Experiment 22: An Inter-review of Baron Fig's Raspberry Honey Notebook

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Earlier this week, Baron Fig released a new limited edition notebook. There are many things that I instantly loved about this release: the debossed cover, the color choices, and the illustrated inner covers and box to name a few. But what honestly excited me most was that Baron Fig had chosen to do another artist collaboration. I really value it when companies choose to partner with makers to release this type of product. First of all, it gives me a chance to learn about and connect with new individuals doing great work and making cool things. Secondly, I love to see art and ideas paired with product design in a way that moves beyond marketing and embodies a life of its own. As I read through the short story that was included with the notebook, I was curious about the processes Geoff Gouveia used to write and illustrate for the project. I decided to reach out to him to see if we would answer a few questions for the blog. He was kind enough to agree, and so I present to you the interview portion of this inter-review:

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You have a very distinct illustration and writing style. What have been your primary sources of inspiration over the years, and how has your style evolved over time?

My style is a whimsical mix of Shel Silverstein characters and Van Gogh’s color sense. I’ve been drawn to clear styles throughout the years and actively sought to create my own. What I’ve found is that it’s a continual process, one that is ongoing for as long as I create.

Tell us about your process for writing the short story and creating the illustrations for the Raspberry Honey notebook. What was your starting point? Which came first the illustrations or the story?

Baron Fig approached me to do a collaboration after we worked together on a different small project (A canvas piece/book board project where we went around the city asking the question: what would you do if you could not fail?). They wanted me to illustrate something for the packaging and the inside cover but I pitched back the idea of using a short story I had recently written to be the basis for the edition. The story had natural imagery that leant itself towards my cheeky illustration style and I thought it would be something that a company like Baron Fig would never have considered. They liked the idea and we began rolling.

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Where do you come up with your names for your short stories? Are Yuri McLevell, Briarton, and Steffonn Yungbum modeled after real people and places? Have you ever tried raspberry-flavored honey?

The names in a story like this make me laugh. I can’t point to a particular reason why but the stranger the name the more I’ll like it. We all have people in our life that quench our dreams – those are our Steffon Yungbums. As for the trying of raspberry honey, I honestly thought I was writing about something fictional. I was pretty bummed it was an actual thing (I’ve written about 4 unpublished short stories with weird fruit combinations at the core.).

Talk to us about how digital and analog tools intersect in your work. How much of your writing and illustration processes are done on paper vs. on a computer?

Everything starts in my sketchbook. I’ve been exclusively using Baron Fig’s blank sketchbooks for about 2 years now. Close to zero percent of my writing is analog now, though I did get my start using notebooks as a journal. That flipped in 2010 when I realized I enjoyed typing more than writing and began to use the new space for images. All of my illustrations begin in the real world and then I touch them up in Photoshop. I’ve been illustrating more and more work with a digital tablet but nothing beats the mistakes a real sketchbook gives you. I say mistakes because the best aspects of an illustration are the imperfections. A machine is built to edit that out so working digitally takes me longer because I have to put the imperfections in myself.

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What are some of your favorite analog tools?

I use ballpoint pen to sketch. I used to use pencil but I started erasing too much. It’s better to use something permanent as a record of what you’ve done before- like drafts on a short story. It’s great to look back through the thousands of sketchbook pages over the years and see how those mistakes and old ways of doing things shift over time.

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You can find Geoff at his website, on Instagram, and on Twitter. Now that I've been made aware of his work, I look forward to following along and supporting! Thanks again to him for taking the time to dig into a little of the backstory with me!

As for the review portion of this inter-review, there's really nothing I can think of that I don't like about this release. I absolutely love the style of Geoff's illustrations and that the short story added an experiential component to the theme. There's something about a notebook that already has art within it that makes me want to write in it, and I started mine almost as soon as I received it. This edition is the perfect companion for curling up with hot tea and a book, so I decided to finally start the reading/ reflecting journal I've been meaning to begin.

In the past, I have heard others describe the Baron Fig paper as less than fountain pen friendly, but I find the opposite to be true. Sometimes I enjoy writing on smoother paper like Rhodia with ink, but there's something to be said for writing with pen and ink on a paper with a little more tooth. The M400 pictured below has a sweet architect grind by Dan Smith, and it's a fairly wet writer. Still, there no feathering or bleed through and very little show through on this paper. The shading of the ink is also particularly evident. You can see how this edition holds up to a variety of different writing instruments over at From the Pen Cup. It's hard to find a paper where I truly enjoy using both graphite and ink, but this one of those papers for me.

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One of my favorite pen/ ink matchups is my Pelikan M400 with KWZ Honey ink, and I think I now have the perfect notebook to complete my writing trio. That trio inspired me to come up with a few more stationary pairings for the Rasberry Honey: 

Suggested Match-ups: 

Fountain Pen: Pelikan M400 Tortoise Brown

Ink: KWZ Honey Ink

Non-fountain Pen: Pilot Vision Elite BLX

Pencils: Viking Skjoldungen 400 or Rasberry Honey Hackwing (Blackwing 444+ 602 ferrule + brown eraser from Blackwing 211)

Other: Harney and Sons Rasberry Herbal Tea 

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You can learn more about the edition and get a copy here. Thanks to Baron Fig for providing me this notebook for review.