With many stacks of notebooks, sketchbooks and blank books I’ve acquired, and the fact that my day job is about making pictures, I thought it was time to get back into the regular habit of keeping a sketchbook or visual journal of some sort. I figured that I couldn’t possibly be the only person who might need a little inspiration and creative idea to get me started so I thought I’d share some of the prompts, ideas and tips I found.
First, I found this great 15-day set of prompts from Wit & Whsitle. Usually I find prompt lists too long and usually full of things I think are silly or pointless but this set was only 15 days worth and fairly open to interpretation.
Then I remembered the awesomely inspiring site, Illustration Friday. Every Friday, they offer a prompt that is both simple and open to interpretation. Folks will upload their art to the site if you want to see what other people do. You are not required to submit your sketch or drawing but its a great source of inspiration and a one-drawing-a-week prompt is a low bar to hurdle. This week’s prompt is “pet” and was submitted by my friend and co-worker Terry Runyan. She illustrates both digitally and on paper so don’t feel that you have to limit yourself to just the pile of sketchbooks and notebooks you’ve accumulated. Illustration Friday also has a blog and podcast for even more inspiration.
I love Lisa Congdon‘s art and she freely shares pages of her sketchbook as well as a video class on Creativebug that walks you through how she creates several sketchbook drawings. She uses layering and simple drawings to create designs that are easy to try yourself and she even shows how she creates variations on each technique to give you even more ideas.
Danny Gregory‘s Everyday Matters Manifesto for drawing your life was a huge inspiration for me. Consider purchasing one of his books. I particularly like The Creative License. He’s even started a Sketchbook Skool video class if you want a multimedia experience.
More sources for ideas and inspiration:
you need to jump in and get over the intimidation part — by messing up a few pages, ripping them out if need be. Waste all the pages you want by drawing a tic tac toe schematic or something, painting them black, just doodle. — Gary Panter
What inspires you to be more creative?
Have I ever told you’all how much I love getting questions about pens, paper and the like? This week, I have two awesome questions.
Beth, the reference librarian asked:
I have a new TWSBI 580 with a custom ground nib (pen was purchased with that nib) and at the same time I purchased a second nib (the whole nib unit) also custom ground – I really like both nibs. One nib is obviously in the TWSBI, which is a nice pen, but I would love to put what I call the “back-up” nib in a different pen, preferably one under $100. that uses a cartridge/converter system. I read about nib-swapping all the time but am not sure just which nibs are compatible with which pens. I don’t think the 580 nib unit will fit the TWSBI mini, but if it did I would go with that. (even though the same filling system.) I am nervous about pulling the nib out of the screw-on unit until I know what I am doing. Am I making sense here? Any advice would be most appreciated!
With a little elbow grease I was able to pull the nib out of my TWSBI Mini. The nib is a size 5 (according to the smarter-than-me folks over in the Pen Addict Slack Channel). The only cheap pen I could find that had a size 5 nib was a Pilot Metropolitan. Pilot nibs have a little flange and a groove nicked out to get them to grip the feed that the TWSBI nib does not have. But… the nib does fit into the feed of a Pilot Metropolitan albeit very loosely. I assume this method would also work in other Pilot pens like the Prera or Plumix. So it is possible to use the TWSBI nib in other pens with a little luck but its not the best fit. If I find any other pens that take size 5 nibs with a cartridge/converter system.
As for switching the nibs between a Mini and a 580, that should just require untwisting the nib unit and sliding the grip section off to expose the nib/feed unit. Then they could easily be swapped between the Mini and the 580.
The second question actually appeared in the Pen Addict Slack Channel.I’m sorry I don’t remember who asked but here’s my results!
A member of the group asked if the Esterbrook 9128 fine flex nib was more or less flexible than the Noodler’s Ahab/Creaper.
The Esterbrook 9128 nib is not super flexible but, for a steel nib, it gets some decent variety and it does not railroad like the Noodler’s nibs do. The 9128 is very smooth and easy to get going while the Noodler’s flex nibs require some adjusting in the feed to get the flow going. So, its a bit of the apples-to-oranges comparison since a Noodler’s flex pen is readily available for about $20 and a vintage Esterbrook with a 9128 flex nib is considerably more expensive ($75 and up). If you’re looking for a flexible nib, a vintage fountain pen with a 14K nib will probably be much more flexible or you might want to consider a Desiderata nib holder.
