Visual Journals

As I have written about before, I keep a daily journal. I have also experimented with visual or art journaling. I say experimented because I have tried a couple of different forms. One is to include doodles and ephemera to my regular daily journal. I like doing this, especially on trips, but I do find that you need a loosely bound journal in order to accommodate a lot of additional stuff being glued or taped in. My other type is more like an art journal. I have a sketchbook where I like to do creative play like drawing, painting, and collage. I save one page each month to somehow illustrate and record the noteworthy things that happened in that month. This is a fun exercise in reflection that I probably wouldn’t otherwise do and I find it is a quicker way to look up when something happened than flipping through all of my unindexed journals. I don’t usually share these pages with anyone but here are a few from the past to give you an idea of what I mean.


I enjoy looking at blogs for inspiration but sometimes it is nice to just flip through a real book. I recently discovered Jen Morris’ blog and found that she was combining two of my favourite things, a discussion about journaling and a giveaway! She reviewed an intriguing book by Helen Lehndorf called Write to the Centre. Because it is published in New Zealand, the shipping rates are a bit high for Canada but she is providing an opportunity to win a copy through her blog.

If a visual journal was a person, I am pretty sure it would be a woman. She values creativity and knows it is not just best for herself, but everyone around her, if she makes time to nurture that aspect of herself.


Canson Universal Sketch Paper


I feel like have been neglecting the paper part of Margret Puts Pen to Paper so I thought I would work my way through a sample book of Canson paper I was given at a product demonstration at the Paint Spot way back in 2014. Canson is an old French paper company that goes back to 1557. On their company website, you can see how the history of paper-making is closely linked to larger technological innovations as well as political upheavals.

It’s an odd book with art papers interspersed with product information so I was unsure just how I would use it but I think just using it as it was intended, to try out papers, is probably best.

The first paper featured is called Universal Sketch. It is the thinnest paper in the book, but still had a nice feel and no bleed through to the reverse side with the fountain pen, Staedtler pigment liner, or brush pen, and only slightly with the Sharpie. The paper has a fine texture so even though it is a pure white, there is no glare. I tried two different pencils and although the very dark 8B pencil did not erase completely, I can barely see where I erased the 4B pencil.


While this paper is meant for sketching, hence the name, I think the 5½ by 8½ size would make an excellent journal as the paper is fairly lightweight but was very nice to write on with the fountain pen. The paper is acid-free if you want your journals to last for posterity.

If the Universal Sketch Paper was a person it would be unassuming and hardworking. You could always trust this discreet person.



At a time where the mailbox seems to full of advertising and bills, who doesn’t delight in getting a postcard from a friend or relative who has been traveling even if they arrived back home weeks previously?

The origin of the official postcard dates back to 1867, when the Austrian government issued a card meant to be used as stationary which required postage. There had been earlier unofficial cards like the one Theodore Hook sent to himself in 1840 with a caricature of postal workers he drew on it (the first mail art project?) but once the Austrians issued theirs, other European countries started as well, with Canada getting on the bandwagon in 1871 as the first non-European country to do so. At the time, postcards were considered an inexpensive and quick way to send a message. These messages tended to be a bit bland (weather’s great, wish you were here kind of thing) probably because they can be seen by anyone, sort of like Facebook posts.

Picture postcards came a little bit later with the kind we usually think of as postcards (picture on one side with room on the reverse for both a message and an address) being introduced just after the turn of the last century. Innovations in photographic printing really helped the postcard business and by the early years of the 20th century, billions were posted annually. Now that photography is no longer a novelty, I find when I am looking for a postcard to send, l like to seek out postcards that feature local art rather than idealized scenes.

I have a small collection of postcards, although I wouldn’t call myself a deltiologist. Here are some of the more interesting:

  1. A postcard to my mother as a child from her uncle who was stationed in Malaysia during the Second World War. This would have been sent before he was captured as a prisoner of war.

Malay boys_135502 20170813_125740

2. A postcard bought by my mother on an outing with friends where, rather than send it to anyone, she got all her friends to sign it. 

outing outing reverse

3. A postcard to my stepmother from a friend who visited the USSR during the 1970s. An unusual travel destination for the time. 

Moscow_135658 20170729_135718

I have some blank postcards myself so as a thank you to my readers, I will send one to anyone who leaves a comment. To keep your mailing address private, please send it separately to mingibergsson[at]gmail[dot]com (you can trust me, honestly, I have no other use for your personal address).

If a postcard was a person, they would be a little old-fashioned (a bit square so to speak) and while they love to travel, their thoughts are never far from those they love back home.


It is often said we should live our lives with no regrets, but if that were the case would there be any need for erasers? Erasers are one stationery item where there is no point in holding on to them as they degrade over time. Still, I just can’t part with my typewriter eraser. It is a symbol of just how far I have come. Yes, readers, I learned to type on a manual typewriter that did not even have correctable ribbon. There were a few types of typewriter erasers back in the day, but this one was pencil-style with a little brush on the end to remove the crumbs so they wouldn’t fall into the mechanics of the typewriter.


While pink erasers (the ol’ Pink Pearl) were common when I was in school, they never worked really well as they tended to leave a smudge behind. At some point I was introduced to the white vinyl eraser and have never looked back.

before and after

The original white vinyl eraser is the Staedtler Mars. Not just good for home use, they are also used in book conservation because they have neutral pH and are sulfur-free. They do leave a lot of crumbs behind so if you don’t like sweeping them up with your hands, you can get a handy little truck to do it for you. The Midori Mini Cleaner actually does a very good job of picking up the debris, takes up little space on a desk, and doesn’t use batteries.


Although my favourite erasers are the white vinyl ones (even my novelty Santa one works well), I have a couple of others too. My daughter gave me a kneadable eraser she got in an art class. These erasers have a putty-like feel that work by picking up and absorbing the pencil mark rather than by rubbing it off. You can refresh it by stretching and kneading in the graphite but at a certain point they have absorbed all they can. So even though they don’t wear away like typical erasers, they don’t last forever.


Finally, my pink pencil topper eraser seemed like a good idea, but like all pink erasers, I don’t find they really work well. Definitely not recommended.


So what would eraser people be like? They seem flexible but erasers are small and domineering people, not just happy to win an argument, they have to obliterate their opponent.