Monthly Archives: May 2015

Fountain Pen Ink and Stillman and Birn Beta Sketchbook

Experimenting with how fountain pen ink and a waterbrush works in my new Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook.




REALLY loving how these colors blend together!



Coloring Books for Grown-Ups

Adult coloring books – so called not because of any questionable content but because of their intricate and time-intensive patterns – have become mega-trendy lately. Case in point, this excerpt from an article posted in The Guardian last month:

“The bestselling title on Amazon in the US right now is not Harper Lee’s hugely anticipated second novel, Go Set a Watchman, or George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series, or even Zoella’s much-mocked but much-bought young adult hit, Girl Online. Instead, Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford is topping the charts, with her colouring books for adults taking top spots on’s bestseller lists.

Basford’s intricately drawn pictures of flora and fauna in Secret Garden have sold 1.4m copies worldwide to date, with the newly released follow-up Enchanted Forest selling just under 226,000 copies already. They have drawn fans from Zooey Deschanel, who shared a link about the book with her Facebook followers, to the South Korean pop star Kim Ki-Bum, who posted an image on Instagram for his 1.6 million followers.

“I think it is really relaxing, to do something analogue, to unplug,” said Basford. “And it’s creative. For many people, a blank sheet is very daunting; with a colouring book you just need to bring the colour. Also there’s a bit of nostalgia there. So many people have said to me that they used to do secret colouring in when their kids were in bed. Now it is socially acceptable, it’s a category of its own. These are books for adults. The art in my books is super intricate.” ”

Source: Alison Flood,


Coloring provides a fun, safe and creative outlet to those who may not have the skill or time to draw images and then color them in themselves. Coloring has also proven itself to be a good stress reliever and relaxation or meditation tool – one that is easily used by anyone with markers, crayons or colored pencils. And it’s fun!

I haven’t tried a particular coloring book yet myself, but have been researching the most popular, so I was excited to come across this link this morning. It’s about this new coloring book full of architecture and cityscape scenes. Which, since am a huge architecture and urban design fan, SOLD! I mean, how awesome does this look!?




This beauty by Steve McDonald is available for pre-order on Amazon, and has a release date of August 11th.

Here are some of the other popular coloring book choices.

The Secret Garden by Johanna Basford (as mentioned in the quote above)

The Secret Garden Coloring Book

The Secret Garden Coloring Book



Balance by Angie Grace (Angie’s Extreme Stress Menders, Volume 1)

Colored by Angie Grace - from Balance (Angie's Extreme Stress Menders Volume 1)

Colored by Angie Grace – from Balance (Angie’s Extreme Stress Menders Volume 1)


Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford:

Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford

Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford


Splendid Cities: Color Your Way To Calm by Rosie Goodwin:

Splendid Cities by Rosie Goodwin

Splendid Cities by Rosie Goodwin


Detailed Designs and Beautiful Patterns (Sacred Mandala Designs and Patterns Coloring Books for Adults) by Lilt Kids Coloring Books

Detailed Designs and Beautiful Patterns Colored Books

Detailed Designs and Beautiful Patterns Colored Books


Helpful Tip:

As I was researching these coloring books, I learned from reading the reviews on Amazon that marker bleedthrough is a big concern in some books. Some are printed on only one side of the page, which minimizes the concern of markers bleeding through – and can easily be combated by inserting a blank piece of paper underneath the one being colored. But in other cases – particularly the most-popular Secret Garden – the pages are printed double-sided, and if you are not careful with what medium you’re coloring with, the markers will bleed through to the other side. Lesson learned: always read the reviews first!


Art Journaling or Daily Planning?

I’ve been in love with planners and organizers for a long time now. But in all my planner geek experiments, I’ve never really considered combining planner functions with bullet journals, notebooks, journals, and art journals too carefully. I started to give it some thought after being asked to write a guest post about it, and realized that over time I’ve been trying to combine lots of different elements into my planner. And maybe that’s why lately my planners never seem to quite “fit” what I want them to do? It’s hard to put my finger on what that is exactly, but something is missing. I’ve been trying to carry around quotes notebooks, planners, art journals, sketchbooks, notebooks for ink samples and fountain pen tests …. and it’s so hard to pick and choose each morning what to take with, when I might want any, all or none of the above that particular day!

So I was reading this blog post from Hali Karla about keeping an everyday art journal, and these words really resonated with me:

I can say that deciding to carry an “everyday art journal” was a game-changer for me. It’s really just an art journal or sketchbook that goes with me everywhere… I actually broke up with my standard planner after getting to know my everyday art journal (it really never worked out between me and the conventional planner no matter how hard we tried anyway).

I use it to jot down ideas, sketch or doodle when I have time to kill or need to pause and be present, to tack in photos and fodder, or capture wise or inspiring words from others that may come my way. Sometimes I write prayers in it, or recipes. I even keep my lists in it. To-do lists, not-to-do lists, shopping lists, gratitude lists, travel itinerary details – all of which can be painted or glued over later if I feel the urge… It really isn’t just an everyday journal – it’s an everything journal for me.

The real beauty of it, though, is that having it all within one cover, over a period of time, makes it really easy to begin to see patterns in my life… I keep other art journals, too – and they often have a variety of styles and flavors within the pages. Yet, while the everyday journal isn’t the prettiest journal I keep, by any means, it’s one of the most precious to my journey.