I like to liberate refills from the assorted plastic pens I have accumulated over the years. These are all those gel pens I’ve purchased over the years from Jet Pens. While I love the flow of the refills, the lackluster plastic barrels leave me wanting.
I started opening each plastic pen and discovering that they are almost always a standard sized refill like a Pilot G2-sized or Hi-Tec C-sized. There are also far more colors and point sizes available in the full pens than in most refill-only options. Red, blue and black are fine for many folks but I want to be able to choose orange, evergreen, turquoise or purple, if the mood strikes.
By hacking the refills out of plastic pens, I created an almost unlimited supply of potential refills for my favorite pen bodies. And by using these fine gel refills, I have catapulted certain pens into EDC pens because now they are not only beautiful and comfortable but can contain the exact right refill for me.
This habit started with Karas Kustoms and the Render K and RETRAKT pens. The lengthy list of possible refills led me to create the Refill Guide and really start experimenting with trying different refills with different pens.
I even save the springs in a plastic retractable to help stabilize a refill in a machined pen. If the refill fits but is too long, trim it down with a pair of sharp scissors. Empty refills can be trimmed to add length to a too-short refill to fit into a different pen as well. With each plastic pen costing less than a couple bucks, its not a tragedy if you make a mistake.
(photo by the Hallmark Photo Studio)
Today, the Hallmark.com featured a tutorial and free printables designed by me! Visit the site to find out how to make an envelope liner for your Mother’s Day card or even make your own envelope using found papers like gift bags and wrapping paper.
Sometimes the aesthetic of a specific pen is not mirrored with the refill it contains. Case in point, the Fisher Space Pen. I love the simple good looks of the bullet pen but I have no need for a thick ballpoint that can write at zero Gs. I like fine, fine, fine gel pen refills. So, I hacked it.
With a little bit of washi tape around the barrel in key points and a trim to the end of the refill, a standard Uni Style Fit Gel Cartridge fits into the Fisher Space Pen like a champ.
I suspect with some finagling, other refills of the Pilot G2 variety might also work. More tests and experiments to follow.
DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.
Have you ever wished you could make your own booklet or wish the stapler arm was just a little bit longer? The Align Stapler might be just what you need. The stapler and base are held together with a magnet and can be pulled apart to give you a longer reach when needed. You can staple anywhere with the Align.
And since its magnetic, the stapler would stick to your fridge!
This would be a good option for anyone wanting to create their own inserts for the Midori Traveler’s Notebook for sure. While it would not be as heavy duty as a long arm saddle stitcher (that’s the technical term!), for a mere $7, this would be a good option for the casual booklet-maker.
If you’re like me, sometimes you like to send pencils to pals. This tutorial and template to make a pencil box out of an old soda can box (or probably any large paperboard box like cereal, beer case, etc) will help keep those pencils safe in transit and look fab when they arrive.
Slight modifications to the PDF template could be made to accommodate pens, markers or other writing tools. Might even work as a storage box for double pointed knitting needles. So many options!
(via Creative Itch Boutique)
Like Field Notes, Hobonichi Techno and Filofax, there’s a rabid and growing following for the Midori Traveler’s Notebook. At its essence, the Midori Traveler’s Notebook (MTN) is a simple leather cover with elastics to hold small bound notebooks and accessories into it. As more people use them, the more they’ve added to them — from simple DIY inserts for all sorts of tasks, list, planning and goals to posh handcrafted leather accessories. Here are a few of my favorites ways to customize and hack a Midori Traveler’s Notebook to best suit your needs and preferences.
Baum Kitchen leather zipper case/card holder [Essential 2.0] $72
This is a US made, natural leather rubbed with cedar oil insert. The front section provides an assortment of slits for cards and large flap pocket for paper ephemera. The back pocket is a zipper pouch. Adding this insert can easily turn your MTN into a wallet and be your all-in-one life keeper. The [Essential 1.0] includes just two credit card pockets and a larger slot for miscellaneous paper for $65.
