Snowflakes for Sandy Hook

These are snowflakes I made today for Sandy Hook, to decorate the barren middle school building that is being refurbished for the surviving elementary school children come January. I made them out of paper and decorated them with mostly Golden Fluid Iridescent Acrylics. They are cheerful and sparkly, and I hope will help brighten up the school along with all the others being made and sent there. If you'd like to contribute to this project, you can see this blog post for where to send them. They only take a few minutes to make. If you Google "paper snowflakes" you'll come away with tons of ideas!


The Snowflake Project --- Art project for Sandy Hook Elementary School

Artist friends and families with children: Anybody who wishes to make paper snowflakes to help decorate the unused, barren middle school that is being refurbished for the Sandy Hook Elementary School children, can do so and send them to the address below. Make them glittery and bright! Be sure you don't write anything on them. The text below is written for schools and teachers, but individual artists, families, or businesses are welcome to contribute too. The deadline for receiving the snowflakes is January 12. Here is the information Bonny posted:

A building has been designated to house the students from Sandy Hook Elementary School. They are in the process of transporting desks, chairs, supplies and so forth to this location.
My neighbor is the president of the Newtown PTA and we met tonight discussing what we can do to make these children feel comforted upon their return
to school.
Please join us in "The Snowflake Project".
We are asking your students to make and decorate a snowflake. We will hang them in the hallways at the stark, new building where the Sandy Hook students will be returning. PLEASE NO WORDS! We want just a cheerful, happy (glitter and sparkle) environment for the students entering the new building.
Please pass on to any teachers you think may want to participate.
When you send your snowflakes, please include a note to tell us where they are from (your school, class, town, etc) to display along with your snowflakes. You can send them to:
Connecticut PTSA
60 Connolly Parkway, Building 12, Suite 103
Hamden, Conn. 06514


Lightfastness Test Results on Noodlers Eternal Inks, pigmented and iron gall inks, and more

Last year, I began some lightfastness testing on the full line of Noodler's Eternal Inks, as well as pigmented and iron gall inks by other brands (Sailor, Rohrer & Klingner, Diamine, and Platinum). This was done in collaboration with Brian Goulet of the Goulet Pen Company. Brian was interested in providing information to his customers, and I was interested in learning which inks would be best to use for assorted art applications. You can click here to see how I set up the test sheets.

It is now many months later, and the results are in! I tested 41 eternal, pigmented, and iron gall inks. There are another 45 or so inks that I tested at the same time, which do not fall into those categories, and I will discuss those briefly here as well. Before I go into the results, it is important to note that terminology varies between fountain pen folks and artists. No fountain pen ink is expected to live up to archival standards in art materials terms. These inks are not designed to be lightfast when exposed to UV light. Brian and I both faced this test with low expectations, which were, for the most part, confirmed. That being said, there were some inks that held up better than expected, and others that did surprisingly terrible in their class. Also, ink manufacturers sometimes make changes in color or composition of their inks between batches, so the results you get may be different from mine. For example, Noodler's Lexington Gray performed much better this time than a sample of it that I'd tested a couple of years ago.

After five months, there were no inks that looked exactly the same as their control samples. However, some did extremely well, and changed very little. Those changes might not even be visible in the photos. The inks that were in this top tier are:
  • Noodler's Black
  • Noodler's Blackerase Waterase (big surprise for me!)
  • Noodler's Kung Te-Cheng
  • Noodlers La Reine Mauve
  • Platinum Carbon Black
  • Platinum Pigmented Blue
  • Sailor Nano Black
  • Sailor Blue Black

The second tier lists the inks that had a color shift greater than the inks above, but they didn't shift or fade very much. Those inks are:
  • Noodlers Heart of Darkness
  • Noodlers Polar Black
  • Noodlers X-feather
  • Noodlers Lexington Gray
  • Noodlers Bad Blue Heron
  • Noodlers Luxury Blue
  • Noodlers Polar Blue
The third tier is basically everything else. These inks either had a huge color shift, faded a lot, or in some cases, nearly vanished. Below are the photos, so you can have a look for yourselves.

I gave a preliminary report last February about how the inks changed after the first six weeks. The samples then went back into the window for another three and a half months. Some changed little in the first six weeks and then nearly vanished! Others changed quite a bit in the first six, and not too much more after that. I attribute that to different ingredients and dyes in the inks, some of which are responding to the UV light faster or slower than others. Because of this interesting difference in the time frames, I am going to post both the six week and five month samples one below the other. Only the Noodlers Eternal Inks have six-week results, since I put those tests into the window first. The others have only the five-month images. (They went into the window later and came out later.)

Artists who are interested in knowing which inks can create a wash, and the color of the wash, will be able to see that in the samples. That washed area is generally where changes first appear, since there is a thinner application of the ink there. The six week and five month photos were taken with different cameras and different light sources, but you can still do the comparisons on each page. You can click images for a larger, clearer view. One thing you will notice is that due to the optical brighteners in the paper, the UV light caused the paper to yellow a bit by the five month mark, even though it is archival paper.

The control side is on the left, which was kept inside a sketchbook. The right side of each page was in the window. I then taped the pages back together to photograph them. It's much easier to make the comparisons with the sides together this way.

If you have a favorite ink in this test group, be sure you look at both the six week and five month samples! Remember that some inks that showed little change in six weeks had huge changes just a few weeks later. All images are clickable for a larger, clearer view.

