DIY A6 tomoe river notebook

DIY notebook made with TR paper and leftover cover stock.

Cover Image

Back in February, I did a lot of file prep to have HWA printed at a local printer. After a lot of back and forth and inexplicable failures (on their part, not mine), I ended up only asking them to print the covers and NOT the interiors. It was pretty annoying for me, but it is what it is. That's why I ended up using my home laser printer for all the interiors (not an economical choice).

The printer also printed way too many covers for me (also inexplicable on their part), so I have a lot of extra HWA comic covers. Rather than throwing them into recycle, I thought about ways to repurpose them: DIY notebook covers!

I recently converted to using A5 size. The covers themselves are US letter size, which when folded in half, is too narrow and too tall to be true A5 size. I decided to try standard A6 size, which is 105 × 148 mm or 4.1 × 5.8". Lots of math and additional measurement to wrangle with.

First thing I did was roll on some copper acrylic ink onto the covers. Weird special effects. Then I measured the length of A5 and scored/folded it, to have the cover fold back on itself (and thus obscuring the actual cover image for HWA in a "pocket".

Then I measure/scored/folded it one more time to become A6 size (ish).

I thought about thread binding but just went for saddlestitch for simplicity. The interior paper is A4 Tomoe River 52gsm, cut to A5 size, and then folded in half to A6 size.

The design resulted in a top pocket where you could potentially clip your pen to, or put some flat stuff. Whatever you want, but it's just glued down, so not the strongest pocket for heavy or thick stuff.

I ended up trimming it down by another few mm on the top/right edges. Here are the A6ish notebooks next to my DIY A5ish notebook.

I think this configuration allowed for there to be minimal paper waste/cut off when I had US letter covers and A4 paper (different standard sizes). Interesting experiment!

Today's music post: Fear the Wolf - Get Down. Fear the Wolves is a band based in BC. My friend stars in this video!

Ranga Pens 'sugarcane' in olive ebonite

Sugarcane-shaped fountain pen for a plant lover.

Cover Image

I have a big soft spot for anything that is handmade. Here's a formula that gets my attention: Handmade + fountain pen + plant = HECK YEA!

I ordered a handmade Indian pen from Ranga Pens. The model I chose was a regular-sized sugarcane eyedropper fountain pen in olive ebonite, matte finish, and steel flex nib. According to their website, the pens are made by a father and son team, M.S. Pandurangan and M.P. Kandan and they both rely on traditional and old school methods of pen making. CRAFT! RESPECT!

India Post was down for a long time (and continues to be down at original time of writing) so the folks at Ranga Pens had to switch to UPS for shipping, which incurred an additional cost, but that's expected. Disregarding the UPS package was that throw over the box, the package came wrapped in a sewn cotton (?) sleeve with the addresses written in pen. I found it very endearing! This is perhaps the 2nd time I've received a cloth package (the first time being Nights in White Flannel).

The box is reasonably sized and I can appreciate its no frills nature. I'm always sad about gigantic showcase boxes, because I use all my pens, I don't store them. This is also true of watches! Big empty boxes taking up space, bah!

Inside the package was a business card, a bonus/free fountain pen, the actual sugarcane pen, and a Wality "special" fine tipped nib (two toned) and ebonite feed.

The free/extra "Oliver Exam" piston-filled pen is probably made out of resin because it has a strange smell to it. Oliver Exam is going to air out in the sun for a while, so I won't be writing about it today.

I am really happy with how naturally planty the sugarcane pen looks! The sound and feeling of the ebonite has a lot of similarities with the bamboo brushes that I have (though heavier). I actually feel like I'm holding a mini bamboo flute or whistle when I'm holding this pen (yea I know it's called 'sugarcane'), which I also had growing up. I actually have a hard time telling which side is up or down for the pen cause the seam is just off-centre. The ebonite itself has some natural speckles and I think there is some "grain" left from the handworking, so overall it has a great organic look to the exterior.

I chose a "steel flex" nib when ordering, which resulted in a Kanwrite steel nib. I don't have a flex nib (other than my actual dip nibs; nikko g) in my collection, so I thought it would be a fun choice. The Kanwrite nib is pretty hard; I wouldn't really say that it's a flex nib unless you put a lot of pressure down when you write. I don't use a lot of pressure because I already have a bunch of wrist issues, so the pen became a F/M nib in my hand.

Perhaps I didn't get to test the flex to its max capabilities because of issues below.

