My Rugged Art Case for Fountain Pens

I have several fountain pen cases I use for travel. For my everyday writers or EDWs I like using my 3-pen case from Franklin-Christoph. I use my EDWs for my daily/weekly/monthly BUJO, for journal writing, and taking notes for online courses.

For my “durable” artsy fountain pens (e.g. TWSBI GOs), I have to use a completely different pen case. I like having several different ink colors available when the sketching urge hits me. This is where function overrides a nice looking case. I mentioned some time last year I was using a pouch like case like this one pictured below.

This case had served it’s purpose as it could hold a number of fountain pens in the main zippered pouch. I think at one point I was able to cram about 20 TWSBI GOs. Over time I found the pouch was cumbersome to use.

The main issue I had was I could only see a few pens on the top and I had to dig around inside the pouch to look for an ink color. Many times I had to dump all my pens out to see what I had or wanted to use.

I did some research (because that’s what I enjoy doing) and followed a few other artists to see what tools and cases they had in their art bag.

I came across a watercolor artist who was using a Maxpedition Beefy Pocket Organizer case. This case looks quite rugged and durable. I actually bought two of these when I came across a BOGO sale at the manufacturer’s site. One in black (shown here) and another in a pretty olive green color that I use to carry my watercolor brushes and paints.

Here’s the front of my case. I lightened the picture slightly to show off the stitching and how well made this case is. Remember I am a sewist and I look for good stitching. The front has two velcro pieces at the top if I wanted to add a personal patch. There is also a front pocket made of netting that is secured with velcro behind the Maxpedition logo. I added two fountain pens and a blotter card to show the pocket size.

Let’s start with the left side of my case. Immediately you can see the horizontal elastic loops. There are two sets of elastic loops with the narrower loop sewn on top of the wider loop. The top narrow loops (six of them) hold my individual pens in place. Behind the narrow loops are three wide loops. There’s an open pocket behind my pens that can hold more pens, pencils, a small notebook, or folded paper towels.

Here’s the right side of my case and there is another set of elastic loops. It’s a similar set up to the right side except the loops are sewn in vertically to maximize storage space. It also looks like the elastic loop space is wider. I removed my pens to show the configuration better. There’s a zippered pocket behind the loops for another small notebook or other accessories.

There’s a horizontal elastic loop at the interior edge of the case. This is a large loop that holds my three water brushes and my Platinum Preppy filled with Carbon ink.

I went ahead and put my pens back into the case. Again I’m only using the upper loop configuration to hold my pens. I can slip two pens into each loop.

Here is the backside of my Maxpedition case. It has a grab handle and another set of loops to hold more stuff. The loops on the back are not elastic and made out of webbing material just like the handle.

Since I use mostly TWSBI GOs for artwork, I have no issues with throwing those pens into this case and hit the road with them. My GOs are durable and can take the jostling around in my backpack.

This is a rugged and durable case. Think tactical gear. The material in the Maxpedition feels a bit rough. The elastic loops are stiff and have a rough feeling. I found the roughness eventually lessens the more I use my case. As you can see in the pictures, there is no padding in the case.

It’s perfect for my use to hold and carry all my artsy fountain pens (TWSBI GOs). When I open my case I can see all my pens and art tools and can quickly get to work creating art.

I will be back with another review on how I use my green Maxpedition case for my watercolor supplies.

Case: Maxpedition Beefy Pocket Organizer in Black

Pens: TWSBI GO, Eco, and Diamond 580. Monteverde Innova Carbon Black with Rainbow trim. Conklin All American Lapis Blue and Duragraph Matte Black with Rainbow trim. Maiora Impronte OS Posilippo. Esterbrook Estie OS Dreamer Purple. Turnt Pen Co Pynchon PM4. Pilot Stargazer Black and Prera Pink. Lamy 2000 Makrolon.

Other: Pentel water brushes. Pentel Energize pencil.

Double Wired Journal Notebook

(Edit: I forgot to mention I purchased my journal for $5 + tax. I need to remember that not everyone is familiar with some of stores I have access to).

