Fountain Pens and teNeues Publishing Eco Booklets

Posted July 6, 2015 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Artwork, Writing and Journalling

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I bought these Cartolina Eco Booklets because I just loved the covers. They were $5 for the set of three and there is one blank booklet, one with lined paper, and one with graph paper.

Dave the Minion and his pal Cerberus were quite interested in these designs by Fiona Richards. You can see how excited Cerberus was.


When I bought them I thought I’d probably have to use ballpoint pen in them rather than fountain pens. However, I did some tests and the paper seems to work well with fountain pens. I got a tiny spot of bleed-through when using my very wet Parker 51 pen but the others were fine, even with dark ink.


I love the Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris colour, but I didn’t have enough money to buy it. I did buy a bottle of the Noodler’s Blue Upon the Plains of Abraham, which Wonder Pens in Toronto is selling exclusively, and I really like it. I did up a sketch with it and it’s a bulletproof ink so I can use watercolour with it as well. I love the Noodler’s Lexington Gray for drawing, and with this added colour I can use blue for sketches as well. They both work well with my Lamy Safari pen.



Embarrassing Hand Decorated Envelopes?

Posted June 18, 2015 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Creativity, Writing and Journalling

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You would think that with decades of mail art behind us, people would be receptive to receiving such things in the mail

Not so, I saw someone mention that they had sent a decorated envelope to a pen pal, and the person had chastised them for sending something that looked like a child had drawn it, and possibly embarrassing her with the postie.

Imagine being so dull that you are embarrassed by hand drawn art? Anyway, I was kibitzing around and decided to try this. Up to now I was hesitant to draw on envelopes, fearing that they would look amateurish and goofy.

I laid this down with a Faber-Castell Pitt pen in sepia, and then coloured it in with Faber-Castell Polychromos coloured pencils. At first it made me cringe a bit, but I kept adding things and doing subtle gradations and it turned out to be rather fresh and cheery. Not bad for a first try.


I wouldn’t really want to use art that takes hours to draw and colour on an envelope, so this was fun and looks quite good when folded and glued.

This is blue 65 lb card stock that I bought in a ream from Staples at least 8 or 9 years ago. It is letter-sized 8.5 x 11 inches, so I have to use a template for a small 1/4 size envelope to fit on the page, but it works quite well. I also have some white cardstock.

I would never have thought to use card stock but I bought some decorated sheets in a pad and people recommend scoring card stock first with a bone folder so it doesn’t crack when you fold it. So I tried that and it works beautifully; another new thing I learned.

This is made by K&Company and contains 42 double-sided sheets of card in the Blossomwood design paper pad. They don’t specify that it’s card stock but it is, albeit fairly light. This company sells a great variety of different packs in the 12 x 12 inch size through Amazon.


The girl I mentioned was pretty hurt by the ratty comment this other woman said to her about her envelope, but I bet she inspires many other people to try and make decorated envelopes. And she was encouraged by many to carry on creating and enjoying decorating her own envelopes.

That’s a good result from something not so good!



Making Artistamps for Mail Art

Posted June 14, 2015 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Artwork, Creativity

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While reading Good Mail Day: A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art which I ordered in on inter-library loan, I noticed a chapter on faux postage and what they call artistamps. These are small pieces of art you create yourself with art materials, or digitally using a program like Photoshop.

If you don’t have a special machine for doing the perforations to emulate a postage stamp, they say you can use a dressmaker’s wheel to make the perforations. I have one of these for marking details from sewing patterns on fabric and I tried it. It works, but my particular wheelie did not make large enough perforations so instead of a nice edge it just looked like ripped paper.

I decided I would just cut the edges with my rotary cutter and scissors and that worked fine. I used to make things like this as stickers and glue them to letters but I haven’t done it for years. I took some recent art from my sketchbook that I am using on my Manner and Material blog for weekly sketches, and made them into stamps.

Jumping Jack James Joyce decided he would make an appearance too, holding his various editions of The Odyssey. Joycey is always up for an art adventure. That man likes attention.


For the Photoshop file, I created it at 300 dpi for printing and then scanned and resized my art, adding backgrounds and words as necessary.

I made a grid of non-printing blue guides in Photoshop to use as a guides for placement, and also used a separate printing grid of pale grey lines to use as cutting lines. I made the stamps about 1.25 x 1.5 inches with 1/8 of an inch beyond that for a white border.

