Category: feature

Pen Review: Aurora Optima Perla Fountain Pen


Some days call for a pen that make me feel like Audrey Hepburn on a Roman Holiday. On those days, I cannot carry around a plastic gel pen with scented ink in it. Oh, no. On those days, I need something with stature and sophistication. A pen that says I’m ready to take on the world with a disarming smile and a cunning plan. Those days call for the Aurora Optima fountain pen.



See what I mean about how beautiful it looks in my Kate Spade handbag? Kind of speaks for itself.


The Optima Auroloide Perla is made from a two-color resin, which is a combination of iridescent and transparent colors, that reminds me of pearl seashells or marbled floor or countertops. It’s combined with the silver colored hardware that makes the Optima look posh but understated. It’s classy but not gaudy.


The nib is engraved with lovely scrollwork. I have a medium nib which is a bit wider than what I would normally use but thought it would provide more line variation than my normal fine or extra-fine.


The Optima is a piston filler with a clear window to view ink capacity. Since the resin material has a little bit of transparency as well, the choice of ink color will be visible in some light as well. I have Robert Oster Signature Claret in the Optima here. It seemed appropriate to have a wine color in an Italian pen.



The nib was tuned by Dan Smith of Nibsmith to make sure that it was in tip-top shape. I was able to use the pen to write in script, print and even to doodle using my upside down left-handed writing without any issues or hard starts. The medium nib might be a tad wide for my tiny, everyday handwriting though. But I do love how much line variation I get and how much color variation in the ink is visible in the larger nib width.


Technical Specs:

  • Weight: 23gms filled with ink
  • Length: 5″ long capped
  • 4.75″ uncapped from nib tip to end
  • 6″ long with cap posted
  • 14K nib

This is my “big girl” pen. For those days when I put on my heels, the jacket and get out my Kate Spade handbag that says I mean business. But its not so fussy or fancy as to not feel at home with my well-loved Traveler’s Notebook and a pea coat. But this pen is urbane and classic and sophisticated. It loves my Kate Spade zip planner and lovely ivory paper stock.

This pen hopes I get to fly business class.

The Aurora Optima is available from Anderson Pens and Pen Chalet, starting at $445.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Kenro Industries for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Podcast: Art Supply Posse Ep. 22 Copic Markers & Coloring with Hannah


This week’s Art Supply Posse episode is all about Copic Markers and features my good pal and co-worker Hannah spent some quality time in Japan where she acquired an epic set of Copic markers and a crash course in how to use them. She also colored this week’s awesome artwork which is a terrarium coloring plaque from Hallmark using Copic markers.

Hannah talks me and Heather through some tips and techniques for using Copics in new and better ways. Check out all the notes on the Art Supply Posse site.


Bob and I both tried our hands at some of the Hallmark coloring pages with Copic markers too. The pages are from the Cocktails & Coloring Calm the Hell Down book. How did we do?


Two Kickstarter Projects For You!

There are a coupole of projects on Kickstarter right now that Well-Appointed readers might want to know about and maybe, just maybe, you might want to back them.

The first one I wanted to bring to your attention is the COMP notebook project. I’ve mentioned a couple times in the past about how Michael Beirut, a designer of some note, has used plain composition notebooks to document his creative life. Well, Aaron Fay, a designer who works for Michael finally took notice and decided to build a better composition notebook. Hallelujah! I’m backing this project but this is seriously a notebook built for someone like me — a designer, a paper snob, a fountain pen user and someone who can name check both Michael Beirut and Pentagram at the drop of a hat. But don’t let that stop you from backing the project and, in the future, also being able to become someone who name checks Michael Beirut, Pentagram and becomes a paper and pen snob too.

Nitty Gritty COMP Notebook info:

    • Available lined or unlined
    • 9.75″ x 7.5″
    • 148 pages
    • Offset printed covers
    • Sewn and cold glued, square back, boards on, layflat binding
    • 120 gsm ultra white, semi-smooth, uncoated interior paper
    • Excellent writing surface for fountain pen, pencil, ball point pen, and many other instruments
    • Color-through dyed black endsheets
    • Thick hardcovers wrapped with a custom designed pattern printed on the finest micro-embossed paper
    • Square corners
    • Black Italian cialux cloth
    • Interior lines (for lined version) printed offset with stochastic screening

The COMP is definitely a notebook speaks to me. Its simple but has improved upon a classic in all the ways that are important: paper quality, binding and overall quality. I hope this product does well and can be produced for a long time to come because a composition book with good quality blank pages would be a thing a beauty!

