Keeping an Art Journal Through a Pandemic

To say that the past few days have been difficult would be the understatement of the year. It’s been brutal on everybody, and harder for some than for others. It’s hard to fight off the existential dread that has been eating away at many of us these past few weeks. We’re almost at the middle of the third week of lockdown and though things are settling down a bit at home, it’s not always comforting to look at the news and see what the government is doing (or not doing). You look at how other countries are responding to the same existential threat and you see very clearly how much our own government has neglected us for years. You don’t really notice it if you’ve worked all your life to not need anything from the government, but when you’re put in a position where your life depends on it, things can get pretty bleak. I started documenting COVID19 around end of January, at a time when I was still wondering I’m overreacting to it (turns out I wasn’t). My husband and I were cautious about this novel virus, at a time when not a lot of people were taking it seriously yet. Then there was a lull in the local news about it, and things went back to “normal” for a time. Then the mad rush to get food before the “enhanced community quarantine”. It seemed like all of a sudden, reality spun out of control and we were struggling to secure our food supplies, herding our little family home, keeping out an invisible enemy while trying to make sense of the government’s haphazard, wildly-swinging policies about the lockdown.

I can still remember the last time I was outdoors. My husband and I were rushing to buy groceries at 6:50PM, making it through the door just 10 minutes before SnR closed. Then rushing home just a few minutes before the 8PM curfew, nervous about how we’re going to get my brother-in-law home from Quezon City when cities are closing borders. It’s like waking up to a new, dystopian version of your world. It’s very disconcerting, to say the least.

To keep calm and to help myself process what’s happening, I’ve begun to write more focused entries on the pandemic, hoping that I will be able to read them a few months from now and marvel at what we all went through.

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Ink Swab: Vinta Romblon 1582

This next Vinta Ink from their Pamana collection is called Romblon 1582 (Black Onyx). The name is derived from the province of Romblon, which is the marble capital of the Philippines. The name was given by Spanish chronicler, Miguel de Loarca in 1582. This is a nicely saturated, wet-flowing black ink with blue and gold sheen. The combination of the sheen on Tomoe River paper looks a bit reddish, though, as you can see from the photos below. Some people may ask why fountain pen users would even think of getting different kinds of black inks when black is black is black. The answer to that is simple, black isn’t just black. There’s a color bias even for black inks, and of course there are differences in saturation and they way they look when they’ve dried on paper. This particular black ink looks like a warm shade of  black, although a closer look will show that the base color itself is a cool shade of bluish grey. The sheen gives it a layer of complexity so that it looks warm under certain kinds of light and cool in others.

This ink is pretty wet-flowing, but it dries fast (about 10-15 seconds on Tomoe River paper, using a medium nib). I think it’s pretty well-behaved. I love that Vinta came out with a black ink that’s great for daily use. For people that like to use fountain pen ink for art, you’re in for a surprise once you add water. The ink explodes from black to pink and teal. It’s so cute. Of all the Vinta Inks that I used for art, this is the easiest to use. That’s worth considering if you’re interested in making art journal entries.

Here are a few close ups of the writing sample:

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Ink Swab: Vinta Pamana 2018

The next ink I tried in Vinta’s Heritage collection is Pamana 2019 (Heritage Brown). The color’s name is to commemorate the first anniversary of Vinta Inks and their commitment to sharing Filipino culture to the world through their products. The dark, reddish-brown ink reminds me of the color of pear wood. It has a very subtle greenish-silver sheen to it, but the sheen isn’t what you’d call very noticeable. The shading is gorgeous–dark orange, red, dark brown. It’s a warm color, and nicely saturated too so it’s great for daily writing. While wet, the ink is decidedly dark brown, but it lightens to its reddish shade after a few minutes. The flow is a tad wetter than moderate, and it takes about 15-20 seconds to dry with a medium nib.

Here are a few close ups of the writing sample and a comparison with Fortaleza and Damili:

Pamana will be available at Vinta Inks soon.

Ink Swab: Vinta Fortaleza 1797

The next ink from Vinta’s third collection that I tried is Fortaleza 1797. The name is from the Miag-ao Church in Iloilo which is also known as a Fortress church. The color is a distinct ochre and was constructed in 1797 using materials such as eggs and limestone. This church is a UNESCO heritage site.

Oh my gosh, look at it.  Needless to say, this ink is a lot prettier in person. Brown ink fans will certainly love this one. This is a lovely shade of brown with hints of  yellow, orange, and some red. There’s no sheen or shimmer on it, just good old fashioned shading, and boy, what gorgeous shading. The longer you look at it, the more fascinating it is. The shading on this ink runs from dark brown to orange to some warm, butterscotch yellow. The effect is quite eye-catching, as if the letters are glowing a subtle shade of light orange.