Patrick Ng of Scription created custom kraft card tabs that he attached various envelopes to each kraft tab and filled with various items like postage stamps and notes. While he did not provide a specific tutorial, I think it would be easy to reverse engineer what he did using existing file folders trimmed to size and taped together or cutting tabs from a plain piece of board. I would probably use bookbinders tape to hold the pieces together but clear, plastic packing tape might work just as well.
My Life All in One Place has created several printable inserts including 2015 calendar pages, pen and ink sample test pages, Seyes french-ruled paper, and even knitting grid paper.
If you think making your own inserts might be fun to do, check out the companion video about how to trim and assemble your custom printables to fit into a Midori Traveler’s Notebook.
Check out my previous post with other hacks and add-ons for the Midori Traveler’s Notebook.
A full how-to tutorial for making the notebook is available on the Hello Forever blog.
In my hunt this week for planners that start the week on Sunday, I discovered Marcy Penner’s Hello Forever site. She created a lovely PDF document to make your own planner calendar for 2015 for the Midori Traveler’s Notebook which is available for sale in her shop.
The PDF is $10 and includes the full calendar year in week-at-a-glance pages that can be bound into two booklets to fit a regular-sized Midori Traveler’s Notebook (approx. 5×8.5″).
Her blog includes step-by-step instructions for printing, folding and binding your booklets as well.
If you want to have rounded corners on the finished notebook like the sample, small handheld corner rounders can be purchased on Amazon for under $10 or can be found at your local big box craft supply store.
If you have a drawer full of washi tape like I do, you might want to use some of your favorites to create some easy picture frames for your favorite postcards, photos, or prints.
(via Design Sponge)
Using wrapping paper and a couple card stock wedges to create the beveled edge, Oh Happy Day created a back-to-school package in the classic shape of a Pink Pearl eraser to fill with goodies. I think this is the perfect gift packaging for any gift for your favorite pen-and-paper geek.
Make your own Midori-style Traveler’s Notebook in any size (traditional Midori sizes or a leather cover perfectly sized for your Field Notes-sized books) with this great video tutorial:
After you’ve made your own Midori-style TRaveler’s Notebook, don’t forget to check out my previous post about customizing your notebook.
(Thanks to @mattwillgo for the tip)
H. C. Marks (@HCMarks) on Twitter asked “do you know of any stencils with which to draw ruled lines in blank notebooks?”
I have something so much better, at least in my humble opinion. I use a sheet of lined paper that I tuck under my blank page to create perfectly straight lines that are there. But not. Using a guide sheet does not require any prep time. Just slide the sheet behind your current page and start writing.
And his request could not have been more timely as I’ve been planning to make up a few different line widths to share with readers so that you too can try this. The sheets have pretty thick dark lines that can be seen through most standard writing paper. I’ve tested these sheets in my Rhodia Uni Blank for several weeks.
With Guide Sheet under Rhodia Paper, 6mm rules
With Guide Sheet removed.
I have created lined paper guides in 6mm, 7mm, 8mm and 10mm spacing. Each .pdf file includes a full 8.5×11 US Letter sized guide and a smaller 5×7″ guide that you can trim to fit in the average A5-sized notebook. Print out your favorite line width spacing on a laser or ink jet printer. One copy of the guide sheet can be kept in each of your favorite notebooks and should last for a long time. The guide sheet often doubles as a blotter sheet, pen primer or to protect the next sheet from pesky bleed through.
US Letter Size (8.5″x11″):
A4 Size (210 x 297mm or 8.3″ x 11.7″) ADDED Feb. 3, 2015:
A5 Sizes (148 x 210mm or 5.83×8.27″):
Field Notes Sized (3.25″x5.5″) UPDATED Feb. 3, 2015:
These new sizes have been trimmed down width-wise so there’s no overhang in your pocket notebooks. I’ve also added 3-up layout on a US letter sized sheet.
Tips for printing guide sheets:
When printing, be sure that you choose to print at 100%, do not choose the “fit to paper” option. I ran the lines to the end of the template to maximize guides. Let your printer trim them where it must. For the smaller sizes, just trim it out. The Field Notes sized sheets can be printed 4-up on a sheet but be sure to set your printer to 100% (actual size) and then tile. If your favorite notebook is smaller, just trim it as needed.
