All posts by admin

Venice, my love

I spent my holidays in Venice this September.

20180916_191123

I have not yet finished bringing the sketchbook up to date because to be honest the photos were really only accessible on my phone and it’s a drag to draw, sketch and paint from there.

This is the view towards Salute on the Grand Canal. I love, love Venice and over the coming couple of months will probably post more photographs and sketches as they are done.

Collecting stuff

Most people who know me know that I tend to start collecting things. Yesterday I was at the annual pre-Christmas vintage fair in Luxexpo – 12 months ago I picked up two nice antique pens, but six months ago the pricing hadn’t gotten a bit wiser and this time, I picked up an entry level Waterman for 10E. I haven’t checked it out yet and to be honest I’m not writing much with the fountain pens lately – mostly ballpoints.

During the year, though, in a fit of serious self indulgence, I bought a limited edition Caran d’Ache rotary pencil sharpener. Mostly I had coveted for a long while, but had been making do with a vast array of hand sharpeners varying in price. I have a frightening collection of them and erasers because when I lose art stuff, it’s nearly always an eraser or a sharpener. Many of the sharpeners are Faber Castells.

During a pre-period shopping fit though I bought the Staedler Mars Lumograph rotary sharpener as it was a) less expensive than the Caran d’Ache and b) not such a disaster if it didn’t work out. In particular, I had been having serious issues sharpening charcoal pencils. I don’t much liking charcoal blocks because they end up covering everything in black so I’d lean towards the pencils.

But not if I wrecked a bunch of sharpeners and several pencils trying to get an even remotely usable tip.

I figured if the Staedler could handle the Faber Castell charcoal pencils, I’d be a happy camper. It could and I decided that I’d buy the Caran d’Ache metal sharpener as clearly, the things were not useless. I must be the only person in the world who tested a ***E metal sharpener by checking out how a 30E plastic one behaved.

Anyway, rotary sharpeners are not things I previously cared that much about but now of course….things are different. The Caran d’Ache is a limited edition colour run; their rose gold – you see it on their rose gold 849s too – absolutely gorgeous, but the design is a fairly old design. I could have bought a grey one for less money but where is the fun in that.

When I was at a vintage fair in Venice during the year, I came across an Eberhard Faber one and thought, you know, rotary sharpeners would be an interesting esoteric thing to start collecting. I left that one behind as I just did not have room to carry it and common sense popped up. It had a hard battle yesterday in Luxembourg too as I came across two – one Dahle 55 and a Palm Sweden one (no, I had not heard of them either). I’m not really equipped to assess what sort of health these things are in, and there are more moving parts in them than there are in pens. I know how the pen restoration market operates. I couldn’t get quick research online at the vintage fair yesterday so I left the two behind. Both were rather beautiful looking pieces of engineering.

Later on, research took me to the sites of two sharpener collectors – there are a few. They had dated enough looking websites and both had at least 5000 – five thousand – sharpeners of all shapes – not just the rotary ones.

I started thinking about this in real terms. I have enough trouble with the stuff I own. I occasionally worry about the accumulation of things I create myself, like my diaries which are a record of the last 25 years of my life, and the art works which no sane person will ever want to buy, the doilies I crochet, the tapestries I stitch up.

I don’t really want a collection of stuff growing to 5000. I mean, I’m not sure exactly how many Caran D’Ache Ecridor and 849 ballpoints I have. I don’t buy all of them; I buy the ones I like (and the wretches have released 2 for Christmas which I must, must have).

Okay so it might be hard put to accumulate 5000 sharpeners but without a little discernment, what is the sense in mindlessly buying every sharpener that ever was? I use every pen I own, including the single most valuable antique.

The rosegold sharpener, limited and numbered, is clamped to my desk and used to sharpen non-carbon pencils (look, I ruined several cheap hand sharpeners with charcoal pencils so the Staedler can take care of the charcoal and pastel pencils). It handles my graphite and coloured pencils. These things are tools.

In addition to the rosegold, Caran d’Ache have previously issued black and red rotary sharpeners in metal, and there is the default grey one.

As a result, my shopping list for rotary sharpeners contains just three items, one of which is generally available and the other two of which are going to be a hassle to find.

And that will be it.