Here’s a partial shot of the setup in Photoshop; my sheet makes 5 across and 5 down, so 25 stamps in total:


I had to bump the colour saturation up 20% for printing to get decent images, but they are ready to use as stickers or stamps. I will probably stick them down with a glue stick in the middle and some Golden Soft Gel Medium around the outside for security.

The reason I stopped making these was that it’s a bit fiddly to paste them down and they look better if you weight them while drying so they don’t warp. You can apparently buy pre-stuck and pre-perforated blank sheets but I always find using things like that in the printer hard because it’s difficult to get them centred and printing within the designated area.

It’s much less stressful to make and trim your own, especially if you include faint cutting lines that almost disappear upon trimming.



Ink Samples and a New Fountain Pen

Posted June 6, 2015 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Writing and Journalling

Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve been dithering for months about getting red, pink, and blue fountain pen inks. I finally decided to go the way of buying 2 mL samples from Wonder Pens in Toronto. To my knowledge, they are the only store in Canada that offers fountain pen ink samples by mail. It’s a great service, although I’m sure it’s fiddly for them. I certainly appreciate their excellent service.

I also decided to buy an inexpensive Pilot 78G pen so I’d have an extra pen besides my Pilot Metropolitan to try inks in. That worked out really well and I bought the red one with the medium nib and it’s nice and light to use. I have chronic tendinitis so I have to be careful about pen weight.

In this picture the ink is Bleu Myosotis on the left and Fernambuk on the right. You can see how handy the little 2 mL bottles are for the ink samples, and they are small enough that you can still get your nib in but it will be easier to fill a pen as the ink gets lower. I thought I might get one or two fills out of them but I might get three. That’s not bad for $1.25-$1.50 CAD per sample.


These are the samples I ordered:

1)Diamine 2mL ink samples:

2)Rohrer and Klingner 2mL ink samples:

3) Noodler’s 2mL ink sample:
Ottoman Rose

4) J. Herbin 2mL ink sample:
Éclat de Saphir
Bleu Myosotis

So far I have tried the R & K Fernambuk which was much quieter than I thought it would be. From online samples it looked more like hot pink but it’s more like a medium red with a hint of coral in it. In a wider nib like in a calligraphy pen it might shade lighter.

I also tried the J. Herbin Bleu Myosotis which is much like a medium blue, even blue-grey on some of my paper. I like it but I guess I spent too many years using Parker Quink ink and tend to like colours that are a bit different.

I am now using Noodler’s Ottoman Rose in the Pilot 78G and I really like that. It’s a violet-rose colour, not too dark or too light and easy to read.

Seven more to try! What a kick, and I’m so glad I bought samples because it’s too hard to tell what an ink is going to be like and at $14 a bottle it gets expensive to make a mistake.

Several Books and More Handmade Envelopes, Mail, and Letter Writing

Posted June 1, 2015 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Books, History

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I first read The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of the American Myth in November 2011 on inter-library loan, and I wanted to reread it. I’ve held it in my mind for years and because of the large amount of information, and I can see myself reading this over and over. I found a used copy for under $10 including shipping so I have ordered it. This pertains to American women and early settlements but is still vitally interesting for me as a Canadian.


I really, really like books on needlework and the history of women making things. I have a collection of books on both embroidery and quilting history that I reread all the time, both for the images and my fondness for the stories of women and their lives. I just love needle arts and biography; I’ve missed a few gems that have gone out of print and are too expensive on the secondary market, so I wanted to nab this while it was affordable.

I also received a great book I had ordered in on inter-library loan.


To the Letter by Simon Garfield and is a good overview of the history of writing letters. He has information here on the Romans, early postal systems, books on how to write letters which seem to proliferate in every generation, and discussion of writers, poets, and other famous people who are also famous for writing letters. Woven in among this is an actual correspondence between a man serving overseas in World War II, and a woman back home. Along the way we learn about them through this correspondence and I found it quite gripping, like I wanted to race to the end and see what happened. (No, I won’t tell you the outcome.)

Simon Garfield has quite a rambling way of writing, but he makes all the details interesting. I notice he has a book on the history of mapmaking and a book on the history of fonts and typography that I might try and read through inter-library loan.