I was at my local “Five Below” store and came across this journal/notebook. I was rubbing my hand across the paper (because that is what fountain pen folks do) to get an idea how smooth this paper was. I decided to give this notebook a try with my fountain pens and inks.

Here is the front cover with a cool looking design.

Here is the back of the cover.

This journal is 6.875″ x 10″ and about 3/4″ thick. This notebook contains 240 pages of lined paper. The front and back cover appears to be made of thick cardboard.

Overall, it feels like a chunky journal especially with the double wired spine.

Here is my test page written with some of the Diamine Inkvent calendar inks and my fountain pens with wet nibs. The shading and shimmers definitely appear on this paper.

Upon closer inspection, I can definitely see the shimmer from Vintage Copper and the sheen from Stargazer and Ruby Blues with this paper.

I can also see the shading from Candle Light and Raspberry Rose. Winter Spice is showing off a bit of shimmer.

I like how this paper shows off the ink’s color and characteristics. Hardly any feathering on the paper.

Here’s the backside of my test page. No bleed through at all. I was surprised even writing with my Stub 1.1 nibs. I would have expected to see “dots” where my nib stayed on the paper a bit longer.

I like the wider spiral on this journal. I have no issues flipping pages back and forth. Have you ever had a spiral notebook that was difficult to flip through?

I like the stiff thick cardboard covers that protects the paper in this journal. Also, I like how I can fold the pages back and can write on one side of the page at a time. The stiff cardboard provides a nice sturdy surface to write on.

For the price and the amount of pages in this journal I think this is a great buy.

Pen: Conklin Duragraph Brushed Titanium with Rose Gold trim and Omniflex nib.

Inks: Various inks from Diamine 2021 Inkvent Calendar

Journal: Five Below lined with 240 pages.

My Cricut World

There’s another hobby I’ve been experimenting with that involves a bit of designing. When I’m not playing with my fountain pens and inks or watercolor paints, I’m spending time with my Cricut machine.

Last year I started out with the cute little Cricut Joy. I used mine mainly for cutting small pieces of vinyls, but many folks used it for cutting fancy cards. I initially purchased about four rolls of the Cricut Joy Smart Vinyl to get familiar with their removable and permanent vinyls. Their Joy Smart Vinyls can be used without a mat and loads nicely into the Joy.

I immediately graduated to the larger and wider rolls of vinyl (save $) and learned to cut and trim my own vinyl pieces to avoid waste. I used my compact Fiskars trimmer to cut my vinyl pieces. This was a valuable tool to have especially when I needed to trim pieces accurately and trimmed the edges straight. The straight edges allowed me to line up and place the vinyl onto my mat.

My Fiskars SureCut with TripleTrack rail system and Titanium coated blade

I never had the need to purchase the Cricut subscription. I already have experience with using Photoshop and Illustrator. It was easier for me to create, edit, or clean up designs and uploaded them into Cricut’s software called Design Space.

I definitely fell into the vinyl cutting rabbit hole.

A few months ago, I bought a Cricut Maker on sale. Basically I graduated to a bigger machine that could do so much more. Compared to my Joy, the Maker is a huge machine. It’s wider and heavier. It took me awhile to get used to my Maker as the mat (12″x12″) is much larger than the one used with my Cricut Joy (4.5″x6.5″).

With my new Maker, I wanted to create my own stickers. I tried out different printable vinyl papers and created stickers of my artwork.

I’ve been busy cutting vinyl for Christmas gifts. I’m not able to post pictures of them right now, but I will share some other projects I’ve been working on.

Recent Projects:

Here’s my Cricut Maker cutting out a design on one of my favorite textured vinyl.

After this fancy vinyl is cut, you can barely see the design.

Once I adjusted the angle of my desk light, you can now see the image that was cut.

I prefer not to waste my favorite vinyl. You can see from the pieces (below) there’s more than an inch of vinyl that can be reused for smaller projects.

I trimmed my cut vinyl pieces down with my Fiskar trimmer and make sure I do not cut into the design.

Here are the leftover pieces that can be reused for future projects.

Now I’m ready to weed my vinyl. For my initial weeding process I removed what I call the main background.

Some intricate designs required additional weeding. Here I removed the vinyl from inside of the turtle design.

