Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

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Do Your Pens Make You Want To Write?

08/31/2021

Do your pens encourage you to write? In the past few months, old favorites as well as a few pens that never received much love got together and invaded my rotation. The final group is a bit different from my usual selection and I am now using several pens that were set aside long ago.

For years stubs and italics with a few exceptions were all I used. No fine or extra-fine nibs suited either my grip or my letter forms. That wasn’t a problem since my writing looked fine and the range of inks I was drawn to were lovely with those pens.

Then I decided to write notes for projects as well as personal musings in a journal, but which one to use?

A Traveler’s Notebook #013 with unlined Tomoe River Paper looked like a suitable size for my needs. So I popped the wrapper off of one, grabbed a 1.1mm stub with vivid ink, wrote a page and was affronted by the result. The journal size and the paper quality were fine but the writing overwhelmed them. It was simply too large and too dark. At the end of the day when I want to capture thoughts on the day’s accomplishments and make notes for future endeavors, something calming and relaxing is in order. In addition, I wanted to use both sides of the paper with a lined guide tucked beneath to keep my writing on the straight and narrow. To do this would require a finer nib and less intense ink. To the pen drawer I went.

Pens from my early days have very fine Japanese nibs, especially Pilot pocket pens and various 1970’s Platinum pens. The more recently acquired Pilot Metropolitans are also fairly narrow. In the western fine nib category, several Levenger True Writers were promising. A Delike New Moon fine fude received a test run as well.

Inks that were certain to be appropriate included several from Herbin, Iroshizuku and Sailor. Diamine had a lock on the brown range with Dark Brown and Raw Sienna. Lots of trial and error and attendant pen cleaning produced a pleasing rotation even if the pens are unusually narrow for me. What counts the most is whether they encourage writing and these are doing just that.

Do you think my wide nibs are jealous from having to cede part of my rotation to their skinny brethren? In truth, there are more inked pens on my desk than in recent memory. So much for my vow to maintain a minimalist rotation. The pens are winning. Who am I to disagree?

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Why Use A Fountain Pen?

11/06/2020

 

Some of My Favorite Things From 2014

 


Recently, I was asked why people use fountain pens. The question caught me off guard as I hadn’t given it a thought in ages. Having written with them for almost twenty years, they are just a part of who I am. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of reasons for using fountain pens. 

Value for money. A well-designed and well-built pen will last decades if not generations. I have pens that are over 100 years old and still write perfectly. Ink can also last decades. Some of mine are more than 25 years old and continue to perform as they should. 

Environmentally friendly. No detritus for the landfill, unlike gel pens, ballpoints and markers, since fountain pens get reused indefinitely. The ink comes in glass bottles that are perfect for recycling.

Variety. Pens and nibs come in lots of shapes and sizes off the shelf. Not satisified with standard models? Purchase a custom-made pen or a custom ground nib. No need to compromise when you can buy a match made exclusively for you.

Improved penmanship. Some users find that fountain pen nibs produce lines that enhance letter formations. Stubs and italic nibs are especially good for this.

Comfortable size and shape. Especially good for arthritis and other limitations. Long writing sessions can be less fatigue-producing with a fountain pen since it will glide rather than drag across the paper.

Uniqueness. Inks have a variety of characteristics from subtle shading to multi-toned, reflective coloring and many variations in between. The right nib on fountain pen-friendly paper will bring out its best qualities.

Enjoyment. Writing with a fountain pen can be cathartic and relaxing. Its use encourages time away from technology with obvious benefits.

These are at least some of the reasons to use a fountain pen. What is yours?

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A George Raft Autograph And The Pen

09/26/2020

Films and film stars of the 1930’s, 40’s and early 50’s have fascinated me for years. Film noir and musicals are of particular interest though the Thin Man movies and My Man Godfrey all starring William Powell are favorites, too. However, the man at the top of my list is George Raft, a dancer on Broadway before becoming a leading man in Hollywood. He was also a very good man, uncommon in the cut-throat entertainment industry.

