Update: Pen-Related Podcasts

It’s been a while since our original post talking about our favorite ink and stationery related podcasts. We decided we have enough that it was time for Inky Ears to get it’s own page!

Since our last post, we’ve become aware of the following podcasts:

As The Pen Turns: Hosts Brad, Jason and Jonathan create a podcast made by pen makers for pen makers and pen enthusiasts as well. If you’ve ever had questions about what goes into the Bespoke pen making process this is a place to get those answers!


Fountain Pens & Stationery: Frank and Collins discuss their love of fountain pens and stationery.




The Goulet Pencast: Brian Goulet and Drew Brown of GouletPens.com talk about all the fountain pen things that pen fans love. They talk about what’s going on at The Goulet Pen Company, what’s new in the fountain pen world, there are interviews with people in the fountain pen industry, and lots of jokes and fun segments to keep you entertained and maybe even educated about fine writing and fountain pen-related products.


The Pen Noobs: Hosts Jika and Ryan say, “We’re just two pen noobs, standing in front of the pen and stationery community, asking them to love us.”



Stationery Adjacent: Join Stuart and Justin for a podcast at the intersection of analog and digital technology.



Take Note: Ted Walker and Adam Webb met during a five-week writing program when they were seventeen. They haven’t lived in the same city since — but they have been friends for twenty years. Take Note is their conversation about notebooks, attention, parenting and appreciation for the poignant and preposterous possibilities of any given moment.



As always, if we’ve missed anyone, please let us know in the comments – the more podcasts to enjoy, the merrier!

Notebook Review: Paperblanks Sketchbook

Notebook Review: Paperblanks Sketchbook

After my successes with the Paperblanks blank notebooks in 100gsm & 120gsm I decided to try out the Paperblanks Arabica Sketchbook ($34.95) with 200gsm paper.

Once the stickers are removed from the cover, the aged look and gold trim is much more evident. I like that it already looks weather beaten. Even with the gold, it feels less precious. And the scuff hide the kitten scratch on the lower edge of the spine. Those kittens still aren’t very graceful.

The sketchbook features matte touch hardcovers with metallic gold foil details. The book measures 8¼” x 11¾” so its a bit taller than US Letter paper. This is the only sketchbook size that Paperblanks sells and is a bit larger than I like but I let myself pull out wider brushes, big markers and other tools I don’t often use in my smaller, daintier sketchbooks.

Sketchbook Features:

Like other Paperblanks notebooks, the sketchbooks include a gusseted pocket in the back and TWO ribbon bookmarks!

The bookmarks are folded into the book when it arrives, one gold and one red.

When unfolded, the ends are trimmed at an angle and unlikely to fray. Such a delightful addition. I cna’t think of any other sketchbook with these details.

The Paper:

The paper is 200gsm bright white and the sketchbook includes 112 pages. This paper is THICK! It’s a very smooth paper. Not as slick as Rhodia paper but there is very little tooth or texture. The smoothness of the paper won’t shred your felt tip and foam brush pens. Pencils lay down a smooth even line as well.

I immediately went for all my multi-media supplies: gesso, brush pens, ink, markers, watercolor brushes, etc. The butterflies doodled above is a smudge of unbleached titanium gesso over some previous pen tests so that I could “re-use” the page with brush pen and watercolor.

The above sketch was a doodle created from ink splats and a Zig Clean Color DOT marker. I love the dual tips on the DOT marker to create random sized dots, thick lines and extra fine lines.

On this sketch, which is on the other side of the butterfly doodle, is collage, stickers, washi and brush pens.

This experiment combined Sailor Shikiori Brush Pens Caran d’Ache Neoclor II crayons, brush markers and some collage. As written, its a bit of a hodge-podge. I could gesso over the whole mess and “start over” or….

I took advantage of the perforation of the pages and removed the offending sketch. This perforation will also allow you to remove a page if you create a masterpiece and want to frame or scan your work.

General Pen Tests:

I had great luck with a wide variety of tools ranging from felt tip, gel, rollerball and marker. Rubber stamping ink and even alcohol markers seem to do fine on the paper as well. The shimmer and sheen in fountain pen inks was visible too.

However, my Platinum Carbon Desk Pen feathered. I was using the 14K nib which behaves a little differently from the standard steel nib but the feathering surprised me. I am not sure if the nib is so fine that it was tearing whatever sizing is on the paper allowing the ink to soak into the fibers.

From the reverse side of my test page, there is NO showthrough at all. Not in person or on camera. This is definitely a sketchbook where you can easily use both sides of the paper without any issues.

