Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ну, погоди! - Just You Wait! : Russian Cartoon You cannot forget

Back in the days of Black and White Television (That would be late 70s in India) the State run TV channel Doordarshan would telecast some very funny 'foreign' programs. It included Around the World in Eighty Days, Charlie Chaplin and among other such things, a very funny Russian cartoon, where a Wolf would perpetually try to catch a Rabbit.

And there would be this catch phrase that symbolizes the pursuit of the wolf..Just You wait!

Thanks to the Omniscient Net, I figured it was the program called Nu Pogodi in Russian, this was a very popular cartoon made in Russia during late 60s, 70s. I was surprised to know they were in full color glory.

There were 20 episodes made in all, majority of them in the seventies, and then episodes continued to be made at irregular intervals up until 2006!

One particular episode the, 3rd in the series, "Road" May 29, 1971, was repeatedly broadcast, that I could remember every single movement in the episode. I used to wonder as a kid, how all the various details were taken care of, all by drawing, one frame at a time.

Its almost like yesterday that I was watching this scene where the rabbit appears almost caught, and the wolf stands precariously on a pile of drums.

It was this particular shot of the road roller monstrously running towards the camera, and how the action lines made it appear it to move so dynamically, that drew me into the magic  of animation. I cannot believe I am looking at this after nearly 35 years, and it appears as if it happened moments ago. 

The magic of memory, the Illusion of Life :)

And finally the wolf running .... "Just You Wait".

Watch it in all its glory now ...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Book Review : Pen & Ink with Watercolor by George Olson

Simple, Concise and Packed with information

Pen, Ink and Watercolor is a very interesting medium. It fuses the bright and brilliant watercolors with the direct and detail oriented pen and ink, to create some of the stunning illustrations.

This book provides all the information, tools and methods to get one started on a wonderful journey of exploring this medium.

The author is obviously an accomplished artist, showcasing elegant art work, at the same time maintaining a certain simplicity, that is essential to follow the book.

5 stars simply for sticking with Crow quill through out. Nothing can come close to this versatile tool, which is more like a feather made out of metal.

Book deals systematically with drawing, pen and ink and color. 

For pen and ink, it talks about the various nibs, holders, practical tips, warm up exercises, strokes, building tones etc. Though these are specialized topics more extensive covered in few other books, this is very nicely presented in a crisp and essential manner.

Drawing is a vast subject, but well covered composition, proportions, perspective etc. along with capturing the detailed textures.etc.

Colored inks and watercolor wash are taken up next, presented with a lot of variety and application.

Plenty of examples, all made using the tools and methods mentioned in this book, and a very systematic concise approach makes this a great book!

This is an extract from my review at Amazon.com, You can find more of my reviews here.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

India's first Open Source Film

Open source content development is increasingly seeing traction in creative areas such as films. The availability of software tools that are comparable to Hollywood Studio class, has created a new possibility for creative content creation.

Blender is a 3d sophisticated 3D software platform that is capable of and has proven to be able to produce 3d Animation films end to end. 

The Blender institute's open movie project has seen the coming together of some brilliant minds, from across the globe and create 3d films and a highly interactive 3D game with stunning quality both in artistic content as well as technical. 

The stunningly spectacular movie the Sintel, is hard to believe to have been shot entirely using open source software, and primarily using Blender.

 Chamba Swathanthra Cinema Project is the first such initiative from India aimed at creating an animated short using open source tools, and social networking and license it according to Open source Initiative.

The project is currently in pre-production, with the script completed. Its a great script well suited for some amazing animation and special effects. 

Folks from all corners of  the world are welcome to contribute and participate in the various departments and creative areas, such as Character design, Environment design, Story boarding, Modelling, Texturing, Rigging, Animation, Sound and Music, Editing etc.. to name a few.

This would offer a great platform to learn the exciting process of animation film making , and the use of sophisticated software such as Blender. Experts in any of these departments can contribute to make this project a success and a showpiece of collaborative creativity.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Blender Introductory Workshop in India

ICFOSS (International Center for Free and Open Source Software) is conducting a Two-day introductory workshop on Blender.

