Tom and Ed at Monsieur Notebook

October 16, 2013

Usually I begin my blog posts with an image, but I wanted to embed a video and that didn't work. There's a three minute and seven second video from Tom and Ed at Monsieur Notebook that I think is worth a look and you can see it at the link I've just included at indiegogo where they are trying to raise funds for their expansion.

Tom and Ed make Monsieur Notebook (that's a problem for the US market because everyone here has had enough difficulty pronouncing Moleskine—now here comes a company with a French noun in its name). They are a "real leather notebook" recognizable and similar in shape and sizes to the Moleskine I've just mentioned. But if you watch the video you'll see why these two young guys think their product is superior. I think so too (with some reservations listed below in my review.)

Personally I think you should watch the video just for the joy of hearing someone with an English accent say the word "pleather," but that's just me remembering a long history of publishing jokes.

Go and see it and decide if you want to pledge money to their expansion. You've got 11 days left to help them.

In August Tom wrote to me and asked if I'd like to try one of their notebooks and while I usually turn down such requests I was so taken with their upbeat attitude in the video and the real leather aspect of it that I said yes. So in a couple weeks a small black leather covered Monsieur Sketch Notebook arrived.

It was landscape orientation and I hate landscape orientation, but if you go to their website you can click on products and see that they make a bunch of different sizes, different papers, and have portrait orientation books for those who need them. You'll also see that they are coming out with a watercolor journal and I can only hope that it comes in a portrait orientation because wouldn't that be grand? (Of course I also hope that the watercolor paper is great; the point is we'll all just have to wait and see.) 


Left: Test page spread in my small Monsieur Sketch Notebook. I don't have it in front of me (and I'm clearing out the storage room so I can't put my hand on it but I think it was about 5 x 4 inches.) Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and Daniel Smith Watercolors.

Before I posted about the sketchbook I wanted to test the pages, but I was involved in a labor-intensive project and my arm was injured so I couldn't get out with it until October's Sketch Night at the Bell. There I found a Blue Jay mounted specimen to sketch from.

131003_A_JayDETAILLeft: In the detail shot you can see how the toothy paper takes the ink and the watercolor. This notebook is sold as a sketchbook, but of course we all know any visual journal keeper is probably going to try and paint in it, so I did. The paper takes light watercolor washes but as you can see in the full image the washes will not move across the paper in a pleasing way because the paper isn't sized for watercolor. But the watercolor doesn't bleed through the paper so that's a good thing.

The test sketches are all quick—I was still injured, I don't like to work in landscape format, and one of the other attendees talked to me the entire first 30 minutes while I sketched—I was constantly interrupted while trying to concentrate on the Blue Jay and the paper qualities. So in other words this notebook got a real field test!

131003_B_JayLeft: I did another version of the Jay focusing on the back. I was working with a Staedtler Pigment Liner .3. While you may get a little dot of ink where you stop the pen and make a decision about where your line is going, the ink doesn't seep through to the other side of the page. If you look carefully at this image you'll see ghost images behind each page and these are not bleeding through they are showing through—which happens with most drawing paper of this weight when you draw with pens which leave dark, saturated lines, like the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. There is a slightly cream colorcast to the paper. The paper doesn't have an offensive smell dry or wet.

131003_B_JayDetailLeft: In this detail from my second sketch you can see the variation of line possible from this pen on the slightly toothy sketch paper.










Above: I switched to a Uniball to do this sketch and it's one of my favorites from the evening. Not only do I like this pose, I enjoyed the way this pen felt on this paper. If I were going to use these notebooks all the time I would change the pens that I use and rely more on the roller-ball type pens. They bite into the paper with a bit of fun.


Left: another view using the fun Uniball.



Left: My final sketch of the evening—the head of the Albino Deer.I used a Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's Calligraphy Pen that was drying out a bit. It was fun to sketch with it on this paper, but it wasn't as fun to sketch with on this paper as on my favorite papers so I probably would stick with the Uniballs.

While I wouldn't recommend this sketchbook for people who like to use wet media I think that artists working with graphite and colored pencil may like the slightly toothy texture of this paper. Ink artists will find at least one pen that they can enjoy on it (though it might not be their favorite pen). If you're an ink artist who needs smooth papers then this probably isn't the book for you.

I didn't test a fountain pen on this paper because I don't like to use fountain pens on toothy paper.

The cover is as bendable and pliable as you'll read or see on their website and in their promotional materials. I did open the book back on itself all the way, as their site says you can, and it all held together. (I didn't do this until the book had been handled a little and "warmed up.")

The thin leather covers are sturdy and stiff. There was no over-powering tanning smell so whatever process they are using it's something that isn't leaving a residual reminder for the scent-challenged folks like me. (There is a slight leather smell that is less noticeable than if you were to carry a leather handbag. And the overall smell profile of this product is less offensive to me than a Moleskine as their fake leather covers and their yellow paper have odors which bother me more.)

The book was sewn and constructed solidly. Their site makes mention of fair wages, or so I thought, I can't seem to find the reference again.

All in all it's a nice little book. If you aren't doing a lot of wet media you might want to check one out (though whether you can or not may well depend on their expansion plans, so be sure to check out that link at the beginning of the post). (And while I did receive this book free, they made no insistence on what I could write about it and took a risk. I'm not linked to them in any other way. Though I think their mothers should be proud as they seem very clever.)

(Also I'm a little confused because if you go on Amazon you can find some A6 notebooks that are 5 x 8.25 inches for prices ranging from $14.16 up [way up]. I don't know who all is selling those. BUT I WOULD BE CAREFUL because the word SKETCH is not in the title of the item and it may contain their note paper and not their sketch paper.)

If they make it to the US in their expansion and they bring out a watercolor sketchbook I think we should check out what quality of paper is used. 

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