Archive for December, 2010

Top Posts of 2010

When I realized that all the blogs I follow are compiling their most popular posts from this past year, I figured I’d be a sheep and go along with the trend.

Popularity is a tricky thing on a blog like this one, which covers such a wide range of topics. Some people come here for the artsy visual posts, and others are here for the sociological rants. Whatever your reason for reading The Orchard this past year, I’m grateful for the support 🙂

  1. Hunting the MC1R Recessive Variant Gene
  2. Why Don’t Intellectuals Go To The Rodeo?
  3. Historical Hotties and Heroes
  4. Ink Sample Tests & Reviews
  5. Charcoal Gesture Drawings

So I guess this means that my rants tend to be more widely read than my geeky pen posts. Or maybe I’ve just tagged them more effectively…? New 2011 goal: be better at blogger-networking / online optimization. Also, rant more.

After those top five, the next most popular posts were: Review of my dad’s old Pelikan 120, Habana Notebook paired with Pelikan M400 White Tortoise, and my little Handmade Book With Clairefontaine Papers.

Best Reads, 2010

Sure, I may have increased my online involvement in 2010 (tweet, tweet), but I still found time for some good paper reads. …Except for Strong Motion, which I admit that I read on my iPhone Kindle application during my morning bus rides. Also, I left out most of my class-assigned reads from early 2010. These are my pleasure reads 🙂

Clockwise, from top left

  1. Midnight’s Children (Salmon Rushdie). A re-read; This is one of the few books that is complex enough to re-read over and over
  2. Infinite Jest (David Foster Wallace). 1100 pages of small-font heavily-footnoted brilliance. My theory is that the first 100 pages is just a test to see if you have the brains/work ethic to read the whole thing.
  3. Close Range (Annie Proulx). Remember Brokeback Mountain? This is the collection that contains the original short story. Some of the most stunningly beautiful prose I’ve ever read.
  4. Strong Motion (Jonathan Franzen). After reading Freedom (see #7), it’s clear that this is a younger, less-developed Franzen who’s writing.
  5. Spoon Fed (Kim Severson). The memoir of NYTimes’ food writer Kim Severson. She traces stories of eight cooks (both famous and not) who helped shape her life and career.
  6. Absalom, Absalom (William Faulkner). As an English major and a Southerner, I love/hate/love Faulkner. You know.
  7. Freedom (Jonathan Franzen). Brilliant, Read It Right Now, Enough Said. Also, note the similarity in cover design for this and Infinite Jest..?
  8. The Poems of George Herbert. Reformation-era poet who wrote “architectural” poems, both in the content and the structure of the poem. Super cool and geeky.
  9. Wieland, or The Transformation (Charles Brockden Brown). Family curses, religious fanaticism, vulnerable women, and madness! …Supposedly this is the first official American novel.
  10. The Journals of Joyce Carol Oates. Smart lady, moments of insight, but gets repetitive quickly.

Lunar Eclipse

No matter how much science you know, watching an eclipse puts you back in the days of Babylon, wondering if the world’s gonna end.

Quick and Dirty Pen Review – Noodler’s Flex

Oof, apologies for the lack of posts this week! I’m leaving my job and preparing for yet another big move. So there’s lots of reflection and a long to-do list on my part, but not a lot of blog-productivity.

Luckily, when my brain needs a break from job searching, I have the new Noodler’s flex nib fountain pen to play with. I bought this from Goulet Pens, and you can read Brian Goulet’s own review here. The unique thing about this pen isn’t a spectacular flex nib or beautiful design, but that’s it’s priced at $14.

Flex nibs for $14 just doesn’t happen, frankly. This is mainly because it’s incredibly difficult to mass-produce a flexible nib– it usually involves some hands-on work. Thanks, Capitalism, for leaving us with only vintage pens and expensive customizations as options for a flexible nib! And as far as I know, nobody’s quite sure how Noodler’s is producing these so cheaply. Brian’s hypothesis involves Oompa Loompas, and I’m just hoping that the secret is something like “patience and devotion to the craft” rather than, say, any exploitation here or overseas.

Although the flex factor isn’t drastic, this cute little nib definitely qualifies as a flex nib– as opposed to the nib on my Aurora Ipsilon, which most pen geeks would say “has some spring to it.” The difference is that when you’re writing regularly, the Noodler’s nib still responds to the slightest pressure change– whereas with the Ipsilon, you have to think about pressing down for flex.

Well heyyyy there. Hopefully you can see from my mediocre calligraphy skills that this flex is legit. In fact this is probably a great first pen for somebody wanting to get into calligraphy without the mess and supplies of a dip pen.

I tried to include three different writing styles so that you can see how this nib will work for varying handwriting. I saw the most shading on this third part, probably because I was writing faster and therefore the nib put down less ink on each letter. Compare this to the calligraphy, above, where I was writing more slowly and the ink color is fairly dark throughout. If you happen to write in all caps, a la The Pen Addict, you’ll get a bit of shading but will probably be annoyed by the responsive nib making lines widths inconsistent.

P.S. Credit goes to Rhodia No. 14 for the writing surface 😉

Ever Heard of Ecoprinting?

…because I hadn’t, until about twenty seconds ago when I stumbled across this blog post. It looks like THE BEST THING EVER.

This image is from that same post linked above from Green Art Scene

Apparently you steam-pressure real leaves onto paper so that their pigment is transferred onto the paper. Here’s Cassandra’s explanation:

OK — here’s how you steam under pressure. Big turkey roaster with a vegetable steamer placed on the bottom, and about an inch of water under that. I wrap the paper in a bundle with the leaves and cinch it tight with string. Place it on top of the vegetable steamer, weight it with three bricks, and let it steam for about two hours. You need good contact between the leaves and the paper.

It may be too late for pretty colored leaves here, but next Autumn this is top priority.

Wine Grapes – An Exercise in Negative Painting

Hmm, title? - watercolor on Fabriano Artistico CP - 18" x 12"

Whenever I experiment with a new technique, it turns into a full-fledged painting. What a style-spaz.

In the News – InkGeek / ArtGeek Version

» 50 best blogs for watercolor artists (via Web Design Schools Guide)

» The Lost Art of Letter Writing (via The Guardian)

» Reading, Writing and Revelation (via Ode Magazine)

» I’m utterly infatuated with the watercolor-calligraphy hybrid on this wedding invitation. I think I want to get married just for the crafting possibilities.

» The New York Times came out with their 100 Notable Books of 2010. Yummy reading.

» Um, On the off chance that you someday need to know how different types of paper affect the waterproof-ness of waterproof inks, read this thread!

» General Inquiry: Has anyone ever bought a fountain pen from Etsy? They’re always so beautiful; I just want to read a review first…

» Also, look at this beautiful watercolor!*

» Russell Black is a watercolor artist based out of Utah. I love the way his bright, blocky style works with the softness of watercolor.

Russell Black

» I’ve been seeing Marion Bolognesi linked a lot around the internet over the past week. (I wonder what caused the sudden jump on the hip-meter?) I first caught her work a few months ago; she’s got that great fashion-vibe.. and super technique when it comes to facial features.

Marion Bolognesi

Can you tell I spent a few hours on Etsy yesterday? As a rule, I rarely let myself browse Etsy because I can easily waste an entire day browsing instead of oh, say, actually creating something. But it’s good to indulge every once in a while, and thus the linkage love.

Sigh, I should open up a shop myself one of these days… it can’t hurt to try, right?


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