A Quick Q & A for Today

(Update 03/23/22: I was asked another question related to the Avery labels I use. See * below)

I’m absolutely thrilled to see some wonderful feedback and comments about my art adventures and my blog. It’s always wonderful to share experiences and insights as well as ask questions.

I thought I would spend a few minutes answering a few questions that came up within the last week or so.

I received a question about removing the nib unit from a Maiora Posillipo fountain pen. I pulled out my pen and tried to unscrew the nib unit from the section, but it would not budge. I answered the question with a “no” and then realized that I might be wrong. I went back through my blog to find out that the answer should have been a “yes” and here’s the result:

I used a piece of my grippy rubber liner (shelves) and gently unscrewed the nib unit from the section.

Another question that came up was about the labels I use for my TWSBI GO fountain pens. I use the Avery 5408 – 3/4″ round white labels. Besides identifying the ink in my GOs, I’ve also used the stickers on the lids of my ink sample vials. I’ve also used the stickers to label the tops of my ink boxes (e.g. Van Dieman’s Inks).

*An additional label question came up related to how do I keep the labels on my pens. Here’s a tip. Once I apply the label to my pen, I place my thumb over the label for about 30-60 seconds. This heats the adhesive on the label a bit and the label adheres to the pen.

The next question is related to issues with pen/nib drying out or having hard starts. The questions I received were related to Maiora Impronte and I want to add I have had issues with another pen brand model.

Let me begin by saying I hardly ever have any issues with a pen drying out or having hard starts. If I do, it’s more than likely because of a cap problem. That’s based on my personal experience and a consistent pattern I’ve seen.

My Maiora Impronte Posillipo had an issue with hard starts within an hour of receiving the new pen. I wrote with it for a few days and I documented the issues I was having. I provided writing samples and pictures of my cap: a rubber disc inside was not secured and there was a hole where the clip goes into the cap. Yafa Brands was able to resolve it by replacing the cap with a new one. You can read about this on my blog by looking for “Category” on the right side of my blog and click on the drop down menu and look for “Maiora” or you can click here to get the same information: https://susiegstudio.com/category/maiora/ .

The other cap issue I have is with one of my Conklin All American pens. I have several of them, but one of them always has a hard start. I’m sure it has to do with air going into the area where the clip connects into the cap. When I use a different colored cap on the pen, the pen writes fine. I found a work around.

For those of you who have pens with hard starts, the problem may or may not be with your nib. I would check your cap first to see if there are any openings or holes. Do you see daylight or feel any air when you blow into the cap? That’s where I would start before touching the nib.

Before I go, I thought I would add this picture from this morning. I cleaned out 12 fountain pens I had inked from last year’s workshop. I placed some paper towels in a jam jar and placed the nearly clean nib units on the paper towel to draw out the remaining ink.

A lovely tie-dye pattern from Robert Oster Thunderstorm ink.

My Maiora Impronte OS Posillipo – the Good/the Bad

Update (05/24): I have received a package from Yafa. They sent me the wrong cap and it appears to be the regular size cap for their smaller Maiora Impronte pen. Unbelievable! I contacted the online pen shop and the solution is to return both (my defective OS cap and their regular replacement cap) to Yafa along with a nice letter. It looks like it will be sometime in June when I’ll get to use my pen again. Not a happy camper right now.

Update (05/22): In a few days I will be receiving a new cap from Yafa Brands. I cleaned my pen and have been patiently waiting to use it again. I can’t wait to see what this new cap looks like. Stay tuned!

Maiora is an Italian fountain pen manufacturer based in Naples, Italy and is managed by former co-founder and president of Delta Pen Company, Nino Marino. Maiora also produces fountain pens under the Netunno brand. I have to mention here that the other former co-founder of Delta was Ciro Matrone. Ciro and Salvatore Matrone (Ciro’s son) are the brain child behind Leonardo Officina Italiano Pens. To me, the Maiora pens remind me of my Leonardos and look a bit similar, but are quite different.

I saw a few Maiora Impronte OS pens on my social media feed. Someone had posted a picture of their Posillipo pen and the colors reminded me of the Caribbean waters. Yes, I’m a sucker for island and water related colors.

My Maiora Impronte OS in Posillipo

I did a bit of research to find out the meaning behind this color’s name. Posillipo is a town located near the coastal region of Naples. This pens’s blue and green flecks represent the surrounding waters and the rolling hills of this coastal town in Italy.

I’ve had this Posillipo for a couple of weeks and I wanted to share what I love about this pen, the good and the bad.

The Good:

The pen is made from hand turned solid resin bars and the pen’s clip is machined from solid brass and then hand polished. The pen has a curved grip/section which is made from the same matching resin as the barrel and cap. It has a really nice feel and my fingers rest comfortably in the curved section. I’m starting to prefer this kind of grip.

My Posillipo with silver clip and ring trim

I was happy to see the Maiora uses a threaded converter which is my favorite type of converter. This one is designed beautifully and well made. I had a lovely experience filling the converter with ink. That says a lot about the quality. Similar to my Leonardo Momento Zeros, there’s blind cap at the end of the barrel that allows quick access to the converter knob. The blind cap threads are metal.

