Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ug Crappyfeet to Ug Cyclist

For reasons now lost back in the twitter timeline, I drew a quick sketch of a caveman cyclist, to taunt Nick (@aslongasicycle, and @vulpinecc supremo).


Ug Crappyfeet (Faber Castell 9000 (B) pencil, Moleskine Pocket Reporter)

I dashed this off, mostly to make a silly joke, but did like his expression, and posture.  I didn't like the positioning of his legs (the one nearest to us is all wrong, not where it should be on his body at all) and my lack of skill at drawing feet was cruelly exposed.

Nick was rather taken with it though, and as I was going to send the drawing to him, that gave me something of a spur to make more of the parts of it that I liked.  I gave myself a week to improve on it, and, as luck would have it, had a week with a bit more hobby time than is usual for me available.

Different media, faces.(Charcoal Pencil, Pastel Stick,
Moleskine Pocket Reporter)

The first thing I needed to do was recreate what I liked in the expression Ug had in the first image.  That's what I'm trying to do on this page, as well as trying a charcoal pencil and pastel stick.  I think the lesson we learn here is "stick to what you know".

Colour testing using Derwent Watercolour Pencils (Koh-I-Noor 2B graphite, Centropen fineliner, Derwent Watercolour Pencils, Moleskine Pocket Reporter)

Once I'd got a handle on the character, I started to test colour blends.  The intention was to give Ug a Vulpine green cap and loin cloth, with the conceit being that they're made of some sort of fur or animal skin.  On the second page, you can see the different combinations labelled with their constituent colours.  At this stage, I still thought I'd use watercolour pencil, because they're more predictable than "proper" watercolours.

His stance and expression aren't great in this outline, but it was ok for a colour test.

Trying a different style of figure, and including the first iteration of his bike (Faber Castell 9000 (B) pencil, Seawhite A6 Sketchbook)

I tried one final attempt at a different style, which ended up like this, as I experimented with a more cartoon-like proportion for the figure.  I also wanted to work up the pre-historic bike idea I'd decided to include.  I hated this version - his expression is wrong, his stance is wrong, and the bike looks wrong.


The final figure/stance rough (Koh-I-Noor 2B Graphite, Moleskine Pocket Reporter)

This is my final figure rough, and it's probably the best iteration of Ug's stance that I did.  I like the posture and proportions here, and these are what I set out to transfer to the Seawhite book for the final painting.


Pencil outline of the final version (Faber Castell 9000 (B) Seawhite A6 Sketchbook)

So, I tried to recreate the stance of the final rough as best I could, and came up with a "Prehistoric Bike" - the idea being that it would have a frame made of branches (an earlier version had leaves &c sprouting from the tubes), tusk forks and ram's horn handlebars.


Inked, and ready to paint (Uni-Pin Fineliner, Seawhite A6 Sketchbook)

I debated whether to ink with my brushpen, but was a little worried about my ability to control the line over the fine details of this drawing.  The Uni-Pin doesn't have the vibrant line that the brushpen produces, but it does go where you point it, with a predictable line :)  It also comes out properly black, not the dark grey of the Centropen liners.  Note that I've missed inking the part under the twine "lug" between headtube and top tube. Cuh.

First watercolour pass (Cotman 1/2 pan colours, Seawhite A6 Sketchbook)

I'd decided to paint this (rather than use watercolour pencil) well before I got to this stage, possibly as a reaction to my cowardice in not using the brushpen for inking :)  I used the facing page as a test page pretty extensively (see second picture) despite that, I think he's a bit pale for a caveman, even in the finished version.  Ah well.


Finished - Ug Cyclist.

The final version turned out ok, although I wish I was skilled enough to reproduce all the elements I liked of Ug's prior incarnations in one image!  As well as my misgivings about his skin tone, I'm not impressed with his legs, which still don't look right to me (the far leg doesn't look like the far leg, if you see what I mean...)  The inking is too heavy on his eyes too.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sketchbook - Monkey Dracula


Head detail of what should end up as a full length figure.Sometimes, you just have to get the ideas OUT OF YOUR HEAD.

Koh-I-Noor 2mm leadholder (2H), Seawhite A6 sketchbook. 


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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Monkey RSS Folder - Summer 2012 Update

This is an update of a couple of posts made a little while ago - if you read those, my new podcasts since the last update are marked *NEW* (well, duh).  There are a LOT here, and I have to admit, that I'm at the point where not all are listened to some weeks.  I've had this in my "drafts" folder for bloody ages, sorry.

Not all feeds are updating, but some are left in in the hope that new content might appear one day, and some are there because the back catalogue is available, and worth listening to.


