Tuesday, 29 June 2010

A Brief Encounter with Stephens Ink

Among Nemo's many talents and endearing idiosyncrasies (the talent of submerging and resurfacing with gracious misanthropy; the penchant for ink and fine writing instruments and for distinctive implements of personal grooming) is his capacity to find ink in places where the commoner's eye would never have thought to look. 

In Nemo's account of Cranford railway station, which featured in David Lean's Brief Encounter (and a wondrous account it is - prompting - and I'm sure this was not in Nemo's intentions - a desire for travelling and exploration), there is an inky moment. Nemo points the readers' attention to an advertisement for ink that can be seen behind the heroine as she rushes out of the café and almost throws herself in front of the train. I can read "For all.. Fountain Pens."

After a spot of research I found that this poster is in fact an advertisement for "Stephens Ink". The BBC History website informs me that Dr Henry Stephens was the inventor of the famous "Blue-Black Writing Fluid" which developed into writing ink. Manufacturing started about 1834 and Henry "Inky" Stephens described his invention as a "carbonaceous black writing fluid, which will accomplish the so long-desired and apparently hopeless task of rendering the manuscript as durable and as indelible as the printed record."

Stephens Ink became a British government staple for legal documents and ships' log books. It remains so to this day. There is also a "Stephens Collection" in North London which (and here comes the travel and exploration bit) I intend to visit in the near future. I hope that Nemo of Mobilis Ink Mobili will surface again to hear about my findings.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Post a Stub: Pencil Drawing

Continuing with the Post a Stub theme, Palimpsest is hosting Alissa's wonderful drawing of pencil stubs.

Alissa writes:

This is a drawing of my graphite and watercolour pencil stubs. They are a mixture of Faber Castell, Derwent and Prismacolour. I have been wanting to draw these stubs of pencils for ages. They are only good for drawing (a picture of) as they are no good for drawing (with).

In the last few years I have thrown myself into drawing whenever I have the opporunity. I can't bear to throw these beautiful little pencil stubs away as they are part of the process of my increased practice and enthusiasm for drawing. So they are sitting in the lovely wooden Derwent Art box with all of my other pencils.

Alilssa was able to figure out the names of her stubs. They are:

Derwent WaterColour (Silver Grey) (Madder Carmine)
Derwent Studio (Brown Ochre)
Derwent Graphic  3B. H 3B, 5B
Cretacolor Aquarellith Watercolour (Black)
Cretacolor Graphite 2b
FaberCastell (Ivory)
See Alissa wonderful pencil drawings on her Flickr photostream.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The Stabilo pointVisco: A Touch of Gene Kelly

I do not know what to think about the Stabilo pointVisco fine 0.5, blue. The wise Pen Addict has already pointed out that "fine" it is not. The ink does flow smoothly though and it is comfortable to hold. But there is something else about this pen. Something vintage - a touch of old-time beach holidays, a touch of Gene Kelly perhaps. It is, I think, the choice of the orange and yellow stripes (a staple design in Stabilo) that carry the look. Stabilo point88 have them too. But pointVisco goes on step further.

First of all the orange/white stripey look is combined with what I call "school-boy blue". It is the sensible blue that one finds in old school exercise books - an unimaginative, stale, obedient blue. It is found in the rubber grip and on the top end of the Stabilo and on the pocket clip. Both ends of the pen are at an angle (at opposite angles to each other to be exact) and there would have been hollow had it not been for the Stabilo Swan logo protruding from within.

And now come the stripes - Stabilo pointVisco's pièce de resistance.  Because forget about your usual Stabilo stripes. These new ones are moulded affairs that not only emulate the pencil (nothing new there, all hexagonal pen designs, starting with Bic, emulate the pencil) but touch on the monumental. An undulating surface of sunny orange accentuated by an oval shaped white border. Ancient columns come to mind.

Where Gene Kelly fits into all this? Well, Stabilo pointVisco is playful in a vintage way. Playful in a wholesome way - the type of playful that dressed in a tailored pinstripe suit would break into song in the middle of the seaside promenade. It would do a little exquisite dance while the ladies have ice cream on the pier, it would smile a white-tooth smile while effortlessly gliding by.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Sanford NoBlot Ink Pencil 705 by Quinn McDonald

 Licking the Pencil

It’s not a stub, so this can’t be a stub story. The pencil still shows the entire name, and I’m being frugal with it. The Sanford 705 is kind of hard to find.  It’s my second one, the first one belonged to someone else whose desk I inherited when I was still working for other people. I found it in a drawer and almost threw it away.

