Review – Sharpie China Marker

A ‘china marker’ or ‘grease pencil’ is essentially a hard, fat crayon that is used mostly for temporarily marking nonporous surfaces like glass, plastic laminate, tile, etc. They are an item that used to be pretty popular but have since waned as newer products like dry erase markers for temporary work on board or laminate, and permanent markers for less temporary weather resistance have come on the scene. Yet they still can be very useful when working with glass or porcelain. This being the case I was not surprised to see some in the hardware store, but I was slightly surprised to see that they were ‘Sharpie’ brand. Do they hold up in comparison?

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The short answer would be “yes”. The Sharpie brand here is just an addition to an older, very standard design by Sanford. The body is just a version of their “Peel-Off” design. I have a fairly old (by surviving china marker standards, since using them destroys them) one that is almost identical in most ways. The body is tightly wrapped brown-ish paper that is sealed with a black, perforated coating. On this coating is all of the relevant information of the product, and beneath it is a small white string. Pulling on this string will create a tear in the coating that can then be used to tear off enough of the inside material to expose the tip if it is worn down. The tip begins exposed with a roughly conical spiral of the paper that provides a nice template when tearing off a bit later. While I do suppose that the item could be sharpened, it would be pretty wasteful and difficult which is why a system like this was developed.

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As for writing, I have a black version, and it behaves very similarly to a fat crayon. Line width and coverage are dependant highly on how much pressure is applied, but it almost never is a true “line” in that it doesn’t fill in the whole space when writing. It writes well on nonporous surfaces and often on porous ones, being again about as smooth as a crayon. For what it’s intended to write on it is relatively weather-and handle-proof (it can smear) but can be removed with a paper towel and some elbow grease. Nonporous surfaces are a bit more tricky, but in general there is a way to clean it off.

There are only two types of grease pencil/china markers: the mechanical version, and peel-off versions, this one being the latter. It is very hard to mess up a peel-off grease pencil, but it is also hard to innovate in that field. This shows neither. It was competently made, but not entirely ingenious. It lacks any innovation or improvement over the pervious generations, but it does mark what it was meant to mark (china) and more. The price and availability are also quite reasonable. If you desire to acquire a china marker, and don’t mind the fact that the “greasy” (waxy) tip is exposed, then this one will do everything you want it to.

Blog 7-10-16 – July Update

Hello everyone, Austin Smith here, and it is July 10th, also known as the absolute last day one could possibly consider in the first week of July. Though I must admit I believe I did fail when I said I was going to have an update up during the first week. I did spend some extra time making sure the two posts I put up as tokens of proof that I am still going to update this site were a little more polished. The update is: I have not reached the point yet where I am in a position to fully restart my posting schedule. But I have said all of the things before about how I’ve seen Internet projects disappear, and how not getting things done snowballs. So I won’t go over them again, instead I’ll tell you about some of the things I did that are holding up the content but were still great to do. I’ll post another update by the first week of September.

The first really exciting thing that I did was go out to California and administrate a wedding for a family member. Unfortunately for me right now the photos haven’t come in, and all of the others that have me in them aren’t great (but I wasn’t who people were there to see) so I don’t have a photo from the ceremony right now. So instead here is one of me in Texas in the same outfit that looks like the Lord is shining down upon me.

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I’m also still moving, and here are ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of what a literal ton of books (as in actually 2000 pounds) looks like boxed up and on the shelf.

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Most recently I went to both of my local 4th of July festivities, in Alpine Texas. The first one, Fiesta del Barrio, I attended as a vendor selling some of my books. But I’m bad at taking pictures so I only got one of the parade, and one of a horned lizard. I also missed the second parade and only got one picture of it as well.

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And here is a panorama someone took of me from the Reds show I was featured in in early April.

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Anyway, hopefully those photos and my posts from yesterday sufficiently prove that I am alive and dedicated to these blogs. Thank you for your patience.

-Austin

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Review – Crayola Crayons (120 Crayon Box Part 1 – White, Pinks, Reds, and Purples)

When it comes to crayons there is one brand that immediately comes to everyone’s mind (right before “and Roseart? Is that their name?”): Crayola. They’ve been making crayons for more than a century, and seem to really know what they’re doing. Their products are pretty close to ideal for school use, and can be used, in good hands, to even make fine quality art.

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They’re simple and sturdy, with just a traditional paper wrapper that is almost instantly recognizable to anyone whi was raised in the United States. They’re harder to make a mess with than markers and easier to use than colored pencils. Still, they don’t lend themselves well to more advanced techniques, like any type of blending really. But to solve that, Crayola has a (relatively inexpensive) box of their 120 “standard” colors (excluding metallic, sparkling, and retired colors) available to give you as many different shades as you need. I roughly organized this set and split it into 4 parts of 30 crayons each. Where I will go through and evaluate each color and whether or not getting the 120 is really that much better and the 64 or 96.