There might be an opportunity to reuse the weeded out vinyl. I grabbed an old backing sheet and placed the discarded portion of the vinyl for future reuse. You can see the hibiscus flower on the turtle’s body (right) was just too pretty to throw away.

Here’s a picture of my discarded vinyl pieces from my weeding process. This went into the trash.

The next step was to apply the transfer sheet over my vinyl designs. I used my squeegee scraper and scraped the transfer sheet down over my vinyl design. The white sheet of paper shown below is my parchment paper. It’s amazing that my transfer sheet and vinyl does not stick to this paper at all.

I also used my squeegee to scrape the backside of my vinyl or backing paper. I then carefully and slowly peeled away the backing paper from the transfer sheet and vinyl. You can see from the following picture that I pulled from a sharp angle versus pulling straight up. This is an important tip I’ve learned and have not had any issues.

For the next step I needed to clean the surface of my metal mug before I applied the vinyl.

I used rubbing alcohol on a cotton pad and cleaned the surface. Here’s my plastic container I picked up from the Dollar Tree. Underneath the lid is a pump-like surface where I place my cotton pad and press down for the alcohol to come up and wet the pad. Yes, I had to add a vinyl label. Isn’t it cute?!

Once my mug had dried, I placed my vinyl and transfer sheet over my mug. I also placed a piece of parchment paper on either side of my vinyl to protect the vinyl designs I already had on either side of my mug.

I used my squeegee to scrape down the vinyl onto my mug.

I gently pulled the transfer sheet away.

Another tip I learned was the ability to reuse my transfer sheets. I placed it on the backing paper it came off of.

I used a piece of parchment paper to cover the vinyl and gave my mug a good scrape to make sure the vinyl stayed in place.

Here’s my hibiscus turtle.

I also added one to my hubby’s mug.

Here’s a design I used on my hubby’s water bottle.

I added another vinyl for a pop of color.

I will typically let the vinyl cure for about 3 days before using my mug/bottle.

Cricut Machine: Cricut Maker using Premium Textured Metallic material setting

Vinyl: Cricut Premium Vinyl Textured Metallic Permanent Glossy

Transfer Sheet: Cricut Strong Grip

Mat: Cricut Light Grip

Sketching with Graphite

(Edit: Added additional information & pictures of the graphite leads used with my clutch pencils)

I have to confess. I did partake in one of the sales on Fountain Pen Day. It was not a fountain pen purchase, but a clutch pencil that I had my eye on. Who knew that one of my fave fountain pen shops carried clutch pencils. More on that in a few minutes.

To make sure I was keeping with the fountain pen theme on that day, I purchased a bottle of Van Dieman’s red ink that was on my wish list. It’s part of their Original Colors of Tasmania ink series. It’s a gorgeous reddish ink color and I paired it with one of my Leonardo MZ fountain pens. Ink swatches will be in my next ink review post.

Back to my non-fountain pen purchase. I have a thing for the Koh-i-Noor clutch pencils and I have managed to collect a few in different colors and styles. This new one is quite unique and it did not hurt that it came in a beautiful blue color with gold trim. It’s absolutely gorgeous!

Can you see why I was attracted to this pencil? This metal clutch pencil holder has some heft and weight. The weight reminds me of brass. It is chunky looking and easy to hold in my hand. I noticed I have a looser grip with this style of pencil. Here’s a picture of my new blue pencil sitting in between my two standard looking clutch lead holders.

My clutch pencil holder uses the 5.6mm graphite leads and they typically come in the softer lead offerings: HB, 2B, 4B, 6B, and 8B. I pulled out the included lead from my pencil and could not find any markings and I assumed it was an HB or 2B.

I used my new pencil to create this initial grape sketch. Yes, I’m still in the grape sketching phase.

This HB/2B lead produced some hard lines in my sketch. I used my two other clutch pencils with softer leads (e.g. 6B) and was able to blend the hard lines and soften the grapes. You can see a difference in the following picture.

Graphite Leads:

I wanted to add that the Koh-i-Noor graphite leads come in two lengths: 80mm and 120mm. Each box contains six (6) leads and you’ll notice the longer leads need extra protection and come in a plastic box.