This is a great opportunity for folks to get introduced to the Blender interface , and get to model, create and render a scene completely hands-on.

Date and Venue
16-17 September 2011
Travancore Hall,

About the Workshop
This introductory workshop is meant for professional animation artistes, digital media professionals, students, and teachers. As a hands-on workshop, participants are expected to bring their own laptops.
A fee of Rs. 1,000 per participant will be charged for the two-day session (Rs. 500 for students). Working lunch and tea will be provided for participants.

About Blender
Blender is a FOSS-based 3D graphics application, available for multiple Operating Systems.Blender's features include 3D modeling, texturing, rigging, skinning, animating, rendering, particle, water, smoke & other simulations, video compositing, and the ability to create interactive 3D applications, video games, animated film, or visual effects. It can be downloaded free of cost for any of the supported platforms. Blender has been used in numerous
applications including full-length movies. It provides an extremely cost-effective, efficient and complete solution to most common 3D animation requirements.

Seats will be allocated on a
first-come-first- served basis. Kindly
contact ICFOSS for more details.

International Centre for Free and Open Source Software (ICFOSS)
VII Floor, Tejaswini, Technopark
Trivandrum - 695 581, Kerala, India
Tel: +91 471 2700013
Email: info@icfoss.in

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Book Review : Chandamama Art Book

Chandamama is a classic children magazine from India known not only for its unique story telling, but also for the stunning art work. The magazine has been engaging and captivating the imagination of the young and the old for over six decades in thirteen languages.

Recently the folks at Chandamama have done great justice to artists by bring out a two volume book , Chandamama Art Book, containing their art work , in a large (9.5 x 12.5 ) hard bound format, reproduced in great detail and quality, on very high quality art paper.

Each volume contains about 200 pages of the finest illustrations from India. A page is dedicated for each illustration, and on the left side a brief synopsis of the story is give to set the context.

Volume 1 has art work from Sankar, Chitra and MTV Acharya.
Volume 2 covers Vapa's art, and an interesting section that compares art work of these artists, for the same story. (In six decades I guess you do repeat stories in different contexts, and interesting to note how they recreated them rather than reprinted them)

Sankar's iconic rendering of the Vikram and Vetal... there were 700 stories in all that he illustrated for.

Chitra's own style and palette... Story of Troy

Another from Sankar's beautiful works ...

Here's one of MTV Acharya's masterstrokes..

And the uniqueness of Vapa ..

I have never seen most of these illustrations in such splendor, since when they published it, they were either cropped, or were in pulp paper and never in such original form.

Here are the interesting illustrations comparing the different takes ...

This is not only a feast for the eyes, but great reference for artists.

For me the relationship with the magazine ever since a kid was Summer and the four names that get attached to each one of those gorgeous drawings. Sankar, Chitra, MTV and Vapa. Each artist had his unique style as well as a palette, which one can identify instantly.

They were equivalents if not more of the Alex Raymonds, Norman Rockwells, Hogarths, and Al Dornes and the likes.

The magazine itself was on par with the mighty Classics Illustrated, though it was not in a comic book format.

Most of the pictures would be in monochrome wash with pen drawings, the covers however would be done in full color. Combined withe these beautiful drawings capturing the olden days and the folk tales that were spun in a simple yet enchanting manner, Chandamama would offer hours of entertainment, in a world that had no TV or internet.

For those who want to relish the golden age of Indian illustration, Chandamama has an Archives site. Check it out to read in full the magazines all the way back to the 50s !

Monday, August 1, 2011

Myers School pen, a Gillott 404 Clone

Bob Hurford has an excellent set of articles on dip pens at IAMPETH. He begins a tour of flex pens with the Gillott series of nibs as a bench mark and how all manufacturers had similar series of pens.

For example Gillott's 404, 303, 290, 170 had equivalents in Esterbrook 358,357,356, and 355 , Similarly Hunt had the 56, 22, 99 and 100 and so on..

