Monday, July 28, 2014

First Place Award, 2014 Butler Institute of American Art's 78th Midyear Exhibition - "Maddie in the Act of Painting"

I'm very proud to post that yesterday my painting "Maddie in the Act of Painting" was awarded First Place at the 2014 Butler Institute of American Art's 78th Midyear Exhibition in Youngstown, Ohio. I really regret not being able to make it there for the awards ceremony on July 27th. The wonderful Leslie Adams, who also won an award at the Midyear this year, took six of the photos included below and generously called my studio phone in Arizona on Sunday afternoon to tell me the good news. Thank you again, Leslie!

"Maddie" is 12" x 12", oil on linen mounted to panel.

My painting on the right side of the doorway.

Shot of the hallway showing the light that comes from above.

Leslie's fantastic drawing that won the Honorable Mention.

My friend Alex Tyng had this wonderful painting, "The Unseen Aspect", in the show.

This is a beautiful museum! So many beautiful paintings in this show! So many artists creating such remarkable work, I'm proud to be included in this show.

And this is what the Butler Institute of Fine Arts looks like from the outside (I found this photo online). Lucky Ohioans!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Fountain Pens

I don't really use fountain pens in the course of my oil painting day, but I'm a compulsive sketcher and note-taker and I'm a fountain pen nerd. Yep, a fountain pen is archaic and it's really pretty silly to collect them, but I wish I had more of these pens. Writing with a fountain pen is a sensual experience, like drinking tea from a real bone china tea cup instead of a stained, chipped mug, not that I don't drink out of stained, chipped mugs all the time. I believe in maximizing small pleasures in life, if at all possible. At least I'm not a snob about expensive pens, as you'll see when you read this.

By the way, there are hundreds of fountain pen/ pencil fan websites and blogs on the internet. If you do a quick blog search you'll come up with a lot of people who are passionate about writing instruments. I guess there are niches for all the myriad obsessions you can imagine, from live-bearing tropical fish to stiletto shoes.  I'm sure I would have a wider readership if I were a stiletto shoe blogger.

Anyway, here are the fountain pens I own at the moment:

Noodler's Ink is a wonderful American company. They make tons of different inks, mostly with weird names and their boxes and labels have arty and fun, funky artwork. Some of the inks from this "boutique" company have come under fire for various reasons, but I'm enjoying the inks so far. They also make terrific pens. I own two - the first is the Ahab Flex Nib (loaded with an apricot ink, either Sailor  or J. Herbin "Orange Indien", I can't remember, sorry. ) I was a little grumpy about the flex nib when I first got it since I thought it was scratchy and slow, but I like it much better now that I've used it a bit. The Ahab Flex pen is made of resin and isn't very expensive at $20.00. I want another one for Christmas.

My second Noodler's Ink pen is free with the purchase of a big bottle of "Heart of Darkness" Eternal Black Noodler's Ink. I'm going to buy ink from Noodler's in part because of the names of the inks. Don't you just love being able to say, "I'll have some of that Heart of Darkness, please!" And definitely a bargain; I got it from Amazon, I think. It doesn't have a plunge mechanism since you're supposed to fill it up with the eyedropper contained in the ink bottle. This pen writes well but it has a bump (an O-ring here?) where you hold it, which I don't like. The bump seems to be common in the fountain pen universe when the cap clicks onto the pen to close it, so if you are essentially anti-bump, see if you can find pens with twist-on-and-off caps. The pen comes with a ballpoint nib which I haven't yet tried out.

Edit: I've destroyed this pen by tinkering with the rubber O-ring. It leaks and makes a huge mess.  It probably not the pen's fault, but there you have it. It's put away until I can figure out what to do with it next.

This is the TWSBI Diamond 580 with an EF nib. I love this TWSBI - and yes, it's more expensive than the Noodler Ahab. It might have been around $50 or $60 and is made in Japan, a country that truly does seem to be crazy about pens and pencils. It feels wonderful and elegant in your hand; I feel like an adult when I hold it. I have a real fondness for these "demonstrator" fountain pens. Since they have clear bodies, you can tell what color ink is in there and how much you have left. It has a very elegant red design on the end of the cap and writes like the Dickens. I have a Noodler's Ink brown ink in there right now.

The Pelican Pura is probably the most expensive fountain pen I own. I bought it during a visit to Montreal for the Waterhouse show at the Montreal art museum a few winters ago. I spent a long time lingering in an underground pen store and ended up buying this. It's a really nice, elegant pen and writes well. I usually use a syringe to fill it up with ink in it's original cartridge. It has a ridge (no O-ring, just a ridge) where the cap clips onto the grip that bothers the callous on my right middle finger. Such a whiny fussbudget. Also, the metal of the pen is cold and feels... well, metallic.

This is another great deal of a fountain pen, costing around $12 or $15, the Pelikano Junior. I've read that it's made for schoolchildren in Europe who are learning to write so that they will learn to appreciate the feel of a elegant writing instrument while learning fine motor skills. What are the chances something encouraging like that will happen in the USA? Let's not even speculate. Think about getting one of these for a budding writer. I love the chubby rubbery grip and the sturdy feel of the design. Look, Mom, no clip!

Update: I accidentally stepped on the blue cap and cracked it. I tried gluing the crack but it still didn't make an airtight seal so the nib was always dried out. This pen is now in the Retired Pens Home for Assisted Living. If you have an extra Pelikano Junior cap, email me, because I really like this pen and don't want to toss it.

This pen is a terrific buy on Amazon, the Nemosine, which I've filled with a waterproof black Noodler's Ink. Two things I like about this are the shape of the grip and the screw-on cap mechanism instead of the clicked on cap.  And as I mentioned before, I like the clear demonstrator ink chamber. The nib is elegant and beautiful.

The Lamy Safari is a German entry-level fountain pen.  I own a pen which is a slight step up from the Safari, but similar to it, the Lami Joy, with a long tapered body and an italic nib. I decided to change out the nib to a regular Fine nib, though. The Lamy is a nice pen with great flow, but to me feels a little industrial and hard to grip. I love the big red clip though, it has a certain industrial vibe.

These are old, battered relics from my past. The white pen is my Osmiroid 65. I don't think the company is in existence now. I used this pen to ink drawings back in the 1970s and it was very precious to me. Same with the Pelikan black and green pens. If I were truly a nice person, or maybe just a person with a lot of income to throw around on pens, I'd send these to a fountain pen hospital and see if I could get them to function, but for one thing, the Osmiroid fills with an odd pump bladder mechanism which was neglected over the years and now looks pretty decayed to me. The other two just look generally wrecked. I think I filled these pens with india ink or possibly a Higgins ink.  The topic of ink uses up a lot of ink and I should write a separate post about inks, I guess, though clearly I'm no expert. Incidentally, I've read that you can now get nanoparticle ink, which contains pigments so fine that Brownian motion keeps the particles from gumming up the works in your fountain pen.