Posts Tagged 'Journals'

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.

Catharsis

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.

An Assorted (Yet Cohesive!) Paper Review

In this post, I outlined my initial impressions of four different Clairefontaine papers, which I received generously from Exaclair and bound into a short-term, multi-purpose book (what some people call a “journal”). I used this book during the last weeks of classes, as well as through the madness of Senior Week, and Graduation itself.

And it felt good (really good) to put this book aside after graduation– to start brand new, on a blank page. (What a handy metaphor, no?)

As it turns out, my blank page was on the other side of the country. But now I’m here in Colorado, and yes, I promised fuller reviews. So here we go.

Digital Color Printing Paper

Pentel Pocket Pen and ink on DCP Paper

First, to clarify: this paper isn’t meant for traditional writing and media. It’s for machines, and I’m sure it works superbly that way. But I’m not interested in machines (except, maybe, Leo Marx’s). I wanted to test a loose-leaf Clairefontaine paper– one that could be used for bookbinding!

This has perhaps been one of the few drawbacks to Clairefontaine products– they’re more like, well, office supplies than art supplies. So I really appreciate trying out some loose-leaf paper, which can be used as a raw material for a variety of art projects. The DCP paper is also available in a variety of weights (90 to 350 gsm), which allows for even more customization.

The short version: Use your fountain pens, markers, brush pens, and crayons on this paper; leave the paint and wet media alone. Water-soluble pencils/crayons/pastels have the potential to work well (perhaps if they’re more oil-based) but don’t overdo the water. Stephanie at Biffybeans did a review of this paper, and had similar findings.

Also, this is the time to experiment with bright colors. So channel your inner pop artist.

However, for whatever reason, I found that I did less art on this kind of paper. When I did draw, I used my Pentel Pocket Pen, which left beautiful, clean, high-contrast lines. Writing (in ink) on this paper was pleasurable, but the paper was too glossy to use a pencil, and the thinness also encouraged more minimalist approach.

Stamped! Notice the wet spot to the left; that's bleed-through from the drawing posted above

Continue reading ‘An Assorted (Yet Cohesive!) Paper Review’

Handmade Book with Clairefontaine Paper

In this post, I hinted at a new Book that I was binding using several different sample Clairefontaine papers: Graf It sketch padDCP Digital Color Printing Paper,Calligraphy Art Pad, and the Ingres Pastel Pad.

All the papers serve very different functions, so binding them into one journal is a way for me to provide a more extensive review of each type of paper. And, a way to keep me artistically on my toes! (Sure, we’ll go with that).

I used a simple long stitch and then glued the bound signatures into the cover. To make the cover, I used leftover mat board from an art project, and covered it in some blue ribbon.

(Making a new book without buying anything new = so rewarding.)

I’ve already been using this book throughout the exam season, so that’s why there are already some extra papers sticking out of it.

I think the order of use is: DCP copy paper, pastel paper, Graf It sketch paper, and then the calligraphy paper. I’ll try to post more extensive reviews as I finish each section. However, I have played around with all four papers already, so I can at least provide some preliminary thoughts…

  • So far, I’m loving the paper from the calligraphy pad— especially the off-white color, which I’m not used to seeing in Clairefontaine/Rhodia products. This paper is SO smooth, but less “slippery” than regular Clairefontaine paper. Plus, it’s a bit heavier which means it can handle wet media (sort of).
  • I was actually surprised how much I liked the Graf It sketchpad: it seems like a similar product to those “all-use” sketchbooks that you can buy at craft stores, with the rough-ish paper, but the quality of the Graf-it paper is a huge step up.
  • I love the DCP printing paper because it seems like basic Clairefontaine paper, but has the benefit of being available as loose sheets. I think when I bind small books for gifts in the future, I’ll use this paper instead of regular computer printer paper to fill them. Like the paper in Clairefontaine notebooks, though, it doesn’t offer the same versatility that the calligraphy paper and graf it paper do– it’s definitely more light weight, and not compatible with wet media. My guess is that it’s best used for writing and inking (and of course, printing. I’ll get to that in a later post)
  • The paper from the Ingres pastel pad seems really, really similar to the paper in the Exacompta sketchbook: it’s off-white, laid paper. And hey, I love the Exacompta sketchbook, so this just may be excellent paper. I found that it takes both wet and dry media equally well, and pastels are buttery smooth when used on this paper. This will be my first extended paper review, in the next few days.

Kunst & Papier Sketchbooks

Have I mentioned that I’ve been working in a new book? After two Exacompta sketchbooks, I wanted to try something slightly bigger with a sturdier cover. So I ended up purchasing two Kunst & Papier sketchbooks from my local art supply store– a grey hardbound 6×7″ and a black softcover that I actually can’t quite identify on their site, but I photographed the labels below.

The Look. I was drawn immediately to the stunning textures of the covers. The hardcover is a synthetic linen,  They’re simple but tactile, and (my favorite part) completely free of logos or designs. I prefer my sketchbooks and journals to advertise nothing but myself. And although sometimes a blank cover just begs to be decorated, I think these look classiest when left alone.

