would. Regardless, I saved this painting using the (only sometimes reliable) “fuck it” approach.

Softcover Leather Sketchbook from ToBoldlyFold

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a paper or pen object!

Behold— the Softcover Golden Brown Leather Sketchbook from Etsy bookbinder ToBoldlyFold.

Handwritten thank-you notes and homemade packaging: the perks of buying handmade.

I haven’t had the time to bind my own books lately, but buying someone else’s handmade book is the next best thing. I put in some long research hours on Etsy, the handmade equivalent of ebay, before settling on this beautiful leather book from ToBoldlyFold’s Cyprus collection. Alas, if you do decide to shop Etsy for a journal or sketchbook, keep in mind that most Etsy bookbinders don’t provide detailed information on the type of paper that they use– for these sellers, I recommend messaging them to ask about their paper.

I’ve been dreaming of a leather sketchbook for a few months now. Not one of those Wiccan-looking leather sketchbooks (although they are friggin’ works of art) or one of those fake-wilderness, rugged-leather-but-I-really-live-in-downtown-LA sketchbooks. Just a simple, well-made, hand-bound leather book.

Oh, and I need the paper to take both watercolor and fountain pens (which, as it turns out, is no easy task).

A handmade leather sketchbook on Etsy is going to run you anywhere from $25 to $90, depending on the dimensions (and quality) of the book. Tiny books make my hands cramp so I ruled those out, but there’s no way that I can drop $70 for one of the beautiful journals from Moonbindery. But! Huzzah! ToBoldlyFold announced a birthday sale, which dropped her (already mid-price) books to an “Affordable Splurge” level for me.

So that’s the tale of how I found my newest book. But, as with any journal, the search is only half the battle. So let’s talk specs— and please feel free to ooh and ahh over this sumptuous piece of work.

I was hoping for a warm brown leather cover, but I was intrigued by the 170g “artists” paper, which only available with golden brown leather.

Ain’t no tragedy. The golden leather with turquoise stitching makes a stunning combination.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about the button at first (I preferred the look of a wrap-cord), but it’s definitely growing on me. It reminds me of an old-fashioned pair of good leather boots, or a briefcase. It also reminds me of this adorable art print from Etsy seller Eva Juliet.

Many bloggers in the journaling/fountain pen community tend to dislike bulky covers, or covers that overhang the pages (check out this comparison from Notebook Stories). This is definitely not an issue with this book: the covers are cut square with the paper. The downside of this is that it doesn’t offer much protection– but leather sketchbooks are meant to be worn in, so maybe it’s okay if the edges of your pages get dirty.

Journal: unwrapped and exposed

When unwrapped, the soft pages easily fold under for compact writing, or spread out in an artsy fashion on a table. If this were bound with a thin paper, the soft leather cover wouldn’t provide enough support for writing– but the thick paper and sturdy long-stitch binding make it easy to write on laps or in trains. (Doesn’t it seem like one should be traveling on a sepia-tinted train when writing in this book?).

(The long stitch also means that every page lays perfectly flat. No exaggeration.)

But let's talk about the paper. 'Cause, uh, damn. That's some nice paper.

As it turns out, ToBoldlyFold mainly uses two papers in her books: 115g Rives BFK Lightweight paper, or another paper that she only describes as “High-quality, acid-free 170g artists paper.” I know from experience that the Rives paper is excellent, but I was intrigued by the heavier 170g paper, and hoped it would hold watercolor.

I still don’t know who makes this paper– I’m going to ask the seller and I’ll get back to you all with her answer. We know at least that it is cream-colored and 175 g/m². I tried to convert that to lb paper weight, but the internet is telling me that it translates to only 65lb, which seems awfully thin. This paper is definitely thick, creamy, and hand-torn for fashionably rugged edges.

Like all good handcrafts, this one is stamped by the maker.

two different italic/stub nibs

I did worry that the paper might be too porous for fountain pens and water-based inks. A quick test of all my fountain pens did show some feathering, but far less than I expected. In fact, dry-writing nibs performed pretty swell on this paper. The sample above compares my Pilot 78G italic nib (filled with J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche) with my Parker 45 stub nib (filled with J. Herbin Lierre Sauvage). The dryer combination of the 78G/Bleu Pervenche definitely out-performed the wetter Parker/Lierre Sauvage.

Lamy Safari EF with Aurora Black ink

By far, the best combination of Pen&Ink on this paper was my Lamy Safari (EF nib) filled with Aurora Black (at the top). This is kinda interesting because Aurora Black is a super wet ink, compared to Bleu Pervenche, which is quite dry but performed the second-best on this paper. It’s well known that Aurora Black is a super-lubricated ink, though, and I wonder if the greater surface tension kept the ink from soaking in and feathering on the paper. I’ll have to try some other lubricated inks and see if it’s a pattern.

In general though, this is a paper for dry nibs and inks. The good news is that this doesn’t mean you have to stick to fine nibs– one can still use a dry-writing italic nib with great results. Check the image below for other pen and ink combinations, with varying degrees of feathering.

Oh hey there, messy handwriting.