The categories are a bit arbitrary (The Amateur Scientist would fit in Science and Skepticsm too, and Collings and Herrin might possibly fit in news) but do represent what I listen to them for.


Most of the links below go to title pages rather than the RSS itself - I thought this better, as a description for each 'cast would make this a very long post.  I subscribe via RSS - I think most of the 'casts have an iTunes feed too, but I can't say for sure as I don't use iTunes.

All the feeds are free, and some have a "tip jar" system for you to donate to the creators if you like the content - others have subscriptions, and some will encourage you to pick up the authors' work or merchandise in other, paid media if you like what they're doing.


The Adam and Joe Show

Adam's Big Mixtape

Comedy of the Week (Radio 4) 

Do the Right Thing *NEW* (NSFW - some bad language & adult themes).

Friday Night Comedy (Radio 4)

Jon Holmes

Mat Ricardo's London Varieties *NEW*

Mike Detective (spoof of Pulp Private Eye Stories) 


No Pressure to Be Funny (NSFW - some bad language) 

One Life Left

Onion Radio News

Pappy's Flatshare Slamdown (NSFW - bad language, and depending on who's on it, adult themes) 

Pappy's Bangers and Mash *NEW* (NSFW - bad language & adult themes)

Quit It *NEW* (NSFW - bad language & adult themes)

Radcliffe and Maconie *NEW*

Richard Herring's As It Occurs To Me finished, but the back catalogue is available in the feed. (NSFW - lots of bad language & adult themes)

Richard Herring's Edinburgh Fringe Podcast *NEW* (NSFW - bad language & adult themes)

Richard Herring's Liecester Square Podcast *NEW* (NSFW - bad language & adult themes)

Sundays Supplement *NEW* (NSFW)

The Amateur Scientist (NSFW - occasional bad language & adult themes)

The Collings and Herrin Podcast finished, but the back catalogue is available in the feed. (NSFW - lots of bad language & adult themes)

The Dave Gorman Podcast *NEW*

The Smartest Man in the World *NEW* (NSFW - bad language & adult themes)

What Are You Laughing At? (the British Comedy Guide's new podcast about comedy) 

What's So Funny? (Another one about comedy, this time from Radio 4 Extra) 

You Look Nice Today (NSFW - occasional bad language & adult themes)



Bike to Work Book Podcast

Carrément Vélo (in French) Ended, but I keep the subscription in the hope that it will return one day.

Cycling CentralCycling Central (SBS' cycling podcast - some excellent interviews pop up in this feed). The first link seems to be the live one (on Soundcloud), although things do appear on the second feed from time to time.

ITV Tour De France Podcast

NY Velocity

Pelotonitis *NEW*

Real Peloton

The Bikescape Podcast

The Bike Show

The Podcast

The Rouleur Podcast *NEW*

The Spokesmen

The Velocast

This Week in Cycling History *NEW*

Veloclub Don Logan



Test Match Special



Costing the Earth


Other Factual (Documentaries, History &c)

A Point of View

Bookclub *NEW*

Documentary of the Week 

Four Thought *NEW*

FP Geeks *NEW*

In Our Time

John Peel Lecture *NEW*

Michael Sandel - The Public Philosopher *NEW*

My Own Shakespeare *NEW*

Philosophy Bites

Radio 4 Choice

Reith Lectures *NEW*

Reith Lectures Archive 1948-1975  1976-2011 *NEW*

Shakespeare's Restless World *NEW*

The Pen Addict *NEW*

Thinking Allowed

This American Life *NEW*

WNYC's Radiolab *NEW*



Laura Speaks Dutch

The French Podclass


Music & Film



Hypnobobs *NEW*

JJ's Smoking Sessions

Little White Earbuds

Kermode & Mayo's Film Review

Solid Steel Radio Show *NEW*

The Black Dog (NSFW, mostly because of bad language) *NEW*

Whomix Radio


Hypnobobs and The Black Dog are particularly worthy of note. Hypnobobs has short story readings, musings on film and written fiction, and was introduced to me by @LaFemmeFlaneuse.  Presented by Mr Jim Moon, the long series of episodes on the origins of the Wolfman in film, and "The Natural History of the Batman" are particularly good.

Via the Hypnobobs special on the Alien, I found the Black Dog, a freewheeling, chatty film podcast, in which the presenters discuss film news, and review a well thought of older film ("Rose Tinted Specs") to see whether it deserves its reputation.  On other shows, they'll look at a less well regarded older film, to see whether it deserves its reputation ("Sh*t Covered Goggles").  Listener feedback is invited for both segments, leading in one segment to a memorable rendering of Adam Henri's "Batpoem" by Mr. Jim Moon, reviewing Joel Shumacher's "Batman and Robin".  The show also features jingles by ill fated lounge singer Darron Diamond, which will stay in your head for the rest of the week.