Planners and organisers – work

I bought another Filofax during the week, another Finsbury. It’s my second and I feel a bit bad about that as they are not cheap, they are self indulgent and there are cheaper solutions around but…But I operated on a single notebook for a long time and that wasn’t cutting it any more.

I have two Metropolitan Filofaxes somewhere in storage and I needed to solve immediate problems which is why I didn’t wait until I could go looking for them. During the year I bought a Filofax to try and be able to organise my personal life and cross reference it at least with work commitments. This was all fine for 2 or 3 months – work was generally organised using a notebook with a stripped down version of the bullet journaling system. Essentially at work I did the following:

  • basic agenda
  • to do lists
  • meeting notes

It wasn’t complicated and mostly it worked in chronological order. I occasionally cross referenced stuff using the page numbers but it would have been easier if I could move pages. It worked until I went on holidays in September, and then when I came back, my workload increased such that managing things on a day by day basis became borderline impossible. I needed something a bit more flexible and able to cope with sudden increases in workload. I toyed with multiple notebooks, looked at my digital options, and eventually decided what I wanted was rearrangeable pages. But I didn’t want that to be A4 sized as it is a hassle to lug folders around the place. In the end, I decided that work probably merited a filofax of its own so I ordered one during the week and used up some amazon vouchers.

Both Filofaxes which I bought this year are FInsburys. I chose them because I could get the Aqua colour which I liked locally, and the texture of the cover is very pleasing. I bought a Raspberry coloured one for work. The storage areas in the leather cover are handy but not deal breakers at the end of the day.

One of the things I noticed the minute I bought the work one was that what I needed from it was a lot more flexibility and a lot more bits. I have a section for filofax admin until the habits I need are built up. For example, I use colour as an organisational tool and in the notebooks that was generally off different coloured pens. Filofax comes with assorted colours of paper and I use blue for to do lists and yellow for meeting notes, for example. Remembering things like that are habits that need to be built. The plus side though is that I just use blue pens now and there is one blue and one black pen attached to the organiser.

But now I can break down work in terms of categories, be those categories projects, departments or assorted tasks within business as usual. This is extremely handy because it means that – for example – meeting notes or work notes are stored by category rather than date. They are easier to find.

Being a social media child, I went on pinterest and instagram to look at other people’s filofaxes and what strikes me is that there is a major focus on appearances there. Lots of headers in brush script, lots of washi tape. Even where they deal with trying to organise work, it has no relationship to the kind of work I am trying to do.

I work in IT management. A pretty day page that has a to do list with space for 8 items is unworkable for me. My daily to do list regularly runs to 20 or 30 items. There is no real coverage of the business of actually having a job, but plenty to the business of running a social media site.

I want my planner to look beautiful – I’m of an artistic leaning my self – but I also need it to be professionally useful. The key issue with Filofax over the years – and why I have failed with them in the past – is that their paper has been pretty dire in the future. This is something they appear to have fixed.

Starting an organiser in November is…interesting though. I’m not a huge fan of the vertical week on two pages for work – I have historically used a month on two pages and then transferred meetings into the daily lists. But one of the reasons I wanted to move away from the notebook is that I really didn’t have the time ot be drawing up the agenda pages myself any more so for the remaining 2 months of this year, I’ll use the planner that came in the filofax and sort things out differently for next year.

After that, what I need are lots of unmarked dividers. Both filofaxes came with numbered dividers 1-6 and I wish that Filofax would reconsider this. So one of my first purchases to feed the filofax habit has always been unmarked dividers that I could mark myself.  The other main thing is to ensure that you have an adequate supply of the paper you use. I haven’t tended to use the filofax to do list preprinted for my personal stuff but I am finding them useful for my work filofax for use as a master to do list. This basically is all the stuff that I have to do but not stuff I necessarily have to do today. To be honest, trying to manage this wrecked my head with the notebook solution so movable pages is dead handy here.

In the meantime, I continue to look at planners and filofaxes on Pinterest and Instagram for ideas about organising the paper, whatever about the content. I struggle with writing around the rings – this is something I will just have to get used to. Mostly, I’m really only interested in things like printed dividiers, how people organise dashboards.

