Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sharpie Pen Sketch-cast

I like to draw and used to be pretty good at it. I say, "used to be," because I got out of the habit. When I was a kid, I would spend hours drawing cars, airplanes and superheroes (often during school, to the consternation of my teachers.) In high school, I had some great art teachers who really encouraged me and helped me with some of the basics of sketching and portrait drawing. I did a lot of pen-and-ink stuff, usually of stylized muscle cars and caricatures of friends - a great way for a nerd to gain popularity.

Time passed and things changed - I went on to college where my interests shifted to girls and guitars (though I still loved cars). I still drew the occasional sketch but along came marriage, seminary, a first baby, church staff positions, two more kids, multiple dogs and cats, and life in general.

Recently, I decided to renew my old hobby of drawing (Warning! Mixed metaphors ahead!) and attempt to dust off my rusty skills. I'm already a pen and paper geek, so the tools were at hand. I've begun sketching some random things in pen (got the idea from David-Wasting-Paper, a wonderful blog about drawing) as opposed to pencil. I'm not worrying about mistakes so much as trying to regain my eye for proportion, perspective and detail. Mainly though, I am simply enjoying the pleasure of drawing. It's like visiting with an old friend I haven't seen for years.

Above is a simple sketch of the laptop upon which I produce this blog. It's your basic Dell Latitude in all its black and gray glory. I used a Sharpie Pen on a Doane Paper pad (the graph+line paper is great for drawings with lines and angles). To me, the Sharpie Pen is a good choice for drawing - it allows for a nice dark, yet fine line for sketching. It doesn't smear easily or feather. I found it very easy to control. I like it for drawing as it does not require much pressure, yet is very resistant to skipping. I actually like it better for drawing than for writing. Perhaps it is because I tend to work more slowly when I draw.

Just to be transparent, I do not consider myself to be any kind of authority on drawing - it's something I do for pleasure. Nor do I consider myself to be particularly talented. But I would encourage those of you who may hesitate to draw to go ahead - pick up a pen or pencil and draw something you happen to see: your laptop, your coffee mug, whatever. Don't worry if it isn't particularly "good." Keep at it and have fun with it. If nothing else, just begin to doodle in your Moleskine or whatever you have handy.

Most of all, relax and enjoy yourself.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My Free Uniball Pen Arrived!

My free Uniball Pen with "Super Ink Technology" arrived in today's mail. I must admit, I had mixed expectations upon its arrival. Uniball is one of my favorite brands, but my past experience with free offerings has been less than stellar. I guess I'm from the "you get what you pay for" school of thought.

So, with muted enthusiasm, I opened the cardboard container and found my free pen. Happily, I discovered a nice Jetstream retractable pen with blue barrel and chrome trim - nice for a freebie. There was even a 50 cent coupon attached to the mailing box, a very nice touch! The pen indicated a 0.7 tip and I assumed by the blue barrel that it contained blue ink. Not a problem, though I prefer black ink.

The proof is in the writing, however, so I took pen in hand and grabbed my Franklin-Covey planner to give it a test. To my (pleasant) surprise, the ink was black rather than blue. Not only that, it wrote as smoothly (more-so, perhaps) than my current workhorse - a Uniball Signo Micro 207. The line was finer than I anticipated for a 0.7 tip, but as I prefer a fine line, this was a plus. In short, I really like this pen!

I procured some other paper and enjoyed nearly flawless results on Doane Paper, cheap notebook paper, Levenger pads and even cardstock. The only blip came when I wrote on stationery with textured paper. In this instance, I noted some slight skipping in the ink flow. But outside of this one instance, the pen performed flawlessly.

So what is the big deal with "Super Ink Technology?" According to Uniball, "large pigment particles in the ink form an unbreakable bond with the paper fibers." In short, Super Ink helps prevent check fraud and fading over time - it is an archival quality ink. I did not test those claims, but I know their 207 ink performs well and I would think the Super Ink would do likewise.

"How do I get my free pen?" you are probably wondering. Simply go to the Uniball Super Ink website and fill out the form. This promotion will continue for a short time, so don't wait. Sometimes good things do come in small (free!) packages!

(Image by Uniball)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Liquid Fog: Zebra Sarasa Push Clip Pen with Gray Ink

There are three different workhorse gel-ink pens that make it into my daily arsenal for writing. They are the Pilot G-2, the Uniball Signo Micro 207 and the Zebra Sarasa Push Clip Pen. One of these is invariable clipped into my pocket, snuggled against a Field Notes Memo Book. Usually the ink is black and the point ranges from 0.5 to 0.7.

Yep, that's how I roll most days.

Occasionally though, I get a little crazy and decide to try something a bit out-of-bounds . . . micro tips, blue, red, and even (gasp!) green ink. Scandalous, I know.

The Zebra Sarasa Push Clip is available in a variety of colors and, at a mere $1.50 each, the price is right for me to get out of my box and try some different colors. Perusing the choices, I thought that gray would definitely be something out of the ordinary. You may call it bland - I choose to think of it as liquid fog.

First a word about the pen itself. Regardless of the color ink you select (black, blue-black, blue, red, tea brown, two shades of green, purple and several others) the Zebra Sarasa Push Clip is a well-designed writing tool with a particularly clever bit: the clip is spring-loaded and can serve as a binder clip. Nice! Ink is delivered through a 0.4 retractable tip that provides a smooth writing experience. The plastic barrel (made of recycled materials) feels sturdy and is quite comfortable to grip. For an inexpensive pen, it is a very nice writing instrument.

Now to the gray ink. Certainly, it goes down very smoothly; but I found it difficult to see against the paper - a Doane Paper writing pad. As you can see in the rather poor quality Blackberry-cam photo (the top line), it is very light compared to a micro-tip blue-black ink or even a #2 pencil. Given that the ink is not erasable, I'm not sure that gray is the most practical of ink choices. A #1 pencil would provide a similar gray shade and would have the advantage of being correctable. That's the practical side of me talking. There is still something appealing about this gray ink. It has an ethereal quality to it - it's there, but just. It is so subtle you can almost miss it on the paper.

Oh who am I kidding - it's so doggone light you can barely read it! (So much for my inner poet.) I'm sure that such a light shade of ink has appeal to some folks, but my aging eyes do much better with a shade I can actually read! My recommendation? Load up on several Zebra Sarasa Push Clip pens - they're fantastic. Get a 10 pack with assorted colors. But leave the gray ink to the maudlin poets.

Pardon me while I listen to Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.

Curmudgeonly yours,