News & Current Affairs

Global News (Round up of the news of the day from the BBC World Service)


File on Four

Broadcasting House

More or Less: Behind the Statistics

The Report *NEW*


Science and Skepticsm

Little Atoms

Material World

Monster Talk 

Nature Podcast

New Humanist *NEW*



The Infinite Monkey Cage

The Pod Delusion

The Pod Delusion Extra 

The Skeptics' Guide To the Universe 5x5

The Skeptics' Guide To the Universe

The Titanium Physicists *NEW*


Short Stories, Drama and Fiction

Cast Macabre (Short form horror)

Clarkesworld (Short form science fiction)

CrimeWAV (Short form crime and noir on the hardboiled edge of the genre)

Cthulhu Podcast 

Drama of the Week *NEW*

Escape Pod (Short science fiction)

Machine of Death (Short Stories about a world in which death (manner, not time) can be predicted. Some really interesting ideas from the different authors) 

Patrick E. Mclean (Short articles, longer form fiction) 

Podcastle (Short form fantasy)

Pseudopod (Short form horror)

Scott Sigler Audiobooks (Novel length serialised horror and science fiction, and Scott's reader feedback and interviews elsewhere. Definitely not for kids.  The current serial is "Ancestor", but Scott's back catalogue is available too, including fan favourites like "Contagious" and "Earthcore")

Shadow Publications (Author Paul Elard Cooley's Feed - short and long form horror fiction) 

Toothless (Novel length serialised horror - an interesting twist on the zombie genre so far - not for kids).

Underwood and Flinch (Mike Bennett's novel length serial tale of a vampire and his reluctant servant in modern day Spain - again, not for kids)

We're Alive *NEW* (Full cast recording of a tale set during the Zombie apocalypse. NSFW - some bad language, zombie related violence)

(Also worthy of mention is the MIGHTY, which has more serialised audio fiction than you can shake several sticks at, and an excellent personalised subscription system).

It's worth noting that the biases of the Internet mean that much of this is horror, fantasy and science fiction - and lots of it is written specifically to be somewhat disturbing (it's horror, after all!).  As I recall, Clarkesworld, Escape Pod & Podcastle will give a guidance rating with stories, so should be safe for those of a nervous disposition (as long as you pay attention to it).



All About Symbian

All About Windows Phone *NEW*

Android Central *NEW*


Mobile Nations *NEW*

Mobile Tech Addicts *NEW*

Tech Talk UK *NEW*

The Phones Show *NEW*

The Phones Show Chat *NEW*

Lot's new here, mostly because I finally changed mobile os, away from Symbian. I was disappointed to see that the "All About..." brand doesn't extend to Android coverage, and can't quite bring myself to let Rafe, Steve, Ewan & David go (hence the top two subscriptions).  Of the new ones, Mobile Tech Addicts is good fun, and The Phones Show Chat brings some of what I like about the "All About..." shows to multi platform discussion.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Zebra Sarasa SE07

I was lucky enough to win a set of these in one of Tiger Pens' monthly giveaways.

Although I use fountain pens for most of my writing, you can't beat gel pens for writing you need to dry quickly, or that you want to stand up to the elements (I use a Parker Jotter with a Parker gel refill for addressing envelopes, for example).

That leads me to a rather limited palette of blue and black, so I was pleased to be able to try a greater range of colours.

Ink Tests (Paperchase Kraft Notebook)

As you can (hopefully) see, the colours from the Zebra pens are vibrant and consistent.  I've included a few fountain pen inks in the lower part of the page for colour comparison.

My only slight disappointment was that the Orange pen came with a black refill - as the pens were free, I'm not going to complain about that, and I'm sure it wouldn't happen in a purchased pen.

The speed of shipping from Tiger Pens was impressive - the morning after I sent them my mailing address, the pens were waiting for me on the doormat!

The pens write pretty wet, and I was fairly convinced that this would lead to them "blobbing" at times onto the page, but that didn't happen at all.


A Test Sketch (Cheap Spiralbound Sketchbook)

I put them through their paces doing a quick sketch inspired by the "Zebra" name, and found them pleasant to write and draw with  - smooth (except for when I put them at too low an angle to the paper - I assume that's the "cone" aroud the rollerball tip "catching" on the paper) and the line stays consistent.  The line they write is pretty broad, but I like that, preferring a fibre tip pigment liner for *really* thin lines, and I really like the brightness of the colour.  My personal favourites are the blue (lovely and deep) and purple.  The black writes a solid, properly dark black too, reminding me a little of Herbin's Perle Noire, my favourite black fountain pen ink.  