Maiora uses JoWo #6 nibs. Swappable nib units? Yes! That means Franklin-Christoph, Esterbrook, Edison, Opus 88, Retro 51 and other pen manufacturers who use JoWo #6 nib units are swappable in my Maiora Impronte pen.

I took a picture of my pen disassembled. Notice the curved grip, the nib unit unscrewed and sitting in its section, the blind cap, and the lovely converter.

The nib is engraved with the Maiora logo and the converter has the etched name

Another nice feature of my Maiora pen is it can use the short or long standard international ink cartridges. I mentioned before I have a few boxes of the Jacques Herbin, Pelikan, and Waterman long ink cartridges that I like to use.

My Fine nib needed a slight adjustment as the tines appeared to be a bit off and I could feel the nib drag a bit on the paper (scratchy). After I realigned the tines, the nib wrote smoothly with just a tad bit of feedback. A lovely feeling for a Fine nib. It writes slightly wet and I filled my pen with Diamine Enchanted Ocean to show off all the shimmers.

The Bad:

Yes, there is a big issue with my Maiora Impronte OS. It’s with the cap. There’s a small opening where the clip attaches to the cap. That means air is flowing inside the cap. My beautiful Fine nib dries out in between writing sessions and overnight.

Picture of the opening where the clip is attached

There is also a floating rubber disk sitting inside at the end of the cap. It’s not secured and I’m not sure if it’s suppose to be there. When I twist my pen into the cap, the tip of the nib rubs against this rubber disk. After the first night when my pen sat on my desk, the tip of the nib (iridium) had developed some crust and the nib was covered with ink. It wrote for a bit and then I decided to clean off the gunk. It took several attempts to wipe it off and then I ended up dipping the nib into some water. I did the dipping into the water about three times before I could remove the ink completely from the nib and the iridium tipping was shiny again.

I sent this picture of the inside cap to the pen shop

After spending some quality time writing with my Maiora, I sent an email to the online pen shop and included a few pictures of my pen and my sample writing where I documented the issues. I received a response that included some options: request a new nib and a new cap. I provided additional pictures of the cap include a gap/opening where the clip joins the cap. I actually blew some air into the cap and sure enough the air came out of the cap.

I went ahead and requested a new cap. I did not request a new nib as my Fine nib writes beautifully and I have no issues with the nib. As a few of my pen friends know, when a beautiful writing nib is in my possession there is no letting go. My only problem with the pen was the cap and its two apparent issues. The pen shop is waiting to hear back from the distributor, Yafa Brands.

Why didn’t I return the whole pen? There were too many positive and feel good qualities I was experiencing with this particular pen. Besides checking off all of my pen requirement boxes, this nib writes beautifully. Plus the pen feels comfortable in my hand after several long writing sessions. I’ve become one with this pen minus the cap. Hahaha!

I will be back to post additional updates and the solution to this major cap problem.

Pen Comparisons:

I wanted to include a picture that shows my Esterbrook Estie OS and my lovely Maiora together. They are both “over sized” pens and look somewhat girthy, but they are extremely comfy pens to write with.

My Esterbrook Estie OS in Dreamer Purple and my Maiora Impronte OS in Posillipo

Since I’m displaying my current favorite pens, I thought I would add another favorite to the mix from Franklin-Christoph.

For comparison: Franklin-Christoph 31 (Candystone), Esterbrook Estie OS, and Maiora Impronte OS

After looking at this picture, I realize that my Candystone pen contains my favorite colors and it also incorporates the colors from the other two pens.

Tips/Additional Comments:

  • My Leonardo Momento Zero pens have friction fit Bock nibs. Leonardo included the Bock #6 nibs with their pens until earlier this year (2021) when they switched to JoWo #6 nibs. The JoWo nibs in the Leonardo pens are also friction fit meaning you can pull the nib and feed out to change the nib. The nib collar unit is still secured into the section. No unscrewing of the nib unit/collar on the Leonardo Momento Zeros.
  • I have no issues with using shimmering inks with a Fine nib as long as the feed and nib can handle it. Most of my JoWo nibs (Extra Fine, Fine, and wider nibs) do well with shimmering inks. If I can see daylight between the tines and through the tip of the nib, I know the shimmering ink will flow. I mostly use my Diamine Shimmertastic and Jacques Herbin shimmering inks with my Extra Fine and Fine nibs.

Pen: Maiora Impronte OS Posillipo with Fine nib

Ink: Diamine Enchanted Ocean

Painting a Sea Shell Card and My DIY Watercolor Paint Palette Case

I collected a few sea shells from Hubby’s glass jar and I wanted to paint a special card for him. I spent a few minutes painting a practice piece and to warm up my fingers and hand.

My practice sketch and palette cases of colors

For the actual card, I decided not sketch the outlines with my carbon ink and fountain pen and instead used my watercolor paints to create the sea shells. I also added some shimmering colors over the shells to make them “pop” on the paper.

A simple card for Hubby

If you noticed in my pictures, I had a few of my pocket palette cases sitting on my desk where I was grabbing various paint colors and mixing them in my porcelain palette. I spent way too much time creating this card and found myself stopping and pausing while I was looking for colors across several palettes.

I’m always looking for ways to improve my processes or steps. What can I do to improve my prep or setup time before I paint? Or how can I consolidate my pans of paint into one case?

