Wörther Shorty 3.15mm Natural Aluminum

Pictured Above & Reviewed Below

The main point I hold against my other Wörther pencil is it’s mostly plastic construction and the resulting exceedingly light weight. They offer the Shorty in all plastic in a rainbow of colors which I wrote off as certainly too light and all wood which I passed over for the same reason. In the pursuit of something more substantial I picked up the pencil in “Natural Aluminum.” Calling it that appears to be done to draw contrast with a polished, knurled, or brushed aluminum that’s common on writing instruments.

As with other variations of the Shorty the clutch is four segmented, the body is hexagonal in section, and the button depresses quite deeply. Unlike other variations the clip is hinged and smoothly pivots up from the body. It’s a small thing, but a nice touch, even if it’s unnecessary because the clip naturally stands off from the body a bit more than one may expect. That the clip is also aluminum, with the same finish as the body was the right design choice. The leaves of the clutch are a shiny steel, and there’s a small crescent of plastic on the button (embossed with the brand), based on which I expect Wörther could have easily gone with a steel or plastic clip; so their choice is appreciated.

It’s not a heavy pencil, but feels substantial, and for forty five dollars it’s not a pencil you’re going to buy for each color lead you plan on using (like you would with the seven dollar rainbow plastic models). It’s a pleasant pencil though, particularly if you like the Wörther leads and want to use those in a native pencil. It’s chunky and something about the natural finish makes it feel delicate in a way another metal wouldn’t. The six facets of the wide hexagonal body make it hard to hold comfortably in a non-standard grip. This could be good or bad depending on if you’re trying to break a bad habit or not.

If I lost it I would be sad, but I don’t think I would replace it. I could see buying another as a gift. I do not expect it would survive unscathed knocking about in a pencil box, it might not scratch as readily as I expect it may but the sharp lines where the facets come together seem only too delicate.

Available from: ipenstore.com Orange Art eBay.com

Parafernalia Neri S Lead Dispenser 3.2mm Orange

Pictured Above & Reviewed Below

I like a short pencil, and this is one. It’s a bit unusual in that it’s neither a propelling nor a clutch pencil. If we’re giving it a description it’s a set screw pencil. There’s no complex moving parts, just a tube with a tapered end, a threaded hole and a thumb screw. That doesn’t seem like a whole lot to get for fifty six dollars. Parafernalia is a design focused Italian brand and the Neri pencil is manufactured by them for Internoitaliano who are another Italian brand that if anything is even more design focused.

Neri, is a whole lineup of pens and pencils although calling it a lineup may be a bit generous. It’s really just one design iterated into just enough variations to give a collection minded person something to buy multiple over and over. And what exactly would you be buying? An anodized aluminum tube with the most unpleasant texture of any material I have ever encountered.

The pencil looks good. That’s all you should ever do with it though, look. It’s not something that you can un-touch, which having touched it is the only thing I ever want from it. The texture could be described as broken fingernail, or fine sand eyedrops. It’s so excessively unpleasant that I’ve never marked a page with it. As I wrote above, it looks nice. The orange anodized finish is without flaw, and the printed branding is perfectly executed. The unique and profoundly simple design is reminiscent of one of those carefully laid out fonts where all you can see is the words unless you focus on the letters and start to pick up echos of everything that went into it.

I like it, I do. But I wouldn’t buy it again and if I could exist in a timeline where I never bought it and felt the too-fuzzy almost frothed aluminum finish on it I would.

Available from: No, I will not help anyone find this cursed object.

Wörther Shorty 3000 3.15mm Walnut

Pictured Above & Reviewed Below

Wörther is a German stationer, although that might imply more depth to the brand than is warranted. Near as I can tell they offer only 3.15mm short form clutch pencils and matching leads. Their pencil is called the Shorty and it’s generally hexagonal in section, which makes the round barreled Shorty 3000 someone of an outlier. It’s worth noting that if you want 3.15mm leads Wörther themselves is the only source. Fortunately, Koh-I-Noor offers 3.2mm leads which fit and 3mm would likely fit as well if it were possible to find without getting flooded with results for 0.3mm propelling pencil leads.

The leads Wörther offers are oil based, except for their graphite leads and although available in a range of colors come only in single tubes of four leads each for from two to seven dollars. This is potentially expensive (depending on the convenience of one retailer or another) for oil based leads as they wear so quickly. A benefit of the fast wearing leads is the lack of a need to point them. Because it’s so soft, and so much is consumed even in drawing a line of moderate length, one needs only to rotate the pencil to keep lines a constant width. Wörther goes so far as to make that point in the advertising copy. Emotionally, it comes across defensive as they frame it around their justification for not including a pointer. I suspect that except for the graphite leads a pointer or bladed sharpener would eat the oil based leads so rapidly that people would complain.