Using a guide sheet with a blank notebook gives a lot more flexibility. You can sketch and free form on some pages and then use the guide sheets when you want to write. Guide sheets are great with letter-writing pads too.
If there’s interest, I can make up other sizes as well. Just let me know in the comments what you prefer.
- 11/9/14 Added 5mm and 10mm grid and true A5-sized.
- 2/3/15 Added A4 and revised Field Notes sizes, added 3-up layout for Field Notes.
Just because you’re stuck indoors all day staring at email, spreadsheets or lines of code does not mean you shouldn’t have a little green to keep your spirits up.
Follow these instructions to build your own desk organizer with room for a few small succulents to add a little green to that beige cubicle.
Looking to get a customized desk, try Ikea and mix-and-match a tabletop and cabinetry to create an inexpensive work area. House of Hawkes made a lovely workspace with a butcher block-style top and white cabinetry. It’s making me kind of excited about the Ikea store opening in Kansas City this fall.
(via House of Hawkes)
I confess that I quite specifically got the Pilot Plumix Medium Flat Italic (comparable to a 1.1mm) fountain pen ($7.25) to cannibalize the nib for the Pilot Metropolitan ($14.50) pen I have. I had the chance to try out the Plumix thanks to a local pen geek (Thanks, Geoff!) and immediately went home and ordered one. While the shape and overall outside aesthetics leave me wanting, the nib was silky smooth. I had heard other folks mention what a great nib it is for the price point and after trying it, I was sold. It is really as good as everyone says it is. Silky, silky smooth.
My first order of business was to disassemble both pens in order to swap out the nibs. While I think the medium nib on the Metropolitan is a fine nib, it doesn’t make my heart sing so I was ready to swap it out. I like the metal body of the Metropolitan line over the plastic of the Plumix and its weird, stumpy, wingnut cap even if my Metropolitan is a bit blingy in metallic gold.
I couldn’t be bothered to clean the pens before disassembly so I used a shop rag to grasped the nib and feed and gentle shimmy it out. Its basically help in the grip section by friction so it didn’t take much force or effort to remove it.
There is a notch inside the grip section that keeps the nib and feed in a specific spot but otherwise it was just a matter of shimmying it back into the other pen body to make the swap. I’d have diagrammed it more if there was anything else to it but really its: grasp, pull and then grasp and push. Also, we are talking about a combined retail value of $22 so I wasn’t too concerned about potential damage if I didn’t do it correctly.
Voila! The completed and fully customized Pilot Metropolitan italic! Total cost: $22. This same surgery can be done if you want an extra fine nib on a Metropolitan by purchasing the Pilot Penmanship pen ($8.25).
DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.
(Tested on Rhodia Pad No. 18 Uni-Blank)
While I was in SF, I found some refills for Uni-Ball Signo. I couldn’t remember if these would fit in my Render K but I was willing to take a chance. It was blue-black ink in my favorite 0.38 size. At less than $2, it was a gamble I was willing to take.
The package was labelled UM-151 0.38mm. Jet Pens does not seem to stock this particular flavor refill but Maido’s online shop, MyMaido does stock them.
UPDATE: Eagle-eyed reader, Adamfmoore found the proper refill on JetPens. It’s the Uni-ball Signo UMR-1 Refill and it sells for $1.65.
I discovered that the refill was about an 1/8″ too long so I trimmed it down with a trusty X-acto blade. The plastic is quite hard so if you try this yourself, be careful! It would be easy to slice your finger in attempting this. Once trimmed, the Render K screwed closed easily and voila! Deep green pen with blue-black silky ink. JOY!
Written on Rhodia No. 18 Uni-Blank Pad. Render K from Karas Kustoms.
When someone mentions “typewriter” and “calendar” in the same sentence, my ears prick right up. Add in a little paper mechanic magic and I am already writing the blog post in my head.
This darling little desktop calendar stands in its own 3D foldable typewriter. Just print out the pieces and assemble. Consider it as a great Tuesday morning office project. It is available for instant download for $4.99 via Sky Goodies on Etsy.