Here’s what the leads look like outside of their boxes.

Here are the leads next to my clutch pencils. My Koh-i-Noor Versatil 5340 Clutch Pencil (bottom) can take both lead sizes and retracts them fully into the clutch holder.

My new clutch holder can easily take the 80mm lead size and retracts fully in the clutch holder. The 120mm lead can also be used, but when fully retracted the lead will still show/protrude from the clutch. For me it’s not an issue as I store my pencils in a wrap case. It might an issue for those who carry their pencils in their pockets or in a purse/backpack.

I really enjoy using my clutch pencils as I can easily swap out different lead types. I can use sepia, charcoal, and chalk leads as well as metallic and “magic” leads for sketches that require color.

Clutch Pencil: Koh-i-Noor Mechanical Drop Clutch Lead Holder in Blue with 5.6mm x 80mm Lead (HB or 2B)

Journal: Leda Art Sketch Book

The Art Toolkit – Folio Palette

I came across what I would call the ultimate portable palette. It’s called the Folio Palette from Art Toolkit.

It looks like one of my other pocket palettes, right? This folio palette is actually a larger version that holds more pans of colors. Some folks actually use it on their desk/table and then take the pocket version for travel or plein air painting.

Here’s a picture that shows the size comparisons. On the left is the regular Pocket Palette. On the right is the new Folio Palette.

There is quite a difference in the size. To give you an idea, the Pocket Palette holds 14 standard (small rectangle) pans while the Folio Palette can hold 30 standard pans.

Here’s a picture from an earlier post in regards to the different pan sizes.

Here’s the care and maintenance instructions for the Art Toolkit’s palettes.

Along with the new palette size, there is also a new XL mixing pan. It’s their largest square size mixing pan.

My Folio Palette came with these assorted pan sizes

Remember my “mini doodle kit” metal container that I reused to store all of my metal pans of paint? Well, here it is next to the Folio Palette.

I was able to fill my Folio with all the pans I had filled previously. I like having a larger mixing space.

If I need additional mixing space, I can always reuse one of my Pocket Palettes as a mixing palette.

My Pocket Palette with a standard mixing pan and the new XL mixing pan

Once I’m done with my current projects, I hope to get back into watercolor painting and actually use my new palette.

My Sketches – Using My Van Dieman’s Inks

Here’s a few quick sketches I did this week using my Van Dieman’s Ink.

Here is Sea Turtle. It’s a lovely vibrant green ink. I used a bit of Robert Oster Melon Tea to make my turtle sketch pop a bit.

On my swatch card there’s a ton of pinky-red sheen.

I used my Pilot Prera with Calligraphy Medium (CM) nib to create this sketch.

Another lovely color from their Underwater series is Royal Starfish. This is a unique purple ink color with pink and blue undertones (depending on paper used).

On Rhodia paper

Here is my feather sketch. The pink and blue undertones are absolutely gorgeous.

Here is a shimmering beauty called Parrot Fish. A vibrant teal green color with purple shimmering particles.

I enjoy seeing this ink slosh around in my TWSBI ECO.

I have to add while using this particular shimmering ink, I’ve had a few clogging issues with my ECO. I gave my bottle a couple of shakes to get the shimmering particles to blend with the ink. I immediately filled my pen with ink. That was part of my clogging problem. Too much shimmer in my pen. I should have waited 45 seconds to let the particles settle a bit in the bottle and then fill my pen. You can see from my writing sample I had a lot of shimmer across my journal page.

I ended up storing my pen overnight with it’s nib up. The next morning I still had a clog issue. I could see a clump of shimmer on my nib. I dipped the nib and feed into a jar of water and wiped the nib clean. I wrote out two pages with my pen to get the initial shimmer flowing. Now, my pen sits (horizontal) on my studio desk with no clogging issues. Life is very good!

I have three more Van Dieman’s inks to swatch and sketch with and hope to have some time this weekend to play with them. I’m enjoying this ink brand and it’s becoming a favorite of mine. Right up there with Diamine and Robert Oster.

