24 April 2011

A very lovely weekend

The fact that this was a three-day weekend two weeks before the end of the semester certainly didn't hurt its quality. There was a great deal of grading, of course, but there was also a lot of cooking, two excellent meals out with friends, and baseball. Roy Halladay pitched another masterpiece today for the Phillies. Glorious.

One of the other things, though, that made this weekend so lovely was the amount of time I was able to spend engaged in making things. I finished knitting a baby sweater for a friend in the most perfectly delicious Malabrigo (Silky Merino) in a brilliantly cheerful creamsicle color. Just have to find some buttons for it and sew up the seams. That was mostly what I did between grading sessions over the past week, and it was comforting to have a knitting project that I really enjoyed again. (The last two times I knit something, it was with yarn that I really, really disliked. My next project is the same way, alas, but I'm hoping that large needles and such will speed it along.) More significantly, it was lovely to have something to do as a break between necessary professional tasks that felt both purposeful and relaxing.

That brings me to the other exciting part of this weekend.

As I mentioned in my last entry, I ordered some new journals and some pens. And some ink. I was particularly excited to finally get my paws on some Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses, and for good reason. I adore it in my Levenger True Writer stub nib. The ink behaves quite beautifully on all manner of paper (as I discovered while using it for grading--bright enough to see, not red-red enough to give things the Ink of the Damned feeling), and the slight shading qualities are enhanced by the stub. Inkwise, I also picked up some samples of Noodler's Kung Te-Cheng, Diamine Green-Black (currently in my True Writer Fine and currently lovely), and Diamine Syrah from the lovely Goulet Sample Shop. In the same Goulet order, I also picked up an Exacompta Basic Sketchbook. With which I am in love. In which I am trying not to write until it's time because that journal is going to have a specific purpose. I'm staving off my desire to use it by using a blank Clairefontaine journal, and that's been a pretty good fixer. (I got a blue cover. I am so pleased that my randomly-chosen cover was blue. It is, so much, my favorite.)

And then, because I was having a crisis over writing implements on my upcoming trans-Atlantic jaunt, I skittered over to JetPens for some non-fountainy options. I did get a few Uni-Ball Signo 207s (black, blue, green) and a Zebra Sarasa (0.3 mm brown) for my travel workhorses because both have gotten such positive reviews on PenAddict & OfficeSupplyGeek. I also had an artsy whim and got a Uni-Ball Pocket Brush Pen. I am, of course, quite pleased with all of them--they'll serve their purpose and give me some color options with very little fuss.

I also might have blacked out and ordered a lime green Pilot Prera with a fine nib.

The lime green Pilot Prera is not a pen I expected to be interested in. For one, it's lime green. You can tell by the color scheme on the blog and by the inks I mentioned above that I'm not really a lime person. (They're quite delicious fruits, and I may occasionally be limey, but I don't do much in the "bright color" spectrum.) It's also a glossy, single-color barrel. But I love it so much I actually woke up at 5:15 on Friday morning (the day that I had designated as my "sleep as long as you want" day) because I was excited about using it again. (I stayed up past midnight on Thursday--well, into Friday--doodling with it.)

And I think that's why I was so excited. I was actually drawing things with it. Before I graduated high school, I made certain to take an art class every year. I was, by no means, any kind of natural talent, and I don't have one of those spatial memories that can envision--with great clarity--the far sides of objects or what something might look like lying on its side and so on, but I did okay. Most importantly, I loved it. And because I had my life-goals set out in front of me (and they didn't involve visual arts), I could love it simply, easily, without pressure or expectation. I hadn't realized how much I missed that in the past few years.

In the past three days, I've doodled a lot of my favorite, recurring subjects: fruit, trees, branches with cherry blossoms, bamboo. I also tried drawing a few faces, based on some useful tutorials (proportions, and so on) that I stumbled across. I've never much liked drawing people, but I managed a few who actually look like people, and I really enjoyed it.

And I drew this bamboo. I really like drawing plants. They don't give me any lip.
I did this with the Prera, fine tip, with a Pilot/Namiki cartridge in blue/black. The color is really lovely, and I'm sad that it isn't waterproof because I'd love to do a watercolor-tinted sketch with this pen. (I don't get many options for FP-safe waterproof inks, do I?) I think what I love best about this pen is its ability to make soft, sketchy lines. I'm a big fan of my True Writer for writing because, despite its fine tip, as a Western fine, it makes a pretty assertive line, especially given my usual inks (Levenger Cocoa, Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo). When I write, I generally do feel assertive. Writing isn't always easy, but I feel like I know what I'm doing. I know my strengths, my weaknesses, how to play to one, how to challenge the other. When I'm drawing, I am much more tentative. I certainly feel rusty at this point, but even when I was drawing something in class, two or three times a week, I still made the same line, lightly, a dozen times over, before I would commit to a bold line. (And even then, I kind of resented it.) I should get into the habit of sketching in pencil and then doing cleaner lines in ink for that reason, but I also like instant gratification and can never find a pencil or a decent eraser when I want one.

