Welcome to the New Stone Age

A sample of Mitz TerraSkin, a paper I had heard about and been eager to try, found its way to me at the CPSA Colored Pencil International Show and Convention in Kentucky last week.

4″ x 5 1/2″ sample of TerraSkin paper (background blotter paper and ink blots available separately).

There were oodles of colored pencil artists at the convention who also received these samples and can try it for themselves, so I have restricted my testing to graphite, ink and silverpoint – all among the media suggested on the front of the sample piece.

Interestingly, my success with the first round of pen & ink (below) seemed to depend on the pen used. All of the pens have Rotring Brilliant black fountain pen cartridge ink in them, but ink from the Platinum Carbon fountain pen with the finest tip bled like crazy, while that from the Rotring Art Pens behaved much better. Unfortunately, the stipple dots were not dry and still printed quite nicely on my finger about 20 minutes after I laid them down. Not a good substrate for me to work on in pen & ink – I’d have the ink all over my hand and the paper (plus a few nearby surfaces, guaranteed) in very short order.

TerraSkin paper with ink & graphite swatches

When I tried the same set of pens with my current favorite, Noodler’s Ink (below), it was an epic fail. Rather than just the ink from Platinum Carbon fountain pen bleeding and feathering on the paper, all of the pens showed the same problem – not a crisp line to be found! The other issue with the Noodler’s is that this particular ink is from their “Bulletproof” line, meaning that once it is applied to a surface containing cellulose (my drawing paper, ink blotter and/or cotton shirt), it is permanent and waterproof (but not meant to stop actual bullets). Since the TerraSkin’s components are crushed mineral powder and nontoxic resins, Noodler’s Ink has no cellulose to make it waterproof. Even after the ink is long dry, it still bleeds and runs when wetted.

This does not necessarily mean that TerraSkin is not appropriate for pen & ink – there may be other brands and/or types of ink much better suited to use on this paper. For me, I’ll pass.

The graphite swatches (above) faired much better – graphite goes onto this paper very smoothly. The feel of it reminded me of Yupo paper, but with a bit more tooth. The white specs that show through graphite drawing on most papers are very minimal on TerraSkin, and show up only when I used the pencil lightly and/or on the side of the point. If I held the pencil up straight and used the tip of the point, coverage was virtually complete, especially with light pressure. There is no visible grain or pattern to the specs as happens with some papers, and even my softest, darkest 9B Grafwood pencil smudged surprisingly little when pushed with my finger.

Noodler’s Ink on TerraSkin – FAIL!

The big happy surprise came when I picked up my silverpoint pencil – silverpoint is listed in the “ideal” list of media, but one never really knows until one tries it out just how ideal it truly is. Although it is difficult to see at the bottom of the two photos above, the silverpoint writes quite nicely on this paper. I am not aware of any other paper that is ready-made for silverpoint drawing – all require a surface coating of white gouache, silverpoint drawing ground or other suitable preparation. It is a treat to have paper ready to draw on without any prior fussing and drying time.

Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff carries TerraSkin products – sketchbooks as well as sheets and rolls of paper, and the Etsy shop MitzRocks offers a slightly different selection of TerraSkin sketchbooks, journals and papers as well.


August 8, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . Art Paper, Art Supplies, Drawing, Drawing Paper, Fine Art, Pen & Ink, Pencils, Silverpoint & Metalpoint. Leave a comment.

IMO: Supporting Your Local Art Store

Although I long suspected and half believed that I could not draw, I had always wanted to learn. Having signed up for a beginning drawing class years ago, I was in a small panic — I had a list of supplies to buy and didn’t know what half the items were. At that time, I had no art friends, art knowledge, art books or art resources — I didn’t even know anyone who drew or painted. A great photographer friend with an art-school background explained some of the basics and pointed me toward a local art-supply store. I think I learned to draw despite that class, and part of my success can be attributed to the patient, helpful staff at that store, especially Mike — one of the people who encouraged me to keep drawing, learning, experimenting and improving when I was starting out.

Mike drew and painted beautifully, knew a great deal about the media he worked in and many others besides. He held a full-time job and spent many of his evenings and weekends working part-time at the store. He was generous with his knowledge of and passion for creating art, and eager to share his enthusiasm with other artists, even the most inexperienced beginners. I could bring questions about materials, composition, my current drawing, or just about anything art related to the store on a slow night, and Mike took the time to offer patient help with whatever it was I was stuck on.

