Gouache over Pen, Working in a Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbook, Pigeons, IFJM…

April 30, 2011

See the post for full details.

Above: detail from a page in my 2011 fake journal. Read below for more details about this image and other stuff.

Today is the last day of International Fake Journal Month (for some the journey is going to continue into May, but more on that in another post).

So for this year's fake journal I've been working in a large (11.5 x 8.5 inch) Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbook. The book is landscape so that's a huge problem for me (I don't like landscape books because I stand up when I sketch—just go ahead and try to hold 23 inches of flapping book in a stiff breeze while you sketch and paint).

The good news is at this size Moleskine doesn't perforate the pages of their watercolor sketchbooks. FANTASTIC. So why don't they get a clue and stop perforating the pages of their other w.c. books as well?

And why can't they produce watercolor sketchbooks (with no perforations of course) in portrait orientation? (I think there is a campaign to encourage them to do this. Can someone write in with a link? Can we all write in and urge them to do so?)

I have some issues with this paper which I'll go into at another time, the main issue is that the sizing is not uniform across the page and sometimes the watercolor beads up! But I digress.

Overall, it has been a sturdy book and if they would make a 7 x 9 or 6 x 8 inch book in portrait orientation with no perforation I might even be able to get behind it, uneven sizing and all. Sigh.

But the point today was to just show you a detail from one of my pages, prepainted with acrylic paints, then sketched on with a Uniball Vision Elite (which evidently isn't waterproof, I picked it up instead of the Vision Needle which is labeled waterproof; but no biggie as you can hide the bleeding with gouache).

I thought this pigeon was quite charming. You can see the full page spread of pigeons on the Official International Fake Journal Blog.

  1. Reply

    Hi Roz, here is the link that i know of for the portrait moleskine.

  2. Reply

    What a lovely and gentle image of a pigeon. Ever since I started making my own books, Moleskines have paled. Though so many years were spent in them that I do have an affection.

    • Nita
    • April 30, 2011

    I have a question about gouache, please. I squeezed a dab of a variety of colors (Holbein’s artist gouache) in a plastic folding palette to take out. Love the intensity of the colors and working with it!

    But after the dabs thoroughly dry, on subsequent days they crack and fall out (unlike normal transparent watercolors that have honey or arabic gum binders). The gouache rewets well so that’s not a problem, but losing pieces, or putting chips back in a color slot and rewetting to place them again–agh.

    Do you use fresh gouache with every sketching trip?

    I have a few tubes of Schminke’s but have only used them fresh out of the tube so far.

    Thanks for an answer, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s Strathmore online class!

  3. Reply

    I am so with you about watercolor Moleskine in portrait format. I do portraits in watercolor after all… And I’ve been hearing a lot of wishes for that from artists, so we are not alone. If someone would post a link for the watercolor Moleskine in portrait format – I would love to add my name to it.

    In the meantime, great sketch, Roz!

  4. Reply

    Donna, thanks for the Link!

    Alex, go and check it out.

  5. Reply

    Melly, I only ever used Moleskine sketchbooks in the dark ages, before their recent resurrection—when they were a totally different animal. So working in this Watercolor sketchbook of theirs was a first for me—and not totally unpleasant. Except for the size. Still the perforations in the smaller models is a mystery to me?!

    Glad you like the pigeon.

  6. Reply

    Nita, in my informational posts about gouache (where I actually talk about the paint and don’t just mention that I’m using gouache) I always try to specify that there are two brands I use because they REWET well. Those brands are Schmincke and M. Graham Gouache. I am late for an appointment so I can’t steer you there, but if you search “gouache” and “Gouache palette” in the search engine for this blog you’ll find posts about this that you can read to get background as to why I use what I use and even the colors that I use.

    Holbein is NOT a gouache I use in pans out in the field. It is something that I typically have a couple of tubes about the studio and will sometimes use it—mostly because I tried it a number of years ago and still have some left over and then replaced a couple tubes when my favorite colors ran out. It works differently from my other gouache brands and it doesn’t do well in pans at all and will crack just as you say.

    So if you want to do what I do with pans you’ll have to change brands.

    Oh, I also have a problem with Holbein because of the pigments they use. Very few are as lightfast as the other brands I use. But when fresh Holbein does have a nice feel and if that is something you like then just use it as a studio paint.