So I think this might be the next step in my art journal/planner evolution – create an informal planner that’s an “everything journal” first, and a calendar second – instead of the other way around. It seems so revolutionary! But now I really want to try it. But it’s kind of an intimidating thought. I’d love to hear from someone who has done something similar – I can’t find many other examples online.

I’ll leave with this description of an Art Journal from Jane Davenport:

It’s a mix of diary, travel memoir, autobiography, art therapist, visual diary, notebook, scrapbook and sketchbook….plus more… It’s a place, YOUR space, to record and work through your life experience in images, words, colours and collage.

There are NO RULES.

Some links on other great blog posts about art journals, planners and commonplace journals:

“You may want to keep a commonplace book which is a notebook where you can copy parts of books you think are in code, or take notes on a series of events you may have observed that are suspicious, unfortunate, or very dull. Keep your commonplace book in a safe place, such as underneath your bed, or at a nearby dairy.”

Lemony Snicket, Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography

“In my Commonplace book, I jot down snippets, quotes, stanzas. They can be words from a novel, from a poem, from a picture book, from the side of a cereal box. Anything I read that causes me to pause and read again- to stop and savor the words or ponder the message- it all belongs in my book.

This is the heart of my book and what really makes it a treasure, I think.”

– Sarah Mackenzie ,

“Their commonplace then became a kind of personal reading/life log, where they kept notes on anything they wished to remember.

What it’s not is a journal or diary. While some people did use their commonplace for both purposes, many kept them separate, and a commonplace tends to refer to a book of information, not daily logs.”

– Devon Henderson, Chirmer Graphics

“But writing original stuff is damn hard, and as if I needed another diversionary tactic I’ve found myself adopting a delicious little habit of collecting quotes from books and films, words, ideas, snippets from overheard conversations, phrases, epigrams and poems that I see around and about the place.”

Maz, Diving For Pearls

See the Pretty Pretty Planner in action …

Some of my Instagram friends are using, or have tried out, the Pretty Pretty Planner too! Just for fun, check out some pics they’ve posted to Instagram below:


Photo Source: @chicksplanner on Instagram



Photo Source: @candys_nails on Instagram



Photo Source: @meliason12 on Instagram



Photo Source: @khourianya on Instagram



Photo Source: @stylishgameday on Instagram


Somewhere, Beyond The Sea

I’ve been drawn to the Tombow marker medium over and over again in my Stillman & Birn 7×7 Zeta Series sketchbook. I love the bright white paper that gives my brightly colored markers that visual “pop” I’m looking for, cause I’m always about the color! I also like the smooth Zeta Series finish, as it works great with the markers and fountain pens I use, but is still sturdy enough to handle watercolor washes too, for whenever I get that urge. It’s really developing into the ideal combo for me, and as I do more of these sketches I feel like I’m developing a personal style – which is honestly kind of a cool feeling!

So this was last night’s creation. For this piece, I was inspired by artwork I saw that featured this idea of hiding fish in the curves of ocean waves, and thought it was so creative! I knew I had to do a similar theme in my sketchbook. But I had no idea what to do for the sky! So I just started making big random swirly clouds to fill up the space, adding color until it just seemed to complement the bottom half of the piece. I sketched a basic outline with my Lamy Safari fountain pen inked with Platinum Carbon Black ink, colored the areas in with layers upon layers of Tombow markers, and then outlined them with a black Micron brush pen. I’m never usually certain about the colors or when it’s “done” until I just decide I can’t do anything else with it. I quickly reached that point with the clouds after outlining them in, and was like that’s it! I’m calling it!



Also, I’ve had the song “Beyond The Sea” stuck in my head EVER SINCE. I like the original Bobby Darin version best, but also my mind immediately thinks of Finding Nemo now too. Because, it is AWESOME.

My Planner as an Art Journally Thingy

So my friend Amelia Vincent asked me to write a guest blog about using my planner as an art journal for posting on her blog, My ADHD Life. It’s a series of three guest posts from other bloggers about how they user their planners or journals, read more in her post titled Journals, Scrapbooks and Planners, Oh My.

Here is a sneak preview of my post:

When Amelia asked me to contribute to this series of guest blog posts, I was willing to play along, but also wondered to myself “Why? My planner isn’t especially elaborate or scrapbooky!” But I started thinking about it, and surprisingly, somewhere along the way it did kind of develop into a planner with “art journaly” aspects.

……[In my planner] I thought that I’d buy all sorts of stickers and washi tape, and decorate my pages alongside with my appointments, to-do lists, and planned meals – and generally be all sorts of organized! But … I was all gung-ho about the format, and didn’t actually stop to think if I had enough actual “planning” data to fill them.

What actually happened, as I soon found out, is that I had lots of blank pages… the emptiness stared at me, and I stopped carrying it around with me. Which just was not acceptable! So instead, I started filling my blank spaces with doodles.

Read the rest of my guest post here.

Also take a look at the guest posts:

My ADHD Life Guest Blog: When The Cat Pukes On Your Planner, by Dawn Paoletta from Ethusiastically, Dawn.

My ADHD Life Guest Blog: Organized Chaos – Planning With A Purpose, by Jenise Spears from Neicy’s Notes.