For me, I’d say that the following items are required:

  • some sort of calendar agenda
  • blank paper of your choice, be it lines, grid, blank, dotgrid
  • at least 1 book mark and probably 2
  • Page markers
  • Dividers.
  • some sort of hole punch. I use the cheaper plastic one that fits i the planner itself.

After that… your options are fairly unlimited. Basic point is, you can find stuff so put effort into ensuring that you understand why things wind up in separate sections.

My primary sections at work are:

  • calendar
  • daily to do list
  • master to do list
  • meeting notes
    • these get moved to the relevant project when complete – this is to ensure I always have meeting note paper
  • projects
    • subdivided as required
  • work journal.
  • careers planning

I tend to think it’s important to review each day, and note any important stuff on an ongoing basis and review those notes from time to time to ensure that you are aware of what is going on and how different people are reacting.

 

Concerto in C Minor – the piano site

I set up a new blog during the week – it isn’t like I have the time to maintain a load of content across several sites – but I also see the risk of flooding this site with a lot of things I wanted to write about which are more for my own self indulgence more than anything. Pianos in other words.

The site is here. There, I will ramble on about pianos, practising the piano, books I have read about practising the piano, music, sheet music, youtube videos of interest, concerts and things that annoy me on youtube and Facebook piano groups. You may find it interesting if you are interested in pianos. Otherwise, possibly not.

I’ve also thought about spinning off the art stuff but as there are background things around photo posting site changes and hosting of imagines, I will leave that for the time being.

Updates to Flickr

Flickr announced some changes lately. I have been a Pro subscriber for years and I have more than 13000 photographs on Flickr. Most of them are kitesurfing photographs.

The subscription cost for Flickr is going up (looks like it is about doubling) but against that there are some interesting looking deals. I’m not totally sorry to see the changes to the free product – I didn’t agree with some of Yahoo’s product decisions. One of the biggest hassles that Yahoo forced on the flickr community was Yahoo login. I hated it. Flickr tell us that will go away early next year. If I had to pick any concern, it is that I worry that Flickr will not support the community of artists and urban sketchers that use flickr as a shop front.

For a good chunk of the last 10 years, I used pix.ie until it effectively vanished, and then for the drawing stuff I tended to use Instagram mostly despite severe misgivings about the difference between their desktop product and their mobile product; issues around password retrieval and today, I couldn’t find embed code so I went to Flickr and uploaded the piece of artwork there [too].

One of the main reasons for this is Instagram’s algorithmic timeline and inline advertising. The downside of this is that I regularly miss posts by people I like and yet see the same ads multiple times. There are a bunch of artists I really like on Instagram but some of them are on behance and deviantart, and a good few are on flickr as well. I’m wondering how tied I am to the instagram community when there are communities which are more art and photography focused and less social network/data collection focused.

So as part of that, I’ve started the horrific job that is reorganising the flickr account – it is chaotic – and will start look at rebuilding my life on deviant and will see if I can get at my behance account. After that, I don’t know what will happen with instagram. I don’t know

Painting Paris

I went painting today. I need to get hold of the idea of putting these things up on flickr rather than instagram but I will get there. I pay for Flickr, after all.

Dream Paris

This was from today. It was inspired by a bunch of things in different colours which I saw on pinterest and so I decided to have a go, and there we are. I like it. This was in an A6 sketchbook which I use on and off as a sort of art journal but which has been neglected lately. But I like the idea and the result is, I will probably try and find time (difficult lately) to scale it up and do it in a wall framable size

There seems to be something about Sunday that causes some randomer on FaceBook to decide that today is the day they will troll a watercolour group on FaceBook. Today, we got lectures on how if you used masking fluid, you weren’t a master (well…) and it was cheating (well…) and it wasn’t really art (well…). It caused a lot of discussion, which could be summed up as “You’re a troll” and “You are so wrong, you are wronger than a wrong thing”.

People get irate quite easily on FaceBook. But I cannot blame them when someone wanders in, to put it mildly, to cause trouble in a special interest community. No one really cares for the most part whether you use masking fluid or not (well no one sensible anyway), and yet one person going on about how it isn’t art, and how you haven’t mastered watercolour (while not showing their work) can cause major hassle. I wonder how communities can guard against this, and whether it is really desirable. The question of masking fluid in watercolour is fairly meh, but really, a group of people who think that women should, for example, not be allowed have jobs, might benefit from being challenged a bit.