 The 705 wasn’t designed for artists; it was designed for bookkeepers.  If you like old movies, you’ll remember a scene in which the bookkeeper, one with a green eye shade and sleeve garters, licked his pencil and wrote in a ledger.

No one knew why bookkeepers licked the pencil, but they did. Careful movie watchers might have wondered why ledgers—the company’s financial records—would have been kept in pencil.  The answer is the Sanford NoBlot Ink Pencil 705. It writes in gray, just like a graphite pencil. But get it wet and it leaves a great turquoise mark that can’t be erased. You can erase they gray part if you are careful, but once the writing gets wet and turns turquoise, forget it, it’s permanent.

The pencil contains and aniline dye—turquoise in color—and while it can be activated by licking, I don’t recommend it. If you are keeping a journal, I’d advise to do your writing in pencil, then go over the line with a damp brush. Or, as in the photograph, simply create a wash of the color. It’s great for sketching or adding a bit of color to a journal page. You can also write on damp paper for immediate turquoise results. 

To finish the story—how did I find out that the pencil I found in a desk turned turquoise when wet? This was in the days before computers, so Googling wasn’t a verb yet. I found out the old fashioned way. I was using it as a pencil and drinking ice tea when a drop of condensation fell on the paper and turned my writing bright turquoise.  I often claim that it was the beginning of my raw art journaling  fascination, and I’m sticking to it. 

--Quinn McDonald is a writer and workshop leader. Her book on raw art journaling will be published in 2011 by North Light Books. She can be reached at QuinnCreative.wordpress.com

Palimpsest says: See also Quinn's post "Pencil-Perfect" on the love of pencils.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Pencil Face

Pencil Face was created by the Dandy Dwarves, a collective of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) filmmakers and video artists.

A comment on the language and the written word or the sign. Comments?

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Brothers Grimm, Ferdinand the Faithful

At the age of fourteen poor Ferdinand the Faithful found a white horse and rejoiced. Now I have a white horse and I will travel, said he. So he set out and as he was on his way, a pen was lying on the road. At first he thought he would pick it up, but then he thought to himself, "You should leave it lying there, you will easily find a pen where you are going, if you have need of one." As he was thus riding away, a voice called after him, "Ferdinand the Faithful, take it with you." He looked around, but saw no one, so he went back again and picked it up.

 As you have helped me out of the mud I will give you a flute.

When he had ridden a little way farther, he passed by a lake and a fish was lying on the bank, gasping and panting for breath, so he said, "Wait, my dear fish, I will help you to get into the water," and he took hold of it by the tail, and threw it into the lake. Then the fish put its head out of the water and said, "As you have helped me out of the mud I will give you a flute. When you are in any need, play on it, and then I will help you, and if ever you let anything fall in the water, just play and I will reach it out to you."

And so it happened that Ferdinand the Faithful had an enemy. And that enemy was called Ferdinand the Unfaithful. And Ferdinand the Unfaithful always got Ferdinand the Faithful in trouble. He had to fetch a girl by defeating the giants who tear people to pieces and the large birds which pluck the eyes out of your head if you had no bread for them. But he was lucky because his white horse, which was a talking horse, helped him. 

Ferdinand the Faithful passed by a lake. 

However, it came to point when not even his horse could help him. And that was the point when Ferdinand the Faithful was asked to bring back the girl's writings - she said she could not live, she must have her writings. And so Ferdinand should go back to the castle and again defeat the giants and the birds. And he did but when they were on the lake, he let his pen fall into the water.
I will help you if ever you let anything fall into the water.

Then said the white horse, "Now I cannot help you at all." But Ferdinand remembered his flute, and began to play on it, and the fish came with the pen in its mouth, and gave it to him. So he took the writings to the castle, where the king's wedding was celebrated.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Patriotic Stationery

Patriotism as expressed in pencils and pens. The pack of 4 pencils is displayed among England car flags, flag pins, wigs, union jack hats and pens. There are also World Cup 2010 magazines offering stickers, sticker albums, magnets and wall charts. Put the pencil in the sharpener and hear it crackle and suffer as the blades expose the lead. Cheap wood splinters, the lead is exposed more on one side. The quality fits the flag my offspring brought home the other day: flimsy polyester with deep creases where the folds had been. Patriotic stationery is perhaps not meant to be seriously used. Same happened with the 2004 Athens Olympics pencils. Sharpening killed them.

