Starting off with the Moleskine, which is a book I have used several times. The overall design of the Moleskine is so nice and has spoiled me a little for some features that are lacking in many of the others. The photo above shows the last Moleskine I filled ending December 2, 2013.
It has a durable but slim profile cover with a very flexible spine that easily lays flat. The cover can be wiped off and it has an elastic band that holds it together. I like this feature in a book that is carried in a purse or larger bag. Even if you place your sketchbook in a cloth or ziplock bag that elastic strap keeps the book from coming apart and protects the pages.
Colored pencil can be used if it is primarily for sketching, the paper does not allow a build up of pencil textures.
The Moleskine is one of my favorite sketchbooks for the reasons mentioned but I decided to try some different ones to compare the features, papers and durability of the different books.
The cover is flexible and the pages lay flat, There is an elastic band to hold them together. A major difference is the cloth like cover. It feels good but for those of us with lots of fiber and pets in our lives it has to be gone over with a lint brush as things tend to stick to it and it can't be wiped clean as easily.
The paper quality in the Handbook Journal is quite different though. It is not as heavy and has more surface texture making it nice for pencil but still useful for a pen. I was surprised that I didn't have feathering with fountain pens and even more surprised to find that it will stand up nicely to light watercolor washes. I have been impressed with the versatility of the paper and have done some nice sketches in this one.
The problem I am finding is that the book itself does not seem to be as durable. Maybe I am hard on mine but the one shown above is only half full and I have already had to tape pages in the beginning of the book because they are tearing away from the spine. Still, I am finding that as a second book for sketching in pencil, pen and light watercolor it is very nice, the price is reasonable and they also make this book in a square format which I might like to try.
Below are some recent sketches in the Handbook Journal.
Recently, I did a series of sketches at a reunion I attended with my husband for Vietnam war veterans in the 20th Engineers Brigade at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
The best feature of the book itself is durability. It has a textured cover that can be wiped clean but a much stiffer spine than the previous two. It can be made to lay flat but the spine has to be broken in pretty vigorously by opening at various places and applying pressure. It does not have an elastic band to hold it together. I had to add one and the problem there is that when I take it off to sketch I often misplace it and waste time looking for it. I miss my elastic band! I usually keep a couple of small clips with all my sketchbooks to encourage pages to stay flat and they are also useful for taking photos with less distortion.
I use the pocket to keep a couple of sheets of slick paper to temporarily place between pages done in pencils so that they don't smear.
I also make some card stock templates so that I can easily draw margins around the pages if I desire.
The Zeta paper is quite heavy and very smooth, ideal for a combination of ink and watercolor wash. Limited for use with pencil. It is bright white compared to the other books I have talked about. there are also many less sheets than most books I have bought. Below are some recent sketches done in this book.
Here is a sketch done in ink of some toy animals I acquired for studying animal forms. This paper will allow very detailed ink drawing with no bleed through.
Here is the same sketch with watercolor added.
While most of us have spent a lot of effort to see less detail and find abbreviated ways of addressing textures in our drawings the idea here was to spend at least 4 hours and add as much detail as was possible. i must admit I enjoyed this assignment vey much and here is my four hour drawing...
Recently i read a suggestion to put all these charts in a sketchbook especially for these materials tests. That is a good idea because the problem in having them spread out in the various books you are using when the purchases are made is that it can be difficult to find them later for reference. I need to follow up on this idea in future.
The best qualities of the Stillman and Birn Zeta are the durability of the paper and the book but there are definitely things about the design that I miss from other books I've tried. I do intend to follow up on some of the other papers in this line though.
I am primarily trying this book for the paper. The design and cover is similar to the Stillman and Birn, no elastic band, no pocket etc. but I am curious about the 500 series mixed media paper.
I'm enjoying trying out some of these different sketchbooks and recently a friend suggested Fabriano Artists Journal that has a combination of white and cream colored paper.
Of course there is always the possibility of making a book with just the paper or papers preferred. I recently made one with hot press 90 lb Arches watercolor paper and started filling it with sketches but that is a subject for the next post.
I would love to have comments on any others I should add to my list of books to try.