Quick sketch with watercolour pencils and watercolours.
A quick fountain pen sketch with my vintage Waterman 52 fountain pen and Waterman Havana Brown ink (now called absolute brown) on a Stillman and Birn pocket Alpha.
This week was busy and filled with milestones. On Sunday I celebrated my 40th birthday. That’s not something that I was sure that I’d get to celebrate: in June and July last year I thought that I was dealing with a much more aggressive form of lymphoma, and I was unsure if I’d live to 40. Being where I am right now in terms of health and life in general makes me feel lucky and blessed.
On Wednesday I participated in my first race since 2019 (I missed a race in early 2020 due to Covid concerns, and then all the local races were cancelled until late 2021, when I was dealing with cancer). I was worried about the crowds triggering my post trauma, and the start of the race was challenging, but then the crowds cleared up and I had a great time.
I sketched a bit this week, working with watercolour pencils and watercolours. I’m still experimenting a lot, and still trying to work out how to sketch plants and foliage. Here’s a very quick sketch from a local garden, done with ballpoint, Faber Castell Albrecht Durer watercolour pencils and watercolours (Schmincke Horadam and Daniel Smith) on a Stillman and Birn pocket sketchbook. I didn’t feel like sketching so I just did a quick study of some rocks and plants, experimenting with textures.
I’ve inked up all of the fountain pens that I bought on my latest trip. That’s an Oldwin 2000 Years of History pen in silver (gorgeous, with a fantastic nib, but very heavy as it’s large and has a silver body), two Waterman 52s, with lovely flexible nibs. One of the pens is still stickered, and yet in the spirit of use the good china, I inked it. There’s also a Wahl Eversharp in the Kashmir colourway. I think that it’s an Equiposed that somehow got an adjustable nib on it, but I bought it for the phenomenal nib, not the pen body as much. All four pens were bought at Mora Stylos in Paris, and I am very happy with them.
I also popped a J. Herbin Eclat de Saphir cartridge into the Kaweco Collection Sport Iridescent Pearl pen that I bought in Present and Correct in London. It was very difficult not to buy up that entire shop, especially since I visited it twice.
The other two pens were inked up before my trip and are probably going to be written dry this week or the next: a Lamy Safari Petrol with a fine nib that I use for sketching as it has De Atramentis Urban Grey document ink in it and that’s waterproof, and a Schon Design Pocket 6 in 3D Teal that has a Diamine Sherwood Green cartridge in it.
The Oldwin is inked with Pilot Iroshizuku Kosumosu, a new ink that I got as a gift from the lovely Mr. Mora. I don’t have many pink inks so it will be nice to give this ink a try.
I still am having terrible luck with J. Herbin inks. Their regular lineup is so watery and desaturated, it’s always been a bit of a let down, especially when compared to the vibrant colours on their labels.
All the vintage pens are filled with Waterman ink, as it’s safe on vintage pens and very easy to clean out. There’s Florida Blue (now called Serenity Blue), Havana Brown (now called Absolute Brown) and my desert island ink, Waterman Blue Black (now called Mysterious Blue).
In terms of reading, I finished reading Ben Aaronovitch’s “Amongst Our Weapons” and it was a really fun read. His previous novel in the “Rivers of London” series, “False Value” got me a little worried that he’d lost his touch (it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t nearly as good as his previous seven books), but “Amongst Out Weapons” is a return to form.
I’ve also finished reading Agatha Christie’s “A Murder is Announced” and boy does she know how to write. The characters, setting, period come to life, and you can sense an intelligent and keenly observing mind at work.
I’m now back with the Tournament of Books, this time with “Our Country Friends” by Gary Shteyngart. If I find this book tiresome, I may yet give up on the Tournament of Books list as I’ve got more than enough good books that I can’t wait to dig into.
Next week is very busy, so I’m not sure if I’ll have time for any long posts. In the meanwhile, please remember to take a break from social media and enjoy your life: call a friend, take a walk, listen to a family member, be kind to someone, volunteer in some way. And if you are on social media, please be kind.
Quick watercolour and fountain pen sketch done on today’s walk.
London Graphic Centre is one of my favourite stores in London. It’s tucked away in the corner of a street off of Neal street in Covent Garden, and it’s a real haven for artists, designers, architects and anyone who loves stationery and art supplies. I visit it several times whenever I’m in London, and I never fail to find something new and interesting there to try out. This time was no different, and one of the first things that caught my eye while I was there was this:
It was just above the Leuchtturm1917 notebook display, and there were just three or four colours available, but it was obvious that this pen was designed to match the colours on offer in the Leuchtturm notebook lineup. I assumed at first that it was a ballpoint, in which case I wasn’t really interested in it, until I saw that it was prominently labeled as a gel ink pen. Now that was intriguing.