I realized I needed a larger metal palette case to hold my frequently used watercolor pans.

I was digging around my studio and saw a nice size metal case that contained a mini doodle kit I had received as a gift a few years ago. I enjoy reusing what I have and repurposing for my current needs. I knew this metal case would be large enough to hold all the colors I needed and still be portable.

My mini doodle case repurposed as a watercolor palette

Once I removed all the included art pencils, accessories, and the plastic tray I was left with an empty metal tin case. I measured the bottom of the case and started to research something called “magnetic sheets”. I started with adhesive magnetic sheets and decided the adhesive was not be an added bonus and more of an issue as the reviewers found the adhesive over time would eventually stop working. My mind knew that the thicker the magnet, the better it would stick to metal. I settled on the 4″x6″ size sheet and found a few 60 mil offerings in quantities of 10 or 25 sheets.

When my Marietta Magnets package of 10 magnetic sheets arrived I could not wait to create my custom palette case. This 60 mil magnetic sheet is slightly firm with a little flex. I was able to use a household scissor to trim the sheet from 4″ x 6″ down to a 3-3/4″ x 5-3/4″ size. I decided not to completely cover the bottom of my case with the magnetic sheet, but to leave a slight gap so I could easily remove the magnet if I needed to. I’m happy that I went with a thicker magnet as the pans stay in place. Mission accomplished.

Close up of the 60 mil magnet under the pans

I grabbed my pocket palettes and removed my frequently used paint colors. I placed the pans in my new custom case and rearranged them several times to figure out the best color groupings and arrangement to fit my needs.

My new custom palette case

Now a few of you are probably wondering how I can tell the colors apart as some of the pan colors look very similar. I came up with a system and labeled the back of the paint pans. I used my Avery 5422 labels to write out the colors and then cut up the labels to fit the pans. There was a good reason why I went with a stronger or thicker magnet as the labels cover up a bit more of the underside of the metal pans. The pans were sliding around a bit in my pocket palette with the thinner magnet. Now with my new custom case and stronger magnet, I do not have to worry about the pans moving around.

The labels on the back side of a few of my pans

I enjoy seeing all my colors and there is definitely more room for me to rearrange my pans and swap out different colors depending on what I’m painting.

I’m happy with the magnetic sheet I found and it’s working beautifully holding my pans in place.

I still have two Pocket Palettes that are used for my Iridescent paints and for my Primatek paints. I plan on reusing my other empty Pocket Palettes for other paints I have from Winsor & Newton and M. Graham.

Tip:

Any metal case can be converted into a palette case including an empty Altoid mint tin or a Kaweco metal tin.

The magnetic sheet should not be too flexible or too thin as there might not be enough holding power. I went with the 60 mil as I knew I had a label on the backside of my pans and label would sit between the magnet (palette) and metal (pan) reducing the magnet’s strength.

Metal Paint Pans: Art Tool Kit

Watercolor Paint: Daniel Smith Extra Fine

Brush: Cheap Joe’s American Journal travel brush #10

Porcelain Palette Dish: Home Goods or Tuesday Morning appetizer dish

Porcelain Flower Palette: Local art shop

Card: Strathmore Watercolor cards & envelopes, cold press, 5″ x 6.875″

Clutch Pencils (updated)

(Edit: I have updated this post to include additional pictures and a quick graphite sketch using my clutch pencils)

Happy National Pencil Day or NPD!

This National Pencil Day showed up in several social media outlets and I thought it would be appropriate to publish this post about my Clutch Pencils.

There is something enjoyable and rewarding about using graphite pencils for creating sketches and drawings. For me, it’s the most basic and much needed tool to create quick gestures or outlines for most of my artwork. For many years, I used mechanical pencils that came with leads in .5mm and .7mm sizes.

My graphite version of my Rose

When I went through my Kaweco fountain pen phase, I noticed they carried something called a clutch pencil lead holders and they came in two different sizes: 3.2mm and 5.6mm. I decided to do some further research before jumping on Kaweco clutch pencil band wagon.

So what is a clutch pencil? It’s one of the oldest type of mechanical pencil. They are also referred to as lead holders. They differ from the modern mechanical pencils in that only one piece of lead is used in the body of the pencil and the lead is not advanced via a push-button mechanism through a sleeve. Instead, the lead is held in place by a spring-loaded clutch mechanism. When the push button is pressed, this operates the internal clutch by opening the jaws of the lead holder and allowing the lead to drop freely from the pencil until the button is released. As the push button is released, this closes the clutch mechanism and the jaws hold the lead firmly in place. This type of clutch pencil is known also as a drop clutch pencil.

The “jaws” of my clutch pencil (5.6mm) and where the lead is inserted and held in place
The smaller “jaws” on my 2.0mm clutch pencil

There is also another type of clutch pencil called the incremental clutch pencil. It has the similar clutch mechanism and jaws like a regular clutch pencil, but by pressing and releasing the button, the lead advances incrementally and does not fall out.

There were several criterias I was looking for in a clutch pencil. The first was to find common lead sizes. In my research, I kept seeing several different size leads from 2.0mm to 5.6mm. I had to figure out which size would make sense to use in my artwork. The second criteria was how comfortable the lead holder would be in my hand. Based on my experiences with fountain and ballpoint pens, I knew I had to stay away from thin and narrow grips. The third and last criteria was quality/functionality of the holder as in how easy was it to install, advance, or remove the lead.