These are a rarity these days., and Joseph Gillott being the pioneer of steel pens in the early 19th century, has a special place for collectors. A full box of Gillott 303 would typically go for $300 if one can be found. Esterbrooks are relatively inexpensive.

In his article Bob mentions how these pens were copied and imitated by several manufacturers. Recently I chanced upon a box of nibs in Ebay, curiously titled 'OLD ENGLAND SCHOOL PEN 404 '. I took a chance and got the box containing a full gross.

...and bingo ! They were as expected, clones of the 404 ! They are of great quality made of bronze and came from none other than Myers and Sons, another famous pen maker from Birmingham.

Here are the 404, 358 and Hunt 56(also curiously called a School pen) ... amazingly similar.

Needless to say this is one of the best class of dip pens, with solid construction, a reasonably good flex, and the interesting ridge allows more ink to be picked up during the dip. The Gillott though has considerably more flex than the others. With the right ink and a good solid wood holder these are a pleasure to write or draw.

Of these the Speedball Hunt 56 is the only pen manufactured to this day.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Virtual Paintout : Google Street View

The Internet is providing avenues for creativity in remarkably new ways. One that is recent and relevant to artists and connoisseurs as well as anyone who likes to do art travel (without the hassles) is The Virtual Paint out.

The self taught American painter Bill Guffy's innovation is based on Google's Street View. The idea is simple. Each month Bill identifies a location in Google maps. A location reasonably large and interesting enough to explore. He provides the details on the website on the 1st of every month.

Artists around the world can log in, get the details, and go explore the location using Street view walk through. Then choose a location that they like, and make a painting/drawing/sketch of it and submit to Bill.

What a way to explore a new place, and create new art.Here are the past locations explored by the Virtual Paint out artists.

Bill mentions that only photos from Google Street view are to be used, and confirms that these are officially usable for art creation, that can be commercially sold. :)

So far some amazing locations have be explored and its a treat to look at all the wonderful art that has been produced. Its a great new way to do virtual travel. One can pick a painting that is posted , look up the location and start exploring.

Here is my attempt of a beautiful beach front in Jersey, using a vintage Hunt 512 and Pebeo Incre De Chine.

This is a great and zero cost way of exploring the world in a new way, with the camaraderie of fellow artists.

Hope you check out the site, and start travelling, painting and exploring.

Thanks Bill for this lovely idea!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Macniven and Cameron Waverley Pen

As I explore the exotic world of dip pens, each day I discover something amazing. One such gem of a pen is the Waverley from Macniven and Cameron.

As part of an assorted set of nibs that I got on Ebay, this nib has a very unique design. The plume of the nib is bent in an interesting manner, perhaps to hold that extra bit of ink, and also a very smooth point that prevents paper from catching the nib.

Dipping it into a bottle of dense black Pebeos Incre De Chine, which also happens to have a nice sheen, the pen produces very thin strokes smoothly. There isn't a great amount of flex, though I could get a good bit of variation in width. The pen is very feathery and felt like I was drawing with a metal brush, having a nice bit of springy-ness.

An interesting story related to this specific nib is that, Sir Walter scott, used this pen for a series of novels, known as the Waverley novels. They were named after this pen, since he used them to write the stories!

I was so attracted to this Waverley, I went ahead scouted for more and got lucky. I found an awesome seller in France who sold them by the gross, in its original tin box ! How much better can that get?!

The slight upturned point that resulted in a smoother pen tip, has resulted in the name Waverley being associated with any nib that is of such design. There are fountain pen nibs that have the same design and are known as Waverly pens!

For me though, I would like to stick with these lovelies!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Noodler's Flex Nib Pen

I finally got it! After a long wait for the pens to be available and placing my order at two different sources, I finally got hold of the much talked about pen.

I filled it up with my brand new bottle of Rotring brilliant blue, and started to put ink to paper. This is quite an amazing pen. has a great range of line width, writes absolutely smooth, and it is pretty small, and compact and is very comfortable to use.