Final Impressions:

Overall, I really like this sketchbook and I was tickled to play on this larger size. The feathering of the fountain pen ink was a bit distressing but the fact that fountain pen ink in markers or splattered on the page performed better definitely makes me think that the fine sharp tip was slicing through the sizing on the paper. So, I will continue to experiment and play with this big book and since the paper is thick enough, if the fountain pens make a mess, I’ll just gesso over it and do something else. It feels strangely liberating to just be laissez faire about this sketchbook.

DISCLAIMER: Paperblanks  Sketchbook was purchased with funds from our Patrons.  If you would like to support this site,  join our Patreon. Thank you!

Other items included in this review were provided free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. The other items in the review were purchased by myself. Please see the About page for more details

Pen Review: Pilot Juice Up 0.4 Classic Glossy Set (6-color set)

Pen Review: Pilot Juice Up 0.4 Classic Glossy Set (6-color set)

Pilot Juice Up 6 Color Gel Pen Set (0.4 mm) in Classic Glossy ($18) is a sophisticated looking set of gel pens that feature dark colors that are described as: Classic Glossy Black, Classic Glossy Blue, Classic Glossy Brown, Classic Glossy Green, Classic Glossy Red, and Classic Glossy Violet.

The pen barrels feature silicone grips that indicate the color of the ink in each pen. The barrels themselves are pretty much just a smooth tube with the exception of the squishy grip and feature a translucent grey knock/clip. The barrels are very much a standard width, not too wide, not to slim.

The color of the inks are indicated by the silicone grip and, in low light, it is sometime difficult to discern between the black, purple and brown inks.

The tip is tapered and is sort of halfway between a conical tip and a needlepoint tip. It’s a bit unique.

I was fascinated by the fact that the pens were described as “glossy”. What makes them glossy? When doing the squares of swatches, I noticed that there is very fine metallic shimmer in the ink. It’s very subtle and was more noticeable on the Rhodia paper than on the Tomoe River. Under most circumstances, its unlikely that you’ll notice the shimmer but it does add some dimension to the color.

In writing, the ink flows well and is a very rich, dark color. Each of the colors, though described as glossy, look more like red-black, green-black, blue-black, brown-black, purple-black, etc.

Like so many gel pens, I end up wanting to sketch with them so I did a quick doodle of a ceramic candy dish on my kitchen table that was made by my friend Amy at Pigeon Road Pottery. The deep color and easy flow make these pens fun to use.

Bob, who has a heavier hand than I do and prefers wider tips, did not enjoy using these pens. He found that there was too much flexibility or bend when he used these pens. And that he wrote at an angle that felt the edge of the tip might catch on the page.

With both my light handed impressions and Bob’s more heavy-handed style, you can see that these pens might not be for everyone. The Classic Glossy 6-color set is also available in an 0.5mm width which may work better if you write with a heavier hand.

DISCLAIMER: Some items included in this review were provided free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. The other items in the review were purchased by myself. Please see the About page for more details

Newsflash: Cosmo Air Light

Newsflash: Cosmo Air Light

I hate hearing bad news. I hate announcing bad news. But I do appreciate finding out about the bad news in time to be able to do something about it.

You may have recently heard rumors about Cosmo Air Light paper being discontinued and I am writing today to confirm that this is true – every type of Cosmo Air Light paper will no longer be manufactured as of… we don’t know. There is not yet information about the final date for this paper.

Daryl at Musubi broke the news earlier this week with an email that you can read on the Musubi website where you can also find a supply of Cosmo Air Light notebooks.

So what does this mean for paper in the fountain pen world? While Cosmo Air Light paper is being discontinued, it is not yet gone. Many small notebook manufacturers use Cosmo Air Light paper and loose paper is available.

I will still be reviewing inks on multiple types of paper including Cosmo Air Light, but these reviews will include new papers while I search for a good replacement. Please let us know if you find promising paper leads!

Link Love: Double Issue Edition

Link Love: Double Issue Edition

The trip to Dallas was a whirlwind. The Dallas Pen Show is the only show I attend that is just two days. We set up Friday morning and the show runs until 8pm on Friday, then reopens on Saturday and goes until 5pm. Then we pack up afterwards. So, while there is the advantage of having Sunday for return travel, I felt like the walking dead for most of the show because the hours, to be on your feet, are LONG. Working with Dromgoole’s was fun and a different experience but I miss hiding behind the ink towers at the Vanness tables. Hopefully, next year the ink towers will return.

For an introvert, despite how much I enjoy talking about pens, ink and paper, 12 straight hours on Friday are debilitatingly exhausting. Luckily, I was able to spend much of Sunday afternoon, once I got home, sound asleep on the couch.

