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A Watercolor Palette Plus A Few Tips and Tricks

04/17/2019

Before fountain pens caught my fancy, watercolors were my favorite distraction. Over the years, a number of brands and kits have come my way. After experimenting with the lot, the Sennelier Aqua Mini set has become my favorite.

The Aqua Mini is very good value for money at about $20 for eight small cakes of artist grade paint. They are cheerful, transparent colors reminiscent of Impressionist paintings and can be mixed to make a satisfying variety of additional colors. Perhaps because they are made with honey, they are sticky and yet creamy at the same time. They moisten readily and put down significant color with no effort. They really are a pleasure to use.

Unfortunately, the box and brush are somewhat less exciting. The brush is tiny though suitable for small details. I prefer a #6 or #8 round travel brush for painting in the wild. When at my desk, anything goes.

The box has very little space to mix colors. This is a design flaw that can be remedied by placing a flat container nearby for mixing purposes. White porcelain is the best at revealing a paint’s true color. It shouldn’t stain and cleans easily so I would recommend it over other materials. However, plastic might be more practical for travel.

Tip: A dessert or sushi plate can make a useful palette. Pans of paint can be attached temporarily to the plate with tape or a removable adhesive or putty. Following a session, allow the paints to dry. Then cover with plastic wrap or store in a resealable bag to prevent dust from accumulating on the paint. When it comes to working at my desk, this is one of my favorite arrangements.

Or you can pry the paints from the original tray, move them into plastic watercolor pans and then to a variety of containers from a mint tin to a proper watercolor box. A different option would be to pry the entire plastic tray out of the original Sennelier box and put it into a mint tin of similar size. One with a flat, metal lid would provide a more useful mixing area. If it’s white, so much the better.

Below is a Simply Gum Mints (not the chewing gum) metal box that will hold six large pans or nine small ones like those from the Aqua Mini set. Mia discovered how well these tins work and I am so glad she passed that along. My family has gone through a large box of the mints leaving me six containers for a variety of color groupings.

If you just want to play around with paint, the supplied brush and box will do. But don’t be surprised if you get hooked and need a better brush and not long after that, a real watercolor box. Then more paint and brushes and, well, you get the picture. Such things happen even with the best of intentions. Collecting paint is very much like collecting ink. Brushes are comparable to pens. You have been warned.

As for paper, Stillman & Birn make lots of journals for the traveler. Tomoe River paper will take a light wash of color as will a number of other brands. Should painting charm you beyond the occasional doodle, go for 100% cotton watercolor paper. It can be pricey but totally worth it.

My enthusiasm for Sennelier watercolors is what I really wanted to share with you. The container and brush deficiencies are easily overcome so don’t let that be a deterrent. The paint is great and that is what really counts.

Amazon Shopping List:

  1. Sennelier Aqua Mini
  2. Travel Brushes from Escoda, da Vinci, Silver Brush
  3. #8 round brush from Escoda or Silver Brush
  4. Metal Palette with plastic pans from Meeden, Honbay or JCT ECO
  5. Stillman & Birn Zeta Sketchbook smooth enough to accommodate fountain pen nibs or the Beta for a slightly textured surface.
  6. Winsor & Newton Watercolor Journal, Arches, Strathmore, Fabriano (All are 100% cotton with a slightly textured surface.)
  7. Sennelier Watercolor Tube Test Pack (Fewer colors than the Aqua Mini but a larger volume of each color. Will need a palette/container and plastic pans.)
  8. Small (half) pans and large (full) pans
  9. Simply Gum Mints
  10. Sushi plate or appetizer plates or small porcelain palette
  11. Uhu Reusable Adhesive

At Parka Blogs, Teoh reviewed the Sennelier Aqua Mini set with similar conclusions.

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Sunday Reads: Pens, Writing And Some Birds

04/14/2019

Need a new pen? There are several here that I would enjoy. How about you?

From the archives

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Sunday Reads: Lotsa Pen Stuff Plus Extra Credit Questions

04/07/2019

This post started out as exclusively pen and ink links but the “Extra Credit Questions” piece begged to be included. I couldn’t resist.

From the archives

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Make Your Fountain Pens Happy

04/02/2019

Fountain pens can be finicky, troublesome, evil tools – or not. It only takes a few simple tips to make that “or not” into a reality.

  • For ease of care, choose inks that are medium or lighter in color saturation or intensity. They are less likely to solidify and clog your pen.
  • When using deep, intense colors, clean your pen often and use it regularly. Both actions will keep a pen functioning well.
  • Write with your pen at least two or three times a week if only to draw some doodles on scrap paper. Doing so will keep the ink flowing. In low humidity conditions, ink may evaporate quickly necessitating more frequent use and refilling.
  • Partially filling a converter will satisfy most pens and allow you to see how well you like the color before committing to a full load. If your pen does not write consistent lines with a partial fill, then load it fully.
  • Do not put ink back into the bottle as it risks contamination, mold growth and damage to your pens. Toss unused ink. Even a full converter holds only a few drops so the waste is minimal.
  • Especially if your pen gets infrequent or intermittent use, clean it between fills. Gently suck up and expel room temperature water repeatedly until the flow is clear or nearly so. If reusing the pen, just fill it with ink after cleaning. If storing the pen, rinse out any leftover ink. Then stand it nib down in a cup with a wad of paper towel at the bottom. Any fluid remaining in the nib will flow into the paper leaving behind a pen that can be stored safely for years. This trick can also be used to empty ink from a pen before cleaning.