George was born 125 years ago today, September 26, which got me looking at files and photos. Based on autographs, he most often used a fountain pen with brown ink. I have also seen him use turquoise. He appreciated and could afford the finest quality available so it would be reasonable to assume he owned a Montblanc pen. Both of the ink colors, especially for the time, showed sophisticated taste, not surprising for the debonair actor. I wonder which brand of ink he used.

This autograph from my collection could have been written with a ballpoint pen. What do you think? If so, that would date it to the mid 1950’s or later when ballpoints became common. The paper has yellowed and appears to be at least that old. “George” is written less firmly than “Raft” so either it was written on an uneven surface or the pen failed to write consistently when first put to paper. There are none of the blobs of ink that one would expect from a ballpoint so perhaps the signature was written with a fountain pen. Again, what do you think?

If you have an interest in George Raft, here are some notes from research for a possible tribute site. Perhaps because he was and still is a legend, there is a bit of inaccurate information about him circulating online. Correcting the record suits the investigative journalist in me. Whether that comes about or not, he made audiences during the Depression, World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, forget their troubles. For that alone, he has earned my respect.

Often remembered as the quintessential movie gangster, he was also a romantic lead adept at comedy as well as drama. He insisted his tough guy characters have redeeming qualities. None were all bad even the most villainous ones.

From his start on the mean streets of Hell’s Kitchen to dancing on Broadway to making movies in Hollywood, George became a style icon, suave, handsome, kind, funny, charming, generous and ever the gentleman. Women whether fans or friends adored him. His prowess was legendary but he never spoke ill of any woman much to his credit. It might seem incongruous, but he was self-effacing, shy, and insecure. He needed no pick-up lines since his shyness kept him from making the first move. He was an unassuming ladies’ man for which he was richly rewarded.

A genuine tough guy, George was fully capable of decking any comer should one be foolish enough to ask for it and not afraid to stand up for what he knew was right. He was resilient, perhaps because life knocked him around, but it also made him empathetic and generous to a fault. He was forever giving money away and expected nothing in return. He basically lived by his own code of helping others whenever he could. He was a very, very good man.

George was one of the highest paid actors of the 1930’s. His earliest outstanding role was as the coin-flipping Guino Rinaldo in Scarface (1932). If there had been a supporting actor category that year, he would have at least been nominated if not the winner. Several other films were standouts include Bolero (1934), Each Dawn I Die (1939), They Drive by Night (1940) and Some Like It Hot (1959). My current favorite is Red Light (1949) for George’s performance though not the plot line. Nocturne (1946) is also a good film.

He dropped out of school at the age of eleven and for the rest of his life was embarrassed by his lack of education. His prodigious memory may have filled the gap as he was nevertheless said to be a most charming companion.

A lack of belief in himself, made selecting scripts difficult. George said he never regarded himself as an actor. “I wanted to be me”.

George had some very bad advice and made some poor choices of films. He made Bogart’s career by turning down High Sierra and, on the advice of his agent, The Maltese Falcon, a film that would have been perfect for him.

His acting suffered at the hands of mediocre directors. Good ones brought out good performances whether comedy or drama just as working with good actors elevated his delivery. He had chops as they say, but he was seldom encouraged to show it. Hollywood was a narrow-minded and often cruel place to work (still is), and George like Jimmy Cagney and other multi-talented actors were seldom allowed to stray beyond unimaginative type-casting. However, George was feisty and fought for what he thought would be better roles earning him a reputation for being difficult. His chutzpah was admirable even if his choices were not.

But first and foremost, George was a dancer. He was a self-taught, natural dancer who spent countless hours honing his skills. Known for his lightning-fast legs, sensual hip motion and light footwork, he was smooth, classy and could make the tango an act of vertical seduction. He was the bad boy any woman could love. (Links below.)

The quintessential tough guy said this about himself: “I must have gone through $10 million during my career. Part of the loot went for gambling, part for horses, and part for women. The rest I spent foolishly.”

Charismatic whether the villain, hero or someone in between, George Raft deserves legend status if not for the roles he played, then the man he was.

