Marina, Sequoyah Park

Marina, Sequoyah Park

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sketchbook Notes

I have many new sketches to place on the post today but I wanted to talk sketchbooks so I am going to try something different this time. I have organized the sketches by the type of sketchbook they are in. All the sketchbooks I'm talking about today are close to the same size approximately, 5 to 5.5 x 7.5 to 8 inches. Although many of them come in different sizes I find this size to be portable without feeling too cramped for most of the sketching I do. I have given up thinking that the perfect sketchbook is out there although I am always willing to be convinced. Receiving samples of the different papers available in the sketchbooks is helpful but for various reasons the only true test of the overall performance of a sketchbook is to carry it around and fill it up. I have three I will be talking about today and I am continuing to try out new ones.

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.

The paper is a light cream color, the edges of the paper are curved instead of square. The Paper is a nice heavy weight and is smooth.

There is a pocket in the back that is useful and a ribbon marker. The texture of the paper is ideal for pen...

but I have done pencil sketches in mine also. It is similar to working on bristol board.

Colored pencil can be used if it is primarily for sketching, the paper does not allow a build up of pencil textures.

I use watercolor in my Moleskine sketchbook also. The paper is resistant to the water color paint and not absorbent, especially at first, but I have not found this to be a big problem.  Sometimes I appreciate the effect of this quality in the paper. They do also make a watercolor Moleskine but that is not the one I am discussing here.

The only problem I have with the Moleskine is the quality of the paper itself. I discovered that the color is skin deep and can be pretty easily rubbed off if using lifting or erasing techniques. I am a little uncomfortable that the color is applied to the paper rather than integral to it.

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.

Another of the books I have tried in the Handbook Journal from Global Arts. It has many features that are similar to the Moleskine.

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.

There is a useful clear pocket in the back and a ribbon marker.

The paper is off white and the edges are curved. i don't know why but the Moleskine has spoiled me for the curved edges- I just like them.

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.

Here is a sketch I did in may with Noodlers Ahab fountain pen and Gray ink.

The same sketch as above with the watercolor added.

Another sketch with pencil, sharpie pen and watercolor and...

the companion sketch in the same media. I really was surprised how well this paper works with the watercolor. It is much more absorbent than the Moleskine but a very nice effect.

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.

Here is the first one done with pencil, sharpie and watercolor at the introductory speech.

The second in the same materials while waiting for a tour bus.

The third during a stop on the tour.

A view from our room at the Hampton Inn during the reunion.

That evening an impromptu sing along took place in one of the lobby area of the motel and the next sketches were done directly with the sharpie pen and some color was added later.

I decided to note some of the songs being performed...

and some quotes from the people playing and singing.

I had started sketching about 9 am that morning and finished this one about 11:30 pm that night.

The most recent sketch in the Handbook Journak was done at the Phoenix Coffee House in Tulsa, Oklahoma, also from life. these are primarily pencil with a little Sharpie used as accents.

The next sketchbook is a Stillman and Birn. I started this one on December 25th this year and have only a couple of pages left to fill. Stillman and Birn make sketchbooks in several different papers but the only one I have used so far is the Zeta series.

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.

On the inside cover you can see that the pages are squared, but there is no tearing of the pages from the spine as in the Handbook journal.

There is no pocket in the back so I had to make one out of card stock paper. It has help up well but it would be nice to have one in the journal when you buy it.

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.

Here you can see how I would use the template to make margins for a sketch before I start. It is fast to do it this way and if I do it in pencil I can always allow the sketch to spill over the frame if I like. it also gives me a good place to sign, date or make notes when I haven't left an area for that within the sketch.

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.

An ink drawing of Tommy Kane for Sketchbook Skool...

and the same one with some watercolor added.

Here is an ink drawing of my kitchen that was an assignment in Tommy Kane's part of the course.

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...

and again with another two hours of color work added in watercolor and colored pencil.

Here is a paint chart I put in the book with some new M. Graham watercolor paints. I like to do charts like this whenever I get new paints, pencils or pens.

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 have already purchased a Strathmore sketchbook with their 500 series mixed media paper and will probably start using it after the last couple of sketches go in the Stillman and Birn above.

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.

The paper has two different surfaces on the front/back and this could be seen as a problem or an asset. I am going to view it as an asset as one side is more textured and should work well for pencils of various kinds, the other side is smoother and should work well with pen. Both sides should work well with wet media but I won't really know until I start filling the book.

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.