Baron Fig Prismatic Archer Pencils Review

“If I knew your name and address, I would send you a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.” – You’ve Got Mail

I’m a terrible person. The very kind people over at Baron Fig sent me a pack of special edition Prismatic Archer pencils an embarrassingly long time ago, and I am only now writing this review (note: Archer is the name of their pencils, and Prismatic is the name of this limited edition of Archer pencils).

In the spirit of complete honesty, the reason for such a long delay writing this review wasn’t exclusively procrastination, distractions, bad time management, and laziness (although those all played their part). No, in all fairness, my first impression of Baron Fig’s Prismatic (and Archer) pencils was not great, and while I wanted to write an honest review, I didn’t want to write a bad one, and I wasn’t sure how to do that. So I kept using the pencils. Kept trying them in different applications. And stopped noticing that they were the pencils that I reached for whenever I started a drawing or sketched out an idea.

I’m glad I waited. I’m glad I gave these guys time. Because now, I can give both an honest review, and a good one. I’ve realized that the very things I didn’t like about these pencils in the first place are the things I love about them.

My first impressions of these pencils were: they are 1) very light and to me that made them feel cheap not durable, and 2) dark and toothy.

Baron Fig’s website says about the Archer pencil: “The first thing you’ll notice when you hold the Archer is how light it is – and how easy it is to use.” Yes, I will agree with that. The Archer is a no-frills pencil (can pencils even have frills?). At first, it felt like if I gripped the pencil too hard it would snap. But after a while of using it, I realized that it completely got out of my way when I was sketching and drawing, and let me focus on the art. Because of its lightness and minimal design, it felt more like an extension of my hand than a tool. It’s comfortable to use for long periods of time. It also has a smooth, non-slippery finish, and the hexagonal design means that it will never roll away

from you. It’s obvious a lot of thought went into designing this pencil.

Archer pencils use HB graphite. If anything would keep my from buying another pack of these pencils, this would be it. My personal preference for lead weight is 2H and lighter because I use pencils to rough out proportions and layouts. It works well for writing though, and when using it for finished pencil drawings, the graphite enabled me to use only the Archer pencil throughout the whole drawing, instead of reaching for a darker or lighter lead. I will definitely be using these pencils again if I do more pencil drawings in the future.

So, after using these guys for a few months, what are my thoughts? I respect the attention to detail the Baron Fig puts into their products. You would think a pencil is a pencil, but they’ve worked to make sure that every aspect of each product is a pleasure to use. Their Archer pencils (and subsequent special editions, such as this, the Prismatic) are no different. You would think that with something so humble and simple as a pencil, the design wouldn’t make much difference, but it really does. I also love the colorful design and packaging of the Prismatics.

If you’re looking for a reliable, comfortable pencil that also might put a smile on your face, make sure to grab a pack of Prismatics while they’re still available!


Baron Fig Raspberry Honey Review

Baron Fig sent me this journal for my honest review. Other than receiving the journal, I was not compensated for this review, and the opinions are all my own. 

This review is, well let’s be honest, abominably late. I guess in retrospect, choosing to do a review after a month’s use of a limited edition journal (which I also received late, I might add, through nobody’s fault but mine) probably wasn’t the most practical idea. However, almost all the things I love about this journal are hallmark features of all of Baron Fig’s other hard cover journals, so while this particular notebook is sold out (sorry…), don’t let that deter you from finishing this blog post. In fact, once you finish reading, go check out Baron Fig’s newest special edition notebook and pen, they look AMAZING (link at the end).

I am the type of person who believes that while the quality of your art supplies and stationary may not make a difference to the quality of your work, it makes a drastic difference in the quality of your experience. I have found this to be the case with the little rusty notebook called Raspberry Honey from the New York City stationary company Baron Fig.

I’m no stranger to good quality journals. I would rather have a few very good ones (ok more than a few…) than many ok ones. But the way this notebook felt in my hands the first time I took it out of its packaging made me feel like I had never held a decent notebook in my

 life. The feel of the fabric cover, the creamy pages, and the way that it lies flat right away, without making you feel like you’ve broken it. And it’s beautiful too. The embossed honeybees on the cover (front and back) are absolutely adorable. Despite all that, it’s a notebook that calls out to be used and loved and abused; that scribbles and scratches would adorn its pages rather than detract from its beauty. Rather than being afraid to start using this notebook, I was eager to dive right in. Maybe you can’t tell, but I really like this notebook.

