Monday, October 9, 2017

Review: Rossi 1931 Notebooks

Today I will be reviewing for Rossi 1931, an Italian stationery company founded in Borgo San Lorenzo, Florence. They produce greeting cards, journals, decorative and writing papers, and other fine stationery.

I was kindly sent ten notebooks to try out, and was excited when a huge package from Italy landed on my doorstep. 

The first three notebooks varied in size, but had the same cover material. The smallest notebook had blank pages, while the other two were lined.
The paper was a smooth and creamy off-white, on which I decided to test my most used pens -- the Pilot G-2 07 and Sakura Pigma Micron 05. 

As you can see, there is some bleed through with the Micron. I was pleased to see only some ghosting with my Pilot.

Again, minimal ghosting of the Pilot G2 is present, but nothing obstrusive.

Moving on to this style of notebook, you can see that the cover design is similar. However, the A5 size has blank pages and a sewn binding, whereas the smaller one has lined pages and spiral binding.

This A5 notebook made me smile, with its lobster cover and red underwater design. Again, this one also has blank pages and a sewn binding.

The hardcover lined notebooks pictured above made me swoon--I loved the French words and the vintage look. The larger one has gold detail, and both of their elastic closings are similar to the Moleskine.

Speaking of gold detail, this hardcover blank notebook was also a pleasure to page through. Do you see the gold-lined pages? 

This Pinocchio notebook has a fun and playful look. With the spiral binding and elastic, it looks like a very classy notebook to bring to school or work.

Overall, I am very impressed with the quality and design of these notebooks. I would be slightly wary about the type of pen to use, but Rossi notebooks work well with my primary writing utensil. While I've always been minimal with my journal covers, the decorative aspect certainly appeals to a number of vintage and stationery aficionados.

Disclosure: I was sent these notebooks in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Mushrooms and autumn

It was the first day of autumn, yesterday. I saw a mushroom peeking out from the uneven grass of someone's yard. It made me realize how much I missed painting these things of fall: fungi, colorful leaves, fiery trees.

I cannot wait.

Friday, September 15, 2017

New books, Pentel paints

It's been a little difficult waking up early again and getting back into the swing of classes, but 18th century satire should help. I've been wanting to read Candide by Voltaire for quite some time, so it was nice to find it at a used book sale earlier this week.

My brother also gave me his Pentel watercolor set, which had sat unopened for a long time. I squeezed the tube paint into a small plastic palette, and have been using it since. 

I've been doing a bit of what one would consider to be urban sketching. It just feels so liberating to draw with light, fast pen strokes to capture the essence of a subject. There's a lot for me to still learn, but for now the lack of "rules" has been enjoyable.

Earlier, I mentioned that I've been exploring different drawing and painting styles. I enjoy the slow, layer-over-layer style of watercolor painting, but trying out new things is always a good experience.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Started in my Moleskine

My first Moleskine came in last month, a pocket hardcover with blank pages. I will be doing a more thorough post with thoughts later on, but I thought I'd mention how easy it is to carry around. Considering that I fill up notebooks extremely quickly, I really appreciate the simplistic and no nonsense style of these.

As you can see from the photo, it's smaller and more compact than my Midori.

It's been a little over a week, and I've written a ton. I've also added in washi tape and painted a little, which even surprises me. I've never been too into crafty journaling--I write my words, and that's usually it. But I've been getting a lot of inspiration from different sources, and I've found that I do (sort of) like the color that tape or paint gives to a page.

I wanted a Moleskine so I could at least say that I tried it out--I mean, I've heard from a number of people who have acted as though it was the god of all notebooks. More on whether I agree with that statement later...

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Review: ZLYC Traveler's Notebooks

ZLYC traveler's notebooks in dark coffee, compared to Midori traveler's notebooks in black.
Today I will be reviewing for ZLYC, a company whose original aim has been to provide handmade items for their customers. Their main products are handmade leather journals, wallets, purses, and wooden watches. They state that in their brand, one can "find the charm of handmade crafts." 

I was kindly sent the ZLYC Traveler's Notebook set of three in dark coffee to review for you all. The set is usually around $40 on Amazon, but you can buy the passport or standard size individually as well.

My notebooks came packaged inside of a box with the ZLYC logo.

Inside, both notebooks were wrapped in plastic bags. Under them was a canvas bag and card.

Both the passport and standard size covers came with extra black elastic, as well as three inserts: lined, blank, and calendar. These inserts were held by orange elastics, which contrasted really well with the dark brown leather.

The leather itself is buttery smooth to touch.

Among the aspects I want to point out about ZLYC, I especially like how the notebooks are sewn, rather than stapled. It makes them feel much more secure.

Both ZLYC and Midori have tin clasps, although they differ in color and shape. The ZLYC elastic is also thicker than Midori's.

I know that some people don't like how Midori covers have the elastic knot on the back cover, which can interfere with writing. They might appreciate the fact that the ZLYC elastic starts at the spine.

I'll start with the standard cover.

The standard cover came wrapped with the leather pen holder. I tried housing one of my Pilot G2s in the case, but it was a tight fit. Realistically, I don't see myself using it.

The blank insert has off-white, creamy paper. I noted that the ZLYC paper felt slightly thicker than Midori's.

The PVC insert has a zipper pouch and card slots. The plastic feels fairly durable. If desired, you could turn your notebook into a wallet.

This calendar insert has a strange format, with every two pages containing squares numbered 1-31. It's not something I'm accustomed to, so I don't think I'll be using the passport or standard calendar inserts.