I held off getting the Kaweco brand and decided to go with a few well known graphite pencil brands. Additional research lead me to the KOH-I-NOOR brand. I knew I wanted to use the 5.6mm leads as I could get various line and shading coverage. I also knew I wanted the lead hardness to be in the “B” range or soft lead so I could get light and dark shading when applying various degrees of pressure to the lead on my paper.

I started with the KOH-I-NOOR Versatil 5340 model with a matte blue finish. It’s an aluminum shell over a brass octagon shaped body and with a weight around 46grams. This classic style holder is well balanced and most importantly fits well in my hand. This is a drop clutch design with a sharpener in the cap.

My clutch pencil collection. The top four lead holders use 5.6mm leads. The bottom holder uses 2.0mm lead.

When I was doing my initial research, a multicolored Versatil 5340 version kept showing up on my radar. It’s called “Magic” because the single piece of lead contains a variety of colors that run the length of the 5.6mm lead. This is the same model as my matte blue, but with swirls of green, orange, and yellow colors on the body. Oh my! I’ve used this colorful pencil lead to create greeting cards and write colorful notes. What a fun pencil to use!

I came across a much smaller pencil with a metal clip (rare design) at a fantastic price and added the 5311 model to my collection. This is the shortest clutch holder I have and it appears to be a mix of a modern and retro design. It’s a nice black matte metal triangular shape barrel with indents running most of the length of the holder. This allows my fingers to rest in the indents while holding the pencil. There’s a lead sharpener in the cap.

Another pencil caught my eye. This interesting clutch pencil had an unusual body design with an ergonomic looking grip.

My Cretacolor ergonomic clutch pencil with top down view.

I can say this Cretacolor looks a bit weird, but it is one comfy writing/sketching tool. The holder is made of light resin or plastic and feels great in my hand. In my picture you can see how the grip has unusual curves. It is molded to fit the contours of my hand and wonderful to use even with my finger joint issues. A sharpener is built into the cap.

Shading and writing samples from each clutch pencil

Here’s a slideshow of pictures to show how the clutch pencil advances the lead:

Eventually, I picked up a Staedtler 780 clutch pencil that uses 2.0mm lead. I was curious to see how well the 2.0mm lead would fit in with my sketching tools. Now I know I said I dislike thin and narrow writing tools, but this special holder has a lovely textured grip and I hardly notice how narrow it is. This 2.0mm style clutch pencil is great for sketching in finer details. This is a drop clutch with a built-in sharpener located in the removable push cap.

Why do I like using clutch pencils?

  • With regular wood pencils, they are sharpened over time and get smaller in size. While using the clutch pencil, the body/barrel remains the same size.
  • Ability to advance the lead length to use more lead for sketching broader strokes and shading larger areas
  • Thicker or wider clutch pencil body is easier to hold
  • Create consistent line widths
  • Can swap out the leads to change the graphite hardness or even use colored leads
  • When not in use or storing, can open the clutch and let the lead slide back into the barrel. No need to worry about protruding lead messing up my pencil pouch or interior pockets.

What do my clutch pencils have in common?

  • Drop clutch: Push the cap to open the clutch of the holder. Slide in the new lead into the holder and release the cap. To advance the lead, hold the clutch pencil at an angle and carefully click or push the cap to let the lead drop down and adjust to preferred length. If you hold the clutch pencil vertical with the clutch facing down and click on the cap, the lead will drop out.
  • Sharpener: Unscrew the cap. A lead sharpener is built into the base of the cap. The Staedtler is the only one that has a hole at the top of the cap (remove the cap to sharpen the lead.
  • Common lead sizes with a variety of lead hardness available

Tips/Tricks:

  • After sharpening the lead into the cap, dump the lead dust into a small container. Can reuse the lead dust/shavings to create some interest artwork using your finger.
  • It takes some practice to work the cap and clutch to advance the lead. If I push down on the cap all the way, the clutch opens to it’s maximum position and the lead will drop out. If I gently push or click the cap, the clutch opens part of the way and the lead will slowly release incrementally.

Clutch Pencils Used:

  • KOH-I-NOOR Versatil 5311 (5.6mm)
  • KOH-I-NOOR Versatil 5340 (5.6mm)
  • KOH-I-NOOR Versatil 5340 Magic (5.6mm)
  • Cretacolor Ergonomic (5.6mm)
  • Staedtler 780 (2.0mm)

Why Use Professional Artist Quality Supplies?

It was at the beginning of my watercolor adventure and my first class where I learned to use student-grade supplies and I developed some bad habits with using the cheap paints and cheap papers. I kept hearing buy what you can afford. At some point in my watercolor painting life I was miserable with what I created and could not get to the next level of seeing any improvements in what I was painting. My paintings were dull and lifeless.

I found a local artist who had a studio in town and she took me under her wings for a few weeks. I showed up for the first session and she told me to get rid of my student grade paints and papers and start using artist quality supplies. She mentioned there’s a huge difference in quality between student grade and artist grade. She let me use her tubes of Winsor & Newton Artist paint for my first lesson and I immediately saw a difference. A few weeks later my mentor saw a huge improvement in my paintings. This eye opening experience brought life back to my art adventure.