I have been using dip pen nibs to get the feel of what flex nibs are all about, and the difficulty with dip pens being they run out of ink so often. The Noodlers flex is a delight. Fill up using the in built filler, with your favorite ink, and then you keep going on and on...

I have seen folks use indelible black inks such as the Noodler's Bulletproof Black, and Platinum Carbon Ink. I will probably hold off till the newness of the pen goes away before attempting to do such a thing.

To get this flex from a fountain pen was something very different to experience. The Rotring ink is a very beautiful blue, didn't come out well in the mobile shot above. Its a Violet-ty brilliant blue.

Folks with experience using vintage flex fountain pens must be able to critic the Noodler better. My comparison is based on dip nibs, which are quite a different thing. What I love about dip pens, are the really super thin points they can have, and the high amount of flex.

For instance an Hunt 100 nib, can produce an almost invisible line, that can flourish into a very thick swell, and back to the hairline again, without dragging along from the swell. That adaptability, is missing, partly due to the ink. The India ink has a certain density, that allows the flexibility of line width, which goes from hairline to a swell and back to the super thin immediately. fountain pen inks are generally more fluid, and hence cannot swing back to the thinness without dragging out a little from the thick stroke.

What is amazing about the pen is that , this time around all the pens got sold in first few days. and the clear demonstrator version sold out at Gouletpens in like three minutes !! I can believe it. The other source for my Noodler's flex is good old Greenman508 who by the way seems to have couple colors left at the time of this writing, and so does ISellPens.

It was almost like First Day First Show. Great to see a fountain pen creating such as flutter.

I think this is a great pen, to create some amazing writing and drawing. And if anything it can serve as a great means of practicing penmanship, before graduating to dip pens and India Ink if needed.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dip Pens

I had briefly written about how great dip pens are. I am just now beginning to discover how amazingly superior the dip pens are.

I was introduced to dip pens through a Gillott 303 when I was a kid and learning art as part of a mail based art study program. The dense black India ink and the simple yet super fine nib was very intriguing. Time went by, I forgot all about it.

Following my recent exploration of pens, I got hold of a few fabulous sets of nibs thanks to Ebay and dedicated forums such as the Fountain Pen Network and Stutler's Sketching Forum.

We have come a long way from the quills of birds, to bamboos, to dip pens, to fountain pens, and on to ball point, Gel, Felt tips and so on. While there is an apparent progression in terms of more ease of use, portability etc, the flexibility and amazing line quality of the dip pen eludes all modern day pens.

Due to the simplicity of the mechanism, and the absence of any restriction whatsoever on the shape and form of the nib, they came in a wide variety of shapes.

Dip pens were primarily made in Birmingham, beginning the early 1800, which was also known as the first manufacturing town. In its hay days, each pen factory in Birmingham seems to have produced around 30,000 pens(these nibs were called as pens in those days), and it employed women and simple hand press tools. This resulted in a amazing drop in price leading to the access to writing tools for the masses which some attribute to the increased literacy and literature.

Though the days of dip pens are long gone, there does seem to be available a limited supply of the nibs.

Though these nibs were primarily made for writing, pretty soon the drawing community began making use of it. Engineering drafting as well as pen and ink artists began to make use of it increasingly.

The dip pens also came in great flex, which aided in ornamental writing, which had great variation in line width. there were business pens that were pretty stiff with uniform lines. There was also a variety called the Manifold nib which was hard enough and used to produce as many as five carbon copies.

Then there were the so called School pens. Which were generally medium point, and for the beginner.

Joseph Gillott and Esterbrook were two companies that produced some great pens for drawing. Gillot's # EF, 303 , 170 and #1 Principality offered a complete solution for the artist. they together offered very fine, very flex to medium fine and medium flex. Esterbrook had equivalents 356, 357, 358 and so on.

Gillot was the pioneer in mass production of steel nibs, and Esterbrook brought that to the United States. Carl Barks the famous Donald Duck cartoonist used an Esterbrook 356 for his inking.