(tip via Teri of Fiberterian)
In my search for woodsy, natural feeling workspaces, I stumbled upon the idea of building desks, tables and shelving out of reclaimed shipping pallets and wooden crates. There was an extensive article on MyInteriorDesign.it where I found many of the photos shown above. Some refinished the pallets, sanded or stained to a lovely finish while other options left the material in its raw state with all the stains and wear-and-tear from its previous life clearly visible. The fold-up pallet desk is a good option for those with little space or for the kids to use for homework or craft projects.
Instructions for building your own pallet fold-away desk cane be found at Thistlewood Farms.
Want to have a simple, swanky calendar on your desk? Check out this free, printable calendar from Weekday Carnival. Print it out and clip it to a clipboard on your desk. To mix it up, try printing it out on neon paper and post on a kraft clipboard.
Do you string fairy lights across your cubicle wall or put a tree on your desk to get into the spirit of the season? If not, maybe its time to put a little holiday cheer in the office? Hang some decorations from your bulletin board or wall.
Maybe download some printable stationery “From the Desk of Santa Claus” to write your lists and notes?
Hang a wreath or a stocking from your chair or on the wall in your office?
Or for an understated sense of holiday cheer, download a desktop wallpaper and tune into a holiday radio station or Spofity playlist and sing along to a little Bing?
The gold standard for graphite erasers is the Steadtler Mars Plastic. I’m not sure if its filled with unicorn horn powder or what but I’ve never found a better eraser. So I was wondering if I could figure out a way to make a replacement eraser for my Palomino Blackwings. It turns out, I can.
- Staedtler Mars Plastic Eraser (standard size, available at any art supply store)
- X-acto or other craft blade
- Cutting matt
- Eraser from Palomino Blackwing to use as a guide
The end of a Mars eraser is just about the same width as the Blackwing eraser so I just needed to slice off an similar width piece and then trim the excess. Then slide your newly created eraser into the clamp and slide it into the ferrule.
The new white eraser is a little flimsier than the black/pink/colored erasers that you can buy to fit but it erases much better so I’m willing to accept its shortcomings for better erasing power. One Stadetler Mars eraser can easily make refills for about a dozen pencils.
Remember a few weeks ago I was a little sad about the fabulous Esterbrook #2442 Falcon nib that Cliff sent to me because it was scratchy and didn’t always put ink on the paper? And then remember last week I posted the FPGeeks Nib Tuning video? Well, I decided it was time to marry up those two things and I would attempt to tune that pesky nib.
I own a few folding loupes which are not as high-end as the ones shown in the video but at least I could get a look at the tines and see if there was anything wrong. There was! The tines seemed a little twisted, like crossing your fingers. Using the technique demonstrated in the video, I press the tines to the feed and used my nails to gently bend the tines. Then I tested on paper and noticed an improvement in writing already, but it was still scratchy. So I peeked with the loupe and pushed a bit more with my fingers and tried again. Ink was flowing much more consistently but still scratchy.
I confess that I immediately recognized the buffing block in the video to be a high end nail salon product. So I grabbed the nail buffer I had in the bathroom and decided to use the smoothest side first marked “Shine Nail” to cause the least damage. I did that a couple times and tried on paper again. Still scritchy. I went to side #3 “Buff Nail” and did a few more strokes and then applied it to paper again.
Voila! It’s now a fully functional nib. Its not quite as smooth as my age old #2442 but its light years better and completely usable. I plan to do more writing with it now that the flow is good and consistent and if it need more smoothing later, I feel confident I can solve my issues.
The cast of FPGeeks video podcast got together with Brian from the Edison Pen Company to discuss and demonstrate methods for tuning pen nibs. After watching this, I am feeling brave enough to tackle a few troublesome pens in my collection.
Its a pretty long video but worth watching. Brian is super knowledgeable and gives great instruction.
With a simple canvas tote and a some thread, you can easily make a notebook-style tote bag. Stitch the blue lines with a sewing machine, a little wonky gives it character and then use embroidery thread to create the vertical red margin line using a simple embroidery stitch like backstitch, running stitch or stem stitch. How charming!
(via Say Yes To Hoboken. For stitching tips, check out Sublime Stitching)