Of course, if fountain pens aren’t the biggest priority in your life (let’s hope not; they’re just pens, after all), then this is a fantastic paper for basically every other type of pen, as well as both wet and dry media.

watercolors and Pitt artists pens

Although this seems to be a fairly porous paper (i.e., it’s not coated like Rhodia/Clairefontaine papers), it’s definitely not fibrous. It won’t catch on your nibs or disintegrate with wet media. You can see in the above image that Pitt artists pens didn’t feather at all, and watercolors also performed well.

Watercolors did absorb into the paper almost immediately, so you won’t be able to blend anything on the page itself. This is a paper more suited to glazing techniques.

Overall, this paper seems like it would make a perfect art journal: lays perfectly flat, strong enough to stand up to acrylics and pastels, sturdy enough for watercolors, and smooth enough for pens and fine nibs. Combined with a beautiful leather cover and beautiful stitching, this is a killer book and I’m excited to keep y’all updated on how I use it.

Update on the Boulder Wildfire

I don’t know whether you’d call this a “technical update,” exactly…

On Monday morning, I walked out of my apartment to a sky that looked like this:

…which turned out to be a wildfire in Fourmile Canyon, which is– well, really close to where I live.

The Fourmile Canyon fire has since become Colorado’s most destructive fire in state history: it has destroyed about 7,000 acres, including 170(ish) homes, and it has displayed 3500 people. And even after four days, they only have about 20% of the fire contained.

We’re all a little frazzled here in Boulder, but I’m also reminded how lucky we are to be an affluent, tech-savvy community at a time like this. Unlike New Orleans or Haiti, affluent communities like Boulder (which often means affluent white communities) are far more prepared for natural disasters: the vast majority of Boulder residents have wealth in the form of investments (not to mention, all kinds of insurance), which means they are financially resilient in case they do lose their homes in the fire.

Still, they just announced this afternoon that my neighborhood should prepare to evacuate. So, I’m now sitting with my emergency bag packed and I thought I’d take a few minutes to check in here.

September Holidays

No no no, not the BIG holidays (“Labor Day”? pah!). I mean those celebrations and commemorations of weirdly specific phenomena: “Snowman Burning Day,” for example (that one is March 20, for the record).

Since September also my birthday month, I figure I’d share some of the holidays I’m excited about (or, well, just curious about) this September.

Things To Celebrate All Month Long:

  • Backpack Safety Month
  • Be Kind To Editors & Writers Month
  • College Savings Month (how about, “pay back college loans month”?)
  • National Honey Month
  • International People Skills Month …AND National Self-Awareness Month (contradictory?)
  • Subliminal Communications Month (does that count as “people skills”?)
  • Mold Awareness Month (…um)
  • Pleasure Your Mate Month (do they really need a month for this?)
  • One-on-One Month (redundant)
  • Women’s Friendship Month
  • National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept 15-Oct 15)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Month

Week-Long Celebrations:

  • National Waffle Week (5th – 11th)
  • Beer Days (16th-18th)
  • Turn Off Your TV Week (19th – 25th)
  • National Chimney Safety Week: (Sept 26 – Oct 2)
  • National Keep Kids Creative Week: (Sept 26 – Oct 2)
  • Banned Books Week: (Sept 27 – Oct 2)

And, For Only One Day:

  • National No Rhyme (Nor Reason) Day: Sept 1
  • International Literacy Day: Sept 7
  • Swap Ideas Day: Sept 10
  • International Chocolate Day: Sept 13
  • National Urban Eden Day: Sept 13
  • Anne Bradstreet Day: Sept 16
  • Talk Like A Pirate Day: Sept 19
  • Autumn Equinox: Sept 22
  • Dear Diary Day: Sept 22
  • Elephant Appreciation Day: Sept 22
  • Celebrate Bisexuality Day: Sept 23
  • Love Note Day: Sept 24
  • National Public Lands Day: Sept 25
  • Ancestor Appreciation Day: Sept 27
  • National Women’s Health & Fitness Day: Sept 29

Artist/Writer Stranded Without A Book

I’ve written before about the importance of journals, art journals– whatever you want to call the Blank Book that causes you to stop, reflect, and articulate. Art journalers may not use text the way that a ‘traditional’ journaler does, but art journals still offer the same benefit; instead of articulating in words, the journaler is visually articulating his or her experiences, thoughts, feelings. The important thing is the reflection and processing of the, um, ‘external’ world.

So basically, I’m Without A Book.

Right now.

–> Look, no panic mode! (Okay, maybe a little panic mode). I finished a wonderful Fabriano Venezia art journal right before leaving on my road trip. (For the record, the Venezia journal was reviewed by Biffybeans as “glorious,” and I have to agree). But now it has been three weeks, and I’m still without a Book.

It turns out that this is quite the interesting experiment for an artist and writer. I’ve found that all my journaling energy has been redirected onto many different projects. Not only have I been using several different sketchbooks, but I’ve also begun some large-scale paintings, which I don’t do very often. As for writing, I’ve been directing a lot of that energy into poems, which I’m mostly composing on half-empty Rhodia pads around the apartment.

In general, it feels a lot more productive. Maybe it has been valuable to let go of my perfectionist tendencies and just CREATE, no matter the surface and no matter the medium.

But, I do have a fancypants new journal in the mail, so look for an upcoming review.

In the meantime, here are some sketches: (as always, click for full view)

A picnic lunch at Manitou Springs

10 minute sketch of our tent, just as it got too dark to draw.


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

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