George Raft and Janet Blair Dance the Tango in Broadway (1942).  Another version edited to Dean Martin’s Sway. Watch their hands. Elegant and sensual even if suited to a G rating. The first clip is the original though interrupted by some cuts to other characters. It is still worth watching. I have read that this film was at least in part based on George’s real life experiences on Broadway.

George Raft and Carole Lombard in Rumba (1935). Carole was not a dancer but she was very athletic. George had to manage her as well as the gorgeous dress. He makes her the focus but in truth he was the star.

George Raft Dances to Sing Sing Sing by Louis Prima (1929). Not the original score but very fitting. Look at the legwork and the fit of George’s clothes. He was still doing these moves when he was 60!

George Raft Enhanced Dance Scene from Loan Shark (1954). Not that anyone could imitate George’s swaying hips or smooth moves, but dancing with him looked like something even an untrained partner could manage.

More videos at George Raft The Dancer and films at Hollywood-The Golden Age. My George Raft YouTube channel and George Raft Films have clips and films saved while doing research. One of my Pinterest boards has lots of photos from candid images to studio stills. Good stuff there.

Update: GeorgeRaft.com will launch in July, 2021, and will be a work-in-progress for some time to come. 

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Taking Advantage Of What’s On Hand

01/06/2020

New year, new journal? For writers and artists, a journal is the perfect way to document the journey and keep track of ideas, explorations, adventures, and misadventures. With the huge number of choices, what to use tends to baffle me. For 2020, I have decided to use some unfinished notebooks from the past. Why put good paper to waste?

Two Traveler’s Notebooks were ignored last year and deserved better treatment. Time to put them to work especially the larger one that contains a Traveler’s Notebook (Refill 019) Free Diary made with MD Paper. Weekly calendar on the left with grid paper on the right is a week-at-a-glance format that should work very well for me.

My interest in brush pens has been renewed and the Exacompta Sketch Book that was my favorite in the past will now get its due. For watercolor exploration, a Stillman & Birn Beta will be fine while an Epsilon will be my all-purpose companion.

That’s my core group going into 2020.

Add to that five, two additional notebooks for specific uses. Should inspiration strike, a Paper for Fountain Pens bound journal will work for more serious writing. The other is a Strathmore Visual Journal for watercolor exploration. It contains paper that works quite well with Sennelier and similar honey-based paints producing brightly colored swatches. I will continue to look for a 140 lb., 100% cotton paper journal that won’t consume my entire annual paper budget. Perhaps 2020 will be the year for such a find.

Yes, that is a lot of journals but my interests are varied plus I have learned to keep subjects separated. Ink swatches have their own notebooks as do watercolor swatches. It would be confusing to have them mixed together.

A common characteristic is that all of my journals work well with fountain pen ink. The Uni-ball Signo 307 that writes so well over watercolor backgrounds will be another pen option. Luckily, all of the paper can handle a light layer of paint. It wasn’t a requirement, but it certainly is an advantage.

Seven journals won’t leave much need for any of the new products that 2020 will bring. But I promise to make room for whatever comes my way.

Which journal are you going to use this year? Do you keep just one or does it take several to meet your needs?

Shopping links from which Inkophile may earn a small commission should you click through and make a purchase:

Traveler’s Notebook Weekly Diary

Kuretake Brush Pen (Comes with cartridges but will need a Platinum converter to use fountain pen ink.)

Stillman & Birn Beta and Epsilon Sketchbooks

Strathmore Visual Watercolor Journal 140#

Uni-ball Signo 307

Lock charm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Wishlist And The Desire To Acquire

05/22/2019

While sorting through some old posts, I ran across a wishlist from two years ago. Of the ten items on the list, only two were purchased: a small packet of Tomoe River paper and a Robert Oster ink. The ink went to a friend and the paper is on my desk as yet unused. Wishful thinking on the other items. I don’t miss them. There are other pens, paper, and ink on hand to keep me content.