Inks: Van Dieman’s Ink Underwater Series: Sea Turtle, Royal Starfish, and Parrot Fish (shimmer)

Pens: TWSBI GO with Stub 1.1 nib. Pilot Prera Transparent Pink with Calligraphy Medium (CM) nib. TWSBI ECO Clear with Stub 1.1 nib.

Papers/Journals: Rhodia. Canson Mixed Media. Stillman & Birn Beta. Stillman & Birn Alpha.

A Few Van Dieman’s Inks

My first foray into Van Dieman’s inks was sometime last year when I received a complementary sample vial. I started to see a few online pen shops carry this brand of ink. I did a swatch from the sample vial of Blackened Seas (The Midnight Series) and knew I would eventually want a bottle of this stunning blue/black ink color.

Van Dieman’s Ink is a small business run by a husband & wife team located in Tasmania. They design and mix their own bottles of inks. They are high quality inks that have been tested for flow and viscosity. Suitable for all major brands of fountain pens and also for dip pens and brush work.

Over the last few months I saw additional ink colors in different series appear on my radar. Most recently I came across their Underwater Series and just the names of the new ink colors really intrigued me.

In one of the boxes I received I notice some ink inside the box.

I immediately checked my hands to see if the lid was cracked when I pulled the bottle out of the box. Nothing on my fingers. I then gave the cap a quick twist and found the lid was slightly loose. Given the amount of ink inside the box, the lid must have come loose during shipping.

Check out this lovely sheen in Sea Urchin. This ink color looks black in certain lighting, but also appears to have some purple undertones. Look at that green sheen!

Another beautiful ink color is Sea Turtle. It’s a bright green color with a bright pinky-red sheen.

Here is Parrot Fish a stunning shimmering ink color. It’s a bright teal color with bright/light blue-purple shimmering particles. Absolutely stunning to look at!

I have not put this gorgeous ink into a pen. I noticed after I shook the bottle and opened it, I saw a sparkling glob sitting on the side of the bottle’s neck. That told me that this ink needs a bit more mixing. Anyways, I’m looking for a really wet pen to partner with this ink. I’m not too sure what to expect with this shimmering ink. I will come back and update this post with the results.

Here’s my Van Dieman’s swatches in my ink journal. Disregard my Papier Plume Red Beans & Rice swatch that I forgot to swatch on a different page. Hahaha!

The three swatches at the bottom of my swatch page are sample vials of colors I wanted to try before committing to a purchasing a bottle. I’m really intrigued with Royal Starfish as it’s a pretty purple ink color with some green-gold sheen.

I’m looking forward to cleaning a few pens and filling them with these lovely Underwater inks. I will be back to share my experiences and especially with the shimmering Parrot Fish ink.

Inks: Van Dieman’s Underwater Series: Sea Turtle, Sea Urchin, and Parrot Fish (shimmer). The Midnight Series: Blackened Seas

Journal: Stalogy 365 B6

A “Swatch” Pen & Ink Sketch

I mentioned before, I try to keep my muscle memory active by creating sketches on a daily basis. Sometimes my mind goes blank as I stare at the blank page of my art journal. It takes a few minutes to look around my studio and eventually an idea will pop into my head. Like creating a sketch of my swatch card.

I started with a basic sketch and filled in the pertinent information like I normally would for a real swatch card.

I actually used an old watercolor paint brush to color in the large swatch area of the sketch. Normally, I prefer to use a fountain pen as I can control where I apply the colors.

My Maiora fountain pen was already inked with Birmingham’s Glassmith ink and it was only appropriate to write with it and then do a sketch of my lovely pen. To complete my sketch and fulfill the odd number theme, I also included my water brush into the mix.

It took me awhile to draw the flecks of blues in my pen onto paper. I used several blue inks and tried to leave some white and lighter blue colors to create some chatoyance from my pen.

Inks: Birmingham Glassmith, Vinta Inks Lucia, Diamine Asa Blue, and Robert Oster Tokyo Blue Denim and Thunderstorm

Pens: Maiora Impronte Posillipo with Medium nib. TWSBI GOs with Stub 1.1 nibs.