Despite the pens being retractable, they feel solid in use, without the "rattly" feeling some retractable pens have.  The only criticism I'd make of the mechanism is that it's a little too easy to activate - my Jotter requires more pressure, and is less likely to end up ready to write when being carried in a pocket!  You could reasonably point out that it's silly to carry retractable pens in a pocket (that's why they have clips!) and I'd not disagree with you - I'm used to capped pens :)

Whilst gel pens won't win me away from fountain pens and ink, there are times when you need to write on less than teriffic paper, or write a label or address that you need to be waterproof, and these pens fill that niche for me.  Gel pens are a bit more pleasant to write with than ballpoints, and it's worth keeping one or two (or eight if you like colour and/or are indecisive :) ) around even if you're a confirmed fountain pen addict.

The pens are currently £2.34 each at Tiger Pens, meaning the full set of 8 colours will cost you £18.72 - although I've not tried them, you could also consider the Uni Ball Signo 207 RT, slightly cheaper, and a similar range of colours at £2.10 (but no pink!)

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Cycling: Chain Rotation

A very quick post about cycling, for a change.

I was discussing mileage records on twitter, and mentioned that one of the reasons I track my mileage is to rotate chains.  This is a method of spreading chain and cassette wear over a number of chains, and I first saw it mentioned in Cycling Plus;

To maximise cassette and chain life, buy three new chains when fitting a new cassette. After 500 miles replace the first chain with the second. After a further 500 miles replace the second with the third and continue to rotate the chains every 500 miles.

If you've got an aluminium cassette instead, reduce the distance between rotations to 250 miles.

I change my chains about every 300 miles, largely because, on the commuter, that equates to fortnightly.  (The routine being to wash the bike, and change the chain at the weekend - it's easier to clean the bike without the chain on too, on the drivetrain side).

Note that it's just the same three chains being rotated - you don't have to buy a new chain for every change!

I use KMC X9.93 chains - as I said when I was first experimenting with this;

I'm using £10 KMC X9 93 chains, so assuming I go for £30 cassettes (Ultegra, at current CRC prices), the rotation method only has to make the cassette last twice as long to have paid for itself (excluding the possibility of chain ring replacement, which I would guesstimate at £36ish (Tiagra level triple) to £55 (Ultegra level).

The key is to make the change easy, and be organised - I use takeaway food tubs to store the chains (marked LHT (Long Haul Trucker) Chain 1, 2 and 3 for the commuter) and the KMC quicklinks make the chain change easy.

It's not something that's worth doing on 5 & 6 speed systems, in my experience, because they seem to last forever, but on 9 speed and above, you'll get a lot more out of your cassette by doing this.


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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

For Beginner Fountain Pen

A couple of quick thoughts prompted by a question from @sofaboy, with a title inspired by a Plone album.

Lamy Safari/Vista/Al-Star (£15/£15/£24 respectively, roughly).

Often recommended as a first fountain pen, and with good reason.  The Safari is a tough, ABS plastic pen, the Vista a transparent variant, and the Al-Star an aluminium version.

These are reliable pens that you'll rarely have problems with in terms of hard starts or skipping, and they have an easily interchangeable nib that you can swap for anything from a planner friendly extra fine to an ink gobbling 1.9mm italic.


Tough, reliable.

Readily swappable nibs (most are sold with medium, I have tried that, the 1.1mm italic and the extra fine - all have been smooth, nice writers).

Easily available - I've seen these in Ryman, WH Smiths, Paperchase...


Lamy cartridges are a proprietary format, and international standard cartridges won't fit. (Although Monteverde do now offer a Lamy compatible cartridge - Ryman sell these).

The triangular grip section isn't everyone's cup of tea.

At the time of writing, The Writing Desk (Safari, Vista, Al-Star) have the best price for these pens with the nib of your choice (EF, F, M, B, 1.1mm, 1.5mm, 1.9mm)  and a convertor, should you want one.  Buying on the high street is possible, but I doubt you'll find anything other than the medium nib on offer.

Schneider Base (£12 rrp)

Where the Lamy range offers a plethora of choice, this more basic pen gives you the option of  a "starter" (likely to be very firm, and designed for children just starting to write with a fountain pen that don't know to use less pressure than they would with, say, a ballpoint), left handed, medium or broad nib. 

The pen has a remarkably sturdy (and large) clip that will stand up to being used to hold papers together, or being clipped to your jeans pocket with no problem at all.  The pen also takes international standard cartridges (long or short) giving you a huge choice of inks.


Tough, reliable.

Takes widely available standard international cartridges.


Left Handed nib if you want one.


Styling may not be everyone's cup of tea.

Limited nib choice.

Lack of a fine, or extra fine nib might limit where you can use it.