Sheet 1, Six week sample:

Sheet 1, after five months:

Sheet 2, six week sample:

Sheet 2, five month sample:

Sheet 3, six week sample:

Sheet 3, five month sample:

Sheet 4, six week sample:

Sheet 4, five month sample:

Sheet 5, six week samples:

Sheet 5, five month samples:

Sheet 6, six week samples:

Sheet 6, five month samples:

Sheet 7, six week samples:

Sheet 7, five month samples:

Below are tests of the following inks that were included in the study, but not photographed at the six week mark. These were also in the window for five months:

  • Platinum Carbon Black
  • Platinum Pigmented Rose Red
  • Platinum Pigmented Sepia
  • Platinum Pigmented Blue
  • Sailor Sei-Boku Blue Black
  • Sailor Kiwa-Gura Nano Black
  • Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa
  • Rohrer & Klingner Salix
  • Diamine Registrar's Blue-Black

Sheet 8, five month samples:

Sheet 9, five month samples:

That was it for the Eternal, iron gall, and pigmented ink samples I had for testing. If you found some of those results discouraging, you'll feel better about them once you look at inks that don't fall into those categories. I didn't even photograph most of those, because for the most part, they nearly vanished. Below are two examples.

Sheet 10 after five months:

Sheet 11 after 5 months:

Thank you all for your patience in waiting for these results. It took a long time to get these all done and photographed, adjusted, and posted. I hope it was worth the wait for you, and that you find this information useful. It's been interesting for me to see how some of my personal favorites have fared, and as an artist, I now know more about which inks I'd use for what applications. 

I previously tested many other fountain pen inks and put the results up on my blog with images. You can see those on these links:
Lightfastness Results
More Ink Lightfastness Test Results
Lightfastness Results of 15 More Ink Samples
Eleven More Lightfastness Tests Revealed


New Product Review --- Introducing Stillman and Birn Zeta

If you're a fountain pen aficionado, sketch with ink and dip pens, love Pitt Brush pens, or the coverage you get with colored pencils on smooth paper, or mixed media on a plate-like surface of extra heavy-weight paper, you're going to adore this new Zeta paper from Stillman & Birn. Think of their fabulous Epsilon surface in a thicker, more opaque version, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what this paper is all about. When I first tried the Epsilon paper, I loved it so much that I wanted an even thicker version. Now it's here! Many thanks to Stillman & Birn for making my dream come true.

I was sent some 8.5x11" sheets of the Zeta by Stillman & Birn when it first came in from the mill in France. When I first saw and felt the Zeta paper, there seemed to be such a world of possibilities for media that would work well on it, that I didn't know where to begin. I wanted to do a sketch that would showcase the potential of this smooth, slick surface. I did a few sketches in watercolor and ink of flowers, pitchers, vases and fruit, and played with assorted inks and washes. Then I decided to sketch some of the materials I'd like to use on this paper, which became the inspiration for this particular sketch. I tossed some of my favorite pens, brushes, markers, crayons and pencils into a brightly colored little pot that I normally use for my painting water, and set out some paint tubes as foreground elements.I felt the colors in the setup were strong enough to carry a strongly colored ink. Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses is one of my favorites. It is not lightfast. It is not waterproof. But there is something magical about the color, so I keep a wonderful Sheaffer 100 loaded with this ink, and it is always with me. I like the way this ink weaves the color harmony of the sketch together. I started this sketch with a few pencil lines, then went right in with ink and did the drawing, working mostly front to back. I used a wet brush to create some wash effects with the ink in shadow areas, followed by the watercolor. The last step was putting in small ink details, like some of the writing on the paint tubes, which would have run if I'd done it earlier in the process. I accidentally did this sketch on the reverse side of my sheet of dark ink test swatches, which proved to be a testament to the high opacity of this paper; no ink lines showed through at all!

The way the internal and external sizing of the paper permits the paint pigment to lie on top of the page yields a wonderful brightness in the color. The pigment does not spread out and mix together like with traditional watercolor paper, so it does take some getting used to and adapting. I'm really looking forward to breaking out my gouache on this paper. I think it will be a great match. The sketch below was done with transparent watercolor and just a bit of white gouache toward the end for the lights. But actually, the sizing allows for pretty easy lifting of pigment, so I probably could have reclaimed those lights without adding white. This sketch is 8.5x11.

I also did a sketch with an ink that I know to generally be very waterproof. Since waterproof fountain pen inks are at least partially challenged by heavy sizing, I wanted to find out if Noodler's Kung Te-Cheng would run when I added watercolor. It's one of my favorite inks, and I wanted to be sure it would stay put on this paper, no matter what else I did to it. Well, as you can see, the ink did not run at all. The sketch below was done while visiting with my friend Gingie at RiverWinds Gallery in Beacon. They have so many beautiful displays there that it's a fun place to break out a sketchbook! This one is also 8.5x11"on the Zeta paper, using a Kaweco fountain pen with a broad nib and transparent watercolor.

There is so much more to explore with this paper. I can't wait to have it in sketchbook form. Finally there is an ink-friendly paper that does not show through to the other side at all, so there will be no ghosting of images when working front and back on the pages. If you enjoy working on smooth paper, this is definitely one to check out. I know I'll be going through a lot of it. If you would like to also read another artist's review of this paper, check out this post by Jeanne Powers-Forsyth.