Thursday, December 18, 2014

Score! Santa No. 3

12/18/14 DeAtramentis Document Brown and Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-shogun inks,
Zig marker, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
After last week’s evasive action by Santa, I planned my time more carefully today and arrived at Northgate Mall well before his lunch break. Unfortunately, it was apparently too early for much Santa business, because he didn’t have any customers. But my goal this holiday season was to sketch three or more Santas, not his customers, so I win!

Whew. This Santa stuff is exhausting.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Willy Wonka’s Coffee Factory

12/17/14 Platinum Carbon ink, Pitt Artist pens,
Van Gogh watercolor, Caran d'Ache Museum
pencils, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
As you might guess, with a blog called “Fueled by Clouds and Coffee” and living in Seattle, I spend a fair amount of time and money at Starbucks. I have to admit, though, that I spent more money there today than I ever have on a single visit, and it’s no coincidence. The Starbucks I visited is no ordinary Starbucks; it’s the brand new Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room. (Here's a link to a great video.)

Front entrance.
You can’t get an ordinary tall latte there. I couldn’t even get my usual holiday favorite, the cranberry bliss bar. This place is all special: all the coffees are limited-quantity, doubly priced Reserve coffees. The ceramic cups are nicer, the coffee bags are nicer (and even come with a fancy little clip on top), the tables are nicer (“custom designed for the space and manufactured by hand,” says the brochure). The food is made by local chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas. The guy who helped me was no ordinary barista; he was like a concierge of Starbucks coffee, helping me through the whole ordering process. (When he saw me leaving 45 minutes later, he said, “Have a great day, Tina! Thanks for coming in!”) Even the baristas were better dressed and had better haircuts than most. (Greg said, “I feel like we’re in New York.”)

In front of the main bar.
The huge space is filled with copper piping and transparent pneumatic transfer tubes filled with coffee beans being transported along “the journey of the bean,” as the brochure says. When you’re washing your hands in the unisex restroom area, you can look out over the inner workings of the small roasting equipment. Its right out of Willy Wonka! As for sipping your cup o’ Starbucks Reserve (I chose Pantheon blend brewed on the Clover), you can sit at small tables, large tables, low tasting tables, a rentable “library” space, a fireplace or several bars.

Tina sucked in by two marketing machines!

Hook, line and sinker. I was dazzled.

And as long as I was sucked in by all the hype, I decided to go all the way. Although I sometimes use Field Notes Brand notebooks for memos, I’m not crazy about the paper for sketching or even writing because it’s not great with a fountain pen. But I had heard that Field Notes had come out with a limited-edition run of Starbucks Roastery-branded notebooks that would be available only at this one store. Guess who bought a few?

Ah, retail marketing – you gotta love it!

(Although I didn’t sketch there today, technically, there is a sketching tie-in: The Friday ad hoc sketchers are planning to visit in a month or two, and I decided to scout it out. I have no doubt – it’s an excellent sketching venue!)
Lower level seating and bar.

Christmas Ships at the Ballard Locks

12/16/14 Uniball gel pen, Strathmore grayscale paper
OK, I’m a bit spoiled: Growing up on Lake Washington, I watched the Christmas ships cruise by several times each holiday season from the comfort of my livingroom, so going out in the cold, possibly rainy night to see them didn’t excite me much. But Greg has been wanting to see them for years, and last night was dry, so we bundled up and went out to the Ballard Locks.

The Argosy cruise ship Spirit of Seattle was all decked out in lights (you can see it in this Seattle Times photo), and an onboard choir entertained us as we crowded the walkway of the locks. As I used to see growing up, I was expecting a whole fleet of smaller boats, also decorated with colorful lights, to be following in the ship’s wake through the locks, but there was only one smaller Argosy boat and one yacht. Well, I may be spoiled, but it was hard not to catch the infectious holiday spirit of the crowd.