At the time of writing, these are cheapest at Journal Shop (£9), although they're also available (and slighlty more choice in colour &c at Cult Pens (£12)).

Kaweco Classic Sport (£18/£20 rrp (with/without clip)

Whilst I don't actually own one of these (something I'll put right once Tiger Pens start stocking them) I've heard enough people sing their praises to make it worthwhile including the Classic Sport here.

This pen differs from the pens mentioned so far in that it's a pocket pen - these are designed to be small in size when not writing, and then (either by extending, like the Rotring/Parker Esprit, or by posting the cap on the back of the pen, as in this case) larger whilst writing.  The Sport measures 105mm long closed, and with the cap posted, 133mm.

The Sport comes in four versions - the Classic is a solid coloured acrylic pen, the Ice a transparent one, the Al Sport aluminium, and the Al-Carbon Sport aluminum  with carbon fibre inlay - note that the latter two are far more expensive.  There's a decent range of nib choices (Extra Fine, Fine, Medium, Broad and Extra Broad).  If you can find a stockist, there are 1.1mm, 1.5mm and 1.9mm italics available too.   They take standard international cartridges (short only, because of the small size of the pen).

A couple of fairly typical reviews; Inkophile, Peninkcillin.


Small size.

Takes widely available international cartridges.

Decent range of nib sizes available.


Pocket clip is an "extra" (for £2)

Only takes short cartridges, and you can't carry another in the barrel

You can't use a convertor in this pen


Parker Jotter (£12)


The Jotter fountain pen is surprisingly difficult to get hold of - I bought mine some years ago as an end of line item in Rymans.  It's not a pen that will suit everyone - it's thin, and even I don't like writing with it for long periods, but it is reliable, starts after being left for weeks and weeks without writing, and you can add matching pencil and ballpoint (swap the standard refill for a gel one) to it for little financial outlay.

Tiger Pens stock these at £11.95.

The nib comes in medium only, and seems to me to write wet and fairly broad - if you're filling small spaces in pocket planners, you don't want this.  However, it's a smooth writer with decent ink capacity in the Quink cartridges (although proprietary, you'll find these easily in the UK).


Inexpensive for a metal bodied pen

Smooth writer

Although Quink cartridges are proprietary, they're readily available in the UK, and have a good ink capacity.


Proprietary cartridges!

One nib size only

Thin body not to everyone's taste

Nib might be a little broad & wet for small spaces and/or poor paper


Some other choices:

Pelikan (Pelikano (£9, but discontinued - Cult Pens still have some left handed nibs) Pelikano P480 (£13), Pelikan Future (£17), Pelikan Style (£19)).  

I've lumped these together because the nibs are similar - not pens I've used, but my daughter has a P480 that she uses for school.  Smooth nibs in fine, medium or broad, and the pens take international standard cartridges.  

Waterman Kultur (£12 ish?)


Available on eBay, and from French supermarkets (I got my transparent Kultur at Intermarché in Pont Audemer, for 11 euros).  A budget version of the Waterman Phileas, more or less, with a nice smooth, fairly wet nib.  They take international cartridges.

Noodler's Ahab / Konrad (£20 ish including shipping).  

Not sold in the UK, but US sellers like Goulet Pens will ship to the UK for a total cost that's around £20, depending on exchange rate.  Slightly more finicky than the other pens in this article (usual advice is to disassemble and clean before using - don't worry, this is easy, and instructions come with the pen), but with a fun flexible nib that writes nicely.  In normal use, you get a fine, fairly wet line, but with more pressure the nib will flex to give a degree of line variation - this makes them quite fun to sketch and doodle with.  These take bottled ink only.

I've tried to keep these options at £20 or less, but if you're spending more, consider;

TWSBI Diamond 540 (£42)


A piston filling, transparent pen with fantastic build quality.  Takes bottled ink only, and can be disassembled, tweaked &c.  TWSBI even give you the little wrench required, and "how to" videos to help.  For an extra £5, you can get them in coloured transparent plastic.



I've omitted vintage pens entirely - although there are some that can be had for reasonable prices, and would do good work as daily writers, choosing one requires either a bit of knowledge, or luck.  I've no time to write up even my limited knowledge, and the luck I can't impart to you by writing about it!


Pens with proprietary cartridges will limit you to that brand of ink unless you use a convertor - however, Lamy and Parker both make a decent blue and black (I'm rather partial to Lamy Purple as well).  In international cartridges, Waterman Florida/Serenity blue, Blue/Black, and virtually any Diamine will serve you well.  If you write on a lot of poor quality paper, Pelikan Blue/Black works nicely, although it can feel a little "dry" in some pens.  Diamine offer excellent mixed packs of cartridges that will allow you to try a large array of colours.   