While reading this I got the urge to make some more handmade envelopes. I made eight in a smaller quarter-fold size, one of which has already been mailed out. I made the template based on an 8.25 inch square so it would fit on letter-size paper. Then a week later I decided I needed some more of the large half-fold size, so created four new envelopes in that size.


I have placed three inter-library loans for books that looked interesting. The ones on mail art strike me as being very similar to books and examples of altered books with lots of collage and ephemera used. I won’t buy these books until I look at them, as they might duplicate what I already have, but I do want to see them for information and eye candy.

Mail Me Art: Going Postal with the World’s Best Illustrators and Designers by Darren Di Lieto is going to be quite a revelation I think. I often look at books by artists and designers on advertising and business cards and similar things, so this looked vital to have a look at for inspiration.


Good Mail Day: A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art by Jennie Hinchcliff and Carolee Gilligan Wheeler. This is the book that most reminds me of altered books and collaged art journals. Mostly, it looks like a lot of fun and colour and paper, all things I like to look at.


The Handcrafted Letter: Get Inspired, Find Your Voice & Create Unique Projects to Keep in Touch by Diane Maurer-Mathison. I had the feeling, perhaps from the cover photograph, that this is more about fancier, formal sort of writing. There are instructions on making your own decorative stationery, different inks and implements, improving your handwriting, and various projects in a more understated way. A different view from the other two books at least.


That’s it for creative endeavours last week.

Remember, there is always the library! We are fortunate here not to have to pay extra for inter-library loans as they do in other countries, so I take advantage of that often. Free library services are a privilege that may not be around in the future, alas, due to funding issues and the mistaken belief that books are no longer important. A self-educated and learned, questioning populace is important. For that we need books.



Another Art Book: The Realism Challenge by Mark Crilley

Posted May 27, 2015 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Books

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I was browsing online and this book popped up: The Realism Challenge by Mark Crilley.

I looked at it and the preview pages and it seemed interesting because he often uses coloured pencil, graphite, and watercolour together, which I also like to do. He surprisingly uses gouache to brighten white highlights, even in graphite drawings, so they really pop. Having done a couple of sketches where I was drawing a white object on white paper, I thought this might be useful.


He has some short YouTube videos of his process, so I watched them. Due to my interest in collecting playing cards, I found this one fascinating.

Mark also draws Manga and has a couple of how-to books for that, and what I liked about his general approach is that he gets realistic folds and shadows and colouring, but they are not so photorealistic that you can’t see it’s a drawing or painting.

I like things to look realistic but not to the point where you can’t tell if it’s a photograph. I find that sort of realism pointless. It’s the small deviations and imperfections of the hand of the artist that make art interesting. Plus, different materials give a different look, from rough to soft, from pale to vibrant, you can draw something several ways and it’s gratifying. Mark is practiced at sketching from life, which is what really makes his studies sing, and I can always use practice for drawing.

I have spent the last five months doing weekly sketches on my Manner and Material blog with a couple of friends. We have been having such a good time, but last week I really noticed how much better my eye was at drawing accurate initial sketches. This week I sat down and did the sketch in about 20 minutes, and it was accurate. They don’t all turn out like that but I’m forging on slowly to get back the skills I used to have. We all know that practice is necessary, all the art books in the world won’t help unless you sit down and practice, and practice using different materials.

It’s like a mountain when you’re out of practice, you climb and climb and feel so lame because you can’t get anything to look right. I’ve heard other artists speaking about this too, so you need to persevere through the duds and build those skills. What we usually find the most frustrating is the remembrance of how we used to draw when we WERE in practice. It’s like being a marathon runner and then not running for years and finding when you try to run that you can only walk short distances. It takes time to recondition yourself and it’s emotionally painful and requires mental discipline. There is no way around it.


It turns slowly, but it does get better. Mark Crilley’s book has many tutorials that you can draw along with and yet retain your own style. I’m looking forward to that.



Making Your Own A9 or Half Fold Envelope with Triangular Flap

Posted May 21, 2015 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Creativity

Tags: , , , , , ,

Purchasing envelopes today is either very expensive or the only ones available in A9 size are made from kraft paper as open-ended rectangles, which was not the look I wanted for these large envelopes. I wanted the “Baronial” style which has triangular flaps and will show a pretty lining paper.