The other downside of such a busy, packed show is that I had no time to walk around and shop. I came home with exactly ONE BOTTLE OF INK. Seriously.

And NO PHOTOS. I know the rule, pictures or it didn’t happen but I promise you, it did. My raspy voice from too much talking is my only proof.

As promised, we have two weeks worth of links to share today. Hopefully none of it will feel like “old news” quite yet.




Notebooks & Paper:

Art & Creativity:

Other Interesting Things:

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A Mess of Kawecos: Introducing the Blue Iguana to the Collection

I’m not even going to call this a review because I’m not sure what differentiates all the Kaweco AL Sports I seem to have in my collection as truly separate writing instruments. Remember when I shared my new Kaweco x Hello Kitty in Opal Green I mentioned staying tuned? Well a limited edition Blue Iguana ($92,Jet Pens) joined the collection late last week.

I’m not precisely sure why I find these to be my Kryptonite. I do love the weight of the metal versions in my hand (as opposed to the regular sports which are lovely as well). I love the metallic shine on the barrel and the rich array of colors they come in. The AL Sports start at around $75 for regular editions, which doesn’t put it out of range for me to have multiples. Of course the special editions are a different story, but yeah.

One of the interesting things I’ve done is to purchase different nibs over time. The Blue Iguana is an Extra Fine nib which is just a little on the small side for me, but isn’t too scratchy. The special Hello Kitty editions were only offered in Fine nibs. Somewhere on walkabout is a Vibrant Violet that is a Medium nib. I’m going to have to investigate that one. And the Deep Red is a Broad nib. So I do get to enjoy the pens in an array of sizes. I guess the next one has to be a double Broad?

Kawecos come standard with cartridges, but there is a converter if you so choose. I’ve purchased two, and use them now, but I figure I’ll finish up cartridges and then refill with a syringe in the future. Clearly I’ve gone with “signature” inks in my Hello Kitty Kawecos because I love matching a slightly darker ink with the pastel body. I’m not sure what I’ll do for the others – Blue Iguana makes me want to find my best orange ink!

I love these pens for their aesthetic but also because they write nicely and, even more importantly, reliably! Even if I don’t write with them for a week or two, they’re ready to go when I pick them back up. I’ve taken them on travels and had zero trouble with them. They’re the perfect pocket pen, purse pen, journaling pen, and more. And due to the faceted cap, they don’t roll away from me!

Have you tried Kawecos? What do you think?

Inktober Starts Saturday!

Inktober Starts Saturday!

I can’t believe it’s almost October. And I realized that the start of October means Inktober is here again!

Inktober 2022 prompts

If this is the first time you have heard the term Inktober, here’s a quick overview:

Inktober is an annual drawing challenge that was started many years ago by an artist named Jake Parker. The point of the challenge, for him, was to force himself to ink his drawings, which he felt made them feel more finished. Pencil sketches felt like more preliminary, rough drawings where inked drawings felt like committing an idea to paper and seeing it all the way through.

The rules, as Jake created it are:

  1.  Make a drawing in ink (you can do a pencil under-drawing if you want).
  2.  Post it*
  3.  Hashtag it with #inktober and #inktober2022
  4.  Repeat

Since the original inception, Inktober has taken many forms and mutations. Each year, Jake publishes his list of work prompts. Many other groups and people create their own list of prompts. YOU can create your own list of prompts.

(*For the full details, check out the rules and prompts)

Now about those rules….

I create my own set of prompts each year for topics/ideas I want to draw and make a list. This is YOUR challenge and you want to create a project that is actually going to be inspiring for you and achievable.

In the past, I’ve done these by making an ABC list for a topic: office supplies, my favorite things, or knitting terms (A is for Alpaca, etc). You can make any kind of list you want. Flowers of North America, All the Dogs in my Neighborhood, Famous Authors, etc. Your prompts don’t have to be October, Halloween or spooky-themed if that’s not your bag.

You can also use the provided prompts and keep the ones that inspire you and swap out others for something that you might prefer to draw. Bouquet sounds fun… booger? Not so much.

I remember someone making a list of fairytales she wanted to illustrate and chose a scene from the stories for each day in October. The goal is to know, at the start of the month, what you plan on drawing for each day so you spend your time drawing not thinking about what to draw.

Inktober 2019 - Hot Sauce
For this image in my “favorites series” I knew I would draw all the hot sauces in my refrigerator. All I needed to do was pull them out and put them on the kitchen table to start drawing that day.

