Blackwing Sharpener Review

I just got back from a sketching trip to Montreal.  I’ll talk about that once I get a chance to scan my sketches but today I want to show you what I found while wandering around Mile End.  I went into a tiny store called Boucle & Papier.  l didn’t have high expectations as the place is full of greeting cards but they had Blackwing pencils, which was a pleasant surprise.

The BIG surprise, though, was that they had the hot topic in the pencil world right now – the Blackwing sharpener.  I was hot to get one of these but shipping costs really limit my ability to do so.  But I have one now.

Before I talk about it I need to provide a bit of sharpener history for those who are saying “it’s only a sharpener.”  In the pencil world, particularly the people that carry pencils wherever they go, have never been satisfied by the cheap sharpeners you can buy anywhere.  There are reasons for this but the big one is that these sharpeners produce a very short, high-angle tip and if you want to write/draw with a fine line, you’re constantly sharpening.  The long tip you get from a wall sharpener is what we want in our portable sharpeners.

There have been several solutions but the reigning favorite is the Kum Masterpiece sharpener, a 2-step sharpener that requires you to remove wood in the first step and then carefully sharpen the point in the second.  It works great, though the 2-step approach isn’t convenient.  More important, however, is that the shavings aren’t captured by the sharpener.

The Blackwing sharpener has come to the rescue.  If you haven’t been convinced by the cost of the thing, the packaging should give you the idea that you’re holding something special.  It impresses when you hold it in your hand as well.  Very solid and the black anodizing is beautiful.

The sharpener disassembles into three pieces.  You unscrew the top and then you can pull the actual sharpener out of the housing to empty the shavings.  The sharpener hole is offset to allow shavings to easily flake away from the blade.  Sharpening is done by simply holding it and twisting the pencil as you would with any simple sharpener.

Here’s a comparison of the results from the Blackwing and Masterpiece sharpeners.  Note that the exposed graphite length is very similar but the Masterpiece removes more wood.  The reason is that the Blackwing sharpener cuts the pencil into a curved shape similar to the Pollux sharpener that is popular with some, though the Pollux  has a reputation of being picky about what pencils it will sharpen.  I haven’t exhaustively tested different pencils but I’ve tried Ticonderoga, Blackwing, Tombow, Mitsubishi, Mars Lumigraph and even Col-Erase pencils and the Blackwing sharpener handles all of them well.

This is just a close up of the results.

In the end, this sharpener is now part of my sketching bag and I just love it.  A happy surprise from Montreal.

Edit:  Tina Koyama asked for a comparision to the Blackwing 2-step sharpener.  Here it is.  Top pencil is a Mars Lumograph sharpened with the new Blackwing and the bottom pencil is a Tombow Mono 100 sharpened with the Blackwing 2-step sharpener.

Please Use An Accessible Email Address To Ask Questions

Sigh… this is a post in response to frustration – my frustration.  Somewhat regularly I receive emails from people who follow my blog.  They’re asking questions and, I suspect, they’d like a response.

The problem is that some use work emails or otherwise protected server addresses such that when I try to answer the email bounces back at me.  I could just delete it and move on but I’m always concerned with their interpretation of not receiving a response.

The latest case came from someone named Alison, who was asking several questions.  I wrote a long response and sent it.  It bounced.  I tried several more times with no success.  Alison, if you’re reading this, I tried.  Sorry but your email server won’t accept email from me.

100 People In Five Days

It’s BACK!!  Marc Taro Holmes and Liz Steel are, once again, leading the challenge to draw 100 people in five days.  I’m not a people sketcher but I did this last year and it was a lot of fun.  My advice is to set aside Monday and, draw, draw draw 30-40 people.  This makes the rest of the week easier as you’re less likely to fall behind and get stressed (grin).  Then, post your results with the tag #oneweek100people2019.

To demonstrate some ways of achieving the goal, here are some examples of how I drew 100 people.  None of these people captures took more than a minute or so (adding color not included) because these were real people, doing real things and they didn’t wait around for me to draw them (grin).

These were captured one at a time as they ordered coffee.

These floating heads were gleaned from TV.

 

These were people standing around in the mall.

Book Review: Marc Taro Holmes’ Direct Watercolor

Marc Taro Holmes has released a new book, Direct Watercolor, and I have to confess that I’m a biased reviewer.  I love the pedagogic skills and dedication he brings to his art instruction.  Yes, his art is fantastic but his first book, The Urban Sketcher and his Craftsy courses are each a tour de force in their subject areas.  You can’t just read/watch Marc’s lessons; you’ve got to listen closely, multiple times, or you’ll miss many of the little gems he casually drops in front of you.

Maybe more important, Marc seems driven by the notion that he’s not providing enough bang for the buck because he crams more into a book or video than anyone so you do, indeed, get a lot of bang for your buck.  Direct Watercolor is a good illustration of that.

Direct Watercolor is a bit different from his previous offerings as it has multiple goals.  While there is considerable information about how to sketch directly with watercolor, it’s also a presentation of a bunch of his art, done in this way, which serves to enforce the instruction, but also serves as a travel journal of some of the more exotic places Marc has sketched.  These goals knit together go together like a good wine and cheese. 

The end result is not only an instruction book, it’s a book stuffed full of eye candy.  The back cover says there are over “80 plein air watercolor paintings.”  When I counted them I got more than 100, along with the half a dozen step-by-step demonstrations and pages showing the basic techniques.  Only Marc can get all this into a 100 page book.

Truth is, this book is so full of beautiful art that it’s worth owning whether you do any watercolor work or not.  I do question one thing, though, and that’s the title, Direct Watercolor.  Anyone who is a sketcher would mentally put “rather than ink and wash” after that title, but I wonder how it would be interpreted by a watercolorist who isn’t a sketcher.  Is there another kind of watercolor other than putting the pigment directly on the paper?  Maybe a subtitle would have been appropriate.  In any case, we sketchers know what he’s talking about and that’s all that matters (grin).

 

Merry Christmas From Quebec City

Hi everyone.  Once again I have to apologize for not posting regularly.  Problems with my hands have prevented me from drawing much, which is my only excuse.  I did want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, though, so I’m using a past sketch to justify this short acknowledgement of the holidays.  I hope all is well with you and yours and that it’s warmer where you are than it is here (grin).