When I first started using it, it was super wet and leaking from the feed. I didn't even realize this until it was too late, but a bunch of ink had seeped into the cap without my knowing, so when I re-capped the pen, ink got allll over my paper!

I tried heat-setting it a few times but no help. I was getting sad because I love the pen body but the pen was functionally useless to me if it leaked. Eventually I found the confidence to yank the nib/feed out and put some silicon grease on the feed itself, then heat set it again. No improvement! Over time it stopped writing and continue to leak.

Later on I swapped the Wality nib with the Kanwrite nib and kept the existing feed. Still wet, still leaking, but not as much. Heat set a few more times. Eventually I got it to STOP leaking, but the feed position is really close to the tip, so it's no longer a juicy writer. It writes more like a rollerball now?

Well, that's better than a leaking machine at least! The nib is also very hard. I do like the 2-tone look of the nib with the olive body though.

I might futz with the nib/feed more later, but for now I'm relieved to have a pen that writes and doesn't LEAK! Ideally it would be a LIL bit more juicy. I also have Diamine Meadow inked up in a Platinum Preppy and the ink looks super different (much darker). My guess is that there is still some residual water diluting the ink from all the heat setting. The final charm point of this pen is that it can stand vertical on a flat surface! Hehe...

Ink: Diamine Meadow Paper: 52gsm Tomoe River, white

Note: a few days after I drafted the above post, I ended up yanking out the wality nib and tried the kanwrite one again. It took very long to get it to work but finally it's not leaking like crazy, is writing, and is a bit juicier. I keep the pen upright at my desk now!

I don't write in a very flexy way (I save my flexing for drawing...) and my cursive is sorely out of practice. Still have to press/grip hard for any flex, and it really digs into the paper! It was an interesting learning to see how the relative distance of feed and nib changes ink flow. Now my feed is closer to the tip than it was when it originally came. I probably re-seated the feed/nib and heat set them over 10x.

Today's music post: Sanubar Tursun - Didar ghenimet.

HWA social media

Work-in-progress pencil, inks, and watercolours.

Cover Image

I had a concept in my notebook that was about the different relationships between the characters in Here We Are (HWA), and part of those notes included social media posting and commenting. This idea burned in the back of my mind for a while and one weekend I pulled out watercolour paper and brought it to life!

It was an interesting/fun thought exercise to think about the differences in their posting habits, how they comment/type, as well as what kind of avatar/icon and usernames they'd have. Another way to go about character development! The UI is loosely based off of Pixelfed! All the characters in HWA are in their early 20s (as of now) so my guess is that they're all using social media in some way.

The rest of this post includes WIP.

The original concept in my notebook

Loose pencils and beginning to ink with the Platinum carbon desk pen (first time doing this meaningfully!)

Erase the lines and re-use some old painter tape from a previous painting ...

I never really know what I'm doing with watercolours

I have a tendency to overdo details so I stopped myself before getting in too deep. I really struggled to draw this cursed's not innate for me. I kept trying to make it look more cursed but it just got stranger...

Each panel is ~2.5" square in real life. I don't have a working scanner anymore so I just made the faux-posts with photos of the paintings.

Today's music post: Augury by Nos. This track is included on their album of original piano songs called Perspectives. I commissioned Nos to make a piano track for HWAnimation earlier this year, so I was delighted to find out that they released an album!

Added note: Alphonso Dunn has recently noted that J@ke P@rker of Inkt0ber fame has plagiarized his work :(. I didn't know about Alphonso's work before, but it looks aces, so please support!

Possum and Popple

I commissioned LenoirOriginals to make plush from my drawings.

Cover Image

A while back I was thinking about what projects to pick up in the fall. Two of those projects were making plushes of Possy the Possum and a re-imagined version of my childhood prize popple. I drew how I wanted them to look.

After a bunch of research, it dawned on me that I had neither the skills nor materials to make these designs come to life (also buying small scraps of materials was very hard during COVID...), so I decided to commission these plush instead! Support artists!

Since COVID hit I've been trying to stick with local artists and vendors. There are SOOO many wonderful plush artists out there (my eyes have been opened, since I primarily browsed 2d artists in the past few years) and I found LenoirOriginals who is based out of Ontario. I reached out with my doodles to ask if they'd be interested in taking the commission on. I was really happy they did!! CHECK THEM OUT!!!!!!!!!!!

I can't wait till the outside situation is better and then I can go on strange photo adventures with these two! Their names are Possy and Poppy!