But that causes ructions too.

Anyway. to the above, the under drawing was down with a PIlot 0.3mm mechanical pencil, the line work was done using a unipin 0.03mm fineliner and the paint was mostly Quinacradone gold from my 12 pan (allegedly – it had twelve when I bought it but I think it now has 15 pans squashed in) Sennelier kit. The exceptions were a little quin red, French Ultramarine Deep for the windows, Paynes Grey and sepia or neutral for the rooves and probably alizeron crimison for the blinds. I used Molotow masking fluid to cover the windows while I painted the buildings. I like their pens and I don’t think I have enough spare so I’ll probably bulk buy them the next time I am in an art supplies shop that sells them.

The 0.03mm fineliner is new. Up until very recently, Unipin’s finest fineliner was 0.05. Copic had 0.03 which were finer, and I liked them for fur but my god they were fragile. You can buy replacement tips. which is handy enough.

The Unipins feel a bit more robust and today’s one at least was really well behaved for the paint. The colour feels a bit darker as well. I haven’t really had time to do a side by side test – I have very little free time and have not had much time to paint at all; the daily kraftbook diary sketch has had to go into catch up mode a lot lately (and I’m about to start a new one there again. I have two months’ supply or so). But at some point I will sit down and do a comparison of the 0.03s –

  • Unipin 0.03
  • Copic 0.03 (I think I have one)
  • Copic 0.03 SP (expensive Copic of which I have half a dozen)

and I might do a side by side comparison of those with whatever 0.05s which I have (definitely Unipin and Molotow) and the XS Faber Castell

An afternoon in London

I had a few hours free in London lately so I prioritised them to do a couple of wants and technically wants but really needs.

I went to the British Museum because I wanted to see the Rosetta Stone again. I remember the first time I saw it; pretty sure it wasn’t locked away in some sort of glass/acrylic jail cell. It’s a measure of how the world has changed I guess. Also, it is now subject to the Mona Lisa effect where crowds of people hoard around it and really you can’t get to see it in any comfort any more. Either way, I still went. For me, it is THE iconic thing in the British Museum. You can take the girl out of translation but possibly not translation out of the girl.

While I was there I hopped along to see the Lewis Chessmen. There are a few of them in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, but really, the bulk of them are in Bloomsbury. They really are worth a look – I think they are beautiful. I zipped by Sutton Hoo which used to be one of my go tos – obviously still is, and the German ship clock. Then I had a look at the Parthenon Marbles and the Assyrian wall hangings. Absolutely wonderful. I bought *some* stuff in the shop but not much.

After that I made my way to the main Fazioli dealer in London as I had heard a lot about those pianos but had never actually met one for real. So I dug out the address and went and had a look. Beautiful pianos, no doubt about it. I played a couple very, very briefly – I was really short on time – and while I would have favoured one piano over the other, I really regretted that I had not time to sit and learn to relax over one or other.

There were two main musts I wanted to achieve in London – one was new clothes for work – irritating as I am between sizes so this year’s acquisition of trousers will potentially need to be redone a second time before normal re-purchase – the other was acquisition of the Hanon piano technique book which I figured I’d find in Foyles.

I love Foyles Bookshop but because I was whistlestop touring the place, I went straight up to the sheet music section and found H.

It’s phenomenal. I could get lost in there. GIve me a ladder and I am happy. The classical stuff is kept in drawers which I could happily explore for hours. The Hanon was surprisingly unexpensive and now I have no excuse not to sort out my whole piano technique issues (later).

The last thing I did was go to L Cornelissen which is a fabulous old art supplies shop. It has lots and lots of drawer units which I really, really want.

I went to university in London but after a weekend there I’m not sure I could go back there to live. It’s stressful and crowded. My experience with Transport for London customer service in the face of lines closed for engineering works wasn’t great; the tubes are packed to sardine tin levels. I do regret that I did not get a chance to play the Platform 88 piano in Tottenham Court Road.