The template is large for this size, so it’s not generally available online because it doesn’t print on letter-sized paper. You can buy plastic templates for envelope making but I didn’t want to spend the money. Anyone can make these, there is no need to buy envelopes from other people or buy expensive templates.

I drew my own template up to fit on a piece of 12 x 12 inch scrapbooking paper when placed diagonally on the sheet. I used a large sheet of plain newsprint to draw the template and then glued it to Bristol board and cut it out so I could trace and cut multiple envelopes.


To begin, rather than endless measuring, cut out a separate 5.75 x 8.75 inch rectangle from Bristol board, which is the finished size. Then measure off the midpoints on each side of this rectangle and draw horizontal and vertical lines across this template. (Shown in red below.)

I used a square Omnigrid plastic ruler to draw up an 11.5 inch square on the newsprint. If you use a regular ruler to draw this, make sure your drawing is completely square with no wonky lines. Then lightly place diagonal lines from corner to corner each way. (Shown in blue below.) Then place the rectangular template in the middle, matching the lines on the rectangle to the diagonal lines on the 11.5 inch square which ensures that everything is centred. Trace around the rectangle and remove it.

(Note: I forgot to take a picture at this stage so I took a picture after I’d drawn the flaps and notches in case you’re confused.)


The next thing is to mark the notches for the corners. Use your square ruler (or the corner of a piece of cardstock, anything with right angles), and draw a triangle there, then measure out a bit on each side, about 1/8th of an inch. Then draw a new line from the tip to the new marking. This extra room will allow the envelope to fold nicely without paper bunching up in the corners.


Then take a 1-inch circle or a small coin and round the top flap out nicely. For the bottom flap, measure in 2 inches on either side and draw a line across the marks, then cut that point off. The template will look like this.


Glue that to Bristol board with a glue stick and trim it along the outside lines just inside the marked line, then cut out the notches. The template is now ready for tracing on scrapbooking paper. I worked up a small prototype to make sure it all worked.


To fold the flaps I used a thin plastic ruler laid edge to edge and bent the paper over it, then smoothed it down with a bone folder for crisp folds. Use a glue stick to glue the side and bottom flaps together with the bottom flap folded over the sides.




I weighted mine for a few hours to make sure the glue stuck and to make the folds crisper. If you cut multiple envelopes at a time, weight them all together under heavy books, you don’t have to weight them separately.

For the second piece of paper to use as a liner, trace the 5.75 x 8.75 template again on newsprint and then trace the rounded top flap from the envelope template on top of one long side of that rectangle. Cut off 1/8 inch on the right and left sides of the rectangle shape. Measure 1/2 inch in from the edge of the flap on EACH side and draw lines and use the circle again to round the top; trim that down. Glue to Bristol board to get your finished liner template.

Here is a liner cut with this template. Remember, you are a human, not a die-cutting machine, small imperfections are unavoidable.


Slip your liner inside the envelope, centre it, and crease the liner on the same line as the top flap of the envelope. It’s important to crease it BEFORE gluing.


Then turn the liner flap back gently, apply glue from a glue stick, and press it back to anchor it to the envelope flap. You don’t need to glue it in below the flap.


At this point you can open the envelope and weight the flap for a couple of hours to ensure that the flaps stick together.

And these are the finished envelopes, back and front.



I bought some 4 x 2 inch permanent self-stick labels at the dollar store and want to draw some coordinating motifs on the labels. To get a return address label I cut the mailing label in half along the long side, and cut it down the side by 3/4 inch so it wouldn’t be too long, and will draw another small coordinating motif on it to match the big label.

I figured that I’d gone to all the trouble of buying paper and making these, so I wanted them to look coordinated by having a fancier label. This is a sample of the one I did for my prototype envelope with coloured pencils. I tried to emulate the main motif and/or the lining paper in colour and style.


I haven’t bought stickers for years but I bought two small packets to use on the back of the envelopes when mailing them.


You can use this same approach to make an envelope for any card. Some of us like to make cards from odd sizes of watercolour paper or other art paper, so it’s easy enough to use the card size plus some wiggle room (about 1/8 inch all around) and draw up a template similar to this, and then make a custom envelope for your art card.

I’m all set for writing letters with my fountain pens and putting them in bespoke envelopes.





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