OneWeek100People 2021: Day 5

Day five of the One Week 100 People challenge, the final day of the challenge. I made it, using only pen and ink, and focusing on portraits the whole way through! It was tough but rewarding, and if I’d change one thing about it is get a better ink than Platinum Carbon. It kept drying up on me, and for the last four drawings I switched to a Lamy Safari fine with Noodler’s Black. That also wasn’t ideal, but it was better than the Platinum. I really want to test out the De Atramentis Document inks, but with shipping rates and reliability being what they are I’m stuck with three equally poor alternatives: Noodler’s Black, Platinum Carbon Ink and Rohrer and Klingner SketchINK. They all dry up in the nib and are hard starters, and the best of the bunch in terms of flow (Noodler’s) is the least waterproof of them all.

Anyway, I really recommend the One Week 100 People Challenge to anyone who wants to improve their people drawing skills, and I plan on doing it again next year.

OneWeek100People 2021: Day 4

Day four of the One Week 100 People challenge, and the one I struggled with most so far. Started really late and when I was tired, and barely got the daily twenty drawings in. Also first smudge of the challenge (no 70), but it’s something that looks relatively fixable. I’m gaining confidence, speed and a better insight to human faces daily with this challenge, so although it’s tasking, I intend on finishing it on time.

OneWeek100People 2021: Day 3

Day three of the One Week 100 People challenge. It appears that the street photographers aren’t exactly catering to sketchers, or they’d take more profile pictures than they currently do 🙂
I’m getting into a pretty good rhythm, and more importantly I’m getting better at figuring out where to start each portrait. Many start with a general outline, others start with the hair, or the nose->eyes->lips. Every day it gets a little easier to draw people, and though 20 people a day is still far from easy, I do feel like I’m getting the most out of this challenge this year because of my choice to work directly in pen and with no shading or paint.

OneWeek100People 2021: Day 2

Day two of the One Week 100 People challenge and today was more challenging than yesterday, mainly because I started late and had trouble finding decent photographs. Photographers apparently love photographing blurry people, masked people, people with their backs to them, other photographers (while they are taking photographs and their face is half covered by the camera), or people from a large distance. Some of them also love photoshopping their subjects to death, so I’m now able to find a half decent subject only every five or six photographs. Thankfully the pool is huge and varied, with people in all ages and from all over the world, so while things are slowing down a bit, I’m still grateful for the the opportunity to enjoy the work published in this wonderful group. Even if I can’t use all of the photos there, I am thoroughly enjoying perusing through all of them.

OneWeek100people 2021: Day 1

I’m doing the One Week 100 People challenge again this year (I skipped it last year but I have done it before). It’s a challenge that I find difficult but very rewarding, and this year perhaps more so than in the past. I’ve decided to work from Flickr photos, to challenge myself to draw every clear face that I see in the photo pool that I’m using, to work fast and directly in pen and ink. I’m also not hiding behind watercolour at the moment, but we’ll see for how long my resolve holds. These all took a minute or two each, and were drawn with a TWSBI Vac 700 with an EF nib and Platinum Carbon ink on a Stillman and Birn pocket softcover Alpha. There’s some feathering and spread with this ink, which I’m not enjoying, so I may switch to Staedtler Pigment Liner pens later this week.

2021: Looking Back at a “Heavy” Year

My hands have been killing me with the worst neuropathy since my treatments began, so I’ve been trying to limit my typing to what I need to do for work. That is why this post took so long to write, and why my posting schedule may be a little off until things improve with my neuropathy.

2021 was a hell of a year for me. It started with me doing Liz Steel‘s excellent Sketchbook Design course. I also took some fantastic and very illuminating tea seminars with Juyan Webster from the Chinese Tea Company. If you have any interest in tea and you get a chance to have a tea seminar with her, I highly recommend it.

Early on in the year is also when a close family member got diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and that’s also when my journalling went on the fritz. This was the notebook I was using at the time, a Moleskine Pokemon Charmander limited edition and I abandoned it 2/3rds of the way through.

Abandoned Moleskine.

Covid was raging, I was working from home, at a new job, and I spent the first quarter of the year trying to fit my drawing and running into the new quarantine rules that kept getting both stricter and more confusing with each iteration. I happily got vaccinated as soon as I could, and I’m still very grateful to the amazing scientists and doctors who came up with vaccines in such a short time frame.
I managed to participate in the OneWeek100People challenge, which is very demanding but also a lot of fun. If you can spare the time I recommend giving it a try.

In the beginning of April I started having shortness of breath (dyspnea) while running. It got worse with time and soon I couldn’t run at all, and then I couldn’t walk very fast or far, climb stairs, etc. After a long and laborious road to get a diagnosis, in the beginning of June I learned that I had cancer, and in the beginning of July I got a diagnosis and started ABVD chemotherapy to treat Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
A few things helped me get through that incredibly difficult time. First and foremost, my phenomenal family (mother, father and brother) that rallied around me and took care of me from the moment of the first diagnosis and to this day. I can’t imagine going through this process without them. Almost as important were my friends, who visited me in the hospital and cheered me up, and kept in touch and cheered me on during the treatments. Finally it was journaling and reading. I started this Moleskine “I am New York” on the day I was first admitted to hospital, and writing in it gave me perspective and kept me sane.

