Monday, March 13, 2017

Give Pencil a Chance, Part II

I'm slowly making my way through "A Sudden Light," a story about trees, forests, and robber barons who made their wealth at the expense of trees, and there are passages about Teddy Roosevelt, the old bad word who fought to conserve the forests and natural habitats of the US while going on safari trips in Africa, the dirty, old two-faced bad word. And ghosts, a grandpa with dementia, secrets, men loving men, and logging, and a boy who discusses . . . And a boy who talks like no boy I ever knew or know. I think I'm sticking with it because it is a book about trees, and how trees have their own secret way of fighting back against humans bent on destroying them for wealth, and out of blatant ignorance that is simply another bad word. It comes from "to ignore." The book is about much more than that, but I take from it what I will, for reasons of my own. Each reader is allowed at least that. A tree might well ask of us, "What would the world be like without, without us?" What would be your response? Without taking time to think on it? I already know what I'd say. I'd say, "I don't want to know."

From mighty trees paper and pencils are born. Paper comes from cotton too. Last night, I caught a second repeat of a Sherlock Holmes episode in which part of the answer to a riddle has to do with paper, and the smartest person in the room said, "No!" Wait. No. That's from the movie with Clive Owen and Denzel Washington where the answer is "paper is no longer made from wood, but from cotton!" I think. No! No! No! It's money that's no longer made from paper, but from cotton! Thank you, Ambien. Sweet dreams are made of ye. And recently, I shared with you some of the logging industry's history in Jasper. Serendipitously, I read this, from A Sudden Light:  

"Timber is the most dangerous industry in the world, my father said. The statistics, even today, are staggering. The number of deaths . . . And in brutal ways, being crushed to death by a tree that twists wrong, or losing an arm and bleeding out, or getting hit by a widow-maker."

"What's that?"

"A dead limb that gets hung up in a tree. When you start to chop down a tree, it'll come loose. And they can be huge. . . "  

I also watched Robert Duvall in "Broken Trail, late last night," when he told his nephew, "Never use money to measure wealth." Isn't that what we do though? I Googled that gem to see if Duvall borrowed it from someone like Cicero, Larry McMurtry or some other wise Biblical-sounding soul, to discover it's a Duvall original. He told Oprah Winfrey in an interview once that had he not become an actor, he would have been a preacher. His second choice surprised me because he played one in a movie with Farrah Fawcett. I am pleased that he chose acting instead. 

So, that's a good part of what I've taken from A Sudden Light. I'm only one hundred and three pages in though, still and all I cannot imagine living in a home that has fifty rooms, owning a railroad and the land the rails are laid out on atop ties built from trees destroyed at my bidding. Who could be so greedy? Why must the rich be driven to amass more riches than even one person who might be richer? I hate it when people say someone is "richer than God." How disgusting. What a lie to attach admiration and pride to. 

Sorry. I only meant to write a little bit more about pencils and how rich and lovely they smell. Oh. And to tell you this:  I got a penciled letter! Today! 

JC put it on the kitchen counter like he'd decided to finally show his poker hand. "You got a letter written in pencil," he said. Those words addled my pate! The writing was clear, unblemished, legible . . . and so like a hand penned with gray ink. Pay dirt! Thank you, Susan. I wish everyone could see your return address. Pure poetry in pencil! Seriously. With a flourish too, girl. And the little birds trill from the thrill of being assigned the joyful mission of winging your letter to Texas. This is so righteous. 

This case of the pretties just keeps on gettin' prettier. I tasted grape first, then limeade, and ended with  an orange dreamscicle. Oh, to the yum, gimme-gimme-gimmie some! It's been warm enough here to warrant at least a limeade popscicle. Bryers, naturally. The ice cream truck has been through once already while some folk are still making ice cream from snow, huh? No matter. It too shall melt. Thank you, clever-clever Jean. 

There's a synchronization here. Don't you just like it when the back of an envelope is as charming as the front? And what's not to like about it bearing some good old Dear Abby-like advice? A letter is better. Indeed. For real. It seals the deal for me. I'm liking that washi tape, too, but that color? Umm-hmm! Thank you, Angela. 

Pencil by Pentel. Plays well with Moleskins. Eraser gets a B+ or better.

Pencil by Albert Elovitz:  Oh what a pencil! The eraser stinks.

I forget which pencil but this is only meant to show how a different pencil gives different results. Naturally a softer "lead" will make even a simple line look great. Think of the advantage varying line widths bring to any sketch, and you'll love going softer.