In the hay days, the dip pen nibs were made in several countries, beginning in England, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Russia, United States and all the way to India, Japan, China and more. Today one can still obtain nibs made from a variety of countries. Outside of the famous name brands there are plenty of interesting nibs.

Nibs generally came in a gross. 12 dozen per box. The reason being these were more commonly used in public places such as the Bank, Post office etc., and an average consumption would be about a gross a year. Some say, due to the fact that these nibs corrode easily if not maintained, even an individual needed more than a handful over a period of time.

While the Gillot and Esterbrook nibs for art work were of a certain size, there was a much larger Falcon variety. This had the shape of the beak of a falcon, came in large size and could hold tons of ink. Esterbrook, Perry & Co and almost every manufacturer made them, and they are such a delight.Today dip pens are still manufactured primarily in the Manga world. Companies such as the Tachikawa, Nikko and Zebra makes clones of the most popular art nibs of the yesteryear. These are made of stainless steel and most likely last longer. The most popular being the G-pen.

Best source for these nibs is Ebay, while there are also several specialized stores such as Pendemonium. If you are lucky you might pickup a gross for under 5 dollars!

My favorites so far are Perry & Co Falcon, MacNiven & Cameron Waverly, Zebra G, Gillott 403/303 and Brause 230EF -- And this list keeps changing :)

This is just the tip of the iceberg. As more NOS nibs from around the world arrive, I shall report my findings more.

For learning more in depth about dip pens one should take visit to IAMPETH.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Beautiful Handwriting and the Secret of the Flex Nib

Ever wondered how those beautiful written texts of the past were written? There is a certain charm in the manner in which these were written, there was a rhythm, there was a graceful flow, a very expressive tone, and when looking at them now, produces almost a mystical look.

Often time we wonder , maybe it was the talent of the writers, with such gifted handwriting, which probably is too difficult to acquire. No question about the talent of the hand that wrote those beautiful texts, but no matter how hard one tries, unless the tool is right it will never be as good.

Apart from the style and grace of the hand, the variation in the width of the strokes is the key ingredient and the secret behind the expressive variable width is the Flexible nib of the pens that was used to write them.

Of course these were not written with modern ball point pens or roller gel pens. Even the flat edges Calligraphy pens can only come close. In olden times pens were in the form of nibs set in a holder and dipped in bottles(ink wells) of ink and used. The simplicity of the mechanism also meant a flexibility in the kind of ink one can use. The ink can be pigment based (opposed to modern dye-based inks) and hence can be very dense and non-feathering, waterproof and indelible.

Apart from that advantage, the nibs can be of varying types. very thin to thick, and from very stiff to very very flexible. The Flexible nibs again varied from Flex, to semi flex and no flex and everything in between.

These flexible nibs were capable of producing lines of varying thickness based on the amount of pressure exerted on them. some nibs such as the Hunt 100 is so thin, yet totally flexible that it can produce very huge swells if pressed even slightly. Some such as Gillott 404 and Gillott 303 had manageable amount of flex.

Using these a very interesting and varied types of text can be produced. The style and grammar of such handwriting evolved and one can see styles such as Spencerian or Copperplate as being more popular.

As dip pens gave way to fountain pens (we are still talking of 'ancient' times), the flexible nibs became a speciality. It was a challenge to produce flexible nibs that can work inside a fountain pen's feed mechanism. Gold was the most suitable since it can flex without breaking, and also at the same time resistant to corrosion, since fountain pens stayed wet even when not in use. Hence it became expensive to have flexible nib fountain pens, and slowly the flex nib along with the fountain pens faded away from public memory.

Of course it did not fade away from everyone, and there always existed a set of individuals passionate about handwriting, flexible nibs, and what not, and they continued the tradition, however with limited supply of vintage flex nib fountain pens, which became more and more expensive and certainly into the hundreds of dollars.

One always had the choice of using a dip pen. but it always comes with its own disadvantages, such as lack of portability and increased maintenance. The increased interest in Manga, has re infused the enthusiasm in dip pens , and there is a specialized set of nibs from Nikko, Tachikawa and Zebra such as the G-Pen, which offer great flex capabilities. One can still get Gillott, and from other manufacturers such as Leonardt, and Brause.

