Ebony sketchbook tests

It's been days since I played with the Ebony by Daler-Rowney, and yes, I think it is a keeper. It compares favourably with the Stillman & Birn Alpha that I love to bits.

Click on image to see the supplies tested

As my tasks are consuming me, my time photographing anything is slow, and not steady.

It does take wet;  it does take markers; it does not bleed through.  And I will be adding this sketchbook to my favourite pile--too many sketchbooks are already on the also ran pile and destined to be given away or tossed into the burn barrel.

Now I have about five favourites:  The Stillman & Birns; the Exaclair sketchbook; the Super Deluxe Aquabee with the brown cover; and the Pentalic Nature Sketch.  The Aquabee and Nature Sketch only come in spiral bound.

As I generally do not sketch across both sides of any journal whether it is spiral or hardbound appears not to interfere with my working habits.  If I had it my way, not easy to come by, I'd have a Moleskine style sketchbook with perfect paper.  Alas, alack, such a beast does not exist.

Ebony sketchbook tests, a photo by parsifalssister on Flickr.


Fountain Pen Cleaning, Part II

First thanks to Kelly (Kilmer) and Stephanie Smith (Rhodia Drive) for linking to my post on cleaning fountain pens.

Second, I am nearly finished with the task.

A piston Senator and a cartridge Sailor fountain pen
It has taken me far longer than I anticipated, but then when you have as many fountain pens as I have collected in my lifetime, it is not so surprising.   Using a wee bit of Dawn liquid detergent in the water has proven very useful.

I wish Stephanie lived closer.  If she did,  I'd try to induce or bribe her to help me photograph the pens for sale.  She always does such a terrific job on her blog,  The Spiritual Evolution of the Bean.

Or if  I was closer to Kelly or one of her classes  I would ask her to test the pens out on her remarkable journal pages.  Kelly is one of very few artists I met on line who I actually met in person, taking a class with her in Westchester years ago, and also sharing membership at Belle Papier (now disbanded) for many years.

Without either of these women, I am on own with my small digital camera.  However, I will give each and every pen its due.

A Wrinkle in Time

One never knows what will pop up in the stream of consciousness and memory when reading a passage in a review, or whilst glancing out the studio window.

Or at least for me I am often mystified when I plunge headlong into yesterday whilst sitting in the present.  And that is how I felt this morning when reading this piece in the Times about Madeleine L’Engle's celebratory, "A Wrinkle in Time."

I wasn't always intrigued by science, but I was always seeking answers to the unknown.  I called myself a phenomenologist rather than a scientist, or a meta-physicist rather than a seeker of the strange, unfathomable tomorrow.

The first science fiction book I clearly remember cherishing and reading, not once but several times was Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End." 

Not all science fiction appeals to me, but John Varley captured my attention in the early 90s, as did Roger Zelazny and Marion Zimmer Bradley several years later.

The Amber Series was my staple in 1992 as I drove across the United States searching for the unknown and the beautiful in the country, and rifling through second hand bookstores for the continuing saga.  Of all the books I've owned and discarded, I believe I have a complete set of second hand copies of this thrilling boy book.  It was the metaphysical that enthralled me, that ability to transport that has always captured my imagination and was one of my erstwhile wishes.  Here's a review of the tarot deck that was created and does not bear any resemblance to the story itself.

Bradley's Darkover Series is probably not that far away from a "girl" science fiction story, and while not similar in either style or content to L'Engle, several of the books are driven by strong female characters.  A rather long series , it has no single protagonist, but rather notable families.

But it is and was The Saga of the Renunciates, The Shattered Chain, Thendara House and the City of Sorcery that captivated and captured my attention.  The Free Amazons, as the main characters are named, light up the stage for these three stories in the wider series and stand apart.  While many object to the sagas conclusion, it shouldn't be neglected as it fits into the whole.  The Amazons are a splendid band of women who exhibit all those traits we find in women willing and able to take risks, some of which end in disaster.

I'm not certain I ever wrapped my head around all the Darkover books, nor am I certain I read them all.  What I do remember is that several were very difficult to find.  Hawkmistress may have been among the last to be read.  Zimmer Bradley permitted others to join her in the fiction and her fandom wrote many spin-offs with and without her.

Most of all my free associations are what surprise me: where I heard of the books; where I was when I read them; how I found them.

Varley I learned of when I interviewed someone for a position when I was working at Brown.  Why were we talking about books? And why science fiction?   I don't recall, but I came away with several recommendations written on her resume and never offered her the job.

My friend, Bill, and once neighbour in Shutesbury (MA) introduced me to the Darkover series in 1995.  He had many of them.  I read all of his and then started to collect my own.  Living in the Pioneer Valley, and in particular in the low lying woods of the Berkshires was one of the best times of my life and the worst, so many images appear and disappear from view as I recount those years.

The Amber Series may also have come as a recommendation, and I know that I read most of them on the road, in youth hostels, cafes and friend's houses and found the last one in Bozeman, Montana when visiting my dear friend Joan in July of that year.

I talked with some friends and a young videographer about this 1992 adventure only last night at a surprise party for NW.  Traveling alone for months, across this huge expanse we call the "United" States" is without parallel in both mood and memory.