The flow is moderate, but again I would recommend that you use it with a wet writer to really see the gorgeous shading on this ink. It’s saturated enough to make it more than comfortable to read. It’s not waterproof, and if you like to use fountain pen ink in art, this one’s pretty fun to mix with water. Here are some close ups of the writing sample:

This one’s also going on my to-buy list, obviously.

Fortaleza 1797 will be available in Vinta Inks soon.

Ink Swab: Vinta Damili 1572

I received some samples of Vinta Inks’ new collection and I must say, the colors are pretty interesting. This is one of my favorites. It’s called Damili 1572. Damili is a term that refers to the art of red clay pottery popular in Vigan. A very apt name for the terracotta red color of this ink. The color reminds me of MB’s Red Fox. I think it’s really pretty and vibrant. I tried it in two pens, it flowed wet in one and a tad dry in another. I suggest using it with a wet-writing pen so that you can really appreciate how vibrant the color is. It dries pretty quickly too, about 10-15 seconds with a medium nib on Tomoe River paper. It’s the shade of a bright, red-orange tomato. So cute! I love the expressive shading on it too. There seems to be a light silvery sheen on it but I wouldn’t say it’s too noticeable.

Here are a few close ups of the writing sample.

The third collection of Vinta Inks will be available for preorder soon.

Parker Vacumatic Debutante Emerald Green

Here’s the newest addition to my pen family. What a beauty it is. It’s a Parker Vacumatic Debutante in Emerald Green and it’s in near mint condition. I have to admit I’ve slowed down significantly in buying pens recently, focusing more on using and caring for those that I already have. I’ve shaved down my wishlist to just a handful of pens that I still want to buy at some point, but I already decided that I wouldn’t be acquiring any more pens that aren’t in my wishlist. This specific pen is in my very short wish list, so I picked it up when a friend told me about it.

There’s not a lot of discoloration on the barrel, you can still see through it. The celluloid rings are clear and pearlescent. It has a blue diamond on the clip and a striped jewel of the same celluloid material on the cap. It also has a chevron and diamond cap band. It’s amazing that something this pristine-looking was made in 1939, just a year before my maternal grandmother was born. This pen has a speedline filler, which was discontinued in 1942 because the metal was used for the war effort.

It says a lot about how vintage pens are made. They can still be enjoyed decades after not just as relics from the past but as writing implements. Here are a few more photos of the pen’s details:

Rampage

Yesterday’s journal entry was about my thoughts on the book I’m currently reading, “Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila” by James M. Scott. It’s hard to read this  book continuously. Honestly, it gave me nightmares, the same way that reading books about the Holocaust gives me nightmares. I wrote about how I felt while reading the excerpts from journals and survivor accounts. To think that some of the people living during that time are still alive. I recall back in my college days, one of our professors took us to this home for the aged in Quezon City. This home was different though because the occupants are all former comfort women. We sat with them individually, listened to them, kept them company. This book has graphic descriptions of the human cost of war, and knowing this, one would hope that world leaders would give it a lot of thought before even considering provoking one again. Knowing history is quite different from learning from it, I suppose.

Maid – Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive

Maid - Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive
Category:
Publisher:
Published: January 22, 2019
Stephanie Land writes about poverty in America, being a single mom, being on welfare, and surviving intimate partner abuse. She writes about her experience working as a maid while she supports herself and her daughter and studies to be a writer.

When I read this book, I knew right away that the reactions would be polarizing. There will  be a lot of people who will hate it, and a lot like me who will identify with it somehow. I think that people who have never been poor will benefit a lot from reading it. The very first chapter of the book drew me in an kept me reading, and it made such an impact on me because the scenario she described there is somewhat familiar. If you've ever been poor at some point in your life, many of the things she wrote here will resonate with you.

The  book goes back in forth to her past and present. She didn't grow up poor, but it showed how a series of events and decisions led her to a path of poverty. She shows what being poor in America looks like for many people, and it's far from the stereotype that people on welfare are all lazy. More often than not, those who work hardest are paid least for their backbreaking labor.

Land writes about the stigma of being poor, that feeling of never doing enough, and the debilitating guilt of not being able to provide better for her child. She writes about some things that some people may not understand or identify with, like why poor people may often spend their money on what others may consider frivolities. She writes about how being poor means that you're one unforeseen expense away from spiraling out of control. An accident, an illness, any sudden expense may upset the budget that's already stretched extremely thin and end up in homelessness. Every moment of every day is lived on a precarious edge. For some people, losing a month's paycheck is a hardship; for some, it sets off a series of events that will take a long time and a lot of effort to recover from.

She writes about the attitude of people towards those like her who are on welfare and uses food stamps, and honestly it made my heart ache. It's so easy to dehumanize people who are poor without even bothering to learn why and how they got there.

