Left: Sketch of the yard bunny (that's the sweet name for him) on a water resistant paper from Alvin, using a Staedtler Pigment Liner and then painting with washes of Schmincke Gouache. Click on the image to see an enlargement.
Last week my errands took me to Wet Paint and after I found the things I needed I did a quick run around the store—just 'cause.
This is how I find things when the staff moves them to new locations! I like to know where things are.
I've also been thinking about what I'll do when I stop binding books. That thought led me to search the shelves of commercially bound sketchbooks (and hence the report Sunday on Venezia sketchbooks from Fabriano).
During this search the upcoming International Fake Journal Month was also looming large in my life. This is always the perfect time for me to try out new commercial journals.
Imagine my glee when I found a 4-5/8 x 7-1/4 inch field notebook from Alvin. (Alvin Field Book NP430; $6.95.)
Judging from the curve formulæ, charts, and trigonometric formulæ crowding the inside front and back covers, this must be the type of book surveyors like to use. The bright yellow cover probably helps them locate the book when they drop it in the tall grass! And the two types of grids (a wide spaced one on the verso page and a narrow one on the recto, as shown in the bunny image) probably help them note down all the data they need to record.
Just one look at those gridded pages and I was in love. And I knew that if the paper tested at least somewhat welcoming I would be using it for my International Fake Journal Month fake journal!
I felt a bit of trepidation because the paper was listed as "water resistant" (the better of course for field use in inclement weather). Did that mean it would repel watercolor? Well there were two versions of the journal: a $20 hardcover that is mighty handsome and the $6.95 version. I decided that it was worth $7 to check out the paper for a potential project like IFJM.
I've used Rite in the Rain paper for making tracking maps when I was working with the girls (Emma and Dottie my two Alaskan Malamute bitches). It has a bit of a toothy surface that I don't find the most pleasant to hold. There's just something about it that seems not rough, but chemical about it. And it is pretty much a graphite-only paper. Sure people probably work on it in ink, but the few times I tried that it was just futile as the ink skipped across the paper. The feel of the pen moving across the paper was also a bit rough, like nails on a chalkboard, though at a low decibel.
Don't get me wrong. If you are standing out in the rain and you need to write something down, make a map, record details, and even sketch a bit in pencil Rite in the Rain is a great paper. It has saved me many a day. It takes abuse. I just only will use pencil on it.
Because Rite in the Rain paper isn't my favorite for sketching I wasn't overly optimistic about the Alvin Field Book. When I got home I noticed that one of the lazy, large bunnies who have invaded the yard now that there are no resident predators, was sitting right near the fence. This is the really lazy one you can almost step on, he lets you get so close. He was a perfect test subject.
I got out a Staedtler Pigment Liner size .7 and started to sketch. As soon as the pen hit the paper I was deeply in love. The pen slides over the paper with just the right amount of drag. There is no annoying tugging.
It was obvious to me also that the ink wasn't drying very quickly. Turning the page in the light I could see the glare of the wet ink. It did dry, however. I would say that it took twice as long to dry as the same ink takes on Nideggen and some of the other art papers I use. Drying time was slightly longer than ink drying time on most watercolor papers.
Towards the end of the drying time I smudged a bit of the ink because it was still shiny and I wanted to make sure it was wet, not drying with some kind of gloss because of an interaction with the paper.
Beware then, if you elect to sketch on this paper: longer drying times, more smudging possibilities.
Next I got out my small gouache palette and did a couple quick washes of color, lightly. I loved how the paint moved on the paper. The paper isn't slick like plate bristol, but the feeling of the paint on the paper is not unlike that of gouache on plate bristol. (Not as loose as on Yupo.)
The washes dried fairly quickly and I was able to put on additional layers of color. With care you can leave the first layers undisturbed. The edges of my washes took on a hard rim as happens when paint sits on a paper and dries. (I love this.) You are also able to blend edges way.
And while the paper buckles a bit (it is a lightweight notebook type paper) I found that the buckling wasn't excessive and simply added to the charm of the paper.
There was also some bleeding of some of the ink lines. This is visible in the close up image (see the nose and cheeks for evidence of this). But the bleeding was minor, and might be less if I'd waited a little longer. Either way, it is not sufficient to put me off.
My sample page was cut out of the back of the notebook and I have it glued in my current journal with notes. I found that glue stick wasn't the best method of adherence. (It started to pull up in places.) Since Uhu Gluestick (the PURPLE one because it, you guessed it, DOESN'T SMELL floral or chemically) typically handles anything I throw at it this was problematic. Just keep this in mind if you are thinking you would like to cut pages out of this notebook simply to layer them in your regular journal for texture and eye appeal.
So, I've got my journal for IFJM. Have you?
Note: The Field book I am writing about has two visible signatures, but without tearing it apart I can't confirm if they are sewn. I think they are probably just ruffed up on the spine edge and glued—but they did start as folded signatures. I didn't examine the hardcover that closely as I knew I wouldn't be spending $20. This company also makes ringbound books with the same paper, but that's not what I bought.