Bottled ink offers a huge choice, and you're only limited by the retailer's stock.  Diamine do offer small (30ml) bottles, so you don't have to commit to a full 80ml bottle!  None of the cartridge filling pens listed come with a convertor (and the body of the the Kaweco Sport is too short to take one), so if you want to use bottled ink, you'll need to budget £3 - £4 for the convertor as well.

Personally, I like at least two notetaking pens, with distinguishable colours in them - I tend to use a blue, blue/black or black (of varying degree of sobriety, from the cheery Diamine Turquoise, to the all business Pelikan Blue/Black, or Herbin Perle Noire) with something brighter, Diamine Monaco Red, Imperial Purple or Red Dragon are all good choices for the latter.  


The paper you write on will affect the ink, and nib you choose.  In general, the Clairefontaine paper in Rhodia and Quo Vadis products likes most inks, and I've had good luck with the less expensive Black N' Red, and "Pukka Pad" products.  Moleskine has somewhat more variable paper, and large, wet nibs, and some inks will feather and bleed on it.  If you insist on using Moleskine, I find fine and extra fine nibs, and dry-ish inks (Pelikan Blue/Black) work best. has rated many inks for Moleskine friendliness, so if you want to pay a premium for poor paper, you can do so with confidence :)


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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sketch Dump


A joke inspired by a post on fountain pen site . Drawn in a Moleskine pocket reporter notebook with a Koh-I-Noor 2mm leadholder, and then inked with a Pelikan Steno fountain pen, filled with Pelikan Blue/Black ink.

The fine nib, and well behaved ink are pretty good on the less than stellar Moleskine paper.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Quick Look: Seawhite A6 Sketchpad


I was mooching around a local art supply shop on my lunch hour yesterday, and spotted these - this is part of a larger range that includes cahier and "mole-a-like" type books, as well as a handy looking square sketchbook. 

The range is reasonably priced (this hardback, 46 leaf A6 book comes in at £3.29) and what interested me was the claim that the paper was suitable for "all media". As I've been dipping my toe in watercolour lately, I thought it would be worth giving these a try.

I've not used watercolour in it yet, but here's a quick ink test;

I'm impressed to see that even usual suspects like Waterman Havana Brown, and Diamine Amazing Amethyst exhibit no feathering.  In fact, the only criticism I'd level at the paper is that it's a bit "toothy" for use with fountain pens, that's to be expected in a sketchbook though. 

The covers are a firm, cloth covered board, with a "Seawhite of Brighton" logotype debossed into the rear cover.  The signatures are stitched, then glued into the binding.  The cover overhangs the paper slightly, by what looks to me to be 3 or 4mm on the bottom and side, and 2 or 3mm on top.  The book needs a little encouragement to lie flat, but at this price, I can put up with that.

The pocket size "mole-a-like" book is slightly more expensive, at £4.39 (I think) but I'm very tempted to pick one up after trying this sketchbook - I particularly like the look of the half blank/half lined version of the moleskine style too.  Unfortunately they're not "reporter" format (they're bound portrait style), but again, for the paper, and the price...

Seawhite only sell their products directly from their factory shop (otherwise selling wholesale only) but you can find stockists at their website.

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Watercolour - Cotman Sketcher's Box

It seems like an awful long time ago now, but in the WH Smiths sale, I bought myself a little box of Watercolour half pans.  There's no particular reason I chose the Winsor and Newton "Cotman" sketcher's box, other than it being cheap (£8) at the time.  There are similar products from Daler and Rowney (the Aquafine boxes) and other manufacturers. 

They come like this;

Which is at least part of the reason it took me so long to use it - the half pans are individually wrapped (very neatly), and I felt wary of tearing into them, for some reason :)

Here's the closed box - it's on top of a Moleskine pocket reporter, for scale.  (Don't use watercolour in the Moleskine though, it, and you, will not like it).  It's a really nice size, and fairly readily pocketable, I think (although I don't carry it about).

Here's the open kit. There are 12 half pans of paint, and travel brush (the brush handle comes apart, and the front end of the brush tucks into the rear, and you can see the closed brush in the first picture in this post. Think of it as the Kaweco Sport of paint brushes). The brush is a bit too small for large washes (it doesn't hold much water at all) but works on a small scale, or for detail. I'm mostly working on A6 size paper (slightly larger than Moleskine "Pocket" size) and it's occasionally too small for that! If I was carrying this around a lot, I'd get a water brush to go with it (Incidentally, whilst you're at that site, have a look at the author's DIY compact sketch kits, really nifty). At the moment, I just use my ordinary brushes - another sale buy  - they shed hair like my dog does, unfortunately. 

Here's the first thing I did with it (don't look too closely, it's very much better from a distance) colouring an old sketch of a character from Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder books. By my reckoning, it's my fifth or sixth attempt at watercolour, and the first using "proper" paint rather than watercolour pencils.It's on A6 cheap sketching paper, so the washes are pretty light.

The paints mix nicely, and there's a good selection of colours in the box - I think I may swap one half pan for a black, or grey at some point. for £8 (I think they're £11 at full price) it's a decent way to experiment with watercolour, and more than adequate for my needs.


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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Watercolour Doodling

Fifteen minutes or so of messing about with watercolour pencils, drawing a little fox playing in the rain.


Quite pleased with the colour blending, the tones &c less so (the darker parts of the wash are a bit random).  Also, I shouldn't have added highlights to his tail with a gel pen, it looks wrong.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Daily Carry for National Stationery Day

It is, apparently, national stationery day today, so here's what came with me to work in the Carradice today;


Some Paper, Today.

Top left - on top, a Rhodia No.11 pad, with 5x5 bloc paper (in a Rhodia e-Pure cover), my pocket Filofax, & plain Moleskine pocket reporter (being used up for pencil sketches &c). Rightmost is my Nomadic PE-10 pencil case.  Bottom left is a square WH Smith sketchpad, and underneath them all is an A5 Black 'n' Red notebook (that actually stays at work).

The No.11 Rhodia pads are great for sticking in a back pocket & carrying about for quick notes &c.  They have really nice, fountain pen friendly paper too.

I use the Filofax for organising both calendar, and, in the notes pages at the back, tasks (using a modified GtD type system).  I find the Pocket is better than the Personal (slightly too large) or mini (much to small) for bike carriage, personally.

You might think it odd that I carry a Moleskine, given my much tweeted disdain for their paper - having paid for the thing before I knew better, I'm determined to use it up.  Besides, pencil works ok on it, after all.

The WH Smith sketchpad isn't normally resident in this bag, but I had an idea I'd hoped to work on at lunch today that its square format is perfect for.


Some pens, pencils &c Today.

Most of these live in the Nomadic case - the exception is the leftmost pen, a Pelikan Steno that resides in the pen loop of my pocket Filofax.  Sadly discontinued, this is a terrific little pen with an interesting extra fine flexible nib.  Its intended use is shorthand notation (Pitman), and the flex allows the line variation this script relies on to convey meanings.  This pen is filled with the businesslike Pelikan Blue/Black ink, this, and the EF nib are a great combination for the small spaces in my planner.

Next along the line is a Staedtler Marsmicro mechanical pencil.  This is the 0.9mm version, with Pentel AIN lead (B grade).  

Then we have the Uni Ball Signo Broad, with white Pigment ink.  A lot of fun on dark papers, and one of the few white ink pens to lay down a nicely opaque line.

Next to the Signo is my old Staedtler Marsmatic (0.5mm).  I filled this in a fit of nostalgia, having forgotten just how scratchy it is - once I've run the ink down, I think it'll go back in the pen drawer.

A trio of Stainless Steel Parker Jotters is next. Ballpoint (with a Parker Gel ink refill, much nicer than the standard one), fountain pen (filled with Parker Quink Black, this writes a wet, medium width line), and pencil (0.5mm Pentel AIN lead, in 2H grade).

Lastly, a Staedtler Rasoplast eraser, and a cartridge that's probably Diamine Dark Brown, and one that definitely is.

Some stuff, today.

At the top of the picture are my post-it index tabs. I find these really useful for marking pages.

Below those are three cartridges, Parker Quink black, Lamy black, and Lamy purple.

Next is my blue Worther Shorty clutch pencil.  I love these little things, and have three - they take a soft (7B) 3.15mm lead, and are great for quick, loose sketches.

Below that is my Rotring Esprit - an interesting telescopic mini pen (although not as compact as something like the Kaweco Sport).  Long discontinued under the Rotring name, they were briefly sold as the Parker Esprit (also discontinued).  They still turn up "new old stock" on eBay from time to time.  Mine is filled with Monteverde Burgundy ink at the moment.

Then we have my Schneider Base - despite the limitation of coming in medium (or left handed medium) only, this is an inexpensive, reliable daily writer.  At the moment, it has Diamine Turquoise in, a colour just the right side of business like, but fun nonetheless.  It's my only "left handed" pen.

Lastly, a Lamy Vista.  Essentially a transparent Safari, this is a wonderfully reliable workhorse pen.  Mine has an EF nib (again, those small planner spaces), but the beauty of the Lamy Safari, Vista and AL-Star is that nibs are readily swapped in and out, right up to the wide calligraphy nibs used by the Lamy Joy pens.  I'd recommend getting your Safari or Vista from the link (I get no kickback from that) as The Writing Desk will ship with the nib width you request (even the calligraphy nib) saving you £4 buying the nib separately.  Their price for Vistas, Safaris and Al-Stars with convertors (for using bottled ink) is excellent too. 

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Mrs Monkey Craft Special: Bear in a Bag

This is one of Mrs. M's latest projects;

The bag is hand sewn, with a handy clue as to who's inside stitched on the label;

It's a little bear, with his own little bear.  

Both bears, the large bear's clothes (dungarees, a jumper & shoes) and a shoulder bag that the small bear goes in are hand knitted by Mrs Monkey, who really is a much cleverer simian than me.  

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Endura Hummvee Short (2008) - End of Life Update

Bought From: Chain Reaction Cycles
Price Paid: £35.99 (in 2008)

Note: The review refers to the short version of the 2008 Hummvee, not the 3/4 version.

On my commute, I quite often wear a pair of baggies over whatever bib 3/4s or bib shorts, largely for the pocket space, which is handy for stashing my train ticket, bike computer (whilst not riding) etc.

My last pair were Altura Ascent shorts, which were ok, but their pockets didn't survive scraping along the tarmac at 20 miles an hour, and so a replacement pair were needed. Having read around a bit, I decided to go for the Endura Hummvee, on the basis that they met my main requirement (lots of pockets, some of which can be closed by zips) very well.

First Impressions:
The fabric of the shorts is very nice indeed, and feels slightly nicer than the Ascent's swimming shorts like material (there is some of this stuff in the Humvees, but it seems to be on the back of the shorts. The Pocket arrangement is two zipped hip pockets, two velcro tabed rear pockets (large enough for a folded OS map), a key clip, a flap + velcro cargo type pocket on the left, and a zipped cargo pocket on the right. The cargo pockets aren't the cavernous size of the pockets on the Ascent short, but fit my ID card for work and train ticket in quite nicely.

You also get zips with mesh behind at the outside side of each thigh (open the zip to allow more airflow though the legs of the shorts) and velcro tabs on the short legs to close them up if things get a bit chilly. This last feature seems a bit superfluous to me, and probably of more use on a 3/4 short, but you never know...

The only reflectives on the shorts are a printed Endura logo on the belt tab, which seems a little pointess to me (it's covered by your jersey).

Also worth noting is the sizing, which seems more or less spot on. A year of cycling has seen my waist drop from 34" to 32", and the medium humvee (30-32) fits nicely (Altura's medium is far too large for me) - the belt on the shorts seems good too, not the overly thin, easily twisted afterthought that you get on Altura's Ascent short.

In Use:
I should preface these remarks by saying that I don't use the Hummvee's liner - that said, the "clickfast" system seems pretty good, and I would think it would hold the liner in place well if you did decide to use it.

The pockets seem to be well arranged, and I've not noticed any discomfort whilst riding (wallet in the hip pocket, train ticket in the right cargo pocket). I've not used the rear pockets as yet, and don't use the key clip - landing on hard, sharp things like keys if you do come off is no fun at all, and I'd suggest not carrying anything like this in shorts or jersey pockets.

Edit: Just rode in them for the first time in rain - that lovely soft touch fabric is not particularly good in the wet - it ends up holding a fair bit of water and feeling quite clammy. The shorts did dry out fairly quickly, but the way they felt when wet would put me off riding in the 3/4 length version in the rain. (Not too bad in the short version because the wet part is against whatever lycra you're wearing underneath).

In Summary:
Quite expensive (it seems to me) but well thought out, comfortable and practical baggies. The cargo pockets could be bigger, (if the ventilation zips were omitted) but they're adequate.

Update (March 2012):
I'm just about to retire these shorts, after nearly four years of daily commuting duty (2hrs per day, 28 miles in the saddle).  In that time, they've needed two repairs, both to a seam on the left leg that eventually (after three years plus) wore through.  My trying to make the second repair using wonder web, with an overly hot iron, put an irreparable hole in them.  Leg seam aside, the shorts have worn very well over the four or so years of use.

I still like the Hummvee, although I hope that Endura have improved the stitching of the velcro on the rear pockets, which had come adrift within a couple of weeks of using the shorts (a niggle really, I didn't use those much).  The shorts now retail at a slightly eyewatering £45, or about £11.25 - £15 per year of commuting, I suppose - they also come in a snappy camouflage "colourway".

There's nothing quite as good, pocket wise, as the Hummvee at a comparable price, although having to pay for a liner I never use has irked me to the point that their replacement will be a pair of 3/4 Zymes, at least initially.  Liner complaints aside, I can see myself getting another pair of Hummvee's at some point, they really are very good.