New Journals from Legion with Stonehenge Paper

June 19, 2010

I get my hands on the prototypes for the new Stonehenge wirebound journal.

FrontCoversStonehenge0021 Left: Two 9 x 12 and two 6 x 15 inch prototype journals from Legion Paper. Two have been altered by me and two, with labels, show their natural state.

If making books isn’t your thing and you are frustrated looking for a wirebound sketchbook that's hardy enough to use for a mixed media visual journal there’s a great new option for you. Legion Paper is now making journals using their Stonehenge paper.

Michael Ginsburg of Legion Paper called me several months ago to discuss my comments about Stonehenge paper, and journals in general. He actually listened to my requests for what I thought would be essential in a wirebound visual journal:

1. Hard board covers—nothing floppy or flimsy. Something stiff and substantial—even just naked boards would be great so people could decorate their own covers.

2. Thirty-two sheets, so that people working on only the recto page would have a sheet for a title page, and then one sheet per day for every day of the month (the longest months of course having 31 days). This would enable you to use one of these journals as a page-a-day journal and fit in an entire month in each volume.

3. No emblems, printing, and other decoration on the covers. (I find it really annoying to find a company name on my sketchbook.) I lobbied for a small, discreet paper label on the inside back cover.

4. I lobbied for smaller, more portable sizes, such as a 6 x 6 and an 8 x 8 inch square, and an 8 x 10 inch portrait size, which is the end of the world on portable size for me.

5. I lobbied for one of the darker sheets of Stonehenge to be issued in a book. I believe toned pages are wonderful for visual journaling and love working in gouache on tan papers (Rives BFK’s buff, Nideggen, Annigoni Designo).

Well I got almost all of that. Items one and two were taken care of completely. Additionally, besides the 32 sheets, each volume has a thin, white, paper endsheet at the front and back of the book which you can tear out or leave as a protective leaf between covers and text pages.

As for item three, there will be a wrap around label like the one shown on the prototypes in the photo, and a small paper label on the inside back cover. That much I got, but there will also be a small debossed “Stonehenge” logo on the back cover centered at the base of the cover. Since it is not going to be in an intrusive area, I can live with that.

I struck out on my size suggestions—the first journals will be available in 9 x 12, 11 x 14, 14 x 18, and 6 x 15 (which is a nicely dramatic landscape format or extreme vertical, depending on your tendencies). Ginsburg is still considering the smaller square formats for later.

As for the colors of Stonehenge that will available in this product—for now it will be the white and cream Stonehenge only.

The journals will be available in July, appearing at the following vendors first: New York Central, Wet Paint (in St. Paul), Jerry's, Artist & Craftsman, Daniel Smith, and Blick. So if you like to work large in wirebound books this journal is something you should check out.

I’ve written about Stonehenge paper in several posts earlier this year. (That link will take you to the most recent post on Stonehenge paper. At the end of that post you will find links to my other posts so that you can follow my journey with this paper.) My main reservation with it is I don’t like the way it binds up in casebound books. This wirebinding eliminates that issue.

In those posts I also discuss the paper’s working characteristics with different media. Pencil artists have long flocked to this paper. I find that pen work on it is great fun. While it is not a watercolor paper, you can paint with watercolor, gouache, and acrylics on this paper. You can throw collage at this paper. (And when you do, in this wirebound format you’re not going to have to worry about bursting your spine!) Will this paper have all the properties you need? No paper does. But if you want to keep a large visual journal with hardcovers (which are easy to personalize!) and text paper that will stand up to your creative impulses, then you need to give these journals a try.

I’ll keep nagging Ginsburg about the 6 x 6 and 8 x 8 inch options for those of us who really can’t lug large journals around.

As for the cover decoration in the opening photo—I’ll post a how-to when I come back from hiatus. I used various acrylic products, a blown up sketch from one of my journals, and yes, those are bookcloth corners on one cover. You can do whatever you want when you have naked boards!