About a pencil

I went to a stationery shop in one of the retail parks the other day to buy a couple of gel pens which I had not found in the city centre. It’s a great shop; it just costs me a lot of money every time I go there. I’m swimming under Pilot G2 gel pens and because I have a collection of ball and fountain pens to write with that would be the envy of the average person on the street, I’m not tending to write with the Pilots so much. But I use their G-Tec Cs to draw with, when I can find them.

This is one of the things I loathe about myself. I can’t just use a Bic crystal like a million people on Instagram to do monochrome pictures. No, I like to chose a pen that is…difficult to get. TBH, if I had any sense I’d buy a box of black, brown, turquoise, red and violet off Cult Pens and then that’d be it. The problem is Cult Pens now has Sepia unipins and frankly about 150E worth of other stuff I didn’t know I wanted and now I have to have and I already did serious damage on Friday buying 4 gel pens and a pile of other stuff including some ore G2s.

When I lived in Ireland, there were issues around getting the kind of mechanical pencils I wanted. My favourite at the time were Uni Kuru Togas but you could not then get them in Ireland (just as I left, ArtnHobby discovered them  The net result is I tend to panic buy stuff that historically, I have found very difficult to get a short notice. Between Friday and yesterday I bought about 10 more mechanical pencils

Today I was actually drawing with pencils. I have a couple of personal sketchbook projects on the go, one on kraft paper, and one on white paper. They are in side stapled sketcbooks, That’s not really important.

I have a massive and overwhelming choice of pencils available to me. I wanted to draw here so I tend to favour the finer pencils to do that with. Most of the brands do 0.3 although I have not yet got my hands on a Kuru Toga 0.3mm mechanical pencil. But I have some Pentels, Pilots and Staedlers Argubly, I probably don’t need any Kuru Togos given how many Pilots and Pentels I have.

This isn’t a pencil review per se. This is more, just after I finished today’s drawing it occurred to me that the mechanical pencils were a bit chaotic The new ones I bought, I haven’t space to fit in the drawer and anyway, I wanted to set up some drawing kits. I’m drowning in drawing toolboxes but that’s another day’s story. I dragged out the drawer of pencils and sorted it according to size. I was a bit surprised by the outcome. Pencil size wise, I have 0.2, 0.3, 0.5, 0.7. After that I’ve a bunch of 2mms and what look like 4mms. Faber Castell have a couple of odd sizes as well.  But I have a frightening quantity of 0.5mm pencils, and the bulk of them are Uni pencils, either Kuru Togas or Shalakus. There is an array of others but I dared not count.

After that, I’m really kind of good on 0.3mms as well. What surprised me was that I didn’t have a whole lot of 0.7s. I tend (at the moment) not to buy 0.9s as they are probably a little too broad. I don’t own any for now and I’ve tended to manage to avoid buying any in the last few panic buy of pencils. After that, there aren’t a whole lot of 0.2mms and the ones that I have are all Pentel Orenz. I think, again, there is a Kuru Toga that narrow but like the 0.3s, I haven’t found them.

I sorted out two sets of pencils – a full set of Orenz from 0.2-0.7 and a set of Pentel P20s from 0.3-0.7. Then I sorted out some of the pencils I tended to want to use more often and instead of shunting them back to the drawer, I have them in a pencil cup.

If you asked me 2 years ago what was my favourite pencil, I’d have said Kuru Toga. Given the constraints I was working in, they were for a long time the narrowest pen I could find until I eventually tracked down a Faber Castell 0.35. I still love them and where I need a default pencil, like in my stationery drawer at work, or in my handbag, there  is usually a Kuru Toga there, or a Shalaku. For a long time I struggled to lay my hands on Pentel Graphgear 1000s – they are gorgeous pencils; I have them from 0.5-0.7 and I think there is only one 0.5 although there were two of the other sizes. Mostly I stopped buying 0.5s for the most part as I had loads of them. The pencils in my tool box are all Graphgears bar one Orenz 0.2.

I can’t answer the question “what is your favourite pencil” at the moment. Most of today’s drawing I did with Orenz pencils in various sizes – 0.2,0.3 and 0.5, and while it takes a lot to get used to the way the lead is hooded, I had a lot of fun with them. I only have 0.5mm Orenz though as I tended not to buy them because I have loads of them. Same is true for 0.7 although I have fewer 0.7s than I thought. But I like the Tombow Mono shaker too, it’s just, I don’t have a lot of them so I hate risk losing them and there’s nowhere to buy them locally so I tend to hoard the two I have.