As far as specs go, the pages are slightly off white, and the version I was sent has a light grey dot grid on all pages. The paper isn’t as smooth as Rhodia paper, but has enough texture for a small amount of feedback, while still being excellent for fountain pens. There is some show-through with dark ink pens but nothing unforgivable, and scribbling a bit with a fountain pen creates a small amount of bleed-through (regular writing is ok). The ribbon in the middle is sturdy and just the right length. I have also found the paper to stand up quite well to erasing and reworking with pencil.

I love the fabric cover a lot more than I thought I would. I’ve always been partial to leather and leatherette notebooks, perhaps because they feel more lux, so I expected the fabric cover to feel less posh. I was wrong about that. Holding the Raspberry Honey journal feels a lot like holding an old hard cover book – sophisticated, familiar. That being said, the wearability of the cover is my one concern with this notebook, so stay tuned on that to see how it holds up. I have been using it every day as a bullet journal for the last 6 weeks or so, and so far it still looks great.

This limited edition notebook is a version of Baron Fig’s flagship notebook, the Confidant, which, sans the pretty honeybee cover, features all the same lovely design traits. I’ll be using one as a sketchbook soon, so stick around to see how that goes, and how it holds up to different mediums.

Be sure to check out Lock and Key, Baron Fig’s newest special edition 🙂

How One Artist Inspires Others with Her Creative Process – an Interview

An interview with Jen Pfeiffer, the creative behind Pfeiffer Art Supply.

One of the things that I love the most about the art community is the sense of support and camaraderie amongst artists. It’s amazing to see networks develop between people who share a love for the same thing, despite having  different backgrounds. It’s fascinating see how people collaborate, perhaps not on literal pieces, but in the way their support and feedback helps each other grow and improve.

One of these artists is Jen Pfeiffer. You might not think of her as artist right way when you see her profile, @pfeifferartsupply (which she is in her own right) because her beautiful feed is full of pictures of her mulling and pouring watercolor and acrylic paint.

But Jen is more than a crafter, more than a paint maker. The work that goes into making her paints is the same care and love and inspiration that goes into making a work of art with her paints. You see, what captivates me the most about Jen’s work is that her creative process, and the results of her creative process, actually becomes the fuel behind the work of so many other artists. What other artist can say they collaborate as much as Jen can?

I was so inspired by what Jen does that I sent her a message on Instagram, asking if I could interview her for a blog post to find out more about her background and process.

I‘m really curious about how you got your start in actually making paint. I read on your website that you used to do glass blowing; how does someone go from that to mulling watercolors?

Since a child, I have always been obsessed with color and was always keeping my crayons in color order. If one of them broke, I would want a new box.  Hee hee. I’ve have always dabbled in drawing and painting and before the time of social media, it was very hard to get noticed, or make any type of living off of it.

After I had my first child, I took up ceramics and glassblowing as a hobby.  In glassblowing, there are hundreds of frits and powder pigments that you roll your hot glass in before blowing out.  The combinations are endless and I loved it.  Glassblowing was a hobby for me, but eventually the cost of renting studio time to blow glass and raising two children at home, I made the decision to gradually let that hobby go for the time being.  I hope to get back to it one day, as it is very satisfying and relaxing.

Eventually I came across a blog post a couple of years ago on making handmade paints from pigments.  I immediately began doing tons of research and reading articles and books on the subject.  I became hooked when I ordered my first set of pigments and made many, many batches of not the greatest paint. It was like I became addicted to getting the batch to the right consistency for myself.  Even now, I still tweak my recipes from time to time if I feel that the batch could be better.

Do you have a specific process for creating new colors? Do you sit down to work and say “ok, today we need a new green,” or do you have a more spontaneous approach?

As for what colors I choose, I wanted to have a palette that would suit most peoples’ preferences.  From time to time, I switch out a color if I come across an even better pigment.  Recently, I switched out Yellowbill lemon yellow for a better yellow in my opinion to Sunbird medium sun yellow. Although, Yellowbill is a beautiful yellow all on its own, I felt that Sunbird mixed in well with my other color choices better then Yellowbill.

I have 24 colors that I try to keep stocked in our shop at all times. And I will also add a few limited edition colors from time to time.  I am also building a small line of sparkly mica pigments as add on.

What does your creative process look like?

My work days are always different.  I keep inventory and when one color starts getting low, I get to work on making a new batch.  Usually it takes about a week for one color to be done, but I’m finding in the colder weather, the paints are almost taking to weeks to dry.  My business is still evolving and I love seeing the direction it’s going in. Also working from a home studio is the best.

