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April 27, 2016


Thank you so much for writing this up. Between yours and my friend's examples, I'm determined to organise my own kit again -- I think I'll plan putting it together as a reward break between packing up the moving boxes. Somehow I've given myself space or permission to do this when traveling but not at home where, realistically, I'm just as likely, if not more, to have time to kill occasionally. Of course, I feel more self-conscious at home, and I prefer the anonymity of "away" but perhaps that's just practice as well. At any rate, you've inspired me, and in a very practical and concrete way -- much appreciated!

These beautiful illustrations deserve a better name than 'sketches'. 'Works of art' would be more appropriate. I don't sketch (not even badly), but I did like hearing that you use a Lamy Safari and Noodler's ink. I write by hand — a lot — and I too use a Lamy pen (Al-Star, but sometimes a yellow Safari) and Noodler's ink (Bulletproof Black). I know Moleskine paper's scorned by the cognoscenti, but I find it works beautifully with the Lamy and Noodler's. I've used the large soft-covered cahiers for years now and prefer them over the bulky, heavy, and costly hardcovered Moleskine notebooks (at least in this size).

Incidentally, I find the Safari much messier than the Al-Star with this ink. The plastic barrel seems harder to wipe clean of ink, perhaps because it accumulates a static charge? The anodised aluminium barrel of the Al-Star causes no problems at all. Otherwise, they're identical pens.

Frances, I'm glad if your artist friends are successfully encouraging your return to drawing! And if this post is a practical help too, all the better!

Pete, thanks so much for writing and for telling me about your Lamy and Noodler's ink. I haven't had trouble with cleaning the barrel of my Lamy, which it's one of those transparent demonstrator models. I also use the Noodler's ink occasionally in a better pen, my Schaeffer, which has a really nice gold nib, but I worry about it getting gummed up. So far so good but I try to use it frequently so the ink won't dry out. You've encouraged me to try the Moleskin cahiers. I don't especially like the smaller ones but my friend Priya also used the large size, and swears by them. So much of this is finding materials and tools that "feel good" to us, don't you think? Then they actually get used. Best wishes to you from the other side of the planet!

Beth, that's so true about the importance of finding tools that feel right. I used various fountain pens and notebooks and other inks before finally settling on the combination of the Lamy, Noodler's ink, and the Moleskine. The act of writing with that combination feels good, not just mentally but physically. On the other hand, it's important not to use excessively expensive materials, because that could too easily discourage using them. (Fountain pens are an exception because you don't use them up.)

If I didn't know you better I might suspect that the acquisition of art's gloriously arcane impedimenta outweighed the pleasures of its usage. In fact this post shows just how wrong that supposition would be. Regard, for instance, the circularity. No need for a subject that is any more distant than the Zip-Loc bag; simply draw the stuff that does the drawing, suggesting in a somewhat literary manner that imagination and transmutation resided in the tools themselves. Those that can draw, draw; those that can't make do with metaphor. Or do I mean anthropomorphisation? Seven syllables! The quality of my comments may be dodgy but you can't complain about the density.

Thanks, Robbie. I love the mundanity (is that a word) of these objects and the circularity of this particular drawing; I guess artists have always painted and drawn their tools and pigments, so I'm just following in that tradition, but it comes with some amusement on my part, as well as affection for these humble implements that get used often and do their job so well. I *do* like buying art materials but have never been the type to have a grand piano in the salon that no one in the house can play, or bookshelves full of unread books, if you know what I mean. My mother, who was an artist too, always encouraged me to buy the best materials I could afford, and helped with that - especially sable brushes which are notoriously expensive. I wonder what she'd think of this cheap Japanese fiber-tip waterbrush? And she said, "buy good paper and use it up." However, the only thing I seem to hoard is paper - I still have some beautiful watercolor papers I bought and shipped home from London in 1976!

Anyway, thanks for noticing and commenting on this post!

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.