Knowing what you want to draw can also help if you need to find a reference image. Say you want to draw your version of the Alice in Wonderland caterpillar sitting on the mushroom. Rather than searching the internet for the original drawing done for the book, search for an image of a caterpillar, a mushroom, etc. Then either bookmark the images so you have your reference or print them out. They don’t have to printed in color or on a nice copier, you just need the shape and a rough idea of what they look like to compose them into your drawing.

Any pre-plan work you can do will make doing your drawings frictionless. You look at your list, grab your reference pics and start drawing. You don’t spend 45 minutes looking for a picture or coming up with an idea before you get to the drawing part.

The online creative video learning site CreativeBug has many 31 day sketchbook challenges that will walk you through prompts and drawings including 31 Things to Draw with Lisa Congdon. There are many other Daily Drawing/Creative classes available on the site in the Art & Design Daily Practice section. The site is a paid subscription service but many local libraries have free subscriptions available. Check with your library web site to see if they offer CreativeBug as part of their services. Kansas City does!

About those rules… Part 2:

Yes, the original idea of Inktober was to get artists and illustrators inspired to push their drawings along but as the challenge has expanded to inspire first-time creators to try, the part about “post your drawing” can make a lot of people panic. Guess what? It’s your challenge. If you don’t feel comfortable posting your drawings, don’t. The purpose of this project is to draw for 31 days (or 30 days or 26 days or whatever…).  You are making a commitment to yourself and your own creative journey. Social media is for accolades and showing off. If you make one drawing all month that you want to hang on the world wide refrigerator door, great! If you make 3 or 4, super. If you feel awkward and uncomfortable showing people the crooked lines you drew trying to draw the barrel of a pencil or pen (see below), then don’t post them. Let the fact that you actually tried be your bragging. And then keep drawing until you do want to show one off. It will happen, I promise.

Inktober 2019 - Art Supplies
From my “ABCs of Office Supplies” series


All you need is a notebook and a pen. Maybe a pencil and eraser too for your under drawing.

I like to SERIOUSLY limit my tools when doing Inktober. I choose which pen will be my Inktober pen and which notebook. I will put my prompt list, taped, into the front of my book so I don’t have to scramble to find it. The minute you fire up your phone to look for the prompt list, time can be lost to reading that email or text and then, next thing you know, the time you’ve set aside for Inktober has been usurped by the internet.

From my first first or second Inktober challenge, I used only pencil for under sketch, Platinum Carbon Desk Pen and a waterbrush with grey ink for washes.

At the beginning of each Inktober, I pack a small case with the tools I’m going to use. After doing the challenge about four times now, I have my “kit” pretty locked down. I use:

  • light colored erasable pencil (usually non-repro blue)
  • an eraser
  • Platinum Carbon Desk Pen with Platinum Carbon Black ink
  • Small set of watercolors
  • Small #6 or smaller round brush or water pen
  • collapsible cup for water (but anything will work or I use the waterbrush)
  • a rag for wiping my brush

That’s it. In the past, I’ve tried a small, limited palette of alcohol markers and one year I used one waterbrush filled with grey/black ink for washes. Choose tools that work for you and just use those for the whole month. Part of the challenge is to get to know your tools and what they can and cannot do.

Be sure to test your chosen tools before you start Inktober to be sure they work together on the paper you have selected. Pick a couple pages in the back of your sketchbook for testing, color combos or tool combos so that you have a safe place to see if the brush pen and markers work together or if they bleed into a nasty mess before you start using them on your finished sketch. I once accidentally put plain Platinum Black ink in my Desk Pen and discovered it is not waterproof on my drawing. I had to start all over! Let me be your cautionary tale.

Some artists will actually just cut a square from the back of their sketchbook so they can have it in front of them while they are working to test their tools, make sure they have ink in a pen, etc.

What if I Miss a Day?

Don’t panic. And please don’t throw in the towel. Every year I’ve done the Inktober challenge, I’ve missed a day or two here or there because life happens. Here are some of my methods for catching up:

  • Do two drawings the next day
  • Just skip that day altogether (if you feel like going back to it, do it on November 1)
  • Just do it the next day and your Inktober challenge will bleed into November by a day or two. No big deal.
  • If you know you won’t be able to draw one day, try to do the drawing ahead of schedule. (This is your challenge and the challenge is to JUST KEEP DRAWING.)

Some years, I’ve combined all these techniques to complete my challenge.

Is This Your Year?

I look forward to seeing or hearing from anyone who decides to tackle the Inktober challenge this year. What theme or prompts will you be doing? Have you gotten all your supplies picked out and ready to go? What is keeping you from trying it?