Monday, April 12, 2021

Taking Care of Fountain Pens

 I love to work with a good fountain pen--either a vintage one with a springy nib or a newer one that writes dependably and smoothly.  I also like not adding too much more to the landfill with disposable pens that appear to dry up way too rapidly, but more importantly I like having a relationship with my tools.

Two of the most important ways to keep that relationship a happy one are to clean your pen when needed (probably frequently, depending on the kind of ink you use!), and to match the ink to the pen. Also if you switch inks/brands/types, it's best to clean your pen between fillings, as some formulas may not play well with the residue left behind.

We've all been told that water-resistant inks are not good for vintage pens, and I believe that's sadly true. (Not so great in new ones, either, but for some unknown reason my TWSBI pens seem able to cope.) So it's necessary to be extra vigilant if you insist on using them anyway, which I often do!

Unfortunately one of my favorite techniques is ink and watercolor, so I stubbornly keep trying...



Of course it's fun to use water-soluble ink too, but it's less controllable and often makes your wash colors muddy. 

It can be fun to use a pen with water-soluble ink...makes shading a breeze!  But as you can see the color is a big muddy.

So when my pens need a good spa day, I use Goulet's pen cleaner solution, a soft ear syringe, and finally, an electronic sonic cleaner, if necessary.  Sometimes it's enough to soak and flush, but sometimes you need to take the pen apart, if you're feeling brave (or frustrated enough!)

Sometimes this is enough, if you can unscrew the nib section and flush it with warm water.  You may need to soak it first in pen cleaning solution or water with a bit of ammonia (for anywhere from a few hours to a few days), and use a bristle brush on the nib and feed.  

Surprisingly even after restarting the cleaning several times I may still get ink coming free from the nib.

Water-resistant inks often have some sort of varnish in them...that's why they say never to use India Ink in a fountain pen, but even some of the other inks like Platinum Carbon Black or the DeAtramentis Document inks can cause issues.  The latter was what was in this pen, from Fountain Pen Revolution--happily NOT an expensive vintage pen.

This is what the feed looked like after I pulled the nib...those grooves or vanes are supposed to be clean and open.  The feed section is stuck tight or I would have pulled it, too...I'm sure there's still gunk back in there.  If it acts up too soon, I'll soak this section in pen cleaner for a few days and try again.

The inside of the nib was just gross!  Gritty ink particles where it should be smooth and shiny.

This is the topside of the nib, with the heavy buildup of ink where it fitted the pen body.

After rinsing with hot water...still pretty stuck...

I had to scrape the dried ink off with my thumbnail, then gave the nib and the feed a good brushing with a bristle brush under running water.

This was DeAtramentis Document had dried almost up in the bottom of the closed jar, so just out of curiosity I added warm water and shook it up.  Bits!  No wonder my pens get cranky.  (You don't thin DeAtramentis inks with water, though, but with their dedicated dilution liquid.)

I'm taking a chance and refilling the pens with Noodler's Lexington Grey, which never seemed to give me a problem...I really love a bold black, but I'm not all that fond of needing to clean so often!

I'd be delighted to read your feedback and any thoughts or advice you have to offer! 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Getting there...

 Who knew that redesigning a website could take more than a year?!  Of course this is a very different year from the past my dear webmistress, Sonya at and I would mostly sit next to eachother in front of a computer and say "let's change that, can we move this here, let's add the other thing, do you want this, I'd like to delete that..."  

And instead, in this COVID year, we've exchanged a seemingly endless parade of emails and the occasional phone call!

This is both good news and bad news...I can take my time, mull over things at odd hours, and make sure that's really what I meant, and wanted to, say.  On the other hand...the bad news is that I can take my time, mull over things at odd hours, and make sure....well, you get the idea.  

Tweak, tweak, tweak, tweak...but we're getting there, with the help of dear friends and my beloved knight, who have acted as beta readers.  I can't thank YOU enough!

Just had to include my little poppets...

and of course the creatures we live with...