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White – White is white, and on white paper, virtually invisible. There isn’t much of an off-white look either; it really does look like white paper on another color. It’s probably everyone’s least used crayon, but it’s good for highlighting, and covering an entire page without being able to see what your doing.

Piggy Pink – And very quickly we get to one I’m not really a fan of. Piggy Pink is a next-to-impossible-to-see color that, based on all of my observations, might actually be a pink hue. Maybe it’s for highlighting, but how often do you see that with crayons? I think it’s close to useless.

Salmon – Next up is a Salmon, which does look like the fish, though darker. Like most of the pinks it doesn’t cover well and is quite pale, but its still a pleasant color that could find a variety of uses.

Shocking Pink – Shocking pink is one of those fluorescent colors. It is easily the brightest pink and since the set has no “hot pink” it is a suitable replacement. It’s good for coloring 80’s clothing and aliens, but I suspect some could find more creative uses for it.

Radical Red – The name of this one is a bit of a swap, I think. It’s not really a red, much more of a pink (even with pink being weird as far as the light our eyes see and everything). I would best describe it as a darker, and more subdued, version of hot pink. Think the 90’s version of Shocking Pink up there, with much the same uses.

Wild Watermelon – Wild watermelon is quite an apt name for this one: it does look like a ripe (perhaps a bit overly so) watermelon. It’s a bright spring or flower color that unfortunately doesn’t cover well and has limited use.

Razzle Dazzle Rose – A color very similar to shocking pink, but with slightly different coverage properties (less even, but darker in spots). It is a bit darker and does give off a hint of the classic rose color, but it isn’t very spectacular.

Carnation Pink – This pink does resemble a carnation, but of course flowers range hugely in colors. It is a good flower color and covers well, but it’s too light to have many other applications.

Pink Flamingo – Despite the name being slightly misleading (it doesn’t really look like a flamingo, it’s quite a bit darker) this is one of my favorite pinks. It has a nice easy-to-see color, that covers alright, and has a versatile (for pink) range, from flowers, to berries, and even flamingo shading.

Tickle Me Pink – Lacking any knowledge about what color “Tickle Me” is I will say that this pink is a very similar one to the Pink Flamingo, it covers better and is a more “blueish” color. Filling many of the same roles, but being just a hint different.

Cotton Candy – Cotton Candy is one of the last “It is really hard to see this” colors we’ll have for a while (until lavender, and then not until yellows) but by virtue of it being one of those I am not a fan. It does cover surprisingly well, but it isn’t the color of cotton candy (at least what I’ve eaten) nor much else.

Mauvelous – Mauvelous is a wonderful pun and a nice-looking color. It isn’t the best covering one, but it is a light, purple-ish pink that is nice too look at. The one problem though is that the color isn’t mauve. It might be in the same realm (as in purple) but it wouldn’t have nearly the same uses.

Scarlet – Scarlet has always been one of my favorite colors. It’s a nice very bright red that looks good in highlighting, flowers, and anything that is generally a red color. It doesn’t cover as well as some of the other colors unfortunately. But it does draw the eyes while not being too overbearing.

Brick Red – Another apt name, this color is very much like a new brick wall with perhaps a dash of purple. It works for brick, obviously, and some older red items, like old fire hydrants and the like. Like most reds it’s all right in coverage, but lets the white show through here and there.

Razzmatazz – If I had to tell you what a Razzmatazz was, I wouldn’t be able to. I might guess that it would be a similar color to a raspberry, which this color is. It is also very much unlike Razzle Dazzle Pink, being a fairly dark pink/purple-y red that covers well enough. It’s good for berries and flowers and such, but I couldn’t pick it out in a lineup.

Red – A classic color there really isn’t much to say about. With coverage being much smoother than all of the pinks or pink-likes, and a pigment suitable for fire trucks, or apples it is an indespenable one.

Pink Sherbert – An interesting spelling choice on this one, but an apt description. This color would be very usable for frozen fruity treats. It is darker and covers better than most of the pinks and is quite soothing and cool looking.

Wild Strawberry – Wild Strawberry does look like a wild berry, but I’m not sure a strawberry would be the one I’d pick. It is a bit more purple/blue than most strawberries I’ve seen, but perhaps that’s just because I haven’t seen them in the wild. It is a nice raspberry or grape color as well, but like most reds it lacks good coverage.

Violet Red – This color is very hard to differentiate from the previous wild strawberry. It’s a little lighter, and a little more purple, but it has much the same use and properties.