How much trial and error did it take to get to where you are now? Your paints have a reputation for being excellent quality, how long did it take you to get to a quality you were happy with?

There was much trial and error in the beginning. A lot of thrown out paint in the process.  Lots of frustration but in the end it’s always worth trying to figure out each pigments best recipe.

My favorite part of this adventure is seeing what other artists are painting with my paints.  It feels like I have a very very small part of their creative process.  I also love doing the art contests.  It’s quite a bit of work, but the end result each week is very fulfilling. I hope that it helps people to pick up their pencils and brushes and gets them to create something new, maybe something they would not traditionally paint to begin with. Even if it’s a tad uncomfortable to paint something you might not necessarily choose for your self, I believe it will help your artwork to progress or evolve into new ways.  I hope the contests pick up some new artists in the coming months.. we just added a separate kids contest weekly.. Super excited about this.  Usually I choose an endangered bird species as a bird prompt for each contest, so that awareness can be brought to these species as well.  I would welcome any bird suggestions from my followers too.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your paints?

All my paints are non toxic.  There are some really beautiful cadmiums I would love to work with, but because I want to keep my line non toxic, I try to find alternative pigments to work with.  Since they are handmade, they do have a different feel to them then traditional watercolor paints. I have had a lot of good feedback on them so far, and if I do get a complaint, I will address it and adjust recipes if need be.

Be sure to check out Jen’s webshop at www.pfeifferartsupply.com and her instagram page for more information on her work and her regular painting contests.

The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds – Book Review

When I moved to Vietnam, I brought two books with me: Peterson’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America, and The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds. Brushing past the fact that this selection makes me even more of a “bird nerd,” I had good reason for bring these books specifically. I want to talk about Laws’ guide today. 

I picked up this book almost as in impulse buy at the Audubon center in Portland, OR. I had already been drawing birds for quite a while, and wasn’t sure how much help a “how-to” book could be, but I liked the sections on anatomy so the book came home with me. As I delved into the book later, I realized that this book is a must have for anyone who’s interested in drawing birds. 

For me, this book became the difference between drawing from photo references, and drawing from imagination. The guide has 6 sections: bird drawing basics, mastering bird anatomy, details and tips for common birds, birds in flight, field sketching, and materials and techniques. The sections on basics, anatomy, and tips helped me become more familiar with how birds are constructed and taught me to see birds in my mind in a more 3 dimensional way. I still use photo references frequently, but seldom draw straight from them. I use the references for size, texture, shape, but I’m able to modify the positions and expressions in them to suite that I’m imagining. 

For example, in this sample page, John Muir Laws discusses how the feathers are arranged on a bird’s chest. While this is detailed information, it helps when a reference photo doesn’t show the chest feathers, or when I’m working without a reference.

I refer back to the book often for details such as this. However, if you’re just getting started drawing birds, don’t think this book is too detailed for you. John Muir Laws presents his “how-to” information in a very clear, logical way, and in a way that’s simple enough for anyone. 

Regardless of your experience or what you want to do with your drawings, I think this book is a must read, and a must have. To borrow an excerpt from Amazon,

“To draw feathers, you must understand how feathers grow, overlap, and insert into the body. To create the body, you must have an understanding of the bird’s skeletal structure. To pose this skeleton, you must be able to perceive the energy, intention, and life of the bird.”

The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds is available on Amazon for less than $18.00. It’s worth every penny.

Links in this post are affiliate links. By purchasing from Amazon through these links, you are supporting me and the work that I’m doing, and for that I am extremely grateful. 

Growing New Ideas

Or, 4 actually useful ways to give your creativity a boost.

Where do new ideas come from? Sometimes it feels like we spend all our time chasing ever elusive “inspiration” in the hopes that with it will come our next breakthrough, our next idea, our next big thing. 

If you have the luxury of inspiration, more power to you. If creating is a pastime, then waiting for inspiration is probably reasonable. But for creating to become more than just a hobby, or for those that are beating it out to try make a living, you have to learn to find creativity without inspiration. 

I’m always interested in articles and blogs claiming ways of boosting creativity, but for the most part, they’re disappointing. They’re full of the same “ideas” to do with disconnecting or getting out in nature. That’s nice enough but when you’re crunching to a deadline, sometimes those ideas aren’t enough. 

Take the pressure to produce away.

I’ve found a few things that help me, plus I’ve found a few ideas that I want to try. Previously, I wrote about how having a routine and a “formula” for creating helps me keep going, but here are some more ideas that might work better for you. 

Find a means of creative expression that’s different from your usual medium.