So far, this hasn't made the cut...

...but this has, talking about building our dreams...

There's a new gallery of my work in a number of genres, including journal sketches, paintings, fantasy, pottery, and professional illustrating jobs from years past.  There will be a few videos, mostly of the how-to persuasion; the art tips are all there, so are the mini classes, and a new Bookshop...

Can't wait to show it to you!

Meanwhile my classes, tips, and books are still available on my somewhat chaotic old site, here: and I am very grateful to all of you who have visited, reached out, become students and friends over the years.  You make it all worthwhile!

Please do comment and let me know what you think...

Wednesday, March 10, 2021


 I haven't gotten comments on this blog for some time, and I suspect it's because of the way Blogger has changed moderation.  I've adjusted my settings, but who knows if that will work?

I'd appreciate it if you would post a comment, though...I feel sort of lonely out here by myself!

Monday, March 8, 2021

Loose the Kraken! Or...some of my videos...

 In working on the revised webpage, I realized I wanted to share a few of my videos that have been previously private, shared with other artists, done for a class that never happened, or ones that went privately to my own students, just to give you a taste.

This one is from my Artist's Journal Workshop mini-class, which I've been giving away free during the time of the pandemic, so it may be familiar to some of you--but it's fun and encouraging, and may save you some frustration!  Herein are LOTS of ideas on how to save a journal page or sketch that's gone wrong...

Video link: 

(I wish I knew how to embed them here...I used to be able to do that!  But click the link and you'll get there...)   

And meanwhile, feel free to browse my YouTube channel, there's a lot there that IS public and there will be more all the time, for a bit.  It's here:

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Yeah, no big surprise...I do tend to change things!

So, indeed I DID change all the class buttons, as I suspected I might in this post.  I decided to use the same art and font I used for the new class banners, to pull everything together, and I like them!

(And no, clicking on them now won't take you there, sorry!)

Now we're working on mailing list forms, checking spelling and sense, figuring out the new galleries of my work, linking everything...I'll announce when it's finally live!

 And of course my classes are still available on my old website, and will be till we get the new one up!  You can find them here:

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Working on that Website Re-do!

I've been working with my wonderful web designer, Sonya Morgan of, with a complete redo of all the pages, simplifying, making sure links work, dropping old stuff.  Mind you, we've been dealing with this since right before COVID-19 lockdowns last's not exactly a speedy process, and both of us have other irons in the fire.  Step by step and page by page, we chip away at it, though!

You may have seen my last post on the subject, here:

Now, we're trying to reorganize the main class page, updating, cleaning up, bringing it into the 21st century...and hoping to still make it as appealing and informative as possible!  Each class has its own page, of course, and I'm happy with them, but the main page was confusing...

One update--rather than use the old class buttons like the one below, I'm hoping these new ones will be more in keeping with the new site...

This is the old button for the artist's journal's no longer a "new" class, and Comic Sans captions just don't cut it any more...


New one--probably, unless I redesign it again!--here:

So, cleaner, fresher, hopefully more self-explanatory.  Some of the new buttons keep the same art you may have seen on my old web page,, some don't, but I thought this really captures the subject matter--so I kept it.    


This is the new header for that class page, which will have all the info about how it works, what is included, price, accessibility, etc.

And many MANY thanks to my knight as well as dear friends and beta readers, who have found plenty of things to clarify throughout the new page...maybe in a month or two we'll break a bottle of champagne on the bow and launch!

Pretty sure Joseph's keeping me what passes for sane, fed, warm, and happy, in addition to beta reading and invaluable suggestions of course!

 And of course my classes are still available on my old website, and will be till we get the new one up!  You can find them here:

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

A Christmas Story...of a sort


I am one of those people for whom Christmas wears a veil of sadness; while there are bright lights and music and excited plans everywhere (though God knows not so much this strange, sad year), I celebrate the Solstice with as much peace and beauty and sacredness as I am able.  

The Light returns...and December 26th always comes.

