Silvine Memo Book Review

I bought this notebook in 2019, when I was last in London. Silvine is a well known UK notebook brand, and ever since I read about them in Roald Dahl’s work I have been looking to try them out.

Front cover.

The Silvine Memo Book is a 159x95mm feint ruled staple bound notebook with zero frills. The cover is made of construction paper, thinner than the standard Field Notes one. The corners aren’t rounded, and there’s no printing on the inside of the cover. The front cover is a big believer in the “says what it does on the tin” school of thought: it’s a British made memo book by Silvine.

Back cover.

The back cover has an ugly barcode and ref printed on it, and it really would have looked better with that barcode printed on the inside. Then again, this notebook is not about looks.

Inside cover and ruling.

The grey ruling is 7mm wide, with margins left on the top and bottom of the page. It’s a bit wide for the format, but I’m guessing that they took their standard ruling and applied it indiscriminately to all their notebooks. The paper is where the Silvine Memo Book surprisingly shines.

Paper test.

The paper is smooth and coated, which means long drying times (though still shorter than Rhodia or Moleskine paper), but it’s also fountain pen friendly. The ink doesn’t feather or spread, and while there is some ghosting, unless you use stub nibs with dark inks the other side of the paper will still be usable. Very juicy nibs cause a small amount of bleed through, and the Sharpie, as usual is a mess, but otherwise Silvine have created a paper that can handle pretty well everything you throw at it.

Ghosting and bleed through test.

The format of this notebook means that its place is on a desk, where you can use it to jot down a quick note with whatever is lying around. It’s not built for pocket carry (in terms of size or construction), and I would have liked the ruling to be 6mm or even 5 mm at this size, but as it is I don’t regret buying the Silvine Memo Book, if only for nostalgic value. It reminds me of Dahl’s short stories, and I like that it’s doing its own thing and not trying to be a Field Notes clone. If you’re in the UK, I’d have one or two of these lying around, just for the paper inside.

Carmel Market at Lockdown

Carmel Market, Tel Aviv, during the third lockdown.

This is the first time that I’ve used my new watercolour palette and I’m still figuring stuff out. I’m also using an 8’’x10’’ Stillman and Birn Alpha which is a large format that I’m still getting used to and isn’t the best for smooth washes. I’m embracing the patchiness here and letting the paint do its thing. More importantly, despite temptation I’m not making any adjustments to the new palette now, as I need more time with it.

Also, the Sailor Fude 55 degrees fountain pen is magic. I used one here with Noodler’s Lexington Grey.

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 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.

Build a Plant Holder

Sketchbook spread with two wooden X shaped plant holders, a screwdriver and some tiny paint pots. There's a sticker with the Molet logo on the right.

Tel Aviv Municipality has come up with a great way to support local businesses during the lockdown. Once a day at 11:00 they open the option for around 30-40 people to purchase a box from a local business. The box costs 50 NIS, and comes with a zoom session with the store owner, where you learn about their business and make something together. There was a beer box, a sushi box, a stationery box, a magic shop box, a cocktail box, a pickles box, and more. The boxes proved to be more popular than city hall envisioned, so after a few days they limited it to one box per resident. Luckily I managed to get three boxes before the limit took place, and this was the first one. We learned how to make two plant holders out of reclaimed pallet wood from a lovely design studio in Jaffa called Molet. They create kits and give workshops using wood pallets and the results are charming and fun. My dad had a workshop with them before the pandemic and really enjoyed it, and I’ll try and get the people at work to go to a workshop there once we can.

This sketchbook page was created as part of Liz Steel‘s Sketchbook Design course and explores using collage and colour blocks as design elements.

comfort pasta

Comfort Pasta Sketchbook Page

I think that there’s nothing better than plain pasta or pasta with a little cheese if you’re not feeling your best: it’s perhaps the ultimate comfort food.
I created this page as part of my Sketchbook Design course with Liz Steel, and this one is all about exploring how to use text as part of my page design. Gave Rohrer & Kilngner Helianthus ink a spin, which is also something that I decided to experiment with. Like many yellow/orange inks it tends to crystallize on the nib and feed, so I’m “sacrificing” a Pelikan Pelikano for the effort. Pelikanos are great beginners pens that don’t get much love in the community probably because they are less ubiqutous than Lamy Safaris and their standard nib offering is a Pelikan medium which is very wide. If you’re an artist I recommend purchasing one (with a converter), as they have less tendency to dry out (with permanent inks) than Lamy Safaris and they indestructible workhorses that have very smooth (and wide) nibs.