When I graduated to artist grade supplies, I had to re-learn or develop new habits with using better grade paints and papers. I went from paint fillers to pure translucent colors. In regards to paper, I went from cellulose paper to 100% cotton paper. It was definitely an eye opening experience and instead of frowning at what I created, it was pure joy to see beautiful colors pop on my cotton paper.

If I had learned to use artist grade supplies at the beginning, I would have immediately developed good habits right from the start.

I was thankful to have the basic small tubes of Winsor & Newton Artist colors and not go hog-crazy getting the rainbow of colors they manufactured. I learned to mix the basic colors of yellows, reds, and blues to create the secondary colors. For example yellow and red to create orange. Yellow and blue to create green. Red and blue to create purple.

I followed several watercolor artists on the Internet and noticed they were branching out into other watercolor paint manufacturers. One brand that peaked my interest was a US based manufacturer, Daniel Smith. I purchased a few small tubes of his paints and immediately fell in love with his pure bright colors.

A few years ago, I signed up for a refresher watercolor class at my local art center. I was glad to see the instructor’s art supply list included Daniel Smith paints and I was happy to try out new colors. I had a lot of fun in that class and enjoyed learning new tips and painting styles. It showed in my final paintings I produced.

Over the last few months I saw Daniel Smith had a watercolor “dot sheet” that contained almost all of the Daniel Smith watercolor paints available. The sheet is arranged by colors and the one I purchased had 4 sheets covering a total of 238 color dots. That’s a lot of colors from one manufacturer! Scroll through the following pictures to see the 8.5″x11″ sheets of colors:

I spent some time playing with the dots. I took my #6 round paint brush and applied some water to each dot. I painted out each dot in rectangle blocks of color. Most of the colors immediately reacted with the water and it was easy to pull the colors out. A few were so dry that it took some time to get the paint to react to the water and move it around the paper.

For the last 10 years, I have accumulated over 40+tubes of Daniel Smith watercolor paints in my collection. As I mentioned before, I used to mix the basic colors to get my secondary and some tertiary colors. Some colors like turquoise and teal take more effort to create. It made more sense for me to purchase a tube of the exact color I needed.

Did I mention DS makes shimmering paint colors? They are actually called Duochrome and Iridescent colors. Here’s a few close up pictures:

Beautiful shimmering colors!
The Duochrome colors are gorgeous! Reminds me of the Caribbean.
Here’s a close up of a few Iridescent colors

I have my shimmering fountain pen inks to thank for getting me into the sparkling watercolor paints. I never thought I would end up with tubes of shimmering beauties. Oh my! Daniel Smith is doing a great job with their paint offerings.

My paint bin is full of paint tubes. I had to create an inventory (spreadsheet) of my watercolor paint collection. Out of the 40+ tubes in my possession, only 5 colors were duplicates. Not too bad as they are the colors I enjoy using the most.

I plan on getting back into creating some watercolor pieces of art. I just need to carve out a few hours a day and just do it!

Tips/Tricks

Before I sign up for a class (online or in person instructions), I look for the instructor’s supply list to see which brands of paint they use or like to use. It’s not uncommon to see good instructors use a combination of brands like Daniel Smith or Winsor & Newton Professional. Artists/instructors will have favorites they like to use. That’s part of my art adventure and enjoying new colors I have not tried.

You may have heard the saying “a tiny bit goes a long way”. It definitely does with Daniel Smith or Winsor & Newton Professional paints. Artist grade or professional paints are made from pure pigments of color. Student grade paints are made with a small amount of pigment and lots of fillers and that explains why I used up so many tubes of the student grade paints. Student grade can also be opaque and not as vibrant in color.

Dot Cards are a good investment. Both Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton have dot cards. As you can see from the previous pictures, the cards contain the actual paint dropped onto a card along with the name of the paint, lightfastness, staining/nonstaining, granulation, and transparency. The color dot can be activated with a damp brush. Remember I mentioned about a tiny bit goes a long way? This card makes swatching so easy. You can see what the colors look like and the consistency before committing to a tube of paint.

Winsor & Newton has two lines of watercolor paints. One is their “Professional” artist grade paints. The other is their “Cotman” name which is their student grade paint.

I have not discussed watercolor paint brushes. For me, it’s a personal choice. I’ve accumulated several different brands that I’ve tried over the years. I still have a few of my student-type brushes that have served me well. I did try out a few real sable hair and squirrel brushes that I still have and use occasionally. I now prefer to use synthetic brushes. I enjoy the synthetic sable brushes for the lovely points they keep and the synthetic squirrel for the amount of water and color the brush can carry.

My Favorite Watercolor Supplies

Paints: Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors

Paper (140lb/300gsm and 100% cotton): Arches Cold Press, Strathmore Series 500 Premium Cold Press, and Bee Paper Rag Cold Press

Brushes: Cheap Joe’s Golden Fleece, Escoda Versatil, Robert Simmons, and Princeton

Travel Palette: Art Toolkit by Expeditionary Art

Mixing Palette: Small 3″-4″ round porcelain dishes (Tuesday Morning or Home Goods)

My Palette Ink Cards (PIC) of Fountain Pen Ink Colors

I could literally have up to 15 TWSBI GOs filled with various ink colors at one time. Would I be able to remember all the colors I have inked in my pens? More than likely no. That’s why you will see the round Avery labels on my pens.