For the most part, I draw in pen and digitally. When I need to get ideas coming, I spend 15 or 30 minutes either with a different medium such as watercolor, or with a completely different style of expression like journaling. Free writing works really well. Do something that a) comes easily to you or b) isn’t something you’re trying to be good at. The key here is to take the pressure to produce away. A few minutes in this mind frame does wonders for generating ideas.

Keep a notebook with you.

This is not as cumbersome or as passe as it sounds. For most people, their smartphone works perfectly as a “notebook.”  Take a few seconds to write down any ideas that come to mind. Keeping track of these ideas will help you to build on them and to make connections to old ideas. Which leads me to my next point – 

Improve on old ideas.

There really is no such thing as a new idea any more. Everything is an improvement on an old idea. So build on old ideas. Revisit something you haven’t tried in a while, whether it’s a style or a subject. Try and combine an old idea with something new, perhaps a new subject. Even if your old ideas weren’t that good, adding and building on them can lead to something new or spark new thoughts. 

Combine ideas.

This step is probably the one that is helping me the most right now. Take two things that might not normally go together, and try to figure out how they might. Take problem and try to figure out how something seemingly unrelated could be the solution. Even if it doesn’t work out, usually an idea shows up along the way. If you’re stuck on finding two ideas to combine, try incorporate a new method with an old way of doing things. 

Regardless of what method you use to try boost or find creativity, the most important thing is don’t stop creating. Don’t stop looking around, and never close your mind to new ideas.

Further reading:

I haven’t tried this method yet but this article on Scientific American about how rethinking labels can boost creativity is really interesting. 

Recommended Reading – Practice makes better and how to be more creative

I’ve been feeling so creatively drained lately. It’s taken me a while to realize it, but I think partially this is because I create and create and create without stopping to take some inspiration in.

Inspiration comes in different forms for everyone. For me, I like to mix my creative fuel. I like to see great artwork,  but I also love to read something that makes me think, and helps me see the world from a slightly different angle.

Today, I’m sharing some articles I found helpful and interesting from this week.

Practice makes better – by Muffie Waterman

How to Be Productive Without Working Past Noon – by Tony Stubblebine

The side project survival guide: making time to work on everything as a freelancer – by Michelle

How To Strengthen Your Creative MUSCLE In 42 Minutes A Day – by Barry Davret

What drinking water has taught me about achieving impossible goals. – by Tiffany Sun

Creativity is a Myth

Actually the title is a little misleading. The belief that you need creativity to be creative is a myth.

Every single day, I draw. It might be for 15 minute or it might be for 5 hours. But for the last year and half, I’ve rarely missed a day. You might wonder what I do to keep the creative juices flowing, to be able to consistently create art without losing inspiration. The truth is, I seldom begin with inspiration.

I have a process that works for me. On the days that I feel uncreative or uninspired, I fall into a system — I draw a bird from my bird book. I draw in pen, because that’s my medium of choice. Inevitably, these end up being my favorite drawings. The reason for this is peculiar and hard to quantify, but when I rely less on my own creativity, I’m less concerned about trying to find and listen to that little creative voice in my mind that is telling me how to create. My drawings become instinctive, less thought-out, more expressive. It seems like a paradox, but I am the most creative when I don’t feel creative.

It’s not unknown that inspiration is over-rated but I believe creativity is too. Those of us that work in a creative field know that we have to get to work every day even if the muse is watching TV at home. It works because we all develop a system of just getting down to work. Spending time ‘trying something new,’ or ‘getting out in the woods’ is great when you have the time for it, but instead of trying to find creativity, do what you know how to do. If you’re a writer, just start writing. Write about anything. Keep a list of topics and start with the first one when you don’t know what to say. If you’re a novelist, write. If you’re an artist, paint, or draw or sculpt or do whatever it is that you do. You’ve already created the muscle memories and neurological pathways required to create. You’ve used them hundreds or thousands of times. Rely on them. Trust in them. Just get started and the rest will flow.

Now go do what you do.

Uni Pin Pen Fineliner Review

I’ve been on the lookout for the perfect fineliner for the last year now. I haven’t found it yet, but the Uni Pin pen is surprisingly close, especially since it’s considered a bottom of the range pen. I would say it’s one of the best fineliners I’ve used yet.

uni pin pen fineliner review

What makes the best fineliner?