Don't you just love a smudge? I truly do not mind my fingerprints sticking all over a page, unless it's meant to be smudge-free. Such un-minded evidence becomes my "Kilroy was here" signature--good or bad.

Soft has a price tag though. A harder lead is better when you're going to lay down some color. Soft will ruin a light color Copic. And erasing will damage your paper. Goodbye sizing! But if you're too lazy to get out of bed to grab the right pencil, then it's all on you.

This is almost too good to be believed. Who knew the day would come when these two would have their day in the sun? It's Duly & Friend! Duly Noted and I first became acquainted back in 2015. He's way cool, huh? Pencils ruled even back then, and some limners really would work for paper, once upon a time. Damage done with a carpenter's pencil. *hard grin*

Done with "pencil" on an iPad. 

Done in marker mode, but I just like this little bird so much. Can't you tell I was still test driving? Making out in the middle of a bout with insomnia gives one time to improve almost any skill. Pencils with erasers are more forgiving; pencils without erasers make you more determined to get it right sooner. Erasing is a gift. You keep getting chances to make it better--be it a drawing, or a letter. 

You hug a tree every time you use a pencil. Timber--rr!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Give Pencil a Chance, Part I

This girl has logged a few miles in  her prime; she's fallen off a desk or two; she has a long history of chewing out the toughest challenge in any office or classroom, yet still and all she has miles to go before the day comes when she'll be carted off to a lonely plot in a recycling yard.

A classic. She might be missing a part but she has style, she has grace, she has a place in the heart of Penciled In. We won't be able to do a whole lot without her in the future, now that we have her. She's been with JC for more than a few years. And now she belongs to me. JC had to give me a primer of sorts on how to get her up and running; I'd inserted her at a slant; I had no idea how to attach her to my desk top. The sharpeners from classrooms were bolted down. To the wall. There was always a waste paper basket beneath to catch the wood shavings and fine graphite powder. 

You can buy graphite powder in cake form, inside a lovely little tin. Or, you can save your ground bits and use them with your fingers for soft, moody sketches. No water or brushes necessary. Use paper with tooth for best effects.  

Here's a glimpse. See? I've tried it just the once. I prefer pencil, and grit. Graphite grit. A funny thing about all the pencils I use? I can taste the graphite on my tongue. It seems to leach through my fingers to my taste buds, as if by magic. It puts my teeth on edge, and a drink of water tastes of crystal; my mouth fills with saliva just telling you about it. It's all so odd but not too unpleasant.

Back in the day pulp wood was the bread earner in our hometown. Killing trees was the number one industry. Our town motto was "Jasper: the jewel of the forest." Once upon a time, turpentine was king too. Most lives revolved around loggers, chain saws, pulp wood trucks, and death by tree. We almost always knew which parts of the forests were under siege from the sounds that echoed through the hollow. I can still hear the angry buzzing, a shouted warning, and the loud crack that meant at least one more tree had been felled. Since we lived along one of the main highways, we waved like maniacs at each pulp wood truck that slowly "sped" past our home through long summers, and the eighteen wheeler drivers always blasted their horns in response to our blow-your-horn signals: arms pumping like we were master/mistress of the horn cord. 

The saddest days were when someone came calling on his way home during the week--a clear sign that someone had been injured or had died. Someone always stopped by my grandmother's after work to let her know. When party lines made it to our neck of the woods, word spread like wild fire, and the community came together before water could boil, to help those left in the wake to grieve and bury their dead. Those brave men never visited during the week when they were begrimed with resin, the forest's detritus, and soil, unless a fellow logger lost his life in the battle of man vs tree. They were that conscious of being respectful as a welcome visitor. 

There were rare days when a less than secure load let loose a single log, or a full load, but it happened. Chains broke. Armless trees rolled, dragging Death with them in vengeance. Death was a constant threat to truck drivers as well as civilians. Every student driver knew to leave a more than respectable distance between their vehicle and a pulp wood truck. Somehow, those accidents were just as painful as stories of how trees kicked back--killing even the most seasoned logger mere feet away from co-workers, who wondered in the telling "How did that tree miss me?" Those men found comfort in Grandma's "It wasn't your time to go." Or, "It might not be your way to go like that." She and they both prayed their going would come from "old age, being just plain worn out," or finally "getting the long rest they needed after a lifetime of toil and serving the Lord." They worked hard through the week, went to town on Saturdays, and you know they were in church come Sunday. Grandma got a lot of company after church as those good men made their way home to a nice dinner and an evening of rest before Monday rolled around again.