Journal: Stillman & Birn Beta

Birmingham Pen Company Inks

Sometime last year I purchased a fountain pen from Birmingham Pen Company. It came with a free bottle of ink and I selected Arugula to matched my pen color. It’s a beautiful olive green ink color.

Fast forward to last week, when I was at their website looking for a few bottles of ink to try out. I have noticed Birmingham’s pen have been sold out for awhile and they haven’t updated their website with new pens. They are probably very busy creating new inks and are inundated with ink orders.

I must have ordered the inks at the right time as I received the bottles within a week. They did an awesome job with the packaging. Once I opened the mailing box, I found another box inside with this cute label.

Opening the “box from this side” resulted in a lovely display of a note, my receipt, and post card clipped together. The fountain pen paper clip was a nice touch.

Underneath the brown paper were meticulously wrapped individual bottles of ink.

The ink boxes are simple and contain rose gold lettering with the company name.

I had to unbox the inks to see the names of the inks on the bottles. As you can see, the boxes and bottles are very simple and not elaborate. So are their ink prices.

Birmingham carries six different formulas of inks: Crisp, Swift, Rich, Everlasting, Twinkle, and Wishy-Washy. They have a formula guide at their website that describes the different handmade ink offerings.

It was hard to select a handful of colors from their array of offerings, but I managed to find some unique ones that peaked my interest.

I selected three Crisp inks represented with a (c) and two Swift inks represented with an (s) in the following picture. Overall, the inks are quite lovely and wet. The two ink colors that surprised me in a good way was Eroded Bronze and Antique Sepia. They both showed some wonderful ink personalities.

I did not have any empty TWSBI GO stub pens available and had to pull three pens from my currently inked art pen case and proceeded to dump their inks. One of my GOs had to stay in “spa” mode as the shimmering particles wanted to cling to my pen.

Here’s a writing sample with Eroded Bronze, Antique Sepia, and Glassmith.

Overall, I think the Birmingham inks are nice and appears to be well behaved in my pens so far. Antique Sepia, Eroded Bronze, and Glassmith turned out to be lovely inks with a lot of personality.

Note: I mentioned earlier that I had received a bottle of Arugula ink with my pen purchase last year. I decided to do another swatch of this ink and found this ink color to be a dry ink. I’m not sure if this ink color’s formula has changed within the last year. It’s beautiful to write with, but I have no plans on using it in my pen and ink artwork. Just a personal preference.

Pens: TWSBI GOs with Stub 1.1 nibs and Medium nib

Ink: Birmingham Pen Company Eroded Bronze, Antique Sepia, Glassmith, Canterbury Raisin, and Hall of Fame Riveria

Journal/Paper: Stalogy 365 B6 ink journal and Rhodia paper

More Vinta Inks!

My order arrived a little over a week ago and I’m just getting around to posting an update with the new colors I received. I thought about adding this to my previous Vinta Inks post, but decided my latest lovely colors required their own post.

Here’s a quick pen and ink wash sketch I did. I was itching to use the Pamana ink color and sketched some peaches. It’s an absolutely gorgeous ink with a peachy undertone color!

My pen and ink sketch: Peaches

My box arrived after traveling around the postal system and was delayed in the next state over for a few days. It looked like “big foot” stepped on it. Hahaha!

My damaged box arrived
Another view of my box

Inside the mailing box, I found my boxes of ink safely wrapped and looking pristine. Amazing, right?

I had a sample of Pamana that I fell in love with and had to order a large bottle. The other colors fell into my cart and went for a ride. I like the way Vinta Inks label their boxes and bottles.

Beautiful amber glass jars

The top three swatches were from my previous post. I added the new three colors to the swatch page. Look how vibrant the colors are showing in my ink journal!

I almost forgot to include my swatch cards.

Swatches from my current acquisition.

Overall, I’m extremely pleased with the Vinta Inks brand. They are well behaved inks. I can’t wait to create additional lovely pen & ink sketches with the colors I have.

Inks: Vinta Inks in Pamana, La Paz, Damili, and Leyte

Pens: Glass dip pen, automatic pen, TWSBI GO with Stub 1.1 nib

Journals: Stillman & Birn Beta (art journal) and Stalogy 365 B6 (ink journal)