I may be wrong, but I think these are meant as marking pencils rather than writing or art pencils. Wörther touts them as able to write on glass, X-rays, wood, fabric, tile and virtually any surface. The wood finish Shorty 3000 looks wonderful, but in the hand feels exceptionally cheap. This is probably because apart from the thin wood body, the four segment clutch, and whatever spring is inside it’s made of plastic. And it’s rather lightweight plastic at that. I found mine used for sixteen dollars, including shipping.

I would not replace it if I lost it, or if worn out. I wouldn’t feel bad if upon loaning it to someone it wasn’t returned. I don’t mean for this to sound like any sort of indictment or criticism of the brand. They make a range with significant variety and I think this is just a cheaper model.

Available from: Orange Art

Cretacolor Ecologic 5.6mm Natural

Pictured Above & Reviewed Below

Cretacolor is the first brand listed here which is really an art materials company. The odds are good that if you’re the owner of a lead holder you’ve picked up leads from them at least once. The Ecologic is their purportedly environmentally friendly lead holder though they make a point of advertising it as suitable for charcoals. They would have to be processed charcoals, only the thinnest vine will fit. In consideration of fit, Cretacolor sells a wide variety of 5.6mm leads and they are longer than would fit in the two short-form holders reviewed above, but are the longest suitable for this holder.

The clutch mechanism is all metal of a uniformly reflective finish. It does not unscrew from the wooden body and it is unclear if it is glued or simply press-fit. I do not know the type of wood, but it feels like something common rather than some level-the-rainforest exotic. It’s sanded smooth but unsealed and not lacquered. It tapers somewhat towards the clutch release while the other end has a significant hour-glass grip. It’s not uncomfortable.

At retail the lead holder is from ten dollars to the high end of less than twenty dollars. This may feel expensive for the unfinished wood and common metal. The impression one gets is that it’s made to be inexpensive and more than that, it is made to feel plain. It’s the kind of lead holder one might be provided at an adult-education life drawing class. It will do the job but is not so appealing that it’s apt to walk out with a student. Neither is it so precious as to be upsetting if it does go missing.

If I lost it I wouldn’t buy it again. It feels as if it would last through four years of art school, provided it isn’t dropped. I don’t know if it’s justified or not, I do feel though, that upon impact with the floor from a moderate height the wood may crack and split. Perhaps it’s better to worry about how the wood is sure to discolor upon contact with smudged fingers or knocking around in a pencil box. On a glossy surface dust is expected to brush off, on this raw wood it’s sure to impregnate.

Available from: Cretacolor on Amazon.com Dick Blick Jacksons Art

Kaweco Sketch Up Brass 5.6mm

Pictured Above & Reviewed Below

Kaweco is a German stationer with broad and deep coverage as far as their writing instruments go. For short form pencils they offer 5.6mm and 3.2mm clutch pencils and 0.5mm click propelled pencils. Materials for the 5.6mm versions are limited to one in brass, one in aluminum, and one in black plastic. It’s exceptional that they only offer the plastic one in black because they offer everything else in multiple colors. I selected the brass version because the idea that it would change appearance over time appealed. Mine is unlikely to acquire any sort of patina, because I’m not a fan.

The pencil is heavy and doesn’t have a clip unless you bother to buy a slide on one from Kaweco. I could forgive this if the clip was more snug, as it is it slips and slides too much for any sense of security. For those who hate a clip I’m sure it’s welcome as an optional rather than built-in feature. For the octagonal body it’s mostly unnecessary as a roll-stop. Even if it doesn’t roll, it’s going to slide if you put it down in the wrong orientation on any sort of slope. This is a product of its slick finish and substantial weight. That weight is balanced and as a result how it is gripped governs the feel in use more than the design of it does. It’s unfortunate.

Depending on the retailer the brass finish Sketch Up will be in the general neighborhood of thirty dollars. In all honesty it’s overpriced, but this is due in some part to the decisions Kaweco makes regarding packaging. A cardboard sleeve around a stamped and painted tin is, excessive. As you might find in a draftsman’s 2mm lead holder the push button holds a lead pointer, and threading that as well as the mechanism and body certainly contributes to the cost of manufacture. Note, it’s an omnidirectional pointer, and not a bladed sharpener.

I wouldn’t purchase it again if I lost it and I don’t project that it would wear out within any individual lifetime. My expectation is this would be exactly what some other artist could be looking for. Why shouldn’t it be? Brand loyalty is a thing and it’s not ugly even if it is a brutalist Soviet apartment tower of a thing. Kaweco has a brass pocket style fountain pen and I could see an owner of the pen justifying the purchase of the pencil.