Maroon – Maroon is one of my favorite colors in general, but it is generally a redish-brown-purple. And this version is distinctly less brown than is typical. I’d almost call Brick Red a more standard maroon color. It’s still a very nice, deep, satisfying color here, that gives the best coverage out of any of the reds. Unfortunately its uses are limited to shading, bruises, some clothing, and Texas A&M paraphernalia.

Cerise – Another color I am mostly unfamiliar with, but the name is quite accurate here. A purplish red, cerise doesn’t have many uses, save berries again. But it is a pleasant, lighter color that covers decently when applied.

Jazzberry Jam – Crayola seem to really like adding “z’s” to their color names, a theme that another color will follow before we’re through this first part. Jazzberry Jam is a lighter purplish-red and is indeed like many types of jams, jellies and berries. It’s got good coverage and is nice on the eyes.

Blush – Another good color name, Blush is exactly what I would have expected this color to be, or at least one of the variations. It’s a medium tone red-purple that covers very well and could be used as an actual blush color, unfortunately, despite it being nice looking, there isn’t much else to do with it.

Lavender – A fairly accurate representation of the flower, lavender is a light purple that is one of the more difficult crayons to see, and doesn’t cover very well, but is also one of the most interesting to look at. Not much to use it for, though.

Hot Magenta – This color is very similar to Razzle Dazzle Rose, with a dash more purple and some of the “atomic” glow taken out. I’m not a fan, and it doesn’t cover well, but it is seeable and not too hard on the eyes.

Purple Pizzazz – The final of the various “azz” colors, Purple Pizzazz is pretty unspectacular. It’s a light purple suitable for light purple things that covers all right. It’ll get use as an in-between color, but I can’t see reaching for it that often.

Magenta – Taking time off from Blues Clues magenta makes a good showing here. It covers well, looks very much like magenta, and because of that is nice too look at. Other than again flowers, berries, and the character, I’m not sure where it would be used, though.

Fuchsia – The hardest to spell color is also one of the hardest for people to pin down what exactly makes it (like chartreuse). Fortunately to that end it is a flower, and this color isn’t quite like the examples of the flower I’ve seen. But it would still work for other flowers and has good properties.

Red Violet – Another good color name, it is basically purple with a bit more red mixed in. Getting into these true purples though, means fewer and fewer uses, but better coverage, which this one has.

Egg Plant – And finally for this first part one of my (and certainly my mother’s) favorite colors (really just because it’s a goofy name) eggplant looks a lot like an eggplant. And it covers well enough that if you wanted to color an eggplant or shade some other purple color it would work perfectly.

And that’s all for the first 30 colors. Next time I’ll look at another 30 going from the purples to in the greens.

Review – Alvin Isometric Graph Paper (8½ x 11)

One of the hardest things in art and design is getting perspective down. And while many organic things can be fudged to look fine, there are some times where a more precise and technical perspective must be used. That’s where isometric graph paper comes in (at least for 2-point perspective), with rulings that serve as guides for simple-but-precise shapes rotated at 45 degrees (or hexes). The particular brand I’m looking at today is Alvin.

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The paper comes in a pad of 30 sheets with a cardboard back and cardstock cover. The “spine” is simply glue that allows pages to be easily torn off. The paper itself is a pretty standard 20 lb weight that resists bleed-though on ballpoints and smaller felt tips. Rollerballs, larger felt tips, Sharpies, and the like will bleed, but not terribly. Show through is pretty bad, and the second side has no graph so I can’t recommend the back for use.

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The graph has a ¼ to ½ inch border around the edge with some basic information printed on it. The graph is just under 10 ½ inches by 8 ¾ inches, with lines coming from the border at 30, 90, and 120 degrees every quarter inch. The lines are a light blue and will not show up on simple scanner, and very faintly on more modern scanners when set to greyscale. Still, they can be easily removed and don’t photocopy well, meaning the drawing or diagram can stand on its own.

The grid is very helpful in creating simple outlines for 3D shapes and places, or hexes for board games and tile patterns. The paper is pretty unspectacular but it’ll get the job done. I have no clue about its archival properties, but since they aren’t advertised I’d say they’re minimal at best. They’re a fun thing to mess around with and a useful classroom tool, but they might be left behind for more serious art and design.

Blog 5-2-16 – Reconstruction

Hey guys, Austin here again. I said I would post an update in May after my April suspension of my posting schedule, and I’m here to say the posting schedule is still suspended. Things in April didn’t work out as I had planned (at least as far as this Blog is concerned, my sanity might be slightly restored though). And thinking I could get it all sorted out by May may have been a bit too optimistic of me (see what I did there). I’m working on quite a few site- and content-related things behind the scenes, but they aren’t translating at the moment into much that is visible on the front end. Still, I do want to get things out there so it does look like I’m doing something, since I can say I am all I want but without any new posts it sure doesn’t look like I am.