I liked the lined insert, especially because I enjoy writing. The grey dashed lines are inconspicuous and easy on the eyes.

It would be rather redundant to show photos of the passport inserts, as they are virtually the same as the standard's--apart from the smaller size. I thought it would be helpful to take out my inserts and compare the ZLYC passport cover to Midori's.

I didn't enjoy how tight the elastics were. As you can tell from the photo above, the Midori cover lays pretty flat, whereas the ZLYC passport curls inwards--a sure sign of tight elastics. This made removing inserts a hassle. I didn't have this issue with the standard notebook cover, though.

Something I also noticed was how the ZLYC cover was slightly wider than Midori's. Often, when using three paper inserts or so in a Midori notebook, there's a bit of "overhang." Due to ZLYC's larger cover, one doesn't face the same problem. 

Because I wanted to show how the ZLYC notebook looked after a week of use, I decided that I would take the passport size out everyday.

This is my ZLYC after a week of use. I was pleasantly surprised at how easily the leather was scratched and scuffed up, but I guess that's the "vintage" aspect of it. The dark coffee color is really good for those who want the Indiana Jones look right away.

In addition, I was interested in seeing how the paper would hold up to watercolor and ink. I wasn't expecting professional watercolor paper quality, but I wanted to know if painting was possible.

The paper holds up surprisingly well to watercolor. Warping of the page was expected, but there was no bleed through or damage to the other pages. As you can see from the above photo, I used my Pilot G2 pen and experienced ghosting and what appears to be a dot that bled through. This did not affect future writing.

The verdict? The ZLYC notebooks are an affordable alternative to Midori. They come with extra inserts, and gain a lot of character in a short amount of time. I'm happy with the feel of the leather and the paper. This set would be a good option for writers and journalers alike.

Disclosure: I was sent this notebook set in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

On keeping book translations

I want to know whether or not I'm the only one who keeps copies of book translations to read in the future. The Stranger by Albert Camus is one of my all-time favorite books, but I know that with all translations of foreign novels, some meaning is lost. I've always wanted to read foreign literature in their original languages.

So I've kept this French copy, in hopes that I will be able to read it at some point. It motivates me to keep going with learning French. Perhaps not knowing some words during classes frustrates me, or memorizing grammar rules is tedious. But at the end of the day, I know that the work will pay off and I'll be able to read a number of French books, including L'├ętranger

While thinking about this, I realized it could be compared to the actions of individuals who purchase clothes a size or two smaller, in hopes that they will someday be able to fit into them through hard work and weight loss. 

So this book is one of my many motivations for learning French. But as someone who loves literature, it's a damn good one. Do any of you do the same (keeping objects), but not necessarily for language learning?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A painted fish and reading

I had to pull out some of my smaller paintbrushes for this one, as the fish scales require more detail. 

What have you been reading? The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan caught my eye recently. It is one of those books that you know you need to read, but never find the time to. Well, now I've found the time--and the book has not disappointed. Learning about the relationships between humans and plants, I've really been savoring the language.

I've been focusing more on drawing cartoons, as it's just something that I've never really explored before. I like how free it is--I don't have to worry over whether or not it looks realistic. I can take illustrations in the direction I desire. 

So perhaps I'll stick with cartoons for now. Though, to be perfectly honest with you, The Botany of Desire is really pushing me to paint a realistic apple. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Poem excerpt on inside page

The inside cover pages of notebooks are always precious spots to decorate--with words, with tape, something that sticks. It's the first thing I flip to, and for that I want something that holds special meaning.

I absolutely adore the poem "The Tent" by Naomi Shihab Nye, and so I decided to write down an excerpt. It's beautiful and a work you want to remember.

The Tent
Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952
When did hordes of sentences start beginning with So?
As if everything were always pending, 
leaning on what came before.
What can you expect? 
Loneliness everywhere, entertained or kept in storage.
So you felt anxious to be alone.
Easier to hear, explore a city, room,
mound of hours, no one walking beside you.
Talking to self endlessly, but mostly listening.
This would not be strange.
It would be the tent you slept in.

Waking calmly inside whatever
you had to do would be freedom.
It would be your country.
The men in front of me had whole acres
in their eyes. I could feel them cross, recross each day.
Memory, stitched.  History, soothed.
What we do or might prefer to do. Have done.
How we got here. Telling ourselves a story
till it’s compact enough to bear. 
Passing the walls, wearing the sky,
the slight bow and rising of trees.
Everything ceaselessly holding us close.
So we are accompanied.
Never cast out without a line of language to reel us back.
That is what happened, how I got here.
So maybe. One way anyway.
A story was sewn, seed sown,
this was what patriotism meant to me—
to be at home inside my own head long enough
to accept its infinite freedom
and move forward anywhere, to mysteries coming.
Even at night in a desert, temperatures plummet,
billowing tent flaps murmur to one other.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Making a watercolor chart for Cotman paints

I thought it was about time that I put together a watercolor chart for my Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolor paints. Mixing colors and painting small squares took a little while, but was enjoyable. 

The set that I usually use is the Cotman sketchers' pocket box, which consists of 12 half pans. However, I used and swapped out two of the original paints. My set is now comprised of:

lemon yellow hue
cadmium yellow hue
yellow ochre
cadmium red pale hue
rose madder hue*
phthalo blue
sap green
viridian hue
burnt sienna
indian red*
burnt umber

*did not come with original set

Below is the scanned color chart. 

I don't know about you, but I always find the mixing and blending of colors to be so fascinating.