  1. Clean lines
  2. Waterproofness. This is essential to me, it might not be to you
  3. Dark ink that doesn’t fade when erased (or bleed through paper)
  4. Design. This is not critical, but it does make a difference

What impressed me the most with the pin pen is how clean the lines are. They’re seriously smooth. Out of a comparison between the Faber-Castell Pitt pen, the Pigma Micron, and the Kuretake Zig Mangaka, the Uni Pen Pen is easily the cleanest. The ink is not as dark as the Pitt pen, but it’s sufficiently black, and I have not had any bleed-through. It dries fairly quickly, fast enough that I haven’t yet had any smearing issues. All in all, it’s perfect for drawing outlines or straight lines.

I was impressed with the construction too. The cap is snug and snaps into place both over the tip and posted on the back of the pen. The clip is robust. The tip seems solid too, I haven’t had it for long but I’ll be surprised if I have issues with the tip fraying before it runs out of ink. This pen feels like a workhorse.

The Uni Pin pen is sold as being waterproof. While it doesn’t run, there is some very slight fading when painted over with a wet paintbrush and it leaves a faint gray wash. Nothing noticeable though.

uni pin pen review


Where the Pin pen falls short is when it comes to erasing. The ink is dark out of the pen, but the lines fade a little when you erase over them. This isn’t an issue if you don’t have an under-sketch or if you just use the pen for writing, but I often start my drawings with at least a pencil outline. The other thing that I don’t love is that the tip has a slight spring to it. This isn’t necessarily bad, but the spring makes it hard to create consistent dots for stippling. This is important to me because this is mostly what I use my fineliners for.

The other issue is the small range of sizes the Pin pen comes in. In this review I’ve used the 03 with the .38mm tip, which is (as far as I know) the largest size it comes in.

The Uni Pin pen is not the perfect fineliner. It’s pretty darn close though, and at $1.65 from Jetpens.com, I’m happy to let the little things slide. I really, really like this pen.

In Conclusion

Is it as good as the “holy grail” pen, the Pigma Micron? No. It’s much better and considerably cheaper. What are you thoughts? What’s your favorite fineliner?

(The opinions here are mine. I purchased this pen myself and was not compensated for my review.) 

Inky Thoughts: J.Herbin

imageWhen I was ready to get my first bottle of ink, I researched and researched for that perfect bottle of black. All of my research lead me to J.Herbin Perle Noire. It’s beautiful, dark black with pleasant purple undertones and so very well behaved. After almost two years and hundreds of hours using it, I’m still incredibly satisfied.

Recently I reached out to J.Herbin to share my love of their ink. They were so kind in response, and sent me some extra bottles of the black ink, as well as a bottles of Gris Nuage and Stormy Grey to try.

I created the wash on this image with Stormy Grey first, followed by a splash of Gris Nuage and another splash of Lie de The (also J.Herbin)

Let me tell you, these are grey inks, but they are beautiful! Gris Nuage is a pencil grey coming out a pen (which in and of itself is fun to use), but in a wash becomes a gorgeous soft purple. Stormy Grey is known to be a pretty ink, dark grey with gold flecks, but it also really shines as a wash. It sparkles!

I’m so grateful to J.Herbin for sharing these inks with me, their generosity has helped me to grow as an artist. It’s given me the opportunity to try something new and experiment freely. Thank you so much! I’m looking forward to seeing how this new style continues to develop.

The wash on this is Stormy Grey and Gris Nuage. I also used Gris Nuage to create the grey scale wings.

Fluffy White Feathers

KC Gillies - swan pointillism illustrationI was pretty sure I didn’t want to draw a white bird. Creating a white bird with just black dots is, well, boring. Boring to do, boring to look it. But I’m in the middle of a project to draw a bird from every family in North America (I think that needs a better name…), and the swan was next on my list. Too bad the black swan doesn’t live here…

I didn’t have a clear picture in my mind either of what I wanted to draw. I had a couple different reference pictures to work from, but none had the “motion” that I was looking for. Let’s be honest, while birds can be incredibly majestic, they’re usually just… living life. So I just played. I really had no expectations for this guy, I wanted to get him out of the way so that I could move on to much more exciting ducks.

One of the things that I’m constantly striving to achieve with pointillism is texture. It’s hard to create something that feels tangible with just dots, so with every drawing, I try to get a little better at it. And so, with the mindset of “just play,”  I started drawing little fluffy feathers all over this guy. This was a bit of a happy revelation for me, being able to create this texture. I have always struggled to do the same thing with pencil, and thought that doing it in pointillism would be (for me) impossible. But, success! I’ve created several more pieces since this one, and furthered that same technique of drawing white feathers for filling in white patches. Stay posted!