Above: More commercially manufactured sketchbook/journals, I've not discussed on the blog before (with one exception). In the text below I discuss them by "letter-label." Click on the image to view the enlargement.
On a recent trip to Wet Paint (where I’m happy to report they have all three sizes of the Fabriano Venezia hardcovered journal if you enjoy working in that book) I picked up a couple more sketchbooks to test out. (I can’t help myself. I am aware that at some point I will not be able to bind my own books any more and I want to be prepared with alternatives—at least that’s what I always tell myself.)
Let’s get Item C out of the way first. This is the Alvin Field Book and it is 4-9/16 inches by 7-1/4 inches. I filled one of these in April for my 2009 fake journal.
You can read all about this book in my original review. You can read more about fake journals and this field book if you click on IFJM in the category cloud and follow the links OR if you click on the PAGE titled "International Fake Journal Month" and scroll to the bottom of the page for links to discover those of interest to you.
I just had to buy another one of these to have on hand. I really enjoy working in pen and ink on the water resistant pages—and then painting with watercolor. I love the survey grids on the pages. It’s a sturdy little 2-signature (sewn) book. Wet Paint also sells hardbound versions but the grids on the pages are less interesting to me so I haven't used one of those. They sell for $20 whereas the soft bound one is only $7!
In the above image you’ll see two items labeled “A.” These are the same product only one has white pages and the other has black pages. These are board books. I was wondering when someone would create clean board books for the scrapbooking and book arts folks. For years people have been altering children’s commercially printed board books (and since I enjoy altered books I quite like this) but now you can start with a blank canvas. I brought these home because they are really well-made. There is no reason to struggle and make your own blank board book to work in if you can buy these for $8.00. The package says there are 14 pages, but you really get 12 pages and a front and back cover. They are labeled “Create and Treasure from C & T Publishing, ready to go blank board book.” These are both 8 inches square but they come in other sizes as well. I haven’t had a chance to work in these yet, but I can tell they will take acrylic paint and other mixed media well. I think they would be fun to use for a group project in which everyone worked with the same type of book. Or you might take one along on a weekend trip and fill it all up with sketches and ephemera. Whatever you do with them, you’ll probably have fun, or you’re just grumpy by nature.
The book labeled “B” is from Kolo and is labeled “300-3904 Grid journal.” It has 48 pages and is 4.25 x 6-3/8 inches. It is a pamphlet construction that has been stitched up the spine. The cover is a heavyweight cardstock. I think it comes in a bunch of colors. It costs $6. The display I got it off of indicated that you could use this as replacement “pads” in their fabric covered “notebooks.” If you like that sort of “component” journaling this might be something to look into. I tried it out because I use the smaller (3-9/16 x 5.5 inch) Moleskine pamphlets notebooks. I carry one in my pack to take odd notes, write notes to tear out, as scratch paper, that sort of thing. I will also carry one around when walking and I don't want to carry a pack and my journal.
Sadly, though the Kolo paper feels more hefty than the Moleskine gridded paper, it doesn’t hold up any better to wet media, which is to say, not at all (it bleeds through and the paper wrinkles and pills as does the Moleskine gridded paper). Both are fine for pen (Staedtler pigment liner especially) but there is limited opacity and you can see your writing on the other side of the page. These are both “every-other-page” books. I’ll end up carrying this one around for tear out notes as needed. I probably will go back to the small Moleskine pamphlets.
There is one huge difference (besides the difference in size): the paper in the Kolo has a different sizing on it and feels toothier even though it is actually a very smooth paper. You can feel the difference when you slide your fingers over the sheet; and when you write there is a bit of a drag. If you like that then this would be a reason to use this booklet. It’s archival, but I understand the Moleskine is too. Frankly for what I use these little booklets for, archival concerns aren't high on my list.
The book labeled “D” in the opening photo is from Kunst and Papier. You may recall I reviewed their hardcover watercolor paper book and didn’t like it: paper smelled when wet. Well this soft-bound book (the cover is a heavy weight ribbed cardboard) is 8.25 x 11-5/8 inches with 4 SEWN signatures of medium weight drawing paper. (64 pages total; $15; blue or black covers.) If you don’t like to sew your own books together, but don’t mind making covers, you could easily case in one of these books, letting the cardstock covers become the “endsheets.” You would have to like working on drawing paper, however.
I tested pens and watercolor and pencils on this paper with mixed results. I think if you like to work with pencil you’ll like the toothiness of this paper. It isn’t an overwhelming toothiness, however, so you can still write smoothly with any of your favorite ink pens. I found that the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen has a wonderful line on this paper because it moves smoothly, yet breaks up a bit because of the toothiness.
What I found very interesting was that only that brush pen and the Staedtler Pigment Liners were waterproof on this paper. Another waterproof standby: the Faber Castell Pitt Artist Brush pen WAS NOT waterproof and with a light wash over it, the ink bled a slight amount. You could live with it, but it just wasn’t what I expected. With any of the inks there was a problem with paper opacity. You could see your ink lines through the sheet. Not horrible, but enough to be off-putting to many sketch artists. I would recommend if you use this book that you work only on the right-hand pages.
As to wet media, you can use it on this paper with a couple drawbacks: 1. there is a smell when wet, not as bad as their watercolor paper, but present nevertheless; 2. The paper buckles a moderate amount. It would be possible to live with this and work on both sides of the page if the ink "see through " didn't bother you. I didn’t find that my paint applications bled through the paper, but I’m not sure it the paper will hold up to heavy watercolor work, multiple layered applications which repeatedly stress the paper. If that's your style I would seek elsewhere for a sketchbook/journal.
I think the Kunst and Papier drawing paper sketchbook will be just fine for me to work in when I get back to life drawing.