Available from: Amazon.com Jet Pens Kaweco and certainly other retailers.

e+m Germany Clickman 5.6mm Beechwood

Pictured Above & Reviewed Below

The brand “e+m” is a German stationer and every instance of their name I can find is in lowercase. They have been around longer than both k. d. lang and her inspiration, e. e. cummings, though I have to imagine they were not always averse to capitalization. Who knows, German isn’t bound by my native English conventions on capital letters. They make a variety of products, writing instruments and the usual affiliated objects. I have a pencil and lead pointer.

The Clickman by e+m in beechwood, is a short body, 5.5-5.6mm lead, push button clutch pencil. They also offer a ballpoint ink insert which transforms it into a pen. I selected it in beechwood because wood should look like it, and of the various models I noticed at the time none of them had anything that will stop them rolling (essential for a round body), save the Clickman, which has a lanyard horseshoe. It was pennies more than seventeen dollars. I will have to obtain a lanyard.

An all-metal mechanism of brass and steel with a brown (possibly anodized, both aluminum and titanium could be made that color) finish gives the pencil a reassuring weight. That weight is tip-heavy, rather than balanced, and it feels better for it. I don’t know if this was a purposeful design consideration, it seems like it would have to be, there’s no other reason to have the amount of mechanism beyond the six segment clutch sticking out from the body. The smooth finished wooden body has a metal inner tube with threads at the tip end. I don’t know if threading the metal and pressing or glueing it into a wooden cylinder is a cost saving measure; a hit to material cost certainly but threading wood consistently and cheaply feels like a tall order.

As far as the strength of the spring on the clutch goes it’s noticeably stiff. This is good, particularly for something in the 5.6mm diameter, as it means softer leads or even (thin) vine charcoal can be grasped by the clutch without slipping. There are, so far as I can tell, no corners cut. If I lost it I would buy it again. I cannot imagine that I will break it or wear it out to the point of inoperability. Somewhat oddly the photos I can find online from various retailers all show the brand emblazoned on the wooden body near the push button. On my example there is no marking on the wood, instead it is printed on the metal surround of the clutch mechanism.

There is no integrated lead pointer in the pencil. So for the cost of the pencil I purchased one from their available lineup. I consider it a point in their favor that a pointer is not integrated. The last thing one should have is a dust filled pointer screwed into their pencil. Searching reveals that e+m only offer wooden pointers (as distinct from a bladed sharpener) and those are available in a variety of stained and natural woods. There are two form factors, one bulb shaped and the other die shaped. The die shaped model is the objectively superior choice.

Pointing is an infrequent activity with a 5.6mm lead, or it should be. The only way to work small with such a wide lead is to keep it pointed, and that being wasteful, it’s best to work at A5 or larger. Starting with a point, turn the pencil frequently and it will yield a more or less consistent line until the cone is as much as half gone, when it should be re-pointed. That advice should be thrown out the window if you’re heavy handed or working with soft or oil-based leads.

Available from: Creative Art Materials on Amazon.com Cult Pens Jet Pens Hyatts and probably plenty of other retailers as well

Sketch Every Day by Simone Grunewald

Cover of a good book.

The book Sketch Every Day by Simone Grunewald is 207 numbered pages, each 24.5 cm tall and 17.5cm wide. I mention the size of the pages because it’s large enough that the drawings don’t feel super shrunk-down as they can in smaller books and it’s not so large as to be unwieldy.

The book is broken up into seven sections of varying length. Starting with a page of introduction and three pages of the My Creative Life which is a short biography of the authors art career, we move on to thirty pages of Artists Advice. This sections makes such recommendations as getting into the habit of sketching, not being afraid of social media and not doing that thing that plagues every artists who reads book reviews online is guilty of; believing that this tool or that will make one a better artist.

We then get to the meat of the book with just shy of fifty pages on Art Fundamentals. She covers everything form using light and shade properly color theory and narrative construction. I particularly like that she doesn’t gloss over the importance of highlights and how to use them effectively.

Now, the bulk of the book is some eighty pages on Character Design, which honestly doesn’t interest me much. Don’t eat me wrong, it’s enjoyable to read and the artworks are lovely to see. It always a joy to read any author who’s writhing from a place of love and enthusiasm. I just don’t care about creating characters. The authors real life work experience in the video game industry is really going to make this section worth while for some people, just not for me.

Second to last is twelve pages of Family Life which is a peek into the authors day to day. This is nice to see as I do think far to many people who pursue art get the impression that people who make their living from art practice it to the exclusion of all else. She then wraps up with a page of Thank You.