Journal of a bad year.

And books? Books have always been my comfort and escape. I saw a few things on Disney+ while I was hospitalized, but books helped distract me from a lot the most unpleasant and painful parts of this journey.
I was happy to discover that one of my favourite Moleskine limited edition series, the denim ones, was back in stock, and so once I finished the “I am New York” journal I moved into this Moleskine “Skinny. Flared. Bookcut.” one. It’s such a well conceptualized and executed design, it was a joy to use. This was when I decided to regularly use fountain pens to journal with, and just use only one side of the page. I have more than enough notebooks to support that decision.

This notebook took me through the second part of chemo to the end of it.

And now, and the beginning of 2022 I started a new journal, a Moleskine Peanuts Sakura. Pretty, right? Let’s hope I get to fill it with good news and positive thoughts.

A new Moleskine for a new and better year.

Some favourites from the past year:

My favourite pen was the Esterbrook Estie Sea Glass. Quite a surprise for me, but it hasn’t been out of rotation since I got it.

Esterbrook Estie Sea Glass – fantastic and beautiful pen.

Another pen purchase that came in at a close second was the Diplomat Elox Rings and the Diplomat Aero (basically the same pen with a slightly different body design). These are wonderful workhorses, and a joy to use.

Diplomat Elox Rings on the left and Diplomat Aero in Champagne on the right.

I didn’t read as much this year as last year, but I did read a few really great books. Here’s a list of a few standouts among them:

  • The Good War, by Studs Terkel. WWII as I’ve never experienced it before – as seen and told by the “regular people” who lived through it.
  • Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell. Not an easy read by far, but a breathtaking work of fiction nonetheless. Worth the effort.
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz. A surprisingly moving tale of a character that you won’t expect to fall in love with, and yet you will.
  • Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies, by Hillary Mantel. Why should I care about Thomas Cromwell? How can you not care about Thomas Cromwell after reading these books? An era and place come to life, in a world filled with complex and compelling characters.
  • Nomadland, by Jessica Bruder. Watch the movie AND read the book. Both are excellent, and both offer a chance to look into a part of modern living that we were hitherto oblivious of.
  • Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir. Just a fun and interesting sci-fi novel. If you enjoyed the Martian, you’ll enjoy this.
  • Underland, by Robert Macfarlane. What happens in the deep dark places beneath our feet? A lyrical work of non-fiction.
  • The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller. The love story between Achilles and Patroclus told with great gentleness and heart.
  • Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro. An understated and masterful work of science fiction that explores themes of humanity, identity, friendship and love, among other things.
  • Harlem Shuffle, by Colson Whitehead. How can you write a heist novel that isn’t a heist novel but rather a story of a person, a time and place? Whitehead’s writing is exceptional, and Harlem Shuffle is just another proof of that.
  • The Expanse books 1-4, James S.A. Corey. I haven’t read book 5 and onwards yet, but I did read the first four books of The Expanse this year. They aren’t perfect (Holden is a bit much), but they are very good at world-building, with interesting and unique plots and complex and believable characters (apart from Holden, who is a bit much). The books are each written in a different style, and they improve with time.

In terms of art supplies, 2021 was the year of the super-granulating watercolours from Schmincke, and also when I added Daniel Smith watercolours to my palette. Schmincke just announced that the super-granulating colours will be permanently added to their offerings, and that they are issuing three more permanent sets into this series (Desert, Shire and Vulcano), and another limited edition set, Haze.

I’ll be talking about planning for 2022 on one of my next posts. In the meanwhile, have a great new year, and don’t forget to take time and breath.

Wildflowers in an Urban Environment

Next week the OneWeek100People challenge starts, where you try to draw 100 people in five days. I participated in the challenge last year and really enjoyed it and found it to be a great way to practice my portrait sketching. This year I plan on participating but as my hands are still far from 100% well (my neuropathy has gotten better but still hasn’t left me and brushwork is a bit of an agony), I will take more than 5 days to draw 100 people.
Meanwhile, I went on a walk and sketched a bit today. Here’s the resulting spread:

Sketch on Stillman and Birn Alpha with Schmincke and Daniel Smith watercolours, De Atramentis Document Ink Grey, Caran d’Ache Saffron and Diamine Festive Joy

Weekly Update: Remission and Apple Watch

Long time and no update, not so much because things haven’t been going on, but mostly because I’m still having trouble typing as my chemo induced neuropathy gets worse with the cold, and it’s been pretty cold here.