While my pens are labelled with the name of the ink and dabbled with a sample of the ink color, I still have to fall back on a color swatch or what I call my “cheat sheet” of colors.

I got this idea from when I used my watercolor palettes that I created with my tubes of watercolor paints. Again, similar issues when I looked at my palette and had a hard time identifying the color and what it might look like on my paper.

Here’s my sample swatches from my fountain pens that I used for my artwork. They are not just my TWSBI GOs, but also from my everyday writers (EDW) that I use daily. I’m using my Strathmore Series 500 Watercolor (cold press) paper conveniently sold precut into 5″x7″ pieces.

My PIC #1 shows my ink colors and their names

I’ve decided that when I’m adding a new color to my collection or filling up a pen with the ink, I will add a swatch on my palette card. As you can see I’ve had to expand my palette colors to a second card with a few of my latest ink acquisitions. Pretty soon I’ll be adding my current ink colors that I’ll bring into rotation over the next few months.

PIC #2: I have plenty of space to add more ink colors.

I prefer to use my Palette Ink Card or PIC when I’m sketching. I have a lot of blue and teal inks that sometimes I can’t remember if the color leans more towards blue or more towards green. I also have too many bottles of inks and there’s no way I can remember all my ink colors. That’s where this card comes in handy.

My round Avery labels that help identify my ink colors.

How do I create my mini ink swatches? I gently write vertical lines or downstrokes on the paper so it looks like a 1/4″ square. Before the ink dries, I take my water brush and paint the water over the 1/4″ square and gently pull the ink and water mix away from the square. Note: I try not to scratch the paper up with my pen which is why I suggested to do the lines gently. Otherwise you will have dark lines in the paper after applying the water. This takes a bit of practice.

My PIC is convenient and very portable to carry versus pulling out my Col-o-ring and searching through the gazillion ink swatch cards I have. I place my PIC in my art journal. I can see all my colors on my PIC and quickly decide what colors I will be using for my artwork.

I’m sure by the end of this year, my PIC will expand to over several sheets. Fingers crossed.

Note: I can see the chaos I created with these two cards. There’s no rhyme or reason to adding the colors to my PICs. I’m rethinking I need to break down the color range onto separate cards: blues/greens on one card, purples on another card, and reds/pinks on another. This might become a huge project where I can block a day or two and go through all my bottles of ink and create an organized PIC that make more sense in the long run. We’ll see what I end up doing.

Tips:

Strathmore paper (series 100-400) are known to be student grade paper. I found, for watercolor use, the Series 500 Premium paper is 100% cotton (140lb/300gm) and artist grade. I’m currently using a pack of 5″x7″ paper . I enjoy using their cold press paper for my pen and ink wash artwork. This paper holds up to the many layers of ink wash I create.

The next paper I enjoy using is Bee Paper 100% cotton water color paper. I used to find a pack of 25 in 5″x7″ size at Michael’s for a decent price. I no longer see that paper carried at my local shops. Like the Strathmore Series 500 paper, this Bee paper is great to use for testing and mixing colors and for quick sketches.

My go to artist-grade watercolor paper is Arches 9″x12″ cold press. I’m using up my pads of Arches paper and plan on buying the larger sheets of paper (22″x30″) and cutting them down to the size.

For my pen and ink artwork I like using the 5″x7″ size papers. For larger pieces of artwork, I will use my watercolors as I can easily paint larger swatches of colors versus trying to use my fountain pens to cover the larger areas.

For my fellow beginning artists and those in training, I highly recommend starting out with artist grade paper. There’s a huge difference in paper quality between student grade and artist grade paper. Learn to create on the good stuff and create good habits. Years ago, I had used student quality art supplies and it was hard to break the bad habits of using poor quality paper and I wondered why I had not shown any improvements in my art skills. Something to think about.

Benu Euphorias and My Pen and Ink Sketches

Here’s my tropical trio: Bora Bora, Tropical Voyage, and Big Wave

Some of you might remember I received my first Benu as a Christmas gift from my Hubby. I fell in love with the beautiful colors of my Bora Bora. The turquoise tropical blue color with silver and gold shimmering particles reminded me of the Caribbean. The medium nib writes smooth and wet and handles shimmering inks beautifully.

Edit: Here’s a tidbit of information. I was doing some research on Benu pens and found that the cap threads are square. So, naturally I unscrewed the cap from my Benu and took out my trusty loupe to see the threads on the body of the pen. Yes! I can see the squared off threads which would normally be rounded in most fountain pens. This square thread form shape has the lowest friction and it is hard to fabricate in a pen design. It’s also the most efficient thread form to screw a cap on.

Besides using my Benu for writing, I also enjoy using it as a tool to sketch with in my pen and ink wash artwork. That says a lot about this pen. I know I mentioned this before, but I could write for hours with this pen. Yes, it fits in my hand and has a nice long grip/section. It’s lightweight and sometimes I felt like I was holding a pencil. I naturally gravitated towards using it to sketch with.

My first Benu: Bora Bora

I sketched my first Benu using my fountain pen inks and a bit of iridescent watercolor to bring out the sparkles in my pen.