Note: I’m was not paid for this review and my comments were not previewed, suggested, or edited by the manufacturer.

  1. Reply

    Speaking as someone who developed a shoulder issue from carrying a bag that was too heavy, I would love to see the smaller sizes also. I’ve recently been working in a 5″x5″ that I love. Its not too heavy, ans I can finish it up before it gets too beaten up in my bag. Which then gives me a chance to get another and start over!

  2. Reply

    Interesting post, Roz.
    One of my beefs with spiral sketchbooks is that some of them do the spiral thing all wrong, and you end up spending half your time feeding the spirals back into the holes in the paper. Ever had that experience?
    Great decorating on the covers. I’m glad they’re listening. (Wish you luck on the portability thing, btw.)

    • Tim
    • June 19, 2010

    I have nothing substantive to say but I just love your blog because of posts like this. I find the moleskines are too small (and too landscape) and everything else is too big.

  3. Reply

    Karen, I did try to explain that visual journal keepers for the most part like more portable books! I think it’s a matter of the company knowing that at the larger sizes it can still sell to artists who’ll use the books for painting studies and life drawing, etc. Despite all the internet presence visual journal keepers are really not an understood group! I’ll keep working on Ginsburg for those smaller sizes! I know just what you mean about the shoulder issues with heavy bags!

    As for things getting beat-up in your bag. Have you ever considered making a disposable cover for your book? Something that will take all the wear? I have friends who fold jackets for their books out of newspapers or inexpensive wrapping papers. Fabric rich friends make the same thing with thick canvas fabric and such. I’ve used that clear plastic that you can get by the yard at the fabric store.

    I’ve also used those “textbook” covers you can get at the drugstore every fall for school children. They used to be made out of other materials, but now they are made of stretchy cloth and create a tight skin around the book (I gave these up when I couldn’t find them in sizes I wanted for my smaller books.)

    I also used to make simple slipcases for my books. It protected the corners, etc. of the books as they jostled around in my pack. Then I couldn’t get the archival cardboard I’d been using for awhile and gave up on them. (You can read about these starting here and there are instructions.)

    I have a plastic bag that is about the size of the book and I carry my journal around in one of those now. It’s really just so if it rains I can pop it into something quickly and walk to a new site, without having to put the book away in my pack, etc.

  4. Reply

    Elizabeth, if you’re used to using smaller books and want to try using Stonehenge paper I wouldn’t buy one of these and cut or tear the paper down. I think it would be more expensive than buying sheets of Stonehenge (22 x 30 inches and around $2.50 or so I think) and cut them down. Even buying one of their already popular pads of Stonehenge would be more economical for your needs.

    I didn’t test grain direction on the journals as it isn’t something that will matter to me in using these books as they already are. They are packed away for an upcoming talk so I can’t check them for your right now, but I’ll get back to you.

    If you go to that link about Stonehenge posts in the above post and read that first post I do however talk about grain direction in one of the pads that are available in this paper. I’ve only ever seen that pad size, however, so I can’t help you right now with more on that. (I’ll see if I can get some information on the pads and grain direction for you.)

    As far as the sheets go, the grain was with the 30 inch direction. So if you’re going to tear/cut them down for casebound books that will be important. If, however, you are going to cut the sheets (or pad sheets) down to make single pages for a wirebound book of your own devising then it’s not as critical and you can simply cut them down so the grain runs in the same direction for all of them (so they don’t curl in odd ways against each other).

  5. Reply

    Oh, and Elizabeth, I’m sorry it’s a tease not to write about doing the covers right now, but I’m so strapped for time and my goal was just to announce the good news about these journal options for people who like wirebound books. Thanks for being patient.

  6. Reply

    Karen, I have had some problems in the past with poorly designed wire bindings. My main complaint has always been the cheap, flimsy covers (often little better then lightweight cardstock), but I also have had spirals begin to undo in interesting (i.e., frustrating ways).