Poppy has really long limb to body ratio HAHA

Possy has an off-centre tail. Perfect...

They said that they freehanded these particular plushes (they often use patterns for other things) and I think that worked out perfectly for my freehand drawings. Handmade feeling for handmade drawings. If you have any custom plush that you want to bring to life, I highly recommend LenoirOriginals! They also do pony, OCs, fanart plushes, etc. as well. Their webstore also has jewelry, bags, sculptures, and more! I think if I were to change anything, it would only be to ask for softer stuffing, but that wasn't even a consideration that crossed my mind!

Today's music post: clearly I have to bring back the Opossum in the tree song by myself and Bea.

Analogue daily journal

Journaling system for anyone looking for inspiration.

Cover Image

I returned to keeping an analogue daily journal in June 2020 (not too long ago) after a few years of break from doing "one line a day" in a 5-year journal. More and more I found myself not remembering what I did even a few hours ago. So my current journal stint is more about capturing mundane happenings.

There are a lot of other journal styles, rationales, etc., but I'm sharing mine below in case anyone else finds it helpful to start their own. I think there are a lot of pros: practice handwriting, deliberate self-reflection/introspection, in-the-moment writing for fleeting thoughts, capturing memories to read back on, getting away from screens and social media, use nice stationery like fountain pens and notebooks, etc.

I have a decent memory when it comes to business/work-related things. Maybe it's because I use all my brain power on those aspects that the more "mundane" day-to-day personal stuff falls through the cracks. When I say "personal" stuff I really mean the smaller stuff that doesn't drive towards a big project (I've improved on my own planning rigour for bigger personal projects, like HWA, HWAnimation, everything Love Love Hill, etc.). Breaking down big projects down into smaller bite-sized chunks is a skill that I've developed in my work-life that I now apply to my personal projects. With that said, my journal is probably 90% "super freeform" and 10% "planner".

One of the key successes to my ability to write everyday is that there is NO FILTER, NO ORGANIZATION! Random fleeting thought? Could be written down. Stupid idea? Can also be written down. Cute packaging you want to keep? Paste it in. I keep the journal OPEN on my desk, ready for writing at any time. Next to the open journal are my fountain pens. Because this is a "do whatever, freetalk" type of journal, I needed a notebook that had a LITTLE bit of structure (some calendars) but otherwise no templates. I didn't know this when I started but the community calls this "stream of consciousness" journaling. There's no longer narrative or theme that is predetermined. I suppose this shouldn't be that surprising given that I redirect a lot of what I'd normally put in a toot and put it in the journal instead.

I find that I'm way more likely to browse through my journal than browse through my digital calendar/notes apps.

This system works quite well right now because I'm primarily homebound because of COVID-19.

The notebook: Midori MD Notebook Diary 2020 (A5)

As previously mentioned, I got this beautiful diary on deep discount because half of 2020 was already over. I'm using A5 size with the cordoba paper cover. You can see how the notebook and paper cover are made. Since the book is mainly sitting on my desktop right now, the paper cover is a nice and subtle/light-weight way to protect the journal itself from food splashes (or whatever else is on my table) and keep a few stickers around.

I kept the covers blank for now, but as usual, the inside cover pages have a bunch of mementos pasted in them. Currently I have washi tape, postal stamp booklet/sheet leftovers, and a cut-out from an Aranzi Aronzo amabie/covid-19 envelope stuck in.

The system: barely any...

Yearly-view: I circle important dates (mainly birthdays)

Monthly-view: I write down birthdays, events, milestones, and/or appointments. The wonderful asymmetrical white space around the calendar gives me freedom to write other random stuff. I'm trying out putting a monthly "to-do" on the left margin, which are things that I should probably get down within a month, but aren't mapped to specific dates/deadlines (other than the end of the month). I keep a magnetic bookmark on the current month. I recently added my OC's birthdays in there too because I forgot they existed (is this a huge nerd move?). Every morning I start by looking at the monthly calendar spread.

This notebook only has the yearly and monthly spreads, and the majority of the rest of the pages are lined (subdivided into 8-sections) and a handful of blank ones at the very end of the book.

On the lined pages immediately following the calendar pages, I have what I would describe as on-going reference that is updated and added to on the fly. I chose categories that I felt I needed extra "write it down to remember" help on, but I imagine that this part is very different for every person's unique needs. Mine includes:

Achievements: things that I've done in my personal life that are worthwhile celebrating. E.g., finishing HWA book 1! Like many creatives, I am hard on myself and tend to think everything I make is garbage. Gotta remember to be objective and relative to my own circumstances.