    FYI, Holbein also has gum arabic in it. It’s the other ingredients, not a lack of gum arabic, that is causing it to crack.

    In M. Graham the honey certainly helps against the cracking. In other paints the ingredient that helps against cracking is typically something like glycerin (I think MG is the only company using honey).

    Holbein doesn’t have Ox Gall in their watercolors and I’m pretty sure they don’t put it in their gouache and since that’s a wetting agent the lack of it might also contribute to the cracking issue, but it wouldn’t be as important as the other additives.

    So looks like you’ll need to change brands as I said above.

    Nope, I don’t use fresh paint with each trip into the field.

    In the studio I put paint on white plates and tend to use it and rewet it until the colors on the plates are too messed up to be of much value. And even then I’ll still use the paint for studies and quick sketches.

    If I’m going do do a painting in the studio and I have thought it through, selected a palette of colors to work with, then yes those colors go on a fresh plate and I work with them straight from the tube. But when that painting is finished and the plate still has paint on it, I keep using that paint.

    Hope this helps. I have to get out of here.

  7. Reply

    Roz, I think it’s possible that your perforated WC Moleskine was perhaps from an older batch. My experienced lately is that new books don’t have them. There was a lot of complaining about the perfs (I mean, really — why would you buy a nicely bound book like that, then tear out the pages???) but all of a sudden, perhaps a year ago, I noticed that the perforations were no longer in them. However, I’m sure there’s some of the older stock still hanging around.

  8. Reply

    Oh, and of course I love the pigeon.

    • Nita
    • April 30, 2011

    I’ll definitely switch brands; thanks for the clarification that others don’t crack.

  9. Reply

    Nita, before I have 10,000 people write in and tell me that their gouache is cracking regardless of brand, let me just clarify that ALL GOUACHE, in fact all tube watercolors (transparent or opaque) will crack somewhat depending on component parts and your own living environment.

    But Holbein will crack and fall out and crumble and not rewet well, whereas Schmincke and M. Graham will rewet well (which is the main thing) and for various reasons the cracking is minimized, if not gone completely (again depending on so many factors I can’t guarantee something for you as I don’t know your exact living situation—temp, humidity, and working habits with water, etc.)

    But with different brands as suggested you should be on a good path to happier results!

  10. Reply

    Karen, thank you for the update on the perforation situation in WC Moleskines. I’ll check into it here and with friends who use the product regularly. My main issue will remain the size, since I can’t do landscape and that 11.5 x 8.5 inch is just way too big for me. (I’m glad IFJM is over now because it has been work to fill up that size every day!)

    I hope that after seeing the light about not having perforated pages they will also see the light about Portrait orientation!

    Thanks! And I’m glad you enjoyed the pigeon!

  11. Reply

    Ah, the cracking and falling out problem. I have that and I use the paints you suggest but I also live in the desert and today our humidity is around 13% and expected to go lower to the single digits. Nothing can withstand that dryness. Anyone living in a desert region (I know lots of artist bloggers live in the Phoenix are which is about the same) will have this trouble no matter what. Even gel pens don’t work well and acrylic paints dry up before you can spread them out well. Your info is good; we have to judge it by our area and your brand probably holds up better than others in this dryness. Only a few of mine have actually fallen out but I carry them vertically too. I find the best advice here on your blog about paints, pens and paper than I can get anywhere and really appreciate all the effort you put into sharing it all.

  12. Reply

    Timaree, thanks for the kind words about my blog and info. It’s frustrating for me when people get frustrated, because there are so many environmental variables. It is very dry here in the winter! But I still think not as dry as Phoenix!

  13. Reply

    Just went over to your Strathmores Workshop and watched it twice. I signed up just because of your offering with it. Great job, Roz. Can’t wait for weeks 2,3 and 4.

  14. Reply

    Melly, many thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I just wish I could have moved around a bit (including my hands) without the camera giving problems.) I dream of a more advanced video camera! I hope you enjoy the rest of the episodes. Roz

  15. Reply

    My M. Graham gouache will be arriving next week and I put a Schminke triad in a palette to see how it acts. We have relatively humid air here year around and as long as the paint stays in the palette, I’m fine with a few crack lines.

    I like drawing directly with paint, so will proceed with exploring gouache! Thanks so much for your detailed knowledge and shared expertise.

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