November 5, 2017

Stationery: Bits And Pieces

Whoever you are, you use stationery. Some of these items we take for granted are actually genius inventions that we can't do without, and as someone who constantly had to faff about in school with correction fluid, these correction tape dispensers shown at right were the light at the end of the tunnel. Gone were the dark days of dabbing brushes in correction fluid and waiting several minutes for it to dry, and the more recent days of correction pens that frequently got blocked up. Under the tape dispensers are two scratchboard tools given to me in 2016 by Jan Lowe of the Australian Guild of Realist Artists. One is a fibreglass-filament 'brush' and the other is a sharp point, both for scratching board surfaces.

The last item in my stationery showcase is a Cyclograph, a geometric drawing toy similar to Spirograph in the results it produces. As seen here, I spent many an hour as a kid producing these geometrically-patterned circles, but my Cyclograph is over 30 years old now and there are several cracks in the plastic. It's actually quite a brilliant invention. If you see one in a second-hand shop, grab it and don't look back.

August 28, 2017

Stationery: Rulers And Stencils

I have collected dozens of rulers and stencils over the years and thought I'd share some of them with you. Some are bog-standard, others somewhat rarer. In the photo on the right you can see your typical 15cm and 30cm plastic and metal dealies, along with a couple of rolling rulers for making parallel lines and arcs, as well as that odd metal protractor-with-a-ruler-attached contraption that I was sent from Hong Kong. The small KDK rolling ruler I picked up for spare change in some el-cheapo shop in the late '90s, while the Seikoshi rolling ruler was given to me in 1989.

These rulers here are an odd bunch: the top pink one was a free gift from my internet provider OCN in 2001 when I was living in Japan. The little dog attachment shuttles up and down the ruler when you tilt it. I'm not sure what purpose it serves other than to make a little noise. Next is a Yikes! novelty bendy ruler, bought in 1995, a slide rule given away as a free gift in the late '80s, and one of those bendable rulers for drawing curves with. Can't remember what they're called.

Now, onto the stencils. The ones you see here all date from the mid-'80s to the mid-'90s. The most dirty and used ones are made by Helix and are unbreakable – many a DIY sign back then was made with these. The larger green one was part of a kids' stationery set and was more of a novelty, as was the Gothic font one. Even now in the age of computer lettering, they have their own charm.

Finally we have two map-stencils from the UK and dated 1976; I wasn't born then, but someone in England gave me 'em. The green one is something anyone who attended high school in Australia would recognize: it's a Mathaid 4, a maths template which we used in school back then. They are still being made, so I guess they're still being used in schools. As you can see, unlike my 35+ year old Helix stencils, Mathaids are not unbreakable. But if you wanted to draw parabolæ, bell curves or sine waves, look no further.

One more stationery post, then it's back to business!

July 3, 2017

Stationery: Brushes And Paints

More stationery, as promised! This time: a bunch of brushes from my personal collection. I'm no painter by any means (although I have done a few canvases), but a good variety of brushes are must-haves. The two stubby ones at the bottom left in this photo are stencil brushes, which I used to paint on cloth using fabric paint. The others are (from top) a sable fine brush from India, a fat Pentel from Japan, and the next two down I bought in Japan to try and write Japanese characters with. Finally, there are three water brushes – the two Pentel ones are indispensable for sketching in public. Very robust. The one at the bottom is a Korean one with a syringe-like 'plunger' system that is a bit unwieldy, but not bad.

 In this next photo are two paint sets I got in high school. These fairly battered yet robust tins are still my preferred way of carrying around a basic set of colours when needed.
And here is the interior of said tins, in case ya don't know what paints look like. The one at the bottom has been slightly modified over the years. And yes, 'THIS BITES' was written back in high school.

More stationery next time – rulers and stencils, to be precise.

May 17, 2017

Stationery: Pens And Pencils

If you're familiar with my previous posts on this blog, or you know I'm an illustrator/comics artist, this won't come as a surprise, but – I love stationery! And it's not because of the graphic design and other arty stuff I do to occupy my time. My love of stationery goes right back to childhood. When my family emigrated to Australia in 1987, during our stop at Singapore Airport my mum asked my sister and I to choose a small treat from one of the gift shops there. My sister chose a pocket-sized book about the Pink Panther – a book being a useful thing to have on a long flight – but I made the slightly less practical choice of a dark green Stabilo Boss highlighter (the type pictured here).

