Friday, June 30, 2006

The Beany

I´ve recently had the pleasure of reading artist and illustrator Michael Nobbs´ little paperback journal The Beany, issue #3. It´s a bright red little gem with a lovely drawing of a Citroën 2cv on the cover, and the inside is as usual filled with Michael´s own writing and drawings.

I´m very impressed by The Beany, it contains so much in spite of it´s limited size. Michael Nobbs writes about what goes on in his life, and nothing is too big or too small to end up on a page here. You get to read about everything from journeys he´s made, favourite drawing tools, tea with his mother and much more, and at the end of this issue is a very useful list of 75 ways to draw more. Together with Michael´s charmingly relaxed drawings this is a very personal and inspiring publication. Reading it feels a bit like peaking into another person´s life, or rather like being allowed to read their diary (and who doesn´t love that, honestly?), with the bonus of having it illustrated.

Michael Nobbs seems to have the ability to see the value of everyday life, and he finds it well worth drawing and writing about. To me, reading The Beany has the effect of a little vitamin pill with inspiration, showing the way: “it´s all there, right in front of you – just see it and draw it!”

Take a look at both The Beany and Michael´s blog here.

(The image of The Beany is © Michael Nobbs)

Lamy Safari

A few days ago I got my second Lamy Safari fountain pen. I bought the first one in January, and I´ve been using it every day since then (no, I´m not kidding), so I thought I´d say a few words here about this favourite drawing tool of mine.

The first of my two Lamys is an Extra Fine nib, and I use it together with Noodler´s black ink. I want to be able to use watercolors on my drawings, and I had to look for quite a while before finding an ink that is waterproof but still doesn´t ruin fountain pens. Noodler´s is the only one I´ve found so far, and it is great to work with. Jet black, nice flow and ok price. (A bottle isn´t exactly cheap, but it lasts a long time.)

The Lamy Safari is incredibly nice to draw with. It makes a smooth even line and for a fountain pen, it´s got a fairly flexible nib. Harder pressure gives a thicker line. Although I don´t recommend not caring for your pens, I have never cleaned it so far. I just keep filling it up with ink when it starts to run out, and keep using it. It has never skipped a line and the ink has never dried in it, it just seems to go on and on.

As I like to draw with a thin line, the Extra Fine was my first choice. In my pen case I usually have another ink pen too with a little broader nib to fill in black surfaces and emphasizing certain lines in my drawings. When the last one of those non-fountain pens dried up I decided to replace it with another Lamy, only this time with a Medium nib (and a happy yellow barrel). If it turns out Medium doesn´t do the trick I´ll just get the Broad nib to replace the Medium with. That´s a very practical detail with the Safaris – you can change the nib if you feel like it. Just pull it straight out and replace it with another. Hardly anything you´d choose to do very often, since black ink is kind of… well, black and all over (and waterproof in this case), but the possibility of changing nibs is good. And economical – you don´t have to get a whole new pen if you´re not satisfied.

I´m very pleased with the Safari (you didn´t get that until now, right?). It´s the most expensive pen I´ve bought so far, but it´s been worth every cent (or öre, as we say in Sweden). I can really recommend to try one out if you are an ink pen kind of person.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


It struck me that most of what I´ve been drawing the last two weeks has been from a distance. I never seem to get close to things these days. So today´s outing with the Moleskine Watercolor didn´t include any watercolors at all, just a concentrated look at the grass right in front of me in a park near home. Quite interesting, really. And a challenge to draw.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A messy little watercolor project

Sorry folks, but here comes another nerd-post about art materials. If you feel that customizing watercolor boxes may not be your cup of tea, then stop reading now or you´ll be suffering from total boredom very soon.

I have a small watercolor box that is almost always with me. It´s a quite usual model, a metal box with room for twelve half pans of colors. There used to be a metal holder for the pans in it, but I got rid of it long ago to fit more (and bigger) pans in there.

Lately I´ve felt the need to start using tube colors instead of pans. I want to be able to use a bigger palette when painting at home and with two different palettes it´s cheaper to use tubes for both than to maintain the pan system for one and buy tubes for the other. Also, the pans in the pocket size box were slowly sliding around in spite of the double-coated foam tape I used to try to keep them in place and I have been looking for a solution to this little but annoying problem.