The second project is the Slice planner. I’m pretty sure Gentleman Stationer has waxed on about it already but if you’ve ever wanted to get all crazy with the visual planning system of the Chronodex system best known through the work of Patrick Ng of Scription fame, than you might want to try the Slice planner. The Slice Planner combines paper and digital components to create a modern planning system that is the best of both worlds.

I haven’t backed this yet because I haven’t quite figured out how to visualize using the chronodex model. I’m not sure my brain works like that but maybe yours does? And I already backed another planner on Kickstarter. How many planners can I use in a calendar year anyway? How many can you?


November Spawned A Monster Project

October was all about Inktober, the inky-related drawing project, but November is the start of new month-long projects. The biggest is NaNoWriMo and I know a lot of people are already in the throes of preparation for this epic project to try to write a novel in a month. This is a big deal for a lot of folks in our community. They get their notebooks prepped, their pens and pencils out and then they plan out how many pages they will need to write each day to accomplish their goal.

I will be participating in another project in November, known as NaKniSweMo, National Knit A Sweater In A Month. This will be my seventh year (I think) and while its probably not as epic as writing a novel, its a challenge I look forward doing every year. So much so that my friend Laura and I have become the de facto hostesses of the Ravelry group. So, starting tomorrow, I will begin knitting my “Breathing Space” pullover from yarn dyed by a local friend and a contrasting yarn acquired on my recent trip to the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival. I will be cheering on all the writers out there and resting my drawing hand, having finished my Inktober challenge.

Congrats to all the artists who participated in Inktober and three cheers for the writers who are setting off on NaNoWriMo and to all the knitters out there, may your yarns not get tangled and your gauge swatches be accurate in November!

Kaweco Sport Skyline Lagoon & Mint


I was fortunate enough to get in on a group buy for the Kaweco Skyline Sport in Lagoon and Mint that was a limited edition for the City Super shop in Hong Kong. It arrived a couple weeks ago, just before my travel explosion so I am just now getting a chance to post photos of it. Its a classic Kaweco Sport in plastic but the Lagoon color is a brighter turquoise blue green than the Mint that was available in Europe and the US. The grip section of the the Lagoon model is Mint but as you can see, the cap and barrel are much brighter making the mint look almost arctic.


My model shipped with a fine nib, my favorite, and I always love the scrollwork on the Kaweco nibs.


I filled it with a crazy contrasting KWZ Andrinople from my customized laser-etched bottle (Thank you very much, Vanness Pens!)


So, really, this post isn’t much more than showing off since the pen is probably completely unavailable at this point.

It has made me aware that Kaweco is making special editions for specific markets. That means, if you are a collector of Kaweco (or potentially any other brand of pen) it is worth keeping an eye and an ear open because I suspect that this sort of trend is bound to continue. It makes specific shops a destination and creates buzz for brands by making even more collectibility with special colors or designs. The flurry of activity and enthusiasm around getting these limited Lagoon Sports was crazy. It really is about time Kaweco got into the limited color editions that Lamy and Retro 51 has been doing for so long.

Giveaway: Denik Notebooks

Denik Love Sketchbook

Last week, I did an epic review of the Denik notebooks and I’ve been using the Denik Sketchbook for my Inktober challenge as well.

The kind folks at Denik have 10 notebooks for me to give away so you can have a chance to try them out yourselves.


THE RULES: Leave a comment below and tell me which Denik notebooks covers above is your favorite. Those are the ones you have the chance to win. One entry per person.

FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Monday, October 24, 2016. All entries must be submitted at, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Tuesday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. Your email address will be forwarded to Denik who will handle the shipping. The giveaway will be open to US residents only.

Thanks to Denik for sending these the notebooks and giving all my readers a chance to try them too. Be sure to check out all their notebooks and sketchbooks.

15 Things to Do with An Empty Sketchbook

I got to thinking, with Inktober here and a whole pile of empty sketchbooks staring at me, I thought I’d compile a list of ideas to help you fill up one or more of those many empty sketchbooks you might have as well.


I wrote about important people in my life and drew their shoes for Uppercase Magazine! So much fun.

