Keeping More than One Journal Simultaneously and a Review of the Fabriano Venezia Journal

July 18, 2011

See the full post for complet details.


Above: Sketches of chefs on the Food Network using Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's Calligraphy Pen and gouache in  9 x 12 inch Fabriano Venezia journal. I started on the top left, top right, then bottom right, and then finished with Bobby Flay bottom left, since I had a hole there. I also returned to the colors I'd used on that page. My paint selection was based on what was already sitting out when I started to sketch, hence the roving. (Edges cropped a bit because the page is larger than my scanner top.)

In last week's journaling class the inevitable question of simultaneous journals came up. I've written about this many times, so many times that even a blog-dedicated search engine could not begin to sort all the mentions out in a readable fashion. Therefore, I've included a few in the following list.

  1. To read some background on why I'm currently keeping two journals read this link. (The link also includes some detail shots of creating a mixed media background.)
  2. If you are worried about working chronologically in your journal I suggest you click here for my thoughts.
  3. If you're interested in "choosing a journal size" I suggest you read my linked post.
  4. See a heavily painted background page and brush pen sketches from the In-Studio journal.
  5. See a brush pen and paper collage in the In-Studio journal.
  6. See dogs from the In-Studio journal.
  7. See Gert in the In-Studio journal.

If you read posts 1, 4, 5, 6, and 7 (or look at my Dog Days series going on now) you'll see examples from the same journal that today's image is taken from: a 9 x 12 inch Fabriano Venezia.

I've worked this journal all the way through (previous tests for this commercial journal were in a 6 x 9 or so inch journal and only one signature of testing to get a feel for the paper).

Despite having heavy collage added to more than two thirds of its pages, and not having any pages removed to ease the pressure on the spine, this book has remained hearty and hale! It yaws a bit at the fore edge because of all the added bulk, but the spine is holding up nicely. Also, despite very rough treatment from me—I applied paint and ink with brushes, paper towels, sponges, and my hands—the pages have dried flat with minimal ripple or buckling. (There was no difficulty working on both sides of a page because of any wet-media use distorting the paper.)

Is this the greatest paper to work on ever? No. But it is a suitable paper if you are working with mixed media, including wet media. I find the paper, which has a cold press finish, is still slick enough because of the sizing, to be extra fun with pen and ink of all types. In particular the Pentel Pocket Brush is great fun on this journal's paper.

There were some inconsistencies in the paper. At times I would be rubbing the paint about with my hand and could feel that the paper was breaking down more quickly than it did on other pages. But over all I found this to be a very strong surface on which to work. I actually came to like those inconsistencies when applying watercolor or gouache with a 3/4 inch filbert in a sloppy manner (see image at the top of this post). I also came to enjoy the way the paper sometimes seemed to resist my Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's Calligraphy pen and squeak across the page. (If I still lived with a dog I might have to temper my enjoyment, or stop using the F-CPACPs as they dry out!)

I enjoyed working large as well, since most of the journals that I make are only 8 x 8 inches or smaller.

In short I enjoyed the experience so much that I went back to the store to get another 9 x 12 inch Fabriano Venezia journal. Sadly they are on back order so I'll have to wait. But I'm looking forward to having two journals simultaneously again, in the near future.

Which brings me back to the original point of this post: Do you keep simultaneous journals?

In general I don't. And in general I don't encourage people to do so either. I encourage my students to keep one journal at a time as they develop their journaling practice because I believe (and have seen it in my students' experiences) that if you keep one journal and pour yourself into it steadily, and watch it grow, and then start a new journal, the momentum created will carry you farther, faster, than multiple journals, where the sense of "completion" and "production" is more diffuse.

But I also believe this: Only you know what is the best way for you to journal. You might not have discovered that way yet, but you can if you apply yourself. Keep one journal only for one month. Put everything in it. Then spend the next month keeping simultaneous journals. Which approach works best for you?

Not sure? Go repeat the experiment in intervals of 2 months! Still not sure? Try for 3 months each. (I think you're beginning to get the idea.)

Adding in some factors like different media and life's various interruptions will also make for interesting test results.

This is what I know after a life-time of journaling: at any time, for any reason, you might find yourself keeping more than one journal simultaneously. Ask yourself if your needs and goals are being met. Ask if it is working for you. Ask if it feels good, right, fun, whatever.

If you're producing pages, something is working; something is keeping your interest sparked.

Don't sweat it when things change.

Ask yourself why things are changing. Make sure you agree with the changes, and if not institute some actions to get back on track. But basically, realize that as you change, your journaling practice is going to evolve as well. If you feed it with your curiosity it will continue to work for you.

Oh, and for people who wonder how I handle my journal index in these situations, it's simple. As I finish a journal I give it a volume letter and page it following in the year's sequence. I do this even if the other (simultaneous) journal has pages that were created chronologically before pages in the journal I just paged. It's sort of a first come, first served scenario. This approach doesn't wreak total havoc on the chronology and I'm free to indulge my whims for working in a larger journal, going on a trip and having a dedicated travel journal, or simply working in two journals.

  1. Reply

    As ever, I truly appreciate your thorough reviews, Roz. I just started a Venezia journal and I like it best of the commercially available journals I’ve tried. It doesn’t lie quite as flat as a moleskine, but I like the paper better… Here’s a colored pencil/ballpoint pen sketch from a recent page:

    I tend to keep multiple journals–they are scattered throughout the house so there’s always one handy and they tend to organize themselves by media and whether I’m working on my lap, out and about, or at a work table.

  2. Reply

    Lisa, thank you for sending the link to your lovely colored pencil and ball point pen sketch. Both obviously work well for you on this paper!