Being from a third world country, it fascinates me how many welfare programs there are in the US. They're not perfect, and there are so many paperwork to submit and hoops to jump through before you can qualify for them, but they're there. People can really apply for them and these programs can be very instrumental in helping people get back on their feet. It's so different from the experience of being "third world poor", where there's no single real, functioning welfare program in place. I read about these programs with a hungry heart, wondering if my country will ever get to the point where the government cares for the most vulnerable members of society.

The writer does not romanticize poverty, though she does recognize that the things that are the sources of happiness in her life are those that can't be purchased with money. It's not whole chapters of whining, but an appeal to see struggling people as people. To really see and have empathy for them and not just dismiss them. She writes about having to fight for every single dollar as she lives among what seemed like inaccessible prosperity around her. She writes about how alone she feels, not just because she had separated from her abusive partner and is raising her daughter alone, but because practically all of her family had checked out of her life. She also writes about the sprinkling of people she encountered who treated her as their equal, who respected the work that she is doing and the effort she is making to survive. To them, she's "Stephanie", not just "the maid".

I really loved reading this book. It's one of those books that you wish was a lot longer than it is.

Additive Pen – Double Helix

I’ve been so curious about this pen since I first saw it online, so when Everything Calligraphy offered to let me try it out, I immediately said yes. The pen came in this nondescript cardboard box and I admit that I forgot to take unboxing photos because I was so excited to try it. I inked it right away and took the photos below after the pen had been cleaned.

The pen came in this plastic tube, which I think is secure enough for transporting the pen. There’s a syringe with a blunt needle and a little container of silicon grease. I was surprised that the pen was so long. Here’s a comparison with other pens that I have. It’s 6.69 in long when capped and 5.9 in long uncapped. I’m not too crazy about the fact that the cap isn’t the same size as the barrel, it kind of sticks out when the pen is capped. It is quite easy to forget about the cap when you’ve inked the pen, it just looks so interesting.

The double helix is not your usual demonstrator. This pen is an eyedropper, with two reservoirs that form the double-helix. It’s certainly a looker. I also really liked the section on this pen, it’s long, smooth and comfortable to hold. It’s also not too heavy, so it’s great to use for long writing sessions.

The finial has the double-helix design stamped on it. I think that looked pretty cool.

The nib (Jowo) has no logo on it, just the simple filigree on the sides and the nib size.

This pen is 3D-printed, and the inside of the barrel looks textured. A bit like frosted glass. It smells strongly of nail polish. I inked this pen three times, with three different colors, just to see how it will hold up. I used Vinta Maskara, Sailor Ink Studio 123, and Parker Blue Black.

The nib is a #6 Jowo steel nib. It’s smooth with a hint of feedback and it’s a moderately wet writer. It’s not soft but it is a smooth enough writer to make the writing experience pretty enjoyable. Here’s a video of the writing sample:

It was a bit difficult to get the ink flowing in the double-helix. I read the instructions and it did indicate that you might need to add a surfactant to make the ink flow easier. It’s pretty easy to do this, I learned this little trick from Mona (of FPNPh) a few weeks ago and it really helped my dry-flowing inks to flow better. Anyway, all you need to do is to dip the tip of a toothpick in dishwashing liquid, then dip that in the ink that’s inside the pen. That’s all it takes. Don’t mix in a drop of the dishwashing liquid into the barrel. Just dip the tip, screw in the nib unit and shake it a bit. Et viola, it flows! I’ve had to do this little trick to two out of three inks that I tried. The Parker ink didn’t need the surfactant to flow, but it’s noticeably less flow-y than the other inks that had surfactants added in.

I admit that I was nervous about cleaning the pen. When it comes to demonstrators, you kind of have to be ready for the fact that you can’t keep it pristine for long. The double helix design of the pen made me wonder if the barrel would stain too terribly. I followed the cleaning instructions on the slip of paper that came with the box and it worked like a charm. All I had to do was rinse out the barrel (that was easy enough, the ink just flowed out without issues) and then fill it with isopropyl alcohol. The instructions called for 99% isopropyl but I used just 70% isopropyl, it worked just fine. I didn’t even need to soak it too long. According to the instructions, don’t leave it for longer than 4 hours. I just left it in the barrel for less than 30 minutes. Gave it a vigorous shake while covering the opening with my thumb, then emptied the barrel.

I repeated this two more times and left the barrel to dry. There were no stains left by the end of the third rinse. I’m not sure I would be brave enough to use Baystate Blue on this, though. I’m pretty happy that the stain washed out relatively easily.

Overall, I think it’s a pretty interesting design, which comes with its own pros and cons. It does write well and holds a lot of ink. It’s fun to watch the ink sloshing around, I found myself flipping over and over just to watch it doing that, lol. I think it’s a pretty cool concept and design. It’s certainly an interesting way to challenge our perception of what a fountain pen should look like.

Additive Pens are available in Everything Calligraphy.