Ink Changes, Habits, and Narrow Pages—It’s All Relative

January 22, 2014


Above: Parallel pen sketch on 500 Series Strathmore Mixed Media paper—pages in their new softbound journal. Ran out of red ink and picked up a purple cartridge. The dye-based ink did cool things in the pen as it switched over.

I think I've been working large for too long. I just finished a 5.5 x 8 inch softbound journal from Strathmore and I found that the pages were difficult for me to work on because I was used to working larger and getting eyes and other features in a portrait on a page away from the gutter. On these smaller pages it became a crucial issue.

Using square journals helps me avoid this issue by giving me more width before the gutter—but it is ultimately relative. I could elect to start smaller over all, blah, blah, blah. You know the drill.

It's doing these types of experiments in different book sizes however, that helps us find the book size that works best for us.

In general I've just reconfirmed that this size book isn't going to work with me. Their larger softbound book is 7.75 x 9.75 inches. It's a size I can relate to better.

Something that will be of interest to smaller book users however—I finished this book last week and as the book got a little more flexible from daily use I was able to open it up and turn it back on itself, just as you would with a ring or coil bound book. The spine was that flexible, and the soft covers didn't get in the way. I can't think of many times that I'd really like to work that way, especially if the page is 5.5 x 8 inches but it's nice to know you can.

I also think it's good to disrupt a regular diet of large pages or square pages with sizes that are odd (to you) so that you have to rethink some of the habits you have fallen into.

I've got a ton of things I want to write about sketching with parallel pens, but right now I'm still digesting it all. It isn't fun in the sense that moving a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen over some of my favorite papers is fun. Or fun in the way that moving a fine-tipped pen over a plate paper is joyous. And the "randomness" of the line quality, or rather the fight to get the quality I want, is the dominant feature of this approach.

But it brings some oddly satisfying moments and it does something else that's healthy—it busts me out of my comfort zone of smooth lines from the PPBP or other pens.

And this paper stands up to it all so it becomes difficult to stop and not start another such sketch.

I'll try to get some other examples posted in the coming days and maybe get a quick shot of me folding the book back on itself. (Don't do this right out of the wrapper because you want the spine to "warm up" a tad from a little bit of use.)

In the meantime go break some habits to see what new things you can learn.

    • Sandi
    • January 22, 2014

    Do you carry the larger sketch book with you when you sketch at the zoo or fair? Just wondering how difficult it would be to sketch while standing with that size book. Otherwise, if not, which size could you comfortably use with your recent difficulties?


    • Tina
    • January 22, 2014

    My favorite journal size is 6×9 (opening to 12×9 spread), but I recently have been trying a 6×6 square (12×6 spread). At first it felt cramped, but now I like the versatility of the square format. The spread works well for interiors (like in coffee shops) as well as landscapes.

    • Sandi
    • January 23, 2014

    Thanks for the reply. I hope that you recover quickly. And I am looking forward to your online class.

  1. Reply

    Thanks Sandi.

  2. Reply

    Tina, if I had to choose only one format or size journal I think it would be the 6 x 9 (or 6 x 8 depending on the sheet of paper I’m tearing down).

    When I switch down to something like the 6 x 6 I also feel a little cramped at first, especially if someone has a very vertical face, but then I warm up to it.

    I’m glad you’re having fun with different sizes! Thