Surrealism is Awesome: Palomino Blackwing 54 Review

I first tried the esteemed Blackwing 602 pencil ($22 for a box of twelve, yes they’re pricy) at the CW Pencil Shop last year. It’s much talked about in the pencil fandom (you thought I only liked fountain pens???) so I was excited. It met my expectations, and so much more. The “firm” lead is smooth and creamy on paper. I was turned off from pencils after years of using ones that were scratchy and had broken lead.  I stopped using pencils during middle school, and never went back. Until now.

For the spring semester, I found a use for my new pencils. I used my Baron Archer #2’s for math problems and my Blackwing 602 for creative writing class, where I had to erase often. I’ve even used my pencil for sketching! So I was excited to see the new Blackwing Volumes release. Okay, at first I was disappointed by the color. But the pictures online don’t show how it actually looks. It’s gorgeous!

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This picture shows the color off best.

The theme is inspired by Surrealism, one of my favorite art movements. Surrealism is when artists take inspiration from their unconscious and dreams to create a bizarre, off-putting work. It followed the work of Freud, often showing what lurked in the hidden parts of your mind. Though most think of Salvador Dali or Rene Magritte, there were many women and people of color working in that style. Surrealism was a diverse movement that gained popularity in the Caribbean and Latin America. I’m happy that Blackwing mentioned artists on the box that weren’t just white men. (Nothing wrong with that demographic but it’s nice to see underrepresented artists.) Some other female surrealists include Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo, and Remedios Varos. Wilfredo Lam, mentioned on the box, was a famous Chinese-Cuban artist, who drew inspiration from his Afro-Cuban heritage for his paintings.

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They’re beautiful!

The shiny lacquer is a strange color, shifting like the color palette of Surrealists. It looked bubblegum pink in some pictures, magenta in others. Seeing it in person, the color is orchid, with just a hint of purple. The teal imprint and blue eraser add to the oddity of this pencil. It’s unusual, which I like.

I had a weird scratch on one of the ferrules, which annoyed me. I’m paying $25 for a box of 12 pencils, it better be perfect!

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Weird scratch on ferrule

The “extra firm” lead wasn’t as mind-blowing as the 602’s was. But it has better point retention and is slightly harder, making it better for precise writing. Some bloggers theorized that the “extra firm” was the same as the Palomino HB. I tested that out, along with my other Blackwing pencils I have.

“Extra firm” is definitely a different lead. Palomino is even darker than the EF. Its line isn’t as dark as the 54’s. It has even better point retention and just had an overall different feel on the paper. I’d suggest both as good pencils, but they aren’t replicas. I also compared my “soft” and “firm” leads. The “soft” was the darkest, but smudged the most and lost its point quickly.

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Pencil test done on Baron Fig paper

I really enjoyed the 54 and its cool theme! They’re out of stock in many places, but there’s still some floating around if you look. Below are some of the works of the Surrealists mentioned on the box!

Also I found a list of awesome female Surrealists!

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Max Ernst, Europe After the Rain (1940-42)
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Meret Oppenheimer, Object (1936)
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Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait Between the Borderline of Mexico and the United States (1932)
lam the jungle
Wilfredo Lam, The Jungle (1943)

Sources:

Video: George Saunders – On Story

“The better state in my experience is to have some idea of what the story is and sometimes it’s just the tiniest kernel of something you enjoyed writing. Then once you put it down on the page and write it and rewrite it, it’s actually your own discontent with [your writing] that in some slow mysterious way urges it to that higher ground. Often it will do so in ways that surprise you. ”

-George Saunders

I watched this video in my creative writing class. I enjoyed hearing about George Saunders and his revision process. It is very similar to mine! You never know how your characters or plot will change over the course of a story. You shouldn’t be afraid to improvise and listen to your characters! If you haven’t read his books Lincoln in the Bardo or The Tenth of December, you really should. His stories are eclectic yet interesting.

Journaling Prompts

So I love journaling but I have trouble coming up with what to write sometimes. It gets boring writing the day-to-day minutiae of my life. Diaries and journals don’t have to record every second of your life but are good for reflections, rants, stories about your life, etc. So here are some links to journaling prompts that have helped me out!

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This diary title made me laugh!

How to Win NaNoWriMo

So, I’ve been super busy with essays, tests and writing an 18-page story for creative writing class! But I wanted to talk about an event that’s very important to me, NaNoWriMo! In case you don’t know what it is, Nano stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s like a marathon for writers! During the month of November, thousands of people write about 1,667 words a day, for a total of 50,000 by the 30th. It seems like a lot, but it just requires perseverance and some free time in the day. Nano is also held during April and July, as Camp Nano. I was going to write a post at the beginning of April, but better late than never! April and July are never good times for me, because of midterms or summer vacation.

The original criteria were to complete a prose novel in a month. But now, short stories, poems, scripts and editing are allowed. Most people write on their computers or tablets, but I’ve heard of some brave souls who wrote their novels by hand! And it’s okay to not hit your goal! The only reward you get from Nano is a virtual badge and satisfaction.

I’ve completed Nano in November two times, in 2016 and 2017. I knew about the event for years before that, but each time I wrote a few hundred words then gave up. These are the tactics I used to hit 50k+ words:

1. Read many books!!!

This is a given if you want to write novels. I learned so much about constructing narratives, characters, and settings from reading. I haven’t had much time to read books lately, but I read lots of Longform articles on my phone when I have free time in between classes.

2. Write every day! (with fountain pens :D) 

This doesn’t apply to everyone, but fountain pens and good stationery really helped me increase my writing productivity. Before I came obsessed with these wonderful pens, I wrote stories with a smeary pencil in cheap spiral notebooks. My hand always cramped and hurt from the spiral binding. (left-hand problems) Some of my earliest notebooks are illegible because of graphite transferring to the opposite page and making a mess. I loved writing by hand anyways because I was a slow typer. But by high school, writing on paper didn’t bring me the same joy anymore. My writing was in a slump by then, as I struggled with loads of homework and didn’t feel inspired.

Fountain pens made my handwriting look better, less of an illegible mess. Because of the nature of fps, I had to slow down. This gave me time to think and also let my hand rest. I also didn’t have to press down hard with fps, like I did with ballpoints.

Fountain pens put the joy back in writing for me. I loved seeing my words in crazy-colored ink. I feel good about using up my stationery hoard and being creative. I’ve finished three A5 notebooks that way, and plan to continue.

Now for more general advice! I started writing several pages every day. Yes, it’s hard but not as hard as you would think. I had pockets of time throughout the day where I just went on my phone. Instead, I worked on stories. My writing improved drastically. Looking back at one notebook, I see how I improved just in the spans of months. I wrote short stories in my notebooks to stretch my writing muscles. They were either full stories or scenes about characters. Writing constantly gave me the stamina to write 1,667 words a day.

3. WRITE AN OUTLINE

Not everyone needs an outline, but I suggest one especially for Nano. With such a tight schedule, you don’t want to get stuck in the middle of a story with no idea what to write. I used to be that person, called a “pantser” in the writing community because I wrote by the seat of my pants! Now, some people don’t need outlines, (like Stephen King, my fave writer), but for new writers, it’s a good idea. Not having an outline was my biggest problem. It hindered me completing Nano, and before that, from finishing any story longer than a few pages.

Outlines don’t have to be scary things you had to do for English class essays. They can be as simple or as complicated as you want. I start with a bullet point list of scenes I want to write, improvising as I go. Then I sketch out the specifics of the scenes, like what characters are in it and what’s going to happen. Make sure to have a good plan for the middle of your novel. That’s where most people get lost because they have an idea for the beginning and end but have no idea how to get to the conclusion! The more I outline, the tighter my plot was. This is especially helpful for fantasy and sci-fi writers with complicated stories. It’s much easier to plot your novel beforehand than writing 120,000 words and realizing there are massive plot holes.

Some people say that outlines stifle their creativity, but I felt like it increased mine! I didn’t stick to the outline completely. Sometimes I went off in an entirely new direction or didn’t write certain scenes. Outlines are like maps. They’re helpful guides but ultimately it’s your story and you can do whatever you want. As I went along, I added new scenes, characters and plots I hadn’t thought of before.

I hope these tips help you with NaNoWriMo! It was truly a life-changing event for me as a writer and I recommend it for any writers who want a challenge. My username is abyssaltourguide on the Nano website. If you want to friend me during November Nano, hit me up there!

Maruman Spiral Note Basic Review

The Maruman Spiral Note Basic has been recommended as the best fountain pen friendly spiral notebook for students. I mostly agree! However, there are some caveats that make it hard for me to use it with fountain pens. Warning: I am a side-writing leftie, so what bothered me about this notebook may not apply to you! I just wanted to show a left-handed perspective in my review, especially for students who take notes quickly.

I am on a neverending quest to find fountain pen friendly notebooks for taking notes in lecture! The triumvirate of cheap, light and fountain pen friendly has defeated many contenders. Brad from the Pen Addict suggested the Spiral Note Basic was good for students. So I waited for them to restock on Jetpens and ordered five for the spring semester. After several months, I have finally collected my thoughts.

Specs:

  • comes in lined, graph, or blank
  • B5 size
  • $5.70 on Jetpens
  • 70 gsm
  • Perforated pages!

Appearance:

The cover looks rather plain, a brown cardboard cover with space to write down your class. It’s B5 size, which is 6.9 x 9.8 inches. For those who haven’t seen that size before, it’s like a taller, slimmer composition book. The cover has held up for months in my cavernous backpack. Only the edges are rumpled, but no pages have ripped. It is spiral bound with strong metal rings that haven’t bent out of place yet. The Spiral Note lays completely flat and folds back, essential for students who are forced to use tiny desks. The pages are all perforated. None of them became loose but they could be removed cleanly without any damage.

Paper:

The paper is the star of the show. It is 70 gsm and an off-white color. Its light gray lines are 6.5mm, which fits more writing. It has 32 lines on each page. There are margins at the top and a space to number your notes and write the date! The paper is the smoothest I have ever felt, even more so than Tomoe River! It’s relaxing to run my hand over a blank page. The paper is thin but has less show through than the Kokuyo Campus. Once I write on the back, the show through doesn’t bother me.

For my purposes, the paper is too smooth. Softer pencils like the Blackwing 602 feel slippery on the paper. My Papermate Flairs, especially the Black, looked faded and washed out. I liked my gel pens, like the Uniball Signo 207, on this paper the most. The tip is slightly scratchy, so it slides on the paper less. Papermate Ink Joys were bright and vibrant but did take some time to dry. Fountain pens feel amazing on the paper! It was pleasant to write on, with no feedback or fibers catching the nib. I saw hidden sheen on this paper I couldn’t see on Tomoe River! Robert Oster Frankly Blue had a reddish halo, while Kyo no Oto Adzukiiro gained golden sheen. Monteverde Ruby looked vivid and the shading was beautiful. This can easily compete with Tomoe River as the smoothest, highest-quality paper I’ve used.

However, there were some problems for me.  When I could slow down, like to write this review, my Pelikan M605 felt pleasant. But usually, I write fast, using a Lamy Safari M nib or Pilot Metropolitan M nib. I write 5-8 pages per lecture, and quickly! I felt my nib was out of control when I wrote at my normal speed like it might fly off the page. I want to keep on using fountain pens and see if I get used to the slickness.

It took longer than I hoped to dry. As a student who takes copious amounts of notes, this is a downside for me. I’m a left-handed side writer so my hand drags across newly written words. I try to avoid smearing the ink, but on this paper it’s inevitable. Fountain pens, Uniball Signos and Papermate Ink Joys were more likely to smear. However, if you’re right-handed the long dry times may not bother you. This is another leftie thing, but the spiral binding annoys me. The metal digs into my hand when I write, making note-taking a somewhat painful experience. I forgot how much I loved the sturdy glue binding of the Kokuyo Campus.

Spiral Note Basic vs. Kokuyo Campus:

Now how do they compare to my favorite, the glue bound Kokuyo Campus B5? Kokuyo Campus paper absorbs ink quickly, but it doesn’t show off the qualities of the ink as well. They are much lighter, with only 30 pages. I can carry 3 of them without my backpack feeling heavy. I go through 2-3 of them for my more intensive classes, which is both nice and annoying. Nice in that I feel accomplished for finishing a notebook and annoying because I have to search for my other notebooks when I’m studying for exams! I’ve been using the same Spiral Notes the whole semester, instead of going through 2-3 thinner notebooks. But carrying 2-3 Spiral Notes is heavy! My campus is huge and getting from my dorm to class takes 15+ minutes. I pack lightly to avoid back pain, but Spiral Notes always add too much weight to my bag.

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The contenders…

Using Spiral Notes is a better deal for me because it has 80 pages, so 160 pages front and back. They are heavier but quite compact. I bought five Spiral Notes for $28.50 and free shipping. On Amazon, 5-packs of Kokuyo Campus fluctuate from $10-12. I bought three packs. So I guess Spiral Notes are the better deal?

The Maruman Spiral Note Basic is great for high school and college students who want to use their fountain pens for taking notes! However, for lefties and people who are particular about paper, be more cautious. I’m going to keep using them because they’re the best student-friendly notebooks out there.

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Lamy Vibrant Pink Ink Review

The Lamy limited edition inks have both enchanted and disappointed me. I discovered the fountain pen world right after the beautiful Lamy Dark Lilac ink sold out. Luckily, I bought a lifetime supply of cartridges at the D.C Pen Show. Petrol didn’t appeal to me at all, so I let that one pass by. Like everyone else, I was annoyed to find out Pacific blue wasn’t a new color (still bought it though). Now Lamy Vibrant Pink comes out, and I’m in love again.

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I bought the ink cartridges, $4.50 for five. This isn’t an eye-searing bubblegum pink like I feared it would be. It’s fun and different than others I’ve seen before. VP shades beautifully. Its color ranges from bright pink to a darker raspberry. It’s not garish but does stand out. I love using unusual ink colors so it’s great for me. It’s very legible and doesn’t strain the eyes. I used this ink to take lecture notes. Even better, VP has a touch of golden sheen! Not too much, but enough to make VP stand out from other pink inks I’ve tried. Just like Lamy Dark Lilac, the sheen needs to be coaxed out with good paper. It’s not visible on my sample paper, Rhodia No. 13 dot grid, nor my Maruman Spiral Note. Tomoe River is magical unicorn paper and brings out its subtle golden sheen. Surprisingly, Kokuyo Campus paper does too!

This ink is well-behaved in my Lamy Safari and doesn’t skip at all. Dry time is under 10 seconds, which is great for my note-taking needs. However, there is one drawback, something I’ve found with almost all red/pink inks. There’s extreme nib creep??? if that’s the right word for it. It’s because red/pink inks are more saturated than green/blue ones, so they leave behind residue on the nib. So my Lamy nib looks really gross.

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EWWWWWWW

But this has happened with Diamine Red Dragon, Monteverde Red, KWZ Crimson, etc. so it isn’t unusual. Wipe it off with a tissue if it bothers you.

This is the first pink ink I enjoy! I need to stock up on another bottle or three…

Monteverde Ruby Ink Review

This is my first review, yay! Today, I tested Monteverde Ruby. It was $8 for 30ml. I don’t mind the smaller size because I never finish bottles anyway. I bought it at the Baltimore Pen Show, among other goodies. 🙂 Red is one of my favorite colors (besides teal) so I’m always on the lookout for new red inks to try.

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I tried to make the color more accurate, need to work on better lighting

This ink leans more towards orange-red, rather than being a true red. I expected more of a dark ruby color. But I was pleasantly surprised! Ruby reminds me of a flickering flame with its beautiful orange shading. Either that or tomato soup! There is no sheen, but this ink doesn’t need any to stand out. It has a lot of character and isn’t as flat as another favorite, Diamine Red Dragon. (Review forthcoming!) It’s a perfect shade to use in fall because it looks like autumn leaves.

Monteverde claims that its line of ink is lubricated, to stop the nib from drying out. As a result, I found Ruby very wet and certainly lubricated. On Rhodia dot grid paper, the ink dried completely after 15 seconds. I don’t have a photo of it, but on Tomoe River paper it took forever to dry. I accidentally smeared it after 30 seconds. So be careful if you use it on TR. I tend to use more absorbent, fast-drying paper so it doesn’t bother me.

If you’re looking for a beautiful, autumnal red ink, then Monteverde Ruby is a great choice! However, it doesn’t top Diamine Red Dragon as my favorite red ink.

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Beautiful shading!
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I tried to draw a campfire…