The only problem is that now, I will want to have this pen and a blank journal (in addition to my lined "everything" notebook and all of my other pens) with me at all times. That runs counter to my (often futile) attempts at traveling light. Ah, well. Small price to pay for a rekindled love.

17 April 2011

Recharge & Refresh

This is a strange post title for anything that happens in April for an English professor (as April & May, like November & December, are The Months of Interminable Grading), but this has been a good weekend for feeling a little more refreshed. One thing that has contributed to that is the stubbornness of greenery. It's cold here, still, in Wyoming. We haven't had lots of snow like certain parts of the Dakotas and Colorado, but it hasn't been very warm, either. There haven't been many overt signs of spring from the atmosphere. The ground, though, refuses to be contained: we have a few tulips sneaking up around the front porch, and folks lucky enough to have daffodil bulbs planted are seeing persistent knots of brilliant yellow ringing their steps. The grass is the kind of saturated green that I have missed from the east coast, the kind of color that doesn't last long here. We're not really getting leaves on trees, not beyond the limy fuzz of buds, but there's promise. I'm holding onto that.

There's been grading, too (there always is), but I also spent an hour this afternoon playing with some Derwent watercolor pencils and a thoroughly ancient set of Prang watercolors. (Yes, I know. We used the exact same sets in middle school. It's likely that this set came from middle school.) I didn't turn out anything that I was particularly excited about, particularly because I went into it without any kind of plan, and it's been so long since I've painted that I need some sort of visual reference. Which I didn't have. None of that is the point. The point is that I was inspired a few days ago by Lavinia Spalding's book Writing Away. We're using that book for the travel-writing component of a study-abroad class I'm co-teaching with some colleagues in a few weeks. Spalding talks a great deal about journaling (which I'm not very good at, in any kind of organized way), and she talks a lot about creating pictorial art of varying kinds. I got the itch. I'm now waiting for an Exacompta journal and some other shiny things from Goulet Pens & JetPens.

When those things come in, I'm going to try to have an organized journaling experience, at least in the context of this trip. We'll see how that turns out.

The other point of it is how excited I am about this trip, now, in this context. It's not that I wasn't looking forward to it before; it's that there's an anticipation associated with the creation of the artifact around the trip, too. (And it's not just the anticipation of new stationary fumes, of course, though that's certainly attractive.)

Hopefully I'll have some pictures of something sometime soon. Right now, there's The Fall of Sam Axe and more grading to fill my evening.

03 April 2011

No Pelikans, So How About Pelicans?

So, as I am wont to do every time I go to some sort of major urban center, I checked out St. Petersburg for fountain pen stores. I didn't find any. (Granted, my search wasn't super-thorough, as I knew I'd be confined to the area near my conference, but I didn't get a sense of there being much choice in the matter.) Thus, instead of Pelikans, you get pelicans, and the pelicans are doing their thing at the St. Petersburg pier.
This pelican is a rock. He is an island.

Hail, hail, the gang's all here.
I spent a full day squeaking every time I saw an anole. Which was a lot of times. They are so cool. Almost as cool as stegosauruses.
And, because we went to a Tampa Bay Rays game, have some baseball players. None of them appeared to be using fountain pens at any point in the game. That's probably wise.
Vladimir Guerrero & Brian Roberts, warming up at the Rays vs. Orioles game.
Also, this seems like a fine time to show off some new pen gear I got for my birthday: an Aston pen case and a small, blank Rhodia Webbie. My delightful husband picked them up at GouletPens. Oh, I have a new appreciation for a blank journal. I don't use blank journals much, since I'm far more a writer than an artist (and I have an inability to write in a straight line), but getting this little blank journal made me want to sketch a few things. On the page spread that you can see below, I sketched one of the conference presenters' water glass. It's not by any means masterful, but I can tell it is, in fact, a little cup. The Rhodia paper is, of course, dreamy. It's a very pleasant cream color, which I didn't expect that I would like, but I do. Particularly for my sketchy little embarkations.

Closed journal & open pen case. True Writers, both of them. 
All of these things in action.
Because some of you may wish to know: the writing is done with a True Writer stub filled with J. Herbin Bleu Myosotis, which is the black pen in this photo. The Waterlilies pen is filled with Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo. These are easily my two favorite inks thus far in my inky experimentations. Interesting thing about the Bleu Myosotis: it seems to mellow and lighten with age. By age, I mean a few hours. When it's newly dry on the page, it's a much more saturated and dark tone, nearly purple. After a few hours, it gentles to its highly shaded periwinkle. Mostly, I point this out because it's neat.

It's going to be a hard choice when I have to pick a journal to take with me to the UK this May. I purchased a slightly larger one (lined, not a Rhodia) for that purpose, but I really do like the blank paper in this Rhodia because of the urge to sketch things. And, well, the paper behaves gorgeously. It is a bit small, though, to do a whole lot of real writing in--I feel like I should write much smaller than I usually do in the small pad, and that slows me down a bit. 

Decisions, decisions.