    I’m glad you’ like the Venezia. I just ordered some from Cheap Joe’s because a reader saw I couldn’t get any locally and let me know there is a sale at Cheap Joe’s ending today (7/18). Soon I’ll have another large journal to work in.

    I don’t use Moleskines much though I used a large watercolor one for my 2011 fake journal. They do open nice and flat.

    I find that the large Venezia is a pain to photograph because it doesn’t open as flatly, as you say, BUT I don’t find any problem working across the gutter, it’s just the scanning becomes and issue for me because it’s larger than my scanner.

    I find it interesting you have different journals scattered throughout the house! I have sketchbooks in every room for if I need to make an odd sketch now and then. But if I want to keep something from the sketchbooks I tend to tear the page out and put it in my journal. There are just some papers I love sketching with and if I’m in a journal that doesn’t have that paper I just might need a paper fix! And I love to collage with my own sketches.

    Thanks for writing in.

  3. Reply

    Thanks, Roz. It’s probably more accurate to say I keep multiple sketchbooks. I like the idea of gathering the best of their contents into one book for longer-term keeping.

    In some ways, though, these little books do serve some of the same function as a journal–just seeing and handling one will put me back in the mental space I was in when it was in active use.

  4. Reply

    Hi! I realize this is an old post, but I have a question about the Fabriano Venezia journal and I’m hoping you can help. You say above that you had no trouble with the pages drying flat even with wet media…

    Did you do something special to get them to do that? I’ve used watercolor and some acrylic ink and the pages have buckled like crazy–to the point where I can’t use the other side of the pages. I’m wondering if maybe I’m just Doing It Wrong–maybe leaving the book open for the page to dry is the wrong answer, or I’m using too much water (though my usual watercolor problem is too little…I’m working on it), or something.

    Thanks for any help you can give!

  5. Reply

    Sara, I just wrote a long response and somehow it got lost. I am late for a meeting so here’s the scoop. I don’t have this problem. My pages buckle, it is a lighter weight paper, about 90 lb. watercolor paper range. So I expect some buckling.
    shows my friend Pat Beaubien’s books, she does traditional watercolor in hers. You can see from the book on the table at the RIGHT (the center one isn’t a Venezia) that the pages buckle but don’t warp out of usefulness.

    You can see here I’ve painted, then let it dry open, stenciled with stamp ink, collaged, and then journaled (obscured in the image) and all of this still didn’t effect my use of the next spread.

    I just work on the pages let them dry open and close the book. It sits out on a table in the studio until full so nothing else happens to make it flat.

    I put the slightly buckled pages on the scanner with a weight and they scan great.

    I think buckling is something that everyone responds differently to. I don’t mind a little buckling. I’ve never not been able to use the next page.

    While I use the books they tend to start to yawn open at the fore edge, but once I put them full onto the shelf with other journals and they get jostled together and compacted by a full shelf they tend to compress a bit. Never a compressed as when new, but not yawning open as much. That doesn’t happen until they are full however.

    So I’m not sure what is happening for you because water use is so personal. As is tolerance for buckling. But both my way of using it and Pat’s way of using it more traditionally have worked fine.

    We do tend to wait for areas or layers to dry before working more into the page. This doesn’t mean we don’t put several colors in together to blend, but once we have the blend we work on a different area while it dries before coming in with more color to either add detail or glaze or whatever. With ANY paper, if you don’t take its individual strength into consideration when working you run the risk of pushing through the paper when it’s wet. (This would be very wet.)

    Perhaps you’re working in an area past that point?

    Sorry I can’t be more helpful without seeing how you work. If pages buckling bother you I would encourage you to make your own books using 140 lb. watercolor paper. There will be some buckling still, but the thicker pages will minimize the overall effect.

  6. Reply

    Thanks so much! Looking at Pat’s book and reading this, I think I’m just more twitchy about the buckling than you are. 😀

    I’ve made my own books before so that’s probably the way to go.

    Thanks and have a great weekend!

    • Janine
    • June 7, 2013

    I would also like to add to this post on the Venezia book. I just picked one up to try again and really did not like the paper at all. It is not good for pencil drawing and I felt like I was wrestling with each page at first to keep the book open,then I couldn’t get the book to close. It may be better for pen&ink/watercolor/gouache. I was surprised, actually. It is a very high quality product, well-made, etc. but for simple pencil sketching it just didn’t work for me. :-/ YMMV. Etc.

  7. Reply

    Janine, I’m glad you have added your thoughts on this product. I’ve written about the Venezia many, many times, and in most of those posts I admit to my own distaste for its paper as a pencil surface (I don’t like either graphite or color pencil on the paper). But for the media mentioned in this post I continue to love it. Also I haven’t experienced any of the “wrestling” opening and closing problems that you experienced.

    Handbook makes a wonderful drawing journal that is still suitable for watercolor and wet media, but which takes pencil/colored pencil much better. Have you tried their books? You can read a review I did of that book here

    Also the book I used for my 2013 Fake Journal would be excellent for pencil and colored pencil work, though it isn’t really suitable for mixed media. You can read about the Leuchtturm 1917 Notebook here

    If you look at my list of links for commercially bound books that I’ve reviewed
    you’ll find listed the Kunst and Papier journals and the APICA journals and notebooks. Both accept graphite and colored pencil well though the last isn’t really what most people would choose or think of as a visual journal.

    My ALL TIME Favorites for using pencil are these two: the Stonehenge journals which are wirebound, but the paper is so lovely that what the heck. (And they take wet media beautifully.) And the Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media paper journals (a wire bound and a traditional casebound version is available with this paper). The Strathmore 500 series Mixed media hardcover journal is in fact my favorite commercially available journal because it can take any media that I want to work in.


    • Janine
    • June 8, 2013

    Hi Roz,
    Thanks for giving me a few more alternatives to check out. 🙂
    I will look at the posts again.

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