Modern Christmas music...meaning, in most cases, anything after 1900...makes me cry.  Like all of us for whom Christmas is more a time of sadness than excitement, I have my reasons.  I try not to inflict them on others.  I regret that my beloved Joseph has to live with it, with me and my need to hibernate, and bless the man for doing all he can to make it easier for me.


I miss the celebrations we used to have at Fort Osage National Historic Site, sharing simple, handmade gifts, decorating with pineapples, a traditional symbol of hospitality, live evergreens and candles and no glitz.  We sang 18th C. (and earlier) songs. We made our feast of foods that might have been available 250 years ago, and it was beautiful.  And it didn't trigger my memories.

But I promised a slightly more current Christmas story, didn't I?

Many years ago, when my first husband, Harris, and I lived in a small bungalow in the city, he gave me the perfect present.  Other years, Christmas had been a bit crazy, splitting our time between his mother in southern Kansas, and my dad and his new family in Independence.  Christmas Eve one place, Christmas Day in the other, no matter what the weather.  We were torn, as most families in that situation can be, and exhausted by the demands and expectations.  

Bless Harris, he didn't drive, and for some reason he always wanted to do his shopping on Christmas that meant me sitting in the car somewhere for hours while he braved the crowds, looking for the Perfect Gift.  

One year I'd said I really needed a muffler...I meant a long, warm scarf, but he remembered images of women with hands tucked inside a fur muff, and he wouldn't be satisfied until he had searched every store in downtown KC.  (Needless to say, fruitlessly!  Muffs went out 100 years ago or so...)

But this year, his mother was gone and seeing my dad was less fraught.  We'd bought a pretty little bungalow in the Brookside area, and had room for a tree--he'd had a lousy childhood and I always tried hard to give him the best Christmas possible, with home made cookies, fruitcake, decorations, and all the traditional trappings.  He hadn't mentioned braving the crowds on Christmas Eve, and I was very grateful--that would have been gift enough!

An old friend who knew what he'd gotten for me that year took me aside and said "get your face ready for Christmas're going to be really disappointed."  And I wondered what on earth...?

But Christmas morning came, and he shyly handed me a heavy box, messily wrapped...and when I tore it open there was no need at all to "ready my face."  

He had bought me an electric typewriter, a beauty of a machine.  He knew I wanted to be a writer, after years of workig for others in stressful jobs--and he helped make that dream possible.

He knew me.  And he gave me love and hope and the future I grew into.


Remembering this story always makes me smile, when I think of all the jokes about husbands buying their wives a new frying pan or blender or whatever, instead of the lingerie or perfume or God knows what they "should" be buying.  And how angry the wives are fully expected to be.

Ladies, I wish you all an electric typewriter, and love.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Website Redesign--a Work in Progress...


I'm redesigning the banners for the class pages, as well as redoing my whole website (erk!)--and I'm trying to use art that was actually IN the class (though I think the backlit self-portrait may have snuck in there--not sure!)

I work in ink and wash a lot and really love it--I've got some pieces that were done long after the class was finished, but I think to be fair I probably ought to stick with mostly what was in the class itself, what do you think? I want to give people an idea of what they're going to learn, and although the technique is the same, the art is different. 


This one, for instance, is not in the class, but I loved how it turned out...

I've redone the banners for all six existing classes, and the banner for the main page, with no end of simplifying and rewriting and overall housecleaning of the whole site.  My wonderful webmistress Sonya Morgan at is endlessly patient and creative!

Deleting CDs from the catalog since we can no longer make them ourselves and Cafe Press quit years ago...the ones I have remaining are in my Etsy shop, Cathy Johnson Art,* and when they're gone, they're gone.  We're changing over to downloadable as we have time--and of course some already are!

*Remember there is still a lot of original art there, as well as prints.  I've bogged down listing new things, but I WILL get badk to it.  Please take a peek...

Meanwhile of course, the classes are all still available on my original website! The upgrade is a long way from will be much cleaner, simpler, and more navigable.

...and of course as always, your opinions are more than welcome.


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