Health

So my post-treatment PET-CT results came in and I’m officially in remission. That is great news – it means that there’s no active disease that can be detected in scans. Now we wait and see if it really is gone for good (it’s a 5 year wait, but the first two years and the first year in particular are crucial), and deal with the side effects and damage the cancer and treatment left behind. It’s a lot of work, basically another full time job building back my body and mind to a place where they aren’t what they used to be (that’s just not going to happen) but where they are as healthy as they can be.

To that end, I “broke down” and purchased an Apple Watch two weeks ago. I really like analogue watches, which is why I’ve avoided buying a smart watch until now, but at the recommendation of several health professionals I decided to give it a try. As my phone is an iPhone, I went with the Apple Watch series 7 GPS, and as I use the Nike running and training apps (NRC and NTC – highly recommended and free to use), I went with the black Nike version of the watch.

Timex Peanuts watch on the left, Apple Watch series 7 Nike edition on the right.

So far it has been a great purchase. I’ve been using it to track my runs and training, my heart rate, breathing and blood oxygen levels, and for bio-feedback based meditation. I’ve also been using it to track my sleep, which is pretty abysmal and the moment due to the residual effect of drugs that I had to take during chemo and are still in my system (and will remain there for a few months yet).

As for the analogue watches that I love wearing, I gave up on them for a few days, and then decided to just do as a local celebrity does and wear more than one watch at a time. So I have an Apple Watch on my left hand and an analogue watch on my right hand, and though it may seem excessive or eccentric it makes me happy (and I still like checking the time on analogue watches better).

Reading

I finished reading Percival Everett’s “The Trees” and it was excellent. A brilliant, funny, dark and timely novel that proves that contemporary satire can still be written. This kind of novel is why I read the books on “The Tournament of Books” list, as otherwise I never would have heard of it, let alone read it. Highly recommended.

I then read Dr. Jennifer Gunter’s “Menopause Manifesto”. It is a must read: expertly written, chock full of information that I would have had trouble finding elsewhere, interesting and kind. Even if you think that your menopause is years away, or if you’re someone who won’t experience menopause this is still a book that you should read, and sooner rather than later.

I’m now reading Sally Rooney’s “Beautiful World, Where Are You” for the Tournament of Books and not enjoying it much. I really didn’t like “Normal People” and I wouldn’t have tried another Rooney novel if it wasn’t on the ToB list. I know a lot of people like Rooney’s writing, and she’s won several awards for it, but I find it whiny, boring and self indulgent, and so far “Beautiful World” is worse than “Normal People” in that aspect. I’m trying to be open minded and patient, so I’m not giving up on it yet. Hopefully it will improve with time.

Currently Inked

As the weather has been cold my neuropathy has been too painful for me to journal regularly. My fingers feel like someone has taken a set of pliers to them, or else someone has lit a lighter under them. It will be warming up a bit next week, and so I’ve set aside a few pens that I intend to write with. I’m down to 18 pens (!) currently inked, and if I do get to journal as much as I expect this week then I’ll probably write 2-3 more pens dry. Not many of my Diamine Inkvent 2021 pens remain inked, but I’m not going to be able to write them all dry by the end of the month. As March will be a warmer month and more time will have passed from my treatments I’m hoping that my neuropathy will improve and I’ll be able to write more, and maybe even get back to regular sketching.

By the way, in April Diamine will be issuing the Diamine Inkvent 2021 inks in “Red Edition” glass bottles, just like the original Inkvent “Blue Edition” bottles. These make for great gifts as the inks are very good and the bottles are stunning. I still haven’t finalized the list of inks that I intend to buy, but for now it includes Brandy Snap, Night Shade, Ash, Harmony and Thunderbolt or Ruby Blues.

From top to bottom: Platinum 3776, Visconti Van Gogh, Kanilea, Lamy Safari, Pilot Falcon, Lamy Studio, Diplomat Aero

Other

The Pen Addict podcast celebrated 10 years (!) and 500 episodes in an epic and fun episode where Brad and Myke read the listeners’ favourite stationery items. This one is well worth a listen, and is sure to make you smile.

I finished watching “The Book of Bobba Fett” on Disney+ and generally liked it. It would have been nice to have more Bobba and Fennec and have the flashbacks more integrated into the later story line. I didn’t like the cyborgs much, and I wish that it wasn’t so much a “Mandalorian 2.5” season but its own thing. I think that Bobba and Fennec’s storyline suffered because of the tie to “The Mandalorian,” fun as it was. Hopefully they get a second season where they’re allowed to stand on their own for a while.

If you aren’t listening to the “Maintenance Phase” podcast, please do. This week’s episode was about “Super Size Me” and boy did I learn a lot from it.

Liz Steel and Marc Taro Holmes are hosting the One Week 100 People challenge again this year on 7-11 March 2022, and hopefully I’ll be able to join it again, hands be willing. It’s a really fun challenge, especially if you don’t feel confident drawing people. There’s a bonus challenge for people who want to sketch from life, but if I’ll participate it will likely be by drawing from Flickr photos as Covid is still raging out there, and I’m still vulnerable to it.