I could put different lead weights in the pencils – I’m not short of lead either – but only some of the pencils have lead weight markers and I find with the Orenz pencils that I was using today that the weight broadly doesn’t matter when I am using the finer mechanical pencils – this is probably because I draw with fineliners a lot and it’s the width rather than the colour depth that I focus on.

I have wooden case pencils as well; a full set of Caran d’Ache Graphwoods, a near complete set of Mars Lumographs including the extra black and aquarelles, and I’ve a few other randomers from Faber Castell, Tombow and Uni Mitsubishi. One of the reasons I am not allowed go near Cultpens is that if I did, I’d buy a full set of both the Tombows and the Unis. They are gorgeous pencils to draw with. So are the Caran d’Ache pencils.

The tl;dr version of this is that Treasa has too many pencils.

A propos of nothing

It is 34 degrees here in Luxembourg. I went to the shopping centre this morning and engaged in bold shopping but at least the clothes I bought are suitable for work. I pretty much expected to spend the afternoon drawing. I have digital stuff lined up to do and I skipped yesterday on a daily sketch project. I also had a load of art supplies to find homes for as I have bought a load of mechanical pencils lately (mostly Pilot and Pentel it seems). I panic buy these things because a few years ago it really nearly failed me to find a 0.3mm mechanical pencil (eventually Kennedy Art). You can buy them in the central Railway station here in Lux and as for what turns up in the run up to the Rentrée (ie, the kids are going on holidays, let’s make them really happy by pointing out all the lovely stuff they have to buy for going back to school in mid September), well it beggers belief. I do not need any ore 0.3mm pencils or, indeed 0.2 mm pencils but I could draw a lot more rabbits and squirrels given Fur Was the Reason.

But the drawing never happened and I’ve only just unpacked the new stationery, never mind the new clothes. My life on twitter went a bit crazy today. The emergency services in Ireland posted aerial photographs of Bray Head in Wicklow. Various elements of them do so every once in a while, and the pictures are beautiful.

Bray Head, however, is an ugly burned out mess following a gorse fire a few weeks ago. It was a huge fire and it cleared all before it. What was underneath was an EIRE stone sign, along with the number 8.

I have a special interest in those signs. About 7 years ago I spent a whack of my time poring over aerial photographs trying to identify what signs were left and, how many were built and with the information I got, I built a website and a map. People brought me information and occasionally sent me photographs. Via information from pilots doing aerial surveys now and again, I learned some sites had 2 signs, for example. It was fascinating and fun, and at a point, I figured I had probably found what ones were likely to turn up. Two, I think, were likely to be still available under gorse but I didn’t expect that to clear any time soon. Neither of them was Bray Head in Wicklow. I had spent hours combing photographs looking for the slightest sign and nothing. At a certain point, the information on the site stopped needing to be updated quite so often; occasionally people let me know if one was renovated and occasionally I got photographs sent to me. I honestly didn’t expect to see any more signs turn up and in that I was wrong.

The photographs of Bray Head are exceptional. The number is still intact. For a sign which hasn’t seen the light of day in years, it is in remarkably good condition. Elements of the frame are still in place. The initial letter E is a bit less healthy looking but in general, compared to the condition of a lot of the signs when I started looking for them, it looks really well.  The shape of the letters if fantastic. I’m really, really excited by this news.

Very few of the signs on the east coast survived – there is some of Howth Head in place apparently but I couldn’t locate it for sure, and there are remnants of the sign around the lighthouse in Wicklow Head too. It’s possible that a few more which have sunk might be more obvious if you knew where to look in light of the recent drought. I’ve been told that the sign in Clogherhead is still there, under the gorse there but I haven’t found it.

The map has been updated to include Bray Head, and I know from social media that discussions are ongoing now amongst people who have an interest in restoring the sign. That pleases me. But the result of this news story is that my online life went a little busier than is usually the case. My site got cited by a bunch of media sites which I didn’t expect.

While we’re at it, the Independent mentioned the site a few months ago as well.