Had I acquired all of the products, would I still be using them or would I have lost interest? Mostly the latter. It’s a lesson in buying stuff. So many items are unnecessary if gorgeous and satisfying to own. Regardless, there are essentials and of those, I have an abundance. Who really needs anything more?

In the future, I intend to keep a more regularly updated, dated wishlist. Reviewing past iterations is amusing in a “what was I thinking” sort of way.

Do you keep old versions of your wishlist? Does it include things you would/could never purchase or is your list comprised of items you might truly acquire?

My favorite stock-nibbed pens list has remained the same for years. The only one I would add today is the Pilot Metropolitan medium. Which just proves I can be happy with what I have even if my wishlist is everchanging.

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Ten Years Old And Still Going Strong

07/01/2018

Inkophile is ten years old! Can you believe it? Over 216,000 words, 250 reviews, 1,200 posts and 6,000 comments. That’s a lot of pen talk!

Fountain pens were’t always my tool of choice, but in an art store nearly twenty years ago, a disposable model caught my eye. Since then there has been no turning back.

Moving forward a few years, Ebay provided access to pens that were unavailable locally, but those thirsty suckers needed suitable nectar and that’s when I discovered Pendemonium. Through Sam and Frank, I learned about Rhodia pads and acquired a taste for J. Herbin Lie de The and Poussiere de Lune. Then came Noodler’s Black and Legal Lapis. Those early acquisitions made a fine start to my ink addiction.

Fountain Pen Network caught my interest a few years later, and after an extended period of lurking, I signed up. It was an enjoyable playground for a newbie and remains so. Back then FPN’s tolerance for intemperate and off-topic remarks led to the creation of Inkophile as a more free form and less divisive venue for pen posts. Thanks, FPN!

Even my Twitter account has been around for a decade. Recently, I put some time into refining my Twitter lists, one with over 250 artists and another with over 400 pen people. Twitter can be a cesspool so members are mostly folks who post on-topic or upbeat tweets. The lists are curated so will not only expand, but members who cease to write about relevant subjects will be removed. No aspersions cast on anyone, but the point is to see tweets related to art, pens, and things that are positive. The lists can be a treat when other areas of life are not.

Manufacturers have expanded their offerings in the past ten years well beyond anything I imagined when Inkophile was launched. There is no way to keep up with every pen and ink released making the support of retailers and distributors invaluable. In fact, Pen Chalet, Goldspot, and Exaclair have sent pens and inks recently so there are a few new items awaiting review. Much to do.

Lastly, a huge thank you to my readers who have made this blog possible. You are the best!

In order, most viewed Inkophile photos on Flickr:

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Tantrums, Boycotts, And My New Find

03/30/2018

Fed up with the tantrums, calls to boycott, and vast corporations trying to influence your thoughts? Don’t be manipulated. Instead put your purchasing power to best advantage by buying alternate products from smaller vendors and local merchants. While it might be difficult to find replacements for products from companies that have a lock on market shelves, it can be done.

Recently, I discovered Vitacost and have ordered a few times with good success. They offer over 45,000 products most of which fall in the natural and organic categories, but at very favorable prices. This week, I bought a case of canned goods for about half what I have paid at retail stores. My order was over $49 so shipping was free and it arrived in less than 40 hours! There were other discounts that saved an additional $20+. My family is trying several of the CSI and Glonaturals skin care products and so far they have proven effective and economical. Yes, my budget is very happy with this new find.

No benefit accrues to me from writing about Vitacost. But after waking this morning to yet another screamer demanding I participate in a boycott and threatening an “or else”, I couldn’t do it. I had already withdrawn my dollars from supporting those companies and a host of others. I won’t be bullied by either side on national arguments. Period. Free market principles reign and Vitacost will get my support and my money. Amazon still works for me since products from many small companies are available there.

Where do you go to get away from the chain retailers and big box shops?

Fortunately, my fountain pen and watercolor supply needs are filled by companies that have not made it to the list of entities to avoid. Hmmm. Maybe I can take some of the savings from purchases at Vitacost to further bloat my collection of inks and watercolors. Kidding, folks, just kidding. Well, sort of.

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