The Binding. The hardcover sketchbook has a sewn binding while the softcover is glued. Actually, the K&P site tells me that the hardcover is “smyth sewn and gauze spliced bindings” –which sounds very fancy even if I have no idea what it means. Both, however, open beautifully, marvelously, flat.

The Paper. Both books are fountain pen friendly, but in different ways.  The K&P website says that the hardcover book contains acid-free alpha cellulose paper, but it also mentions chlorine-free “pH buffered lignen” –and if I’m not mistaken, cellulose and lignen are two different plant-derived materials. Hmm. In any case, the paper in the hardcover book is thinner and smoother, while the paper in the softcover book is a heavier weight (120g, versus 100g in the hardcover), but also rougher/more porous. So actually, even though the paper in the softcover book is heavier, it was more difficult to write on, and there was a bit of bleedthrough when I used a flex nib. Below is an example of writing with the same pen (a Pilot 78G with an italic nib) on the two different papers.


You can see on the first image that the “P” is uneven and jagged, while it’s much smoother on the second image (in the hardcover sketchbook).

In any case, I’ve been using the hardcover book for my last semester of college, and I’ve been extremely pleased with it. After the Exacompta sketchbook, I had to adjust to seeing my writing through the pages, but I’ve never had any bleedthrough so it doesn’t bother me anymore. I would also warn against using too much wet media, although I’ve used acrylic paint with some success. But in general, this is an excellent book for fountain pens and dry media, and the hardcover provides more sturdy protection than the Exacompta.

The Roundup: Rhodia Drive Raffle Prize

StackOh boy. Through farmwork and thesis work, re-carpeting my parents’ home and moving myself into a new temporary home, I haven’t gotten a chance to sit down and upload some photos of my Rhodia raffle prize.

These were graciously sent by Karen Doherty of Exaclair, and I want to note how impressed I was at the way the raffle was handled. Not only did the Rhodia Drive blog feature my blog when announcing the first winner, but I received an email from Karen congratulating me and asking my “favorite colors” –which was confusing at first, until she explained that she was just hoping to tailor the notebooks to my liking, for ink colors and cover colors.

Well, gosh.

I really like the opportunities for personal connection that the world of blogging allows. Although it’s part of my firm belief to never confuse the digital world for face-to-face interactions, I must admit that there is a certain social etiquette in the blogging world (much more professional than the “dear-diary” of livejournal land) which opens up a door for cool opportunities– like this one!

So, a box arrived at my door a few days later, containing:

Basically, that’s a lot. I did the math, and the total retail value would be $174.25. I think knowing that makes me appreciate it even more, because it means that I won’t have to spend money on school supplies this year. Little blessings are especially nice when they come with pretty inks 🙂

I’m not going to do full reviews of anything right now, especially because I included the new inks in my recent ink comparison and because  so many of the notebooks are near-duplicates (all the Rhodia blocs, for example). But I will include a few initial thoughts, mainly–

What the heck am I supposed to do with this teeny tiny notebook?!

IMG_0051

I’m not sure this picture does this notebook justice in showing its size (I have small hands). Its about twice the size of a matchbook, 2″ x 3″. I also have English-major Carpal Tunnel syndrome, so writing in a cramped size is not an option. My male friends with larger hands just sort of laughed when they tried to hold it. Any suggestions?

My other initial reaction was: UH. Ironically, I received the exact same Exacompta sketchbook that I’m using as my personal journal right now.

IMG_0056

I’m nearing the end of my journal, and now I’m wondering whether to use this new one as a replacement or move to another notebook. It’s such a beautiful book, but I’ve always been the type to try new formats when I start a new journal. A gift, perhaps?

Summer Sketchbook

IMG_0973

DIY Sketchbook

I’ve posted before about the benefits of making your own books, but I think those reasons are only magnified when making a sketchbook. Because technically, I could journal on anything (a significant other’s tummy, perhaps?)– but when I’m making art, the materials really do matter. Making my own sketchbook means that I can include really nice art papers, watercolor paper, a simple but sturdy cover material, just right page size…

Thus, my summer sketchbook. I bought a stack of large sheets of various art papers: hot and cold press watercolor, two-, three-, and four-ply bristol, and some papers I had never even used before. I also made sure to get different colors– cream, grey, off-white, and bright-white, for a variety. I used red wax thread and a coptic stitch to bind. The cover is mat board, reinforced on one side with duct tape. I haven’t yet decided if I’ll decorate the cover, but the stickers that are on there are extra “birds” labels from a project at the environmental center where I work. The paper dimensions are 11″x11″, which is larger than a normal piece of printer paper, but not too large to carry in my shoulder bag.

(Click on the thumbnails to view full size images)

Here’s what I’ve been drawing in the hot sticky Virginia weather:

I want to be a children’s book illustrator! Done in pastel and watercolor

This one made me want to draw a graphic novel. Done in pen and ink

Ciao!

 

 


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