So, yes, I inherited her. She came in a lovely Mama's Got a Brand New Bag kind of way. JC kept the mug, and he kept the blue Jacobs bag since blue is his favorite color, but he gave me the blue highlighters too. A blue ball point pen. And a lovely blue pencil. It has blue "lead." I cannot explain the roll of single ply toilet paper. That stapler is about as heavy as a brick. It's a Swingline, so you know it will outlast me in a time showdown.

 I "unearthed," as in "dusted off" a half-full box of pencils, with a sneaking suspicion that they belong to Erin. I remember those Batman, piano, and Coke pencils. She was crazy for those funky erasers. And she had a serious Batman addiction. The doll pencil is a souvenir gift from her hair stylist after a  Jamaican vacation. That woman sold me on bean pies and rum as being the cure for summer doldrums! The stylist, not Erin. I got a pencil too. It's here somewhere.

A pencil from Sydney, a gift from an Aussie friend who visited one summer. A cute little stuffed kiwi has place of pride on the top shelf in my studio. I still wear the sweatshirt. I am so tempted to sharpen this baby, but I'm not the official heiress to all this graphite. Yet.

Now. Most pencils have erasers. When did it stop being the norm? And, why? I know! I know! A rubber baron or baroness fell out with the pencil makers and decided to withhold their erasers, thinking they'd be better off selling erasers separately, because what's a pencil without an eraser, right? So, since they weren't exactly making a killing selling little bitty pieces of pink rubber, they made big pieces of pink rubber instead. And called them pink pearls. Right? 

. . . to be continued

Monday, March 6, 2017

Powerful Postcards

Let us be thankful for translators. I still don't know what to say in response to this. Thank you for a message that puts me on mute. Mute means there's more to say than I have words for. Everyone has a message.

The message on back is as touching as the one on front. "Greetings on the final day of Black History Month and LetterMo." It's from lovely Hannah. She wrote that it is from Orphans Teasure Box.  A book store! I hope there's some Dinah Washington on my iPod and in my iTunes. There should be if there isn't. And shame on me if there isn't. We still have her on LPs somewhere. Thank you, Hannah.

Postcards tell stories, or bring stories to mind. Liberty is getting more press than ever lately. Some misuse her imagined her-story to suit their agenda. And who doesn't associate her with the famous words, "Give me your tired, your poor . . . " from Emma Larazus' poem? 

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

We learned the song in school. The words made me feel so sorry for all those "huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Who was choking them? What was "wretched refuse" to a grade schooler? First impressions? Imagined garbage refuse barges backed up for miles on the high seas. All those books I read about poor white immigrants, especially the Irish during the potato famine, made me question why they grew only potatoes. Didn't they eat corn, green beans, tomatoes, bread . . . ? I wondered what drove our Armstrong ancestor to these shores. He wasn't so poor if he could afford to buy a slave. Right? I imagine he ate more oat meal than I ever will. See? I equate oaten meal with Scotland. *grin* I'll eat your oaten meal and your tatties but not haggis! Never haggis!

So. Wikipedia says, "Paul Auster wrote that "Bartholdi's gigantic effigy was originally intended as a monument to the principles of international republicanism, but 'The New Colossus' reinvented the statue's purpose, turning Liberty into a welcoming mother, a symbol of hope to the outcasts and downtrodden of the world."[8]
John T. Cunningham wrote that "The Statue of Liberty was not conceived and sculpted as a symbol of immigration, but it quickly became so as immigrant ships passed under the torch and the shining face, heading toward Ellis Island. However, it was [Lazarus's poem] that permanently stamped on Miss Liberty the role of unofficial greeter of incoming immigrants."[9]
The poem has entered the political realm. It was quoted in John F. Kennedy's book A Nation of Immigrants (1958)[10] as well as a 2010 political speech by President Obama advocating immigration policy reform.[11]"
"Shining faces," huh? Not green or pale from not being sea worthy, but clean shining faces, since only clean faces can shine. Oh. I forget. They had the upper crusts on the upper decks. 

Thank you, Rusty. I once dreamed of making art in SoHo. My best friend, Fannie Belle was gonna make it big on Broadway, and she was determined to be on The Tonight Show before Carson retired. I went to Colorado and she landed in California. I addressed her wedding invitations with my poor calligraphy. We saw the Mama Ninfa musical in the park (Theater Under the Stars aka TUTS) with her fiancĂ©. I made her wedding dress. She starred in the first off-off-off Broadway show I ever saw, "Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright." What a life. 

Such power a postcard holds within its silence. Yet, it speaks volumes. 

Dear Rusty,

How are you? I hope you are well.