    The wirebinding on these journals seems to be well constructed. They don’t catch when flipped back on themselves (and believe me when I was painting the covers there was a lot of flipping going on), and they can’t unwind themselves like other bindings I’ve seen.

    Let’s keep our fingers crossed that they consider smaller sizes!

  7. Reply

    Tim, well, first, thank you for your kind comment. I hope you continue to find the blog useful.

    Second, have you tried the Hand•book journals?

    I actually like the paper in their regular journal (not their watercolor journal which I hate) better than the paper in any of the Moleskines. They have a size that is about the same size as a larger Moleskine, which might be too large for your needs (I don’t know exactly what size you’re looking for) but they also have a square one that is quite delightful.

    Fabriano’s Venezia (I talk about it in this post has a 6 x 9 that is a good size for drawing pretty much everything.

    If you only work in pen and ink or pencil (i.e., any mostly “dry” media, with no watercolor or gouache) you might look at the Kunst and Papier journals.

    The image in that link shows a large soft-covered journal of theirs. They come in several other sizes, including a small squarish one, that isn’t all that small, depending on how you look at things. These are well-made, with sewn signatures. The only difficulty of course is the soft cover—but they also have some hardbound journals (the paper is a bit different in them is my recollection). The paper in these journals is not for wet media but it’s great for pencil and pen and ink.

    I hope that gives you a couple more options to investigate.

    If you’re local you need to go into Wet Paint in St. Paul. If you aren’t, well you probably should call them and talk to them about what they have or what YOU want, and they can suggest something. They have quite a large range of journals.

  8. Reply

    Karen M., one more thing—keep watching, there is more interesting news on the small journal front for folks who like wirebindings—I’ve got a post coming up next week…

    • elizabeth
    • June 19, 2010


    I didn’t think about the cost of tearing down the spiral book vs just buying larger sheets! Thanks for pointing this out to me.

    And I was just teasing you about you teasing your blog readers with comment regarding a future post on the covers you did for these books! I know you are busy and I am just grateful that you are still doing intermittent posts for now. 🙂

    The Venezia book you mention above is such a fabulous book! I purchased one from and although I have yet to use it, I did test a sheet of the paper and it is wonderful. I will definitely be buying more.


  9. Reply

    PLEASE keep nagging on the square format — if they want my business…

  10. Reply

    Elizabeth, I’m glad it was helpful for me to suggest thinking about sheets.

    And EEEK, I’m still not intermittent enough with my posts. I have too many things I want to write about all the time. I need to get away from the computer!

    I’m glad you have a Venezia and liked your paper test. I think they are good journals, reasonably priced. You’ll have fun with it.

  11. Reply

    Barbara—you know I will!

  12. Reply

    I agree with you Roz, and if there were a petition I would sign the 6×6 and 8×8″ pad suggestion list. You have sold me on that one. I love the pages I am creating with my newest 8×8 journal. I love that you get listened to (and not) by the product producers that you admire, and that you keep trying.

  13. Reply

    Melly, I think we might have to do a write in campaign! Watch for details.

    And I am happy that my two main requests were heard—no flimsy covers and enough pages for a month of daily work. Now I know what I can use for next year’s fake journal!!!

  14. Reply

    I don’t know if I like the wirebound or not yet. I have made some but don’t like it when I want a whole spread. For mixed-media they do give that extra leeway. I like that these have blank fronts. But they are all too large for me. I prefer the smaller books as you mentioned. I don’t think the company understands the ripple effect in the journaling community if a journal we like becomes available!

    • Diana
    • June 21, 2010

    6 X 8 or 5 X 7 is my vote. I would love those sizes. Guess I better get cracking and fill up the empty sketchbooks from other companies so that I can buy Stonehenge books. I love that paper and have given serious consideration to making my own sketchbooks from pads.