One of my last half hour, at a minimum, tasks is to sort more books, but I know that even if I discard more, and I have already given dozens upon dozens to the library, friends and the thrift shop, Roger Zelazny and Zimmer Bradley will remain on a shelf.



Urban Sketchers 3rd Symposium Announced

I wanted to go to Portugal, but couldn't.

I wanted to spend the winter in Guatemala, but I can't because I am broke after surgery and the terrain is too rough for my own safety.

I was invited to attend a symposium in Tuscany, but I can't really afford it right now.

But I checked the cost of a flight to Santo Domingo from JFK, and I can afford it in July and I may be healed enough to travel safely and enjoy it.

And, perhaps just perhaps I could arrange to meet my Guatemalan friend half-way.  Now wouldn't that be grand.

The Owl, in particular the Snowy Owl

When I spied an owl on a telephone pole a week or more ago I was unable to identify him/her.  Perhaps it was a Snowy Owl being observed more and more across the north throughout the country.

The notion of the Snowy Owl amuses me greatly.  When I was in hospital, my physical therapist started a trend: we all got to be birds.  Although originally designated "a hawk," and she a "hummingbird," I later was the Snowy Owl.

Cleaning fountain pens

Kate (Cathy) Johnson wrote up a piece on the Artists Journal Workshop forum about pens and cleaning, and several folks, including me, discouraged the use of vinegar, as it is rather corrosive.

The Writers Bloc blog has a good write up that could easily be followed, and which I prescribe to for the most part.

This discussion couldn't come at a more propitious time as I am in the midst of cleaning about 30-40 pens, many of which are of the fountain pen variety, others ball points and several mechanical pencils.

I am assigning myself tasks.  Each task must be performed for a minimum of 1/2 hour; no maximum.  It appears that some of the pens that I thought were cleaned, were not as clean as I imagined and they require much more rinsing, and ear syringe flushes, thus this task will far exceed my minimum.

When these pens are thoroughly clean and checked, I will photograph them and offer them for sale.


Gabrielle Giffords Steps Down

Early this afternoon I had brunch with friends.  We didn't agree on language (their native language is Polish); we didn't agree on politics; they are right; I am left; we raised our voices.  But we also acknowledged our mutual respect for each other and our similarities rather than our differences.  We shared how we came to our beliefs, if not always our values.  We shared pirogi, and a most excellent cup of coffee.   Then when I came home I found three alerts that Ms. Giffords had stepped down.

Perhaps a carry over from my conversation with my friends, or the emotions that were unleashed by talks of the War (yes, number 2, or how my friends parents, Polish Christians had been concentrated in Buchenwald or my friends had escaped), or just the way the world looks to me these days, but this video brought tears to my eyes and had me all choked up.



Marginalia and Beckett

Like the source, Brainpicking, I am fond of other people's marginalia.  One of the biggest exhibits of notated diaries, journals and sketchbooks I had the pleasure to see was at the American Folk Arts Museum in late 2001, when they featured Henry Darger.  (Now part of their permanent collection.)

Rare Henry Darger photograph, via Wikipedia

It always amazes me to discover where a collection resides, and Harry Ransom at the University of Texas at Austin, appears to be a storehouse of a wide ranging number of paper collections.   It is the Ransom that also featured Shay's Greenwich Village Bookstore Door which I wrote about here.

Now it appears they have some fascinating notebooks penned by Samuel Beckett.  Beckett, nearly a household name in some literary families, not an easy read, but perhaps something will be gleaned from his marginalia about waiting.

Information about this collection's acquisition appears on line.  Having been on the Aquistion Committee of a small museum myself, I know it is often a museum or collector's good fortune in more ways than one that they are able to bring together the work of the lost, famous and retired writings and art works of brand names like Samuel Beckett.

Marginalia is in some small part of the altered book genre.  I remember when I was first introduced to the concept of "altering a book." It was during my wide ranging research on book arts.  Even my exposure to Darger came from those explorations through a book exhibit.

Now that I have nearly organized the upstairs spare bedroom to an almost "studio" I see the makings of many projects as I have plethoric inventories of acrylic, mediums and paper, the makings for an entire exhibit of my own.   I am also a minor league writer of margin notes.


A favourie artist

Check out her blog here.

Above the horizon

I was graced on Wednesday with two amazing sights, the first a beautiful adult bald eagle and the second an as yet unidentified owl, a rather large one. Both were perched on telephone polls along route 191N on a very clear day. I don't generally look up, but rather straight ahead so perhaps these two feathered friends are in their home territory and I just hadn't been paying sufficient attention.


A belated holiday gift: Ebony not Ivory

I wanted one of these hardbound sketchbooks to try for ages, and now I have one. The Daler Rowney Ebony, A5, is what I received and it looks very promising. At 150 g/m2 (101lbs) it feels heavy enough for wet media, and certainly those British and Australian sketchers I follow make good hay of this book.
I hope to do her justice later today.

And boy do I owe a debt of gratitude and a huge thanks my Scottish friend, Claire, for this wonderful gift.