That's some gold in you used! I'd recognize your lovely hand anywhere.

You made good memories come to life. Thanks for thinking of me. 


Sincerely sincere,


Sunday, March 5, 2017

It rained again today. Today is Sunday. Yesterday was Saturday. It felt like Sunday. I said it was Sunday. Believed it wholeheartedly, and none of my "friends" took me aside to correct me. Thank you, y'all. Patty is the only friend who's ever let me know when I acted like the emperor. It was the day my addition didn't quite add up. Now that's what a friend does. *grin* 

It rained so annoyingly--again, my rooster laid an egg out of boredom. Or was it an egg and two rocks? My outside avian friends were just as unimpressed with this desultory show of rain drops that they showed up for dinner like the sun was in full shine. The juveniles are never wary of humans and will practically eat while you scatter. I can almost reach out and touch. I guess it takes at least one feather-raising experience before they learn to be wary of humans. Sadly.

Here's another pencil. What? You were hoping I was done? This is my lithographic pencil. Why I own one is beyond me. It's been used. Such a head scratcher. I must be getting old.

I rescued a fly from drowning the other day. It was the day before the first rain. I let it grab hold of a fallen twig I picked up from the willow. It landed in the grass. The fly. Not the twig. Here's hoping I didn't step on it! And what if its fate was death by drowning? Had I interfered? I don't even like flies, but they're necessary for our ecosystem. Must they contribute in such a gross fashion though? Never mind.

I really should hang my calendar. If it has a place near my desk it might help keep track of which day I'm using up, but I doubt it. The other day, after I wrote about pencil and paper being better than Evernote, "they" send an e-mail with tips on how clever I'd be if I used their app instead. Big Sister is everywhere, huh? 

This was meant to be my day off from letters but I discovered this lovely in the back of my desk drawer. It was stuck. There's no way to tell if I answered it before or after it dried, but I don't mind answering again, just in case. I wonder if I write the same thing in response to the same letter when I accidentally repeat. Hmm. I suppose there's no way to know, but since this one showed up exactly one year to the date, it deserves another reply. 

Such a sweet envelope, huh? Red polka dots. Bunting. What's not to like since it came with my name and address on front, and has some of my favorite colors? Red, white, and black. Black, white, and red? Never mind. There's no rhyme or reason to that thought. So, here's to a year old letter! May all your mail stay dry. But if it gets wet, hang it high. Don't ask how. Thank you, dear LR. I'm so sorry if I didn't answer because your lovely letter went MIA by accident. I finally remember how it came to need a good drying out. Shame on me! 

Write on everyone. I'm catching up.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Sunday Satisfaction

The wild collards have bolted and it's only March. The pretty yellow flowers more than make up for  their acting like uncultivated weeds. I mean it's not like they didn't have their own space. Oh. Wait. These beauties bloom all day. Will I eat them? No way. Mow 'em under, man who mows.

More "weeds." Now, these I'm still fighting for. "The man who mows" threatens to mow the back south forty any day now. A neighbor behind us mowed Saturday. Aren't these too pretty to be cut down? The little star at their center repeats the petal pattern, making them double adorable.  Such sweetness comes for free. 

It drizzled most of the day. Not even drizzled, since there was enough space between raindrops to slip through them sideways. I should have done just that. But you know the kind of rain that does little more than annoy, because you want more, but you're still grateful for. Such rain still gets your camera wet, so you stay indoors, pining in front of windows until your inner mom points upstairs to your artist stuff. And you run to get there!

Another "penciled in" piece of postal fodder. Mailed by JC.  Krazy Kat bothered me when I was a kid. How can a cat be in love with a mouse? Wikipedia says it ran from 1913 to 1944, but I disagree. I read some of those comics in Grit, and watched the 'toons when we vacationed in Dallas. Dallas always had the best cartoons, and my cousins totally ignored them. I can't say that I really blame them for not wanting to see a rat hit a cat on the head with a brick, but I thought animation was so cool I wanted to be one when I grew up. I didn't now there was such a word as "animator;" I just wanted to draw cartoons. Did you know that post haste means speedily, hastily, simply fast? I wonder if the postal clerks had "post haste" stamps? Pigeon mail? By hot air? Never mind. I came across that bit of postal trivia in a sketch pad and thought I'd use it to fill in post space on a rainy day. And here you have it.

Yep. Good old Derwent Sketching 4B again.