I decided to build permanent compartments for the colors, and found an excellent plastic material for this in a trash container just around the corner (it´s not always a bad thing to live on a building site). I cut the plastic into strips, two to fit the length of the box, and five to fit the width. Then I cut slits into these to be able to assemble them into eighteen compartments. (I hope the images help to get the idea here.) Then I glued it all into the box with silicone (the kind you use when you build kitchens and bathrooms – totally waterproof), making sure there were no holes between the compartments, to avoid colors leaking in to each other. A bit messy, and the finished result is not a pretty sight, but then it wasn´t the sight I was after, it was the function. And after it dried for a couple of hours, I was ready to put the colors in.

Now, watercolors are expensive, and of course I couldn´t just let my pan colors go to waste. So I poured water into all the pans and waited for the colors to dissolve, then I shovelled them over to the new compartments in the box. It was messy like crazy but then they dried just fine (except Schmincke´s Phthalo blue, which took at least a week). When they run out, I´ll just fill them up from tubes.

Now I have the perfect watercolor palette for everyday use. It fits into my pen case, it can be refilled from tubes, it gives each color a bigger surface than the half pans (about the same as the bigger pans, only square), which makes it easy to fill the brushes with paint.

This image shows my current setup of colors (bigger if you click it, of course). I´m quite happy with them, I don´t feel like I need any more colors. I do have two empty compartments in the box, but I´ll just let them stay empty for now.

I sometimes wonder why I do these things… It took time, it was messy, I got Scarlet Lake over the whole kitchen, I went mad a few times, I cursed the silicone tube at least twice, and before I had finished the whole project I was ready to just go out and buy myself a new box and throw the old stuff in the garbage. But as much as I like buying and trying out new art materials, I can´t help feeling very loyal to the stuff that I´ve had for a long time, and that has served well over the years. It felt better to rebuild this old box and keep it working, than to throw it out for something shiny and new. I´m glad I did it. But I would perhaps not rebuild it again in the near future...

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Another Moleskine Watercolor day. Been experimenting a bit with colors as well as drawing techniques. Another drawing is up at the Drawing Club today, have a look here.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Time to draw

My summer holidays has begun today, and my bike was waiting impatiently for me this morning to take it out on a ride. So I packed my brand new Moleskine Watercolor and the Lamy Safari pen and my new (or at least rebuilt) watercolor box (featured in a blogpost near you real soon) and let my red Peak take me downtown for some sushi, coffee and drawing. Lovely! I´ll be doing this a lot this summer. Well, maybe not the sushi, that would turn drawing into an expensive habit. The whole day was great, with sun, perfect temperature and nice views.

On my way home, I suddenly saw a fire hydrant in use for the first time ever, and since these thingies were on the EDM challenge list a few weeks ago, I had to draw it. We don´t have the cute above-ground models in Sweden, they are all hidden under the pavements here, with a neat little red sign on the nearest lamp post telling how far and in what direction you´ll find water. I had to hurry drawing it, though, because as soon as I had begun drawing, a lady (yeah, no fire fighters... how exciting is that?) came along with a huge heavy tool and turned it off. Two minutes later, she came back again and took the whole fire hydrant with her and walked off with it. The strangest things happen in this town...

Monday, June 12, 2006

Watercolor Moleskine

Oh joy, I finally got my hands on a Moleskine Watercolor Notebook today. I wasn´t even looking for one, and still, there it was in a store I never would have guessed to find it in. Nice! I bought the big one, and stopped twice on my way home to try it out.

Unfortunately, stupid me didn´t have my watercolors with me, since I´m in the middle of rebuilding my watercolor box (of all the little projects you can spend your time on...) and couldn´t bring it along. I had to add the color when I got home. Still, I did put the paper in this little Moleskine treasure to the test with my Lamy Safari pen in a park, and all went well. In spite of the grain, the pen and ink behaved lovely on the surface. No fibers got stuck in the nib, and the ink didn´t feather at all. No complaints there!

The only problem now is that I am already working in a sketchbook of a similar size, only much thicker than the Moleskine, and I have promised myself not to start new sketchbooks until the old ones are full… Hm. How annoying.