But see a classy alternative over at Pencil Talk

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Bic, Edding55, Paper Mate, Ball Pentel: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

I am prepared to humour them. I picked them from the stationery shop cringing:

two BIC Orange™ Fine - one blue, one black;
one BIC Cristal® blue;
one Edding55 1 black;
one Ball Pentel Fine Point R50
two Paper Mate, Nylon - one blue, one black.

They are only pens, I tell myself. And look at the key benefits, won't you. The Bic Cristal is a "world-renowned classic": quality, quick-drying ink, says the Bic website. Also it boasts a Tungsten carbide ball, perfect sphere and very resistant. The cap is ventilated. The barrel clear for visible ink supply. And this is a long lasting product: it has got up to 2 kilometres of writing length in it. It's PVC free and has been manufactured using "the right amount of raw materials". The BIC Orange goes one further to promise 2.5 to 3.5 km of writing length. And like the ubiquitous yellow school pencil it also promises high visibility.

Bic Orange and Bic Cristal

The Ball Pentel. Another design icon. What a 1970s revolution: an affordable rollerball, with water-based fibre-fed ink - a green barrelled wonder. The epitome of rollerball coolness in 1970s classrooms. The Paper Mate Nylon (or Tempo as I knew it) was perhaps the Ball Pentel's poor cousin in terms of design but a staple of many a pen case and a favourite for doodling. And what about the Edding55 with its fine point and smooth stripey barrel? It spoke elegance to me and it promised fine writing.

Bic Orange and Edding55

Yes, I am prepared to humour these pens; pretend it is all well with their plasticky goodness, their inexpensive utilitarian looks. Indeed I am prepared to be objective, even appreciate their usefulness and contribution to the world of writing. The BICs are lightweight and invest handwriting with an informal feel. If a Mont Blanc gives words a veneer of seriousness, the BIC is relaxed and takes things on its stride. The Ball Pentel is the eternal student taking notes on large lined pads. The Edding55 wants to be classy. The Paper Mate doodles in the corners of notebooks.

Paper Mate Nylon and Ball Pentel

And yet and yet. These pens will be forever invested with other meanings: prickly adolescence, first dates, disposable knowledge, cheap paper, copied thoughts, nascent aspirations. Edding 55's life has always been short, its long barrel managed to always deliver very little ink for very short time. The Paper Mates were rude and noisy. The Ball Pentel could not be trusted to produce uniform lines for ever - it failed around the curves. Nobody expected much of the BICs. However, they delivered whatever humble offerings they had promised.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Sharpie, Permanent Marker for Random Drawing

Sharpie Permanent Marker Fine Point: a test. Is the point fine? Well, a marker is a marker, which means the point is hardly "fine". Writing instrument? Yes, if one wants to write addresses on parcels. Or design a bold poster. Permanent? It withstood the water treatment wonderfully. Sharpie also smells "permanent" - that addictive alcholic smell of markers.

Random drawing? Definitely. Trust Sharpie to offer some therapeutic line making on a dull Sunday afternoon. But if you're using ordinary paper make sure you use some backing because Sharpie bleeds through.

Sharpie Permanent Marker, Fine Point combined with Derwent Metallic Blue

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Rebirth by Sharpening

Of all the little chores related to one's desk life, I find sharpening the most satisfying. For example, sorting one's notes is tedious; unpinning old reminders from one's notice board is loathsome (don't ask why - I prefer to pin new reminders on top of old - but what a relief when I finally manage to reorganize the whole thing); cleaning one's laptop tiresome; sorting the paperclips from the rubber bands boring - not to mention rearranging the contents' of the shelves or (even worse but life changing) clearing up one's files be they in the hard disk or in physical form.

But sharpening pencils! Simple and satisfying. A bland, tired lead is transformed into a shining pinnacle of hope. By means of a circular movement performed within a cylinder equipped with sharp blades the pencil's life is renewed. As it inevitably moves to its annihilation the pencil retains its faculties intact. And it continues life as a stub, neglected perhaps but still there claiming its share of immortality.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

The Winner of Palimpsest's 6th Monthiversary Giveaway is....

Katrina! Congratulations!

Katrina said...

Oh goodie, Goodies! K