Even before that I enjoyed drawing with broad-tipped marker pens, even whiteboard markers. And from that came a lifelong appreciation of stationery. I love it all: from the humble pencil and its various grades, to ball-point pens and fountain pens, to coloured markers, brushes, paints, rulers, stencils, and various weights of paper. Not to mention the lesser-used items such as hole punchers, pencil sharpeners, staplers and drawing pins.

I produce most of my work using a computer. In a digital-obsessed world, I think it's important to swing back to those often-overlooked and ubiquitous items that are found on many an office or artists' desk. You can't beat the tactile feel of pens, paper, and other necessities. It is these items I'm posting about here – notable examples from my personal collection. First up: pens and pencils.

On the left here are five interesting pens (well, interesting to me, anyway). At the top is one of those novelty pens that lights up with a blue light. I call it a spy pen, and it was given to me in 2015. I also had one a decade earlier. There's a yellow Sheaffer fountain pen I use fairly regularly with a chunky barrel. Below that is a pale blue Paper Mate 'Tandem', a ballpoint/mechanical pencil combo that first came out in the late '80s. I was given this one in 1989 in primary school, and I still use the pencil. Then come a couple more novelty pens: one from my dad's old workplace in Overseal, England and the other from Britannia airlines – it was bought for me on board a flight to Spain in 1987. So that green highlighter wasn't my first plane-related pen purchase after all.

Next is half a set (my sister got the other half) of Berol Notewriter fine-point markers which were given to me in 1997. If you look closely at the bottom of the box they came in, you can see they were manufactured in December 1982. They still worked when I got them, and they still work now after 25 years (although I haven't used them constantly, of course). All the teachers at my first school in England used these. Berol supplied to the Queen – not hard to see why.

Can you read Japanese on that brown pen? It says Penteru hagaki fude pen (tsuin). It is made by the top Japanese pen company Pentel, and hagaki means postcard, so I'm guessing that's what most Japanese people would use it for – new year's greeting cards and the like. Fude means brush, so it's a brush pen to help you write in that authentic brushstroke style, and tsuin is just the English word twin: it has a much finer (and non-brushy) point on the other end. I don't know if these were sold outside Japan, but I got this one when I was there, in 2001. (I used it to write a thankyou card to one of the teachers at my school for lending me her bike, which went down well!) The three pencils are just reliable ones I use, in particular the blue Staedtler 4H Mars Lumograph, most excellent for my comic pencilling, and I haven't needed to sharpen it in over 15 years. The purple one is a 2H Mitsubishi pencil. And you thought they only made cars, huh.

Next time: more stationery. Paint and brushes, to be precise.

May 14, 2017

Eurovision Infographic IV

Another Eurovision Song Contest done, and for the fourth time, here is my Eurovision stats map.

There were three countries that improved their previous best results this year. Bulgaria placed second and Moldova third (Moldova's song "Hey, Mamma!" was my personal favourite). And Portugal! They won for the first time in 49 attempts! Well done, Portugal. I always like it when a country wins that has never won before. This is the 20th Eurovision I have watched to date, and I have seen a country win for the first time on ten occasions: Estonia in 2001, Latvia in 2002, Turkey in 2003, Ukraine in 2004, Greece in 2005, Finland in 2006, Serbia in 2007, Russia in 2008, Azerbaijan in 2011 and now Portugal.

Highlights of the contest: Moldova's so called "epic sax guy"; Salvador Sobral performing the winning song at the end with his sister Luisa, who'd written it; and Katrina Leskanich (the UK jury spokesperson) telling the hosts that she won Eurovision for the UK in 1997, to which host Volodymyr Ostapchuk told his co-host Oleksandr Skichko that 1997 was the year he (Oleksandr) was born (actually it isn't, he was born in 1991. Phew! I felt really old for a moment there).

And the winning song was performed in the country's native language, for the first time since 2007!
About time, I say.

Lowlights: Israel's possible withdrawal from the Contest permanently; and that moronic prat who bared his spotty backside on stage during the voting performance by Jamala while wearing an Australian flag.