The box was a bit confusingly marked as both “Gel” and “Gel ballpoint”. Checking out the Leuchtturm site clarified that this pen (we’ll get to the name in a minute) is indeed a gel ink pen, with a Japanese refill and a “Ceramic Ball” tip. The refill itself looks very much like the Monteverde Capless Ceramic Gel ink refill. My guess would be that this is the same refill, but more on that later.
Somebody really took the time to design this box, but really didn’t consider how illegible the pen’s name is:
The pen is called Drehgriffel Nr. 1, a bit of a mouthful. Apparently Drehgriffel means “rotary stylus”, which probably refers to the pen’s twist mechanism.
The pen has an aluminum body, a white twist nob at the end and brass pen tip. It’s well balanced, heavier than a plastic pen but lighter than a Retro 51 or a machined pen. It’s slightly heavier than a metal bodied Caran d’Ache 849, but if they were put in a boxing ring they’d both be in the same weight category.
The Drehgriffel has a very 60’s look, which I happen to like, but other people may find to be dated. Also, the Nr. 1 is a weird designation when you don’t have any other pen on offer. Will there be a Nr. 2? A Nr. 3?
Here’s the pen’s refill and parts. It’s weighted slightly towards the tip because the tip is brass (and, of course, the pen tip will tarnish with time).
Here’s the Drehgriffel refill side by side with a Monteverde Capless Ceramic Gel refill, and they are exactly the same. Good to know if you’re looking to replace refills, although I suspect that it will take a while to write this pen dry.
The Drehgriffel is similar in size and weight (and price) to the Caran d’Ache 849 metal barrelled pens. It’s a smidge wider and heavier than the 849, but they are very much in the same ballpark. Here they are side by side:
Here’s a writing sample of the Drehgriffel against a few other gel refills. It’s noticeably wider than Japanese 0.5 gel in pens, and is closer to 0.7 gel ink refills. I tested it on a Moleskine squared notebook (and further down you can see it on a Leuchtturm1917 notebook).
Here’s the reverse side of the Moleskine page. The Drehgriffel bled a bit more than its counterparts:
Here’s a writing test on a Leuchtturm1917 80gsm blank notebook:
Here too there was visible show through an some bleed through, although there was less bleed through than the Moleskine.
The Drehgriffel writes smoothly, but there’s nothing in the pen’s smoothness that justifies the advertising. It’s a nice pen, that comes in a variety of colours and that has an interesting design and good refill. In my opinion it would have been more popular if it came with a click mechanism and was a little cheaper, but I still appreciate the fact that Leuchtturm chose to come out with a gel ink pen first and not the more obvious choice of a ballpoint. I like the look and feel of my Drehgriffel, although I would have liked it better if it would have been a little bit wider. As it is if I use it for more than a page or so without pause it causes my hand to ache and cramp up.
Now I’m wondering if there’s going to be a Drehgriffel Nr.2 with a click mechanism perhaps?
It’s been a while since the last update, and since I’ve been travelling there also haven’t been many posts lately. I plan to get back to a regular posting schedule next week, but first, an update.
As the weather changed, and as I had to travel, my neuropathy has seen ups and downs. It was absolutely terrible on the plane, but it’s much better now. At this point my pain level hovers around a 2-3, and that’s something that I’ve learned to live with. I’ve been able to get back to drawing, I’ve started building Legos again (something that I picked up as a meditational/self-soothing hobby during my hospitalisation and really helped me while I could still build them), and I’ve had no trouble typing lately.
I’ve been on a murder mystery roll lately, mostly because April was a travel month. I’ve read three early Agatha Christie mysteries, after not picking up one of her books for years, and I rediscovered how entertaining and insightful she could be. I’m currently steaming through the latest “Rivers of London” book, “Amongst Our Weapons” by Ben Aaronovitch (so far it’s been a very enjoyable read), and I have a Miss Marple mystery (“A Murder is Announced”) before I return to more serious and lengthy reading.
As for the Tournament of Books challenge, I made my way through Sally Rooney’s “Beautiful World, Where Are You?” And found it even more insufferable than “Normal People”. I couldn’t stand the characters, the slow and stilted writing, the self importance of everyone involved, and how little plot there was to make up for all the rest.
Anne Garréta’s “In Concrete” wasn’t great, but I’m not sure that it isn’t a matter of a lot of meaning and innuendo being lost in translation, despite the valiant efforts of the translator. It was at least an interesting book with interesting characters – a sort of female, French take on Tristram Shandy.
“The Echo Wife” by Sarah Gailey was a fascinating near future science fiction novel that is worth reading even if you don’t like science fiction. It has a lot to say about what makes us who we are, and how cycles of abuse are created and can be broken.
I’ve started reading Gary Shteyngart’s “Our Country Friends” but I moved to lighter reading while I was traveling. It’s the next book in the challenge that I intend to finish.