Current ink trends favor highly saturated colors as well as dual colors and metallic sheen. Many of these inks have a greater risk for clogging without regular use and frequent cleaning. There will be exceptions, but my observations and recommendations are intended to make fountain pens easy and uncomplicated to use.

Tip: Clean a pen just before it runs out of ink. Lines that become pale are the most obvious indicators though with some ink and pen combinations, there is virtually no warning. The pen will clean more easily if rinsed immediately than if you wait until it is empty and the ink has dried in the nib. If that does happen, it will take a lot more pumping water in and out to achieve a reasonably clean pen.

If you don’t want to waste even a smidge of ink, write until there is no more color coming from the nib. Then clean it as soon as possible. Writing in a restaurant? Ask for an extra glass of water and use it to suck up and expel enough water to rinse most of the ink from your pen. Your server may think you are eccentric, but that’s okay. Your happy pen is worth the effort.

Tip: The fewer pens filled, the easier it is to practice good pen maintenance. Before I had a pen collection, one or two at a time met my needs. I wrote them dry and cleaned them immediately. The few I owned were very well used and perfectly maintained. Even today with a hundred pens on hand, only one or two at a time is all I keep inked unless I need more for reviews.

Happy pens provide the best writing experience. They start immediately, flow without a hiccup, work beautifully with a variety of inks, and come clean without ado.

If you want some suggestions for low maintenance, colorful inks, check out my Short List of Easy Inks.

Pilot Kakuno

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A Short List Of Easy Inks

04/01/2019

Want to keep things really simple? Fill only a few pens and use inks that make cleaning easy. Enjoyable pen use is sure to follow.

With hundreds of inks on the market, where should you start? Sheaffer, Waterman and Parker Quink inks are quite safe and easy to find. My favorites are Waterman’s Inspired Blue, Serenity Blue, and Mysterious Blue. They are comfortable colors that suit personal correspondence as well as business use, rinse easily from a nib, and work well in any pen. In addition, they are very reasonably priced so there is that to recommend them as well.

Another well-behaved ink is Pilot Blue-Black. The color is subdued but the other characteristics more than compensate for the understated color. Several years ago it became my alternate to Waterman Mysterious Blue for testing pens. That is high praise from an inkophile.

Initially, my ink purchases were from companies that also sold pens. This was based on the assumption that a pen manufacturer would be unlikely to offer ink that would cause damage. Eventually, Waterman and Quink colors seemed too limited so I sought advice from Sam and Frank at Pendemonium. It wasn’t long before well-behaved inks from Diamine and J. Herbin joined my collection including

  • Diamine Emerald
  • Diamine Sepia
  • Diamine Violet
  • Diamine Mediterranean Blue
  • Diamine Dark Brown
  • Diamine Wild Strawberry
  • Herbin Lie de The
  • Herbin Orange Indien
  • Herbin Poussiere de Lune
  • Herbin Perle Noir

This group of colors cleaned easily and was perfect for a novice. For water-resistant ink, I turned to Noodler’s Black or Lexington Gray. They are slightly higher maintenance but only marginally so.

My list of inks is always changing since new brands and colors arrive every year. Among those new releases are certain to be at least a few that will be low maintenance. In my experience, blacks, blues and greens rinse out more easily than other colors. And if it’s easy to clean, you are more likely to do it frequently, right?

If you want to try Pilot Blue-Black but your preferred retailer doesn’t offer the brand, it can be found at Amazon in three sizes, 30ml, 70ml, and a humongous 350ml bottle for around $22. The latter comes in a tall, thin container that is unsuitable for pen filling. However, a thoroughly cleaned, empty ink bottle would make a nice home for a more practical amount of ink. A benefit to decanting is that the ink remaining in the larger bottle is less likely to become contaminated. Store the bottle in a dark place where moldy little beasties won’t thrive and color won’t degrade, and that Pilot BBk should last a very long time.

All of these inks continue to rotate through my pens and that is the best recommendation. However, my list is not definitive. Is there an ink you would add?

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Sunday Reads: Fountain Pens, Green Ink And Puppies

03/24/2019

For notes and private writing, I tend to favor aqua and green inks although Stipula Verde Muschiato is neither but still a favorite. Mountain of Ink has an excellent green ink comparison page that includes most of my favorites. The colors are displayed beautifully and revealed how dissimilar are the inks in my green rotation. That variety keeps green fresh and lively for my daily use. How do you maintain your interest in ink?

And then there were puppies. Lots and lots of puppies…

From the Inkophile archives

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Sunday Links: Ink, Books, And Scooby-Doo

03/03/2019

You have probably seen Nick Stewart’s ink and bleach swatches. If you like them, his tutorials might give you just the right amount of encouragement and technique to venture into this intriguing use of fountain pen ink. Both successes and failures could make unique greeting cards. No sense letting an ink splotch go to waste…

From LuxuryBrandsUSA.com

 

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