Since then, art stores have expanded their services to bring more people in — many offering classes, workshops, gallery space, scanning and printing services, some even providing a community area where artists can gather to share social and creative time. These stores have taken a beating in the past few years — competition from big-box craft stores and internet-based art suppliers, a difficult economy and higher fuel costs (translating to higher shipping costs for store stock) have eroded profits and driven many out of business.

I do enjoy catalog and online shopping, and can often find more of what I want in a single place, sometimes at more competitive prices than at the brick-and-mortar stores. That online bargain isn’t so sweet, though, when I have questions about the art materials, or need something pronto and waiting a week or more won’t do. I don’t want to be without the option of walking into a local store, connecting with other artists and checking out the art materials in person (not to mention finding those serendipitous items there in the store that one can’t quite live without). For that reason, I buy my supplies locally, ordering online only when I can’t find something around me. Without that local art store years ago, and the assistance and encouragement of Mike and the other staff, I might not need art supplies today.

There are many Mikes out there; you’ve probably met some. They’re helpful, knowledgeable, patient and eager to share their passion for art, but you won’t find them at an online supplier or big-box store. If you are fortunate enough to have an art-supply store in your area, please consider buying local — not only are you supporting a community business and the jobs it provides today, but you’ll help them to be there for you and future artists tomorrow.

August 6, 2011. Tags: , , . Art Supplies, Opinion. 2 comments.

Pencil Pointers: the Foray Electric Sharpener

The average #2 yellow pencil on the street is of standard diameter – about 7mm around. Artists’ pencils, however, come in a variety of diameters depending on their maker, some up to 10mm. This can be inconvenient at best for artists looking for a sharpener that works for all of their various pencils, as most sharpeners are made to fit the standard diameter.

The Foray Multi-hole Electric Sharpener.

Foray, a private-brand label for Office Depot products, makes a multi-hole, helical-blade, electric sharpener that accommodates these larger-diameter pencils, their average-sized cousins, and a few sizes smaller and larger than I have yet encountered in Pencildom. The Foray Multi-hole Electric Sharpener, ordered online from Office Depot, was a great surprise – it was far less expensive, quieter (although not quiet) and makes a better (and beautifully smooth) long point for drawing than competitive brands of multi-hole pencil sharpeners sold by the art supply stores.

A slider guide adjusts for pencil size and holds your pencil steady
while sharpening.

Drawbacks are few, but include limited availability (it’s only sold through Office Depot’s web site, and not regularly available in their stores) and a slightly uneven sharpen (rotating the pencil each time it’s sharpened easily fixes this). The noise level, as mentioned before, is not quiet but not at all loud for an electric sharpener, and not as noisy as similar models I’ve used.

My high-tech arrangement for removing sharpening dust from pencil points.

Interestingly, the web text on Office Depot’s site describing the sharpener says that the “Adjustable design conveniently sharpens 3 pencil sizes.” As one can see in their product photo and I can vouch for from my own model, the sharpener actually adjusts to accommodate five different pencil diameters.

The sharpener easily accommodates average-diameter pencils (Prismacolor Verithin at right), as well as larger-diameter pencils (Caran d’Ache Grafwood graphite drawing pencil at center and the chubby Ticonderoga “My First”
#2 pencil on the left).

Having used the Foray sharpener with many brands of color and graphite pencils for close to a year now with no difficulties, I would not hesitate to recommend it.

July 18, 2011. Tags: , , , . Art Supplies, School Supplies. Leave a comment.


After a few suggestions to start a blog such as this, here it is, friends! (You know who you are.)

Expect some fairly random posting, no schedules here, just inspiration when it hits. Your input, suggestions, comments, etc. are always welcome – I look forward to connecting with other people who get as excited as I do about this stuff!

As I noted in my profile, unless otherwise stated in my posts, I am in no way connected to the companies or products reviewed, nor do I receive any form of compensation from those companies.


July 15, 2011. Tags: . Art Supplies. 2 comments.

Zip It!

A good first, and true toy, the Zipit pencil case is just what it sounds like – a pencil case constructed of a single, long, trippy-colored zipper! I found this one at Staples for $6, but a quick web check shows that not only are these available elsewhere (Amazon.com, eBay, etc.), but that there are many other incarnations of Zipit – laptop cases, totes & handbags, messenger bags and of course the pencil cases. The company web site can be found here: http://www.just-zipit.com/.


Love the tag line!

Before playing with it …

… and after! It can be unzipped all the way to the bottom – not the most practical feature perhaps, but it scores high on the fun factor!

Oh, and did I mention it also holds pencils?

July 15, 2011. Tags: , , , . Art Supplies, School Supplies. Leave a comment.