And, I finished what has to be one of my favorite books! Okay, they're like children. I favor each one I'm busy birthing at the moment. I threw in a Ticonderoga pencil to go with. The paper inside has a serious crush on pencils. Mmm-hmm.The accompanying note is written with one. *grin*

Moire was one of my favorite fabrics back in the day when I sewed most of my clothing and sold fabric and notions for Weiner's Department Store. I was there long enough to become department head. I was a full time college student too, so naturally moire ribbon still turns me on. Too bad I glued the wrong side, and there's a glue spot I cannot remove now that the ribbon is permanently fixed in place. It's shaped like a tiny heart. That adds character, huh? That trim is so much prettier in person. It all came together like a dream come true though.

I couldn't go out and play, but I had more than enough fun indoors. Being home alone meant I didn't pester JC no interruptions. Minuet was quiet all day long; she slept. JC said it's because she likes rainy days too. Sundays aren't just for sermons.


Sundays are good for stuffing handmade books with goodies once the glue dries. Goodies, front and back. Flow came through again. I found everything I needed without wasting time. Thank goodness for shelves and storage containers. Organization is a miracle worker. I spent less time looking for stuff, therefore I had more time to create! Sundays are always soft and slow and unscheduled. Amen.


The End.

Friday, March 3, 2017

More to the Point

See? I do like pencils. This is the best stylus "pencil" ever from Paper by 53. Have you tried it? Do you like it? I like its traction, its heft and the point offers better control. It's a shame I don't use it more but even Paper by 53 loses to actual paper and pencil.

Levenger's pencil is good for something despite being this short. It came with match cover pads hence the shortness of it all. I sent Erin a pad with the little pencil in its tuck spot, and she wrote back, "What am I supposed to do with this Mama? Write tickets?" I never gave away another set.  The eraser is one of the best. It will honestly undo graphite mistakes without ruining your paper. I cannot help but wonder what they do with the other half of the pencil. They come short and sharpened.

I'd bet my last gold coin (Hey, John Wick!) most of America has more Sanford Eagles in their junk drawers than any other pencil on the planet. It had to have been the only pencil made in the US once upon a time. I wonder if they're still sold. How many do you have? Can you prove it? As you can see I'm holding onto mine just in case the machines take over the world, and the electric pencil sharpeners go on strike to show us what the world will be like without the sharp pointed No. 2 yellow pencil that taught America to print and write cursive. You will never see mine on eBay. 

You knew it was coming, right? The big daddy of yellow pencils, "My First Ticonderoga!" They're all yellow! Wait a minute. Mine were red and mostly blue in grade school. Were yours? Oh, okay. Google "jumbo pencils" to ease your heart. They really were red and blue. Whew!

Then there's Koh-i-Noor'd Trigraph 4B. I seldom use it for drawing. It's there for any-port-in-a-storm moments. Their mechanicals are probably the best ever. So's their sharpener. More about both later.

The day I owned my first Venus Drawing pencils was the day I knew I'd become an artist. I knew I had to learn to draw without erasers. Such a scary thing made me more confident about the marks I made. For years they were all I knew.

Ah, the charcoal pencil. I am forever smitten by the softness, so the extra softness proffered by the General made me even more loyal to the brand. Who is this General? Well, this is how their story goes, in part:  In 1860 ". . . Edward Weissenborn began the first pencil factory in the USA. In 1889, Edward and his son, Oscar A., began what is now General Pencil Company. Still family owned and operated, our goal is to create consistent, quality products in a sustainable manner for artists of all levels." Shucks. All this time I thought a general started selling pencils after a war. He whittled down his wooden leg to make a bunch of pencils that were so great they became earned him his start-up cash flow, and the rest was history. One never knows, do one?

The Moleskin pencil came home early last year.

The idea of a cap impressed me.

As did the bottom. I like that end cap. It's a touch that matters.

Why there are two but only one cap . . . Ah, I see. Both are 2B so there's no sense in using both at the same time. I guess. But the pencil makes you want to keep the extra nearby, since this pencil's body was made for the human hand. Its sole drawback is a need to be just a little bit longer. It rests in an awkward spot against your hand--not quite clearing the necessary height beyond the back of your hand. But it still the potential be be a great bestie. The graphite could be darker. I wrote a letter with it last night. It goes down way too light for human on white ruled paper. 

Something weird is going on with my images. Sorry. I'll take up my Olympus soon. This is the prettiest surprise in Pencildom. It has to be the best little big sharpener that I own. Moleskin done good with this gem. I marvel at what it does with that flat rectangular pencil. More to the point? Using it is a pleasure every pencil user should experience. I hope you'll experience the pleasure someday. Pencil in the Moleskin experience on a page of your to-do planner.