  15. Reply

    Timaree, I actually think the company does understand the ripple effect of journal artists adopting a product, that’s why they are bringing out this product. What they don’t have a handle on, however, is the difference between what a journal artist looks for and what someone who is taking a sketchbook to life drawing or making sketches in the studio, or who is a landscape painter making sketches on site looks for.

    They are different animals. Journal artists need hard covers, for instance. Someone using the wirebound book simply as a pad, as people mentioned above might do, don’t have the same needs we do.

    I have told them the needs that I see as most important to a journal artist but I hope that as their product gets out that journal artists everywhere will mention their needs—most obviously for smaller sizes. And with luck the company will adapt. Or fail to reach the large audience that we know is out there.

    I’m thrilled they are at least making an effort. I don’t blame them for being reticent about leaving their main audience (the Stonehenge pad users) behind. But I do hope they see the need for more portable books.

    As for the wirebindings, well as a casebound book user myself, it is a problem when you want to work across the spread. But there are times, and media, that for me are suitable for wirebindings and in those instances it’s nice to know that I have options.

    I have several friends who keep journals using wirebound books and they have a different set of considerations—mostly they like the ability of such books to fold back on themselves. So for them, the only thing stopping them from adopting this line of books with an art paper that will stand up to what they want to do, is the lack of a suitable size, most notably 8 x 8 or 5 x 7 inches.

    We’ll see. There are a lot of companies entering this market right now, so it is going to get very interesting.

  16. Reply

    Diana, I love it, a great reason to fill up those blank books you have on hand—so you can move on to one of these!

    Just a thought, though, if you love Stonehenge paper, you might want to try one of these when they come out and you can always give the other books you won’t be using as gifts to other folks for various occasions!

    On a serious note—if you want to make your own books out of Stonehenge I would forget the pad idea and go straight to full sheets. You can get Stonehenge locally at most fair-sized art supply stores because it is such a popular paper. But you can also mail-order it from places like Daniel Smith (they do a fantastic job wrapping paper so don’t be concerned about buying mail order).

    Having the full sheets will prove more useful (more size/design options) and more economical—allowing you to make more books.

    • Diana
    • June 21, 2010

    Roz, thanks for your advice. I intended to write to you when I got to that point. As for giving them away as gifts, my nieces would be thrilled if I walked in with an assortment of sketchbooks of choice for them. I love that whenever they sit, they draw – like when they watch T.V. I love that their mother is into buying them the best materials and sees the value in that. I love that they use my stuff when they come to visit.

    Last summer the Welcome Basket all my guests received when they visited included a blank sketchbook or journal or both. I saw Danny Gregory when he came to Portland last year and had him autograph a blank Handbook for my mother. The inscription said, “Fill ‘er up!” She loved it.

    I’m excited about Stonehenge going in this direction. I’m sure they will clue in to the sizes. Would it help if we all wrote in after the sketchbook line comes out?

  17. Reply

    Diana, I love that your nieces are so nurtured in their art activities!!! And what a fantastic hostest you are—welcome baskets with journals! I hope your mom has filled up that journal Danny signed!

    I think we will definitely have to have a write-in campaign!!

    • mark
    • July 13, 2010


    I just discovered your blog and I’m really enjoying reading your sketchbook reviews and discovering that there are great sketchbooks out there beyond moleskines. I had given up ever using wet media in mine after some really disappointing results and now I’ve got a variety of options to play with.

    I’m wondering if the legion sketchbooks you describe in this entry have become available yet? I’ve checked the websites of a few of the retailers you mentioned and can’t find anything.

  18. Reply

    Mark, so glad you are enjoying the blog and reviews. I’m glad you’re looking into something besides Moleskines. There are lots of possibilities out there.

    As for the Stonehenge journals availability, I was told they would be out in July, but not when in July, so it could be the end of July and as it is a new product that might be just when they anticipated shipping it, not when it would be available.

    I’ve written to my contact to ask for specifics and to save you some trouble searching it out I will post when I hear that they have actually landed at some store or internet retailer!

    Thanks for asking.

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