I was keeping an eye out for another Benu called Tropical Voyage and eventually added that one to my collection. Can you see a theme developing? There’s actually two themes: tropical pen names and the lovely shades of blue.

My second Benu: Tropical Voyage
My pen and ink version of my pen.
Here are the physical pens I used for my Tropical Voyage sketch.

In my art journal I now have a page devoted to my Benu artwork. I originally had planned to sketch my Everyday Writers or EDWs on this page, but my Euphorias were so colorful and beautiful it was inevitable to have a page dedicated to them.

As I was typing up a draft of this blog post, I received my third Euphoria. I was torn between the Big Wave and the glittering Vodka on the Rocks. I wanted to keep with my tropical theme. After much thought, I decided the Vodka was a bit over the top with all that glitter and too sparkly for me. Can you believe that? Too sparkly for me? Hahaha!

So here’s my Big Wave and all it’s beautiful shimmering tiny particles. It reminds me of a frothy shimmering surf. Be sure the click the arrows in the picture to see the slideshow.

Naturally, I had to do a quick sketch of my pen. I decided to do a test sketch to see how the ink colors and iridescent watercolors play together. I wanted to make sure I could capture the glittering frothy surf.

My quick practice pen and ink wash test sketch.

Here’s my writing samples from my Euphorias. All three are filled with shimmering inks.

My trio and writing samples and some gorgeous shimmering inks!

Here’s what the page from my art journal looks like:

My completed sketch of my Benu trios.

Here’s another picture to show off the glittering sparkles:

Sparkles!

My process of integrating my fountain pen inks and iridescent watercolor paints has greatly improved since my first Benu pen sketch. I do the initial sketch with my inks and let them dry completely. I add the iridescent color(s) and gently apply the sparkling wash over the areas. I try not to disturb the paper too much, otherwise I will lift the ink and move it around on the paper and get a mix of unwanted colors.

My palette of Daniel Smith Iridescent watercolors. This covers just about all the shimmering colors I need.

Bora Bora Sketch:

Pens used: Conklin Endura Abalone with JoWo Omniflex nib. Platinum Prefounte 05 Medium nib. TWSBI GOs with Stub 1.1 nibs

Inks used: Diamine Enchanted Ocean and Tropical Glow. Robert Oster Carbon Fire, Heart of Gold, and Thunderstorm.

Watercolor used: Daniel Smith Iridescent Pearl White and Aztec Gold

Tropical Voyage Sketch:

Pens used: Benu Euphorias Bora Bora and Tropical Voyage with Medium nibs. Conklin Duragraph Matte Black with Rainbow Trim Goulet Exclusive LE (JoWo Omniflex nib). Platinum Prefounte 05 Medium nib. TWSBI GOs with Stub 1.1 nibs

Inks used: Diamine Arabian Nights, Golden Ivy, and Tropical Glow. Robert Oster Sydney Lavender, Blue Moon, and Thunderstorm.

Big Wave Sketch:

Pens used: Benu Euphoria Big Wave with Medium nib. TWSBI GOs with Stub 1.1 nibs

Inks used: Diamine Starlit Sea. JHerbin Bleu de Minuit. Robert Oster Blue River, Carbon Fire, and Thunderstorm.

Watercolor: Daniel Smith Iridescent Pearl White and Pearl Shimmer

Journal: Stillman and Birn Zeta

Diamine Ink Sample Swatches

I have been collecting a few vials of ink samples. Sometimes I might get one or two with my orders. Sometimes an online vendor will send me one to try out. I typically wait until I collect more than half a dozen vials and block out some time in the morning to create my swatches.

This morning looked like a great time to get this done.

I posted in one of the fountain pen groups that I was looking for a good silver shimmering fountain pen ink to add to my palette. Some of you might remember a sketch I did of my first Benu pen, the beautiful Euphoria Bora Bora, and I was missing a silver shimmering ink to create the silver highlights in my pen. I ended up using my Daniel Smith silver iridescent watercolor to fill in.

I ended up ordering Diamine Moon Dust and Snow Storm. Since I was on a Diamine Shimmertastic frame of mind, I decided to add samples of Cocoa Shimmer and Blue Flame.

My four Diamine ink samples

Wait a minute. I just listed four inks when I just mentioned I will swatch a minimum of six inks. There were two other Robert Oster inks I had, but since they were not Diamine inks and not shimmering inks I did not include them in this post.

There’s a reason why I wanted to devote this post to Diamine inks. I have enjoyed using and experimenting with their inks. Diamine was the second brand of shimmering inks I tried and fell in love with their Shimmertastic line of colors. My first shimmering brand I tried was Jacques Herbin and I will save that for future blog post.

My ink swatching setup

I love how the Diamine ink colors are saturated. They are bold and vibrant colors. They also make great pen and ink washes. I find most of their ink colors (that I have) are somewhat wet. Personally, I think wet inks make great pen and ink washes on watercolor paper.

Here’s Moon Dust and Snow Storm

The Moon Dust looks like a neutral gray which is what I need for my palette of colors.

Cocoa Shimmer is a beautiful saturated brown ink with beautiful gold shimmers.

The Cocoa Shimmer is on my wish list. This is a gorgeous brown color that will work in my landscape palette.