A photo posted by juliarothman (@juliarothman) on

  • Illustrate your favorite recipes (inspired by They Draw And Cook)
  • Draw your outfit, maybe what you’re wearing today, or your favorite outfit or what your kids are wearing. Document your shoe, bag or jewelry collection with notes about the who, whats and whys of the items. (Originally inspired by Julia Rothman’s Kind Soles piece that appeared in Uppercase Magazine #16)
  • Are you an avid reader or music collector? Draw the covers of your favorite books or albums or illustrate scenes based on the stories or lyrics. (inspired by the book, My Ideal Bookshelf)
  • Alphabet project: “A is for ….” This is another idea inspired by Uppercase Magazine. Each issue they do a themed alphabet around their issue theme and provide a word for each letter of the alphabet to that theme, like ceramics, stitchery, pattern & decoration and so forth. Then they provide a definition or visual representation of each term in the alphabet. For example in the Pattern & Decoration issue #21, “C is for Calico” and “W is for William Morris”. For whatever subject you have a particular interest in, you could do an alphabet project and try to think up terms, people or elements and illustrate each of them. In some cases you might have many to choose from and could do more than one.
  • Speaking of pattern: why not turn a sketchbook into a pattern book? Geometrics, repeating, linear, nonlinear, one-color, multi-color, representational, natural, textural… so many to choose from! Check out Uppercase Magazine Issue #21 (now sold out but the Surface Design Guide will be included in the upcoming issue #32), or artists like Lotta Jansdotter, Orla Kiely, Marimekko to get started with pattern design.
  • Attend figure drawing events, or other activities that allow you the opportunity to regularly draw from life be it your local coffee shop, your kids’ playground playdate or your long-suffering partner, pet or child enduring being the subject of yet another portrait drawing. Dedicate one sketchbook or notebook for this purpose. (Inspired by Ladies Drawing Night, Hallmark’s Noon Sketch Group and Roz Stendahl)
  • Collage. If the paper in a particular sketchbook or noteook is not sturdy enough for your favorite drawing or painting materials, use the book to collage in scraps of found materials like labels, stickers, menus, ticket stubs and other ephemera. Gesso the pages to add strength and let the book become a waffle-paged beast. Create an artist’s journal that documents your life events through drawings, photos and ephemera. (Inspired by Make Your Own Ideabook with Arne & Carlos: Create Handmade Art Journals and Bound Keepsakes to Store Inspiration and Memories)
  • Draw your breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner. Or coffee. (inspired by Danny Gregory and Liz Steel)
  • Lettering practice. Sounds simple but using one book for a 15-minute-a-day practice doing lettering drills, writing a quote, the #rockyourhandwritingchallenge or some other specific task will help improve your lettering skills.
  • Dedicate one sketchbook to be your color key. Use this book to test, document and list all the pens, pencils, paints, inks and other art materials your own. Figure out which colors and brands you like, you think mix or blend well and keep them all in one book to use as your giant reference guide. Be sure this book is one with your favorite type of paper and has lots of pages as you will want to continue to update and reference it. A good rule of thumb is to use one side of the book to do swatch tests and then the other side to do a drawing with the materials to see how they perform in “real world” tests. (inspired by Jane Davenport)
  • Draw from old photographs. Go through your family photos or visit the local antique shops or thrift stores and use the old photos as points of reference for your drawings. (inspired by Maira Kalman’s book Girls Standing on Lawns)
  • Draw what you’re watching on television. Or YouTube. If you can’t get out to draw from life, draw the folks on TV. They can be just as interesting. And you can pause them mid-expression. Or rewind. Talking heads from newscast, vlogs or political debates are great for this.
  • While we are on the subject of television, why not draw some of your favorite characters from your favorite shows or movies? There have been lots of wonderful fan art circulating recently from Netflix’s Stranger Things and there’s always a plethora of Star Wars fan art. Embrace your inner geek and draw your favorite scenes from your favorite shows or movies, or create new scenarios. Didn’t like the ending of LOST, fix it. What’ really happened at the end of X-Files? You can draw it.
  • Document the news in illustrations. Be it good or bad, use your drawing skills to capture the moments in time.
  • Collaborative Sketchbook: You can create a shared sketchbook between a friend or loved one be it one other person or a group of people or a whole heap of strangers. (inspired by , Dana Barbieri and Anne Butera from Uppercase Magazine #29 and

But really though, what about Barb? . . . . . . #strangerthings #barb #illustration

A photo posted by Mariya Pilipenko (@mariya.pilipenko) on

Need more ideas? Check out the book Playing With Sketches: 50 Creative Exercises for Designers and Artists.

Do you have ideas for things to do with sketchbooks that are piling up? Please leave your ideas in the comments!