Unfortunately I will still have to extend my schedule suspension until I’m caught up and can return to it. I don’t know how long it will take to do that exactly, but I will post an update about it by the first week of July. Once things do get back on track, though, be on the lookout for some announcements of cool new things, I’ve got a lot in the works.

-Austin

Review – Staedtler Mars Plastic Eraser

Interesting tidbit with this review; I was ordering a replacement for this products (because spoiler: I liked it) and I ended up with something that I wasn’t expecting. While my original Mars Plastic eraser came in a humble card sleeve (as most still do) my new ones came in a fancy plastic swivel case. So this review will really be two parts. One for the eraser itself, and another for the upgraded container they can come in.

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The eraser is a standard seeming white plastic/rubber rectangular prism that measures about 2½ x ¾ x ½ inches and is marked in a regular pattern subtly with the Staedtler logo on two sides; the four smaller sides are essentially flat. Since it is an eraser there isn’t much more to say about the looks, but how does it work? Well, I really like it. I go back and forth between hard and soft (kneaded rubber) erasers. I’ve currently moved back to the hard erasers because I can see when their ability to erase starts to be diminished more clearly (by being shorter rather than slightly darker). In my experience it has erased almost every pencil line I’ve asked it to, and it is better than the ones usually found at the store (save Magic Rub), but comparing higher end erasers is very difficult. They all do their jobs well and it’s mostly a matter of personal preference (and sometime pencil choice) as anything else, but that’s where a fancy plastic case might stand out and make a difference.

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The case is slightly larger in every dimension (duh) than the eraser. The top and bottom are made to resemble the traditional card-wrapped eraser, with a white bit extending from the blue eraser identification part. A larger Staedtler logo covers the pivot on one side in this white area. On this white end attached to the pivot on the inside is a cut-out box that is about an inch on one side and an inch and a quarter on the other. This box has eight small ridges on the inside to grip the eraser, and it pivots 180 degrees from having the eraser tucked inside the rest of the case to being fully exposed. It can go farther, but at risk of breaking the back of the case. This allows for easy dispensing of the eraser with one hand and provides a nice sturdy handle when erasing. It also protects the eraser from getting gunky or gunking up other things (the inside does get a bit dirty/gunky sometimes, though). I’m a fan of the case (but being nitpicky the two smallest ends are rounded off and the eraser will not want to stand up on them).

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So in the end the Staedtler Mars Plastic is a good, but not exceptional, eraser. It’s not like it erases every pencil line in one stroke, or is virtually crumb-less, but it does get most pencil lines with relatively few crumbs. It works well, and I really like the case for the convenience and protection it provides. I’ve been using it (and flipping it open compulsively) for a bit and it doesn’t show any signs of breaking soon. Though it does make the eraser a considerable bit larger and limits use of about half of it. It’s a nice change of pace and experiment if one wants to spice up their eraser life.

Blog 4-1-16 – The Good and the Bad

Hello again. I’m Austin Smith from the Dragon Funnies (dragonfunnies.com), Art Supply Critic (artsupplycritic.com), and Dragon Co. (dragoncompany.org) Blogs. And I have finally and unfortunately reached the point where work, social obligations, sickness, and just life in general have rendered me unable to keep up with maintaining my web endeavors. Over the past few weeks I have failed entirely to keep the deadlines I have set for myself on all three of these Blogs. And with more than 3 years of not missing more than a day that is a huge blow to me.

I will not give up on posting to these sites. And in fact I can see the crest of the mountain where I can go back to the normal maintenance of them. It is disheartening for me to still have this problem even after I have streamlined so much of my content. But it is still just a hobby for me, and it is a hobby I will have to “leave” on this side of the mountain and come back for once I have brought everything else to the top.

The real announcement here is, I will be suspending my posting schedule in April. That doesn’t mean things won’t be posted. It just means there will be no schedule. I will finish what I can when I can and then review my situation in May. If everything goes as planned (and things, contrary to how it seems, tend to go as planned, just not on schedule), I will catch up through all of these days by the time I am done. So the amount of content in the end will be the same, but will be posted in bursts rather than daily.

Until that is done there is quite a bit still on the site to enjoy, and I will still be showing my art and books in a gallery here in Alpine Texas from April 1st to 10th. There will be a lot of photos and maybe a few videos from that. And I will be working on a way to get some of the really cool new stuff I made for the show out and available on my site.

-Austin.