In my ink swatch Stalogy journal I use the remaining ink on my Q-tip and dabble ink onto the paper. I take my water brush and go over the ink with water. This allows me to see the ink’s characteristics.

My ink swatch/wash journal (Stalogy 365)

Pen: Glass dip pen

Inks: Diamine Moon Dust, Snow Storm, Cocoa Shimmer, and Blue Flame

Paper: Col-o-ring swatch cards and Stalogy 365 journal

Gadget: My MMD (Mouse Maintenance Day)

I have a Logitech rollerball mouse that I use with my older Mac. I went with this wireless mouse a little over two years ago. Before that I had a wired rollerball that I used for several years. I had to switch from using a regular mouse to a rollerball mouse for repetitive motion reasons. Rolling a ball around is less stressful on my joints and muscles in my hand.

For the past week or so, I started to notice some tracking issues with my mouse. Then I had an issue with the rollerball not rolling smoothly. Every now and then the ball would feel like it would hit a piece of debris and then it would continue to roll like normal. The last few days I started to hear a slight grinding sound right before I felt the ball hesitate.

My two year old M570 rollerball mouse

I did some research and found a way to remove the rollerball from my mouse.

Here’s a view underneath the mouse

On the underside of my mouse is a hole where I can see my blue rollerball. I was able to use my pinky and push the ball out. Cool, huh? I made sure I had a hand towel under the mouse when I pushed the ball out. Round objects like to roll around and I did not want this ball to roll off my desk and drop on my toes.

Apparently, this is two years of dirt, lint and debris.

You can see all the lint that collected around the “contact areas” where the ball sits and rolls around.

The three “contact areas” with debris. There’s a sensor to the right of the bottom hole.

I used a Q-tip to clean out the three “contact areas” and then used a soft brush to gently remove any hard to remove lint.

My mouse look so much better!

Once I placed the roller ball back into my mouse, it was tracking and moving around like a brand new mouse. Looks like I will need to add this MMD to my monthly things to do list.

Tips:

My Logitech M570 is a wireless tracking mouse that uses a USB unifying receiver that plugs into my computer. Works great with a PC or Mac that has a USB connector built in.

For the newer and latest Mac laptops that do not have USB connectors, there is a Logitech M575 model that has both the USB unifying receiver and bluetooth capability. I recommend spending a bit more for this mouse as it has two ways to connect. This model feels as though it has better tracking system than the M570 model. It feels smoother.

I use the bluetooth technology between my M575 rollerball mouse and my Mac.

Monochromatic Pen and Ink Sketch

I have a picture I took a few years ago from a charcoal art class I attended. It’s a still life that incorporated two bottles, a mug, and some fabric. My art instructor placed several objects (pottery, bottles, styrofoam shapes, etc) on several tables. She told me I could sit at any table. I was drawn to this simple composition that incorporated the use of odd numbers (two bottles and a mug) and the draped and folded fabric. It was the most challenging table compared to the other still life tables she had set up for the class. While the other students chose the easier objects to sketch, I wanted to create something that would challenge my brain.

It was easy for my eyes to say I can draw/sketch this simple mug. When I grabbed my piece of charcoal and started to draw the shapes, my brain said “this looks wonky” because my ovals looked more like circles, the top and bottom of the mug did not align, and the handle on my mug looked like one of Mickey’s ears. That’s what happened with my initial warm up sketch.

At the end of that charcoal class, I took a few pictures of this beautiful still life. I knew this would be “the one” picture I would use over and over for my practice study using graphite, pastels, oils, watercolor and now pen and ink.

I like using a single color to sketch/draw and create a monochromatic piece of art. This helps me understand the qualities of the medium I am using. With fountain pen inks, I get to see so many surprising colors appear on my watercolor paper that I might not see in my regular writing journals.

Here is my latest pen and ink wash sketch using a single ink color from Robert Oster.

Used my TWSBI 580 to create this monochromatic study.

The base ink color for Schwarz Rose looks like a dark green with rose gold shimmering particles. I sketched an outline using my Preppy with Carbon ink (water resistant). I drew the lines around the objects with the Schwarz Rose ink color and used my water brush to soften the lines a bit. After I let the paper dry, I went back in with bolder and darker lines to create the shadows. I took my water brush and “painted” over the dark areas and pulled the colors out over the paper.

I had to be careful not to overwork the areas with the dark ink. It’s harder to remove a dark color once I applied the ink to the paper. Plus when too much water is added, the color looks less saturated.

Once my sketch was dried, I was amazed to see other colors appear such as green-black, a few shades of teal, and rose pink.

Tip:

Since the month of January was the month for shimmering inks, I ended up using a few of my shimmering inks in my sketches. Once water is applied to the shimmering inks, the shimmer particles will start to spread and collect in different areas of where the water has pooled. A few times the diluted shimmers might look faded on the paper. In the final layer of color, I go back with my shimmering inks and draw a few lines to bring back the highlights or shimmering effects on the object.

Pens: Platinum Preppy with 02 Extra Fine nib (Carbon ink). TWSBI Diamond 580ALR Prussian Blue with Medium nib

Ink: Robert Oster Shake ‘n Shimmy Schwarz Rose

Journal: Stillman & Birn Beta (cold press 270 g/m)