I’m happy I picked up the book and it’s enjoyable to read and just leaf through. I don’t think I would have bought it if I knew before hand how much of it was devoted to a topic that doesn’t light a fire for me. I’ll definitely keep it but if I lost it I don’t think I’d buy it again.

Acrylic Ink

Acrylic ink is generally a pigment or dye in an exceedingly low viscosity acrylic binder. You can paint with it, or use it with paint as part of a larger work, or you can use it as ink. That’s what I’m doing now. I’ve picked up some Daler Rowney acrylic ink and I’m using it in my Indigraph pen. It’s a pen that can use india or any pigment based ink without drying out and becoming unusable.

I picked up sepia. Daler Rowney’s sepia is a semi-opaque, pigment ink using PBk7, PR112, and PY1:1 for a nice rich brown sepia. It’s less red than I expected, really only having worked with sepia pencil before this. Anyway, I like it. Turns out acrylic ink dries fast, so fast I thought maybe it was because the pen. So I tried it in a boring old dip pen and it still dries “instantly” for all intents and purposes. Seriously, 3 seconds (didn’t I tell you 3’s are events after all), about the time it takes me to set down a pen and pick up a brush and the stuff’s dry.

Apply it really heavy, going back and forth over an area a bunch of times and that turns into half a minute, but that’s still fast as heck. Three days in and it still flows immediately when I pick up the Indigraph so I’d say I’ll be using acrylic ink for the time being.

Guerilla Painter Five by Seven Pocket Box

I own a pochade. I use it all the time. Inside and outside. Traveling and in the cellar, everywhere. It’s designed to be used out and about, and it does great at that. Don’t let this make you neglect using it at home though.

After all, a drawing board is useful at home, so is an easel. It follows then, that a pochade is too. What’s a pochade? It’s a box, and in French it means pocket, generally made of wood and combining storage, and support holder. That’s pretty much it. Some, like the Guerilla Painter Pocket Box do more than hold your support but also allow you to safely carry one or more painted supports. In this case two panels back to back slide into the lid.

It closes up real small and holds plenty inside. I keep a set of watercolors with a built in water bottle, a brush/pen wrap, my Rapesco Supaclip, and an eraser in there. Along with either six sheets of paper clipped to three supports or two gessoed canvas panels. If I’m working in acrylic then the watercolor pallet is swapped out for a lidded silicone pallet loaded up with primary colors.

There’s a standard quarter twenty tripod socket on the bottom which with all the tripods I own is something I’d have put on myself if it didn’t. There’s also four rubber feet so if you got a table you can go that way or use it laptop style.

I know what you’re thinking and yeah, it’s a big thing to carry around compared to a sketchbook and a pocket sized pallet. But I don’t like a sketchbook. I have a habit, if someone approaches me when something’s nearly finished, if they say anything nice, I give them the painting. That’s not really possible with sketchbook bound works.

The lid of the box is adjustable at any angle from closed to horizontal and locks down pretty securely. Not so securely that you’ll want to lean your hand on the canvas or paper, but not so lightly that you can’t a bit if you must. All the hardware is stainless steel or aluminum which looks nice and means no rusting. The adjustment knob is large and plastic but has inset metal threads so there’s no fear of stripping them.

I’ve only got two small gripes and even they are pretty minor. First, the hardware for the feet stick up into the box a bit. That makes them very sturdy but it also means anything knocking around loose in the box is going to get banged up. I overcome that by keeping my pens and brushes in a case that’s bulky enough to fill the space.

My other complaint, and again it’s a minor one, is that the tripod mount is raises from the surface of the wooden bottom. Again, I’m sure this is a concession to strength. Unfortunately, it means you either can’t leave a quick release plate installed if your want to use it on a table or you’ll need to search out a very low-profile plate like this one.

At the tiny five by seven size I went with you can only work on five by seven or seven by something supports, right? Not so! Guerilla Painter sells an easel that fits in the box and serves both as a standoff and adapter. That means you can work smaller, with portrait format, or with supports of almost any width and up to about nine inches tall.

Even more than that, in an advancement of design from an earlier version, you can work wider right off the bat, if perhaps a bit less securely. The bottom canvas holders are shaped like little “W’s”. One valley of the “W” is the main canvas holders and works in conjunction with the four “U” shaped holders in the lid to hold the canvas secure. The other valley of the “W” let’s you work on a support that will rest outside the lid using the outside of the “U’s” as rear holders. This is quite insecure, but means you can work nine by twelve or seven by fourteen in a pinch.

All in all, I couldn’t be happier with the Pocket Box by Guerilla Painter. It’s freed me up to work just about anywhere. In fact it’s made me seriously consider going to court and painting people. We’ll see if I ever try that!