Most recently the intriguing company called the Noodler's Ink company has introduced a beautiful flex nib fountain pen that has satisfied the cravings of a flex nib enthusiast, at a price that won't pinch the pocket.

All of these is recent knowledge to me, and it was a great liberating experience to take a flexible dip pen, dense India ink, and produce some very interesting vintage style text with expressive strokes.

Some of the resources that helped are the Fountain Pen Network, Russ Stutler's Sketching Forum and countless blogs from great folks.

If you want to know all about Penmenship, the only place you ever want to go is IAMPETH. And of course you need your choice of dip pen, or fountain pen with a good flex nib and a bottle of beautiful ink, and endless supply of paper.

Next time you want to send a handwritten note, or a little note on the tiny little card on the gift, you are better equipped.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Made in India : Wality Airmail pens

While in pursuit of fountain pens that I can use for drawing and sketching, I got myself what looked like an ordinary pen in an artstore. My primary (rather only) use of a fountain pen is for sketching and drawing... having used the Rotring Artpen, Lamy safari, etc, this did not look slick. But it had its own old world charm.

The pen is a simple eyedropper clear demonstrator. Meaning.. no cartridges to fill, no piston convertors to use. simply open up the barrel and fill it up by pouring from your bottle :)

When I filled it up with a black ink from Camlin called the Permanent black, and put pen to paper, I was blown away. Its a fine tipped (Japanese-Fine) nib, and was wet. It drew beautiful precise lines. flowed as smooth as silk. The ink though not that dense, came out dense because of the F nib.

This is now my daily sketch pen. I can fill up the huge barel with almost 3 cc (maybe more) of ink, and keep going for ever.

After doing some research I found that this pen is made by a company called the Airmail pen co. in Mumbai and they have been at it for more than 50 years! They have quite a range. The one I had purchased in known as Wality 70 JT and it is Huge! it also has a variant where the barell is covered except for a window to show the ink. Though I love the fully transparent version, where I could see the ink swishing and splashing around likes the waves on the beach.

Now comes the sweet part. This pen cost me Rs. 100 ( $2) and a bottle of black ink that cost me Rs. 12 (30 cents). My best buy in Fountain pens.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Platinum Carbon Fountain Pen

India Ink is the traditional ink used by illustrators for ages for the purpose of waterproof application. These are pigmented, and/or Shellac based inks that are certainly not suitable for fountain pens.

This would mean we need to resort to the classic dip pen. Using a dip pen is in itself a joy that cannot be equated with any other form of pen. but thats a different story.

Using dip pens means they are not portable, needs maintenance of ink, work space, inkwells, spills etc.

Fountain pens on the other hand are awesome for their maintenance free and portable nature. They are available instantly, all the time and can be used away from the desk. fountain pens have a feed mechanism that controls the flow of ink from the ink container to the nib and on to the paper. This requires certain property of the ink, so that it does not clog the feed system. Most fountain pen inks are washable, non waterproof ink. While this is great for line art, sketching etc. it becomes impossible to apply a watercolor wash on top of this.

Enter the Platinum Carbon Fountain pen, and the Platinum Carbon Ink!
This pen comes from the famous Platinum , one of top three Japanese pen makers. The ink is waterproof India Ink equivalent, contains minute carbon particle that creates the dense black color. The pen, has a larger feed and flow channel that prevents this ink from clogging it. This is an amazing combination that produces waterproof black lines instantly.

One can apply color washes immediately and not a single feathering, or smearing of the ink. In the quick sketch above, I applied color wash immediately and I was surprised not to find a single smear, bleed or feathering !!.

Artists have successfully used this ink in other regular fountain pens as well.. such as the Rotring Artpen, Pilot 78G and the "crowd sourced" TWSBI diamond 530.

The carbon pen comes with a Extra Fine nib, and since this comes from Japan, this should be categorized a Extra-Extra-Fine. But the flow, and fine nib is simply amazing.