Drawing made with Schmincke watercolours on a Stillman & Birn Beta which I’m still on the fence about. It’s better than the Alpha for watercolour washes, but it’s still not great, and it’s not great for pen and ink or fineliners. Also the glue connecting the sections isn’t the best, as it needs forcing apart once you hit a new section, and oftentimes leaves an unseemly tear in the middle. The sketchbooks are good, I just wish that the sections were sewn together and that the paper would lean into being watercolour paper more – so that they would be perfect. However, changes like these would mean a price increase, which would make them unappealing, since a large part of the Stillman & Birn softcover sketchbook appeal is their price. In the end it’s a nice sketchbook that I don’t feel too precious about, which is the main point, and is why I’ll continue using it.

Sketchbook Design: My Tools

I’ve enrolled into Liz Steel’s Sketchbook Design online course, as I like the way Liz designs her notebook pages and I’ve taken an Urban Sketchers workshop (in Porto, 2018) which was excellent. Liz sent the first intro videos to the course to her newsletter subscribers, and so I decided to pick a sketchbook for the course (which starts on January 4th) and draw the tools that I plan on using in it.

The sketchbook that I chose is a Stillman and Birn Beta softcover A5 sketchbook, because it has watercolour friendly paper and I wanted to try that paper out. Here’s a sketch of my tools done with a Lamy Safari Petrol fine nib fountain pen and a Lamy Safari Dark Lilac medium nib fountain pen, both with Noodler’s Bulletproof Black.

I got carried away with the lines when drawing my palette, so I decided to roll with it and just use it to write down the paint details.

Here it is after applying watercolour:

It’s not perfect, but I like the way this page looks.

Here’s my Winsor & Newton Travel Watercolour box, filled with Schminke watercolours (some of them on their second or third refill from the tube). I love this paint box so much that I used my previous one until it fell to pieces. This is my new one, and it’s holding up well so far.

The fountain pens that I’ll be using: Lamy Safari Petrol F nib with Noodler’s Bulletproof Black, Lamy Safari Dark Lilac M nib with Noodler’s Bulletproof Black, Lamy Safari Charcoal EF nib with J. Herbin Bleu Pevench, Sailor Fude MF pen with Noodler’s Lexington Grey (Bulletproof ink).

My non fountain pens are my beloved Saedtler pigment liners in 0.3 and 0.7 and a Uni-ball Signo broad white.

The pencil I will use is a vintage Eagle Turquoise “Chemi Sealed” H drawing pencil. I just love everything about these pencils, and I really wish that they were still in production.

My brushes: a Raphael round travel brush, I’m not sure what size. There’s a good chance that I’ll replace it with a better round brush as the course progresses, as I’m not enamoured with it. The black brush in the middle is a Winsor & Newton Series 7 no 2 Kolinsky sable brush. The white and silver brush below is a Rosemary & Co R12 Sable/Nylon Dagger brush, and it’s a brush that I haven’t 100% mastered but that I’m growing to like with use.

That’s it for my tools at the moment. I’ll update this blog with my progress as the course takes place, and I’ll be sure to note if my tools change throughout.

Diamine Monboddo’s Hat Ink Review

Diamine Monboddo’s Hat intrigued me from the moment I heard the name and saw the colour, but I have too much ink already, so it took a while before I caved in and bought a small bottle of it, and then a while more before I had the chance to use it.

Ever since Lamy Dark Lilac made its appearance a few years ago all dark purple inks have been judged against it, perhaps unfairly. There is more than one shade of dark purple in the world, and in any case unless you’re really set on trying to replicate Dark Lilac’s hue there’s really no need to create that comparison. Let inks stand for themselves first, and then let people know how close they are to an ink they may own or look to purchase.

Diamine Monboddo’s Hat has a delightful name and was made in collaboration with the Fountain Pens UK Facebook group. Diamine’s collaborations have all been interesting so far, and this one isn’t different. Monboddo’s Hat is a reddish leaning deep purple with a green gold sheen that can easily be slipped into office use rotation without anybody noticing. I have used Tomoe River paper to bring out the most of its sheen and shading, but even here it’s not a wild ink.

It’s hard to get the lighter hue of the ink to show while writing, but I made a quick sketch which shows the colour variation Monboddo’s Hat has:

Use Tomoe River paper and tilt it a bit to see the greenish-gold sheen this ink provides.

You can see the sheen on the top row here. Looking at the writing without tilting the paper makes them just look like an almost black purple.

It was fun doodling around with this ink. Here’s a closeup on all that Monboddo’s Hat has to offer:

The sketch was done using a Nakaya fine elastic nib. Where I put less pressure and moved the nib faster you see the lighter shades of purple and less sheen:

I used a fine brush to draw this flower, and a drop of water to show that Monboddo’s Hat isn’t waterproof or water resistant (nor does it claim to be):

Sheen on display:

Regardless of if it’s a good substitute for Lamy Dark Lilac or not, Monboddo’s Hat is a wonderful ink that is worth buying. The shade is dark but still vibrant, the sheen adds interest and pizzaz, and it’s a lot of fun to draw with if you have that inclination. Being a Diamine ink it’s also affordable and easily obtainable, with the added plus of being part of a welcome collaboration between a very old brand and a very modern community.