Staying connected: people I should make an active effort to stay in touch with (this list is incomplete and there are overlapping initials, so I have to revamp this). This list helps me email/snailmail people. Especially important because I don't have birdsite to maintain informal connections.

Projects: making stuff! Some of these are actively incorporated into my "monthly to-do" but some aren't. I treat this as a big idea pool to draw from if I want a change of pace. E.g., HWA comic, HWAnimation, etc.

Reading/watching/listening: I'm notoriously terrible at consuming media, so I've come up with 4-ish themes to learn more about, such as AOAR, healthcare, design/creativity, comics/zines/etc. When people recommend things to me, I write them here.

Posts: sometimes I write things in my journal that could be expanded into bigger freetalk posts to share with others, e.g., this post about journaling!

Fun facts: these are mostly animal-facts from my research clickholes, but to call them "fun" is a misnomer. Some of the current facts that are here are actually quite morbid, e.g., the marsupial mouse male usually dies of exhaustion from mating.

Fountain pen ink and tests: whenever I get a new fountain pen or ink, I write a few test lines in here. This is representative of my current line-up (and hopefully it doesn't grow beyond this).

After those general pages, I have the freeform daily journal parts. The lined pages are subdivided into 8 sections because one other way to use to use those pages is to use each section for a day of the week. I just use an entire page (or two) for a day. My freetalk can't be contained!!!!!!!

I added page numbers to ONLY the daily pages for now. I also try to alternate between ink colours for writing. The notebook's existing ribbon bookmark is used for the current date's "entry".

These entries in the photo above aren't particularly private (I'm writing about my fountain pen/ink). At the beginning I tried to keep it neat but the thing with my handwriting (and writing throughout the day in spurts, rather than in one-sitting) is that my handwriting completely changes. TBH my handwriting even changes in one-sitting writing sessions too. Anyway, the main point is that I moved from writing ON the line to IN BETWEEN the lines and I feel like I like that better.

I'm also trying to loosen my grip and that inherently makes my writing looser and more abstract. I suppose that's fine since nobody should reallllyyyy be able to read my garbage anyway!

I've already found it helpful to flip back and browse what I've written; I'm enjoying my time with this!

This journal is also paired with my creative journal for everything comic/HWA related. This shiba notebook has Wai's art on the cover. It isn't fountain pen friendly so I use the thinnest nib and lightest ink that I have and it is ok :). Maybe I'll write about that journal in a different post.

Looking ahead to 2021

For 2021 I was going to get the MD Notebook diary thin (A5, grid), but since I was already booking dates into 2021 and didn't want to wait...I took a MD Notebook light (A5, grid) and manually drew in the calendars. The layout is heavily inspired by the MD notebooks so I take no credit. I messed up a bunch of the grids, but oh well! I do find that the grey lines in the 2020 non-thin MD notebook diary screams "ONLY WRITE" when I hope to do a mix of everything later on. The light blue grid feels less writey-write-only so far. I slipped it into an Aranzi Aronzo smart jacket that I love. The original notebook that came with the jacket wasn't fountain pen friendly, so now I get the best of both worlds!

My thought was that I actually want to have the calendar around all the time, but I don't need a year's worth of journal entries around with me all the time? I'm considering a 3-thinner-notebook system (in a traveller style cover). 1 notebook is the calendar, 1 notebook is a subset of journal entries, and 1 notebook is all the creative/comic stuff. It might be too much segregation, which is 100% not how I did things last year, but we'll see. SO MANY POSSIBILITIES to explore different systems, which I think is pretty fun! When we're allowed to go outside again (in a more carefree way) I 100% know that I will not want to carry TWO thick books with me!

Today's music rec: Mad Woman by Estyr, a Toronto musician recommended to me by Bea!


I commissioned Pía to draw Jake and Austin from Here We Are.

Cover Image

Earlier this year I commissioned Pía Prado Bley (please check out her store and webcomics, she's awesome and I own her books too) to draw Jake and Austin (from my webcomic Here We Are for me. They're soooooooooooo cute and perfect!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I feel that Pía really captured the essence of their relationship, haha.

I made a "prologue" comic, inspired by her drawing :). Thanks Pía!!

Austin loves to spoil/pamper Jake.........................

Today's music post: Patience of Mind by Tough Age. Another local band featuring some cool people I kinda know!!!