I cleaned out all of my fountain pens before my trip, apart from my Schon Design pocket 6, and two Lamy Safaris filled with De Atramentis Document ink. I bough a few fountain pens, a bit of ink, and a whole host of notebook and art supplies during my trip and I’m planning to break them out and give them a try and review a few during the coming weeks. Meanwhile I still have one Lamy Safari inked up for my sketches, the Schon Design pocket 6 fountain pen which I’m about to write dry, and a newly inked Kaweco Collection Iridescent Pearl. I wasn’t planning on buying it, but I saw it at “Present and Correct” and couldn’t resist. As I bought a few tins of J. Herbin ink cartridges while I was in Paris, I popped an Eclat de Saphir cartridge into this pen.
In other news I quit my job of the past 13 years this week, and I’m starting a new job next month. It was a difficult decision to make, and one that took me a while, but I truly believe that this change will be for the better.
Have a great week!
It was Independence day here today, so I took the opportunity to visit the Independence Garden and sketch for a while.
So there’s a whole thing going on with Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars for making fun of his wife’s hair. Jada Pinkett Smith has alopecia, which is something that one of my oldest friends suffers from as well. Hair can fall out due to a multitude of reasons, from autoimmune diseases to genetics, traction, poor nutrition and stress. But I’m not here to talk about Jada Pinkett Smith and her alopecia, or even about my friend’s journey with alopecia: I’m here to talk about cancer related alopecia.
The very first thing my doctor told me when she came to my hospital room to talk about treatments was that I’d lose my hair. I was on oxygen at the time because the tumour in my mediastinum (that the middle bit of your body, where your most important veins go, right up against the heart and lungs) was so large it was restricting my lungs enough to make me need oxygen to stay alive. At that point I had barely been sleeping in days, I had barely been eating, the main thing that I was doing was inhaling and exhaling, fighting for each breath. I had been waiting all day for a hematologist-oncologist (that’s a hematologist, a blood doctor, who specializes in blood cancers, which is what I had – Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) to take up my case and start taking care of me. I was very happy that the doctor that I wanted took up my case despite her already heavy caseload: she was kind and brilliant, and that’s not a common combination. She came in to my room with the paperwork for the chemo treatments (you have to give consent to getting poison pumped into your system, as chemo is basically poison in a dose that is meant to kill the cancer but leave you alive).
And the first thing she told me was that she was sorry, but that I was going to lose my hair.
I had read up about the side effects of the treatment that I was about to go through (ABVD chemotherapy), and I was afraid for my heart, my lungs, nausea, getting a chemical burn during treatment, and neuropathy. The last thing on my mind, the last thing I was worried about was my hair. The mouth sores seemed more scary.
The hair loss theme returned during my first meeting with the cancer centre’s social worker. An efficient yet caring battle-axe of a lady she told that from her experience ABVD patients didn’t lose all of their hair, they just lost most of it. She was looking at my head at the time, and it was before my 2nd treatment, so I still had all of my hair. My doctor had told me that the hair-loss happens after the 2nd treatment, and she was, of course, 100% correct.
Then there were the women in the closed cancer Facebook groups. I had joined a few, one for Lymphoma patients, one for young adults with cancer. They were a source of information and camaraderie, and a good amount of gallows humour. One of the women in the group, a new member like me, said that she would lose her mind if she lost her hair and asked if there’s a way to prevent it. Another asked about wigs and young children: is there a way to have the wig attached so that they can’t pull it off.
I thought that they were all being a bit silly. Yes, I know, that’s unkind and insensitive and I’d learn better with time, but I’m being honest here. I was literally fighting for my breath before the treatments, and they allowed me to breath. The side effects were far from being a walk in the park, but losing your hair didn’t hurt (I was wrong), and was just a superficial change (I was wrong), and a temporary one, so why focus on that and not on more serious side effects? (I was clueless).
Happy national pencil day! I recently bought this delightful bouquet of vintage pencils at a local stationery store. They include vintage Jerusalem Pencils (and slightly less vintage PanArt pencils, made in the same factory, post forced name change due to bankruptcy), Eberhard Faber Mongols, and A.W. Faber Castell 9000 pencils (pre-Faber Castell). I paid more than what the seller wanted, so he threw in three sharpeners.
I have the pencils a spin, to celebrate the day. My favourites are the Jerusalem Pencils Shalom 777 F pencil (which is a seconds pencil, and that’s why it probably survived for so many decades intact) and the Eberhard Faber Mongol 482 #2 pencil.
Take some time to explore local stationery stores and flea markets for NOS and vintage pencils. They all tend to work exactly as they did when they were first issued (the erasers won’t work and the wood may be a bit brittle so be gentle with your sharpening), and they are usually beautifully designed.
I’m done! It took me longer than I expected, but it was a warm day today, so I took a brush pen and sketched people on the move, from life and not from photos. I’m glad that I participated in this challenge, and I hope that it will kickstart my urban sketching again.