I brought along black paper and a white Uniball opaque gel pen to capture it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Shoreline is Full of ‘Em

12/16/14 various inks, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils
Canson XL 140 lb. paper
The overcast sky was a solid white; rain seemed imminent. Taking my usual circuitous route home after a meeting in Shoreline, I found this tree on North 137th. There was actually a whole block of trees like this, all hacked down the middle in the same way. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Tangle of Wires and Poles

12/15/14 various inks, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils, Canson XL 140 lb. paper

On this particular stretch of Roosevelt Way Northeast near 90th, the complicated network of utility lines and bifurcated trees is made further messy by a huge, ugly cell tower. I started the sketch focused on the two trees and how the power lines intersected with them. Before I knew what was happening, though, I found myself sucked in by all the stuff sticking out from that cell tower. Trying to track all those wires and transformers is strangely fascinating, even in their extreme ugliness. 

DeAtramentis Document Ink Idle Time Results

Still life made on 11/24/14, the last time I used the Pilot Metro
pen containing DeAtramentis Document Brown ink for this test.
Here are the results of the test I began on DeAtramentis Document Brown ink a few weeks ago. This waterproof ink has been in a Pilot Metropolitan pen since Nov. 22. I last used the pen on Nov. 24 – three weeks ago – and since then it has been resting in a cup, nib end up, unused. Yesterday, Dec. 14, I tried using it. The pen was dry at first, but after scribbling with it briefly, the ink flowed fine – similar to the result I got from a test with Platinum Carbon Black in the Metro earlier this year. I’d say DeAtramentis Document Brown is a keeper! (Now if only we could buy it! It seems to be out of stock everywhere.)

Product Review: Super 5 Ink Waterproof Test

Waterproof Super 5 ink showed no signs of smearing after less than 30 seconds.
(Stillman & Birn Epsilon)
One of the gifts in my swag bag from the Urban Sketchers Symposium last August was a Super 5 fountain pen, which was filled with the Super 5 ink color of my choice. The pen’s performance was only so-so – I didn’t care for its heavy body, and its idle time was disappointingly short – but the ink was exciting. Available in several colors, Super 5 ink is waterproof. I was told at the time that it would be available in the U.S. soon, and it’s finally here – now stocks it.

Step dancers I sketched with
Super 5 Frankfurt.
At the symposium, I tried the Sepia color, a very dark, cool brown. Now that I’ve discovered DeAtramentis Document Brown, which is pleasantly warmer than Super 5 Sepia or any other waterproof brown I’ve tried, I’m less interested in Sepia (which, strangely, isn’t offered at Goulet anyway), so I decided to get a few different color samples from Goulet: Frankfurt, Dublin and Atlantic. Frankfurt is a dark, warm gray (I used it the other night at the concert, at right), while Dublin is a dark olive. Atlantic is a subdued blue-black that has potential (a couple of years ago I tried Sailor Sei-Boku Blue-Black, but it was too bright to use with watercolor). I filled up a Sailor pen with Atlantic for these tests.

In the same way that I tested DeAtramentis Document Brown and Noodler’s Brown #41 against my personal standard for waterproofness, Platinum Carbon Black, I did a simple waterbrush test on a line of Super 5 Atlantic. After 10 seconds, it showed no signs of smearing, let alone 60 seconds. (I didn’t even bother testing it at 20 minutes.)

Here I applied water while the inks were still visibly wet.
Left: Platinum Carbon Black; right: Super 5 Atlantic.
Just for fun, I even tried washing the ink immediately after drawing a scribble, when I could see from the sheen that it was still wet. I know from sketching during sudden rain showers that Platinum Carbon Black (squiggle shown on the left) definitely smears if it is washed before having had a chance to dry. I’d have to say that the Super 5 (on the right) was on its way to being dry even faster than Platinum – very little smearing is visible. For comparison, I also washed a still-wet scribble of water-soluble ink.

For comparison, here's water-soluble Pilot Black cartridge ink. 
Rated strictly on waterproofness, I’d say Super 5 is a definite winner. But other than the few sketches I made with it during the symposium and at the concert the other night, I haven’t given it enough of a sketching test to know for sure whether I like it. Plus there’s the all-important idle-time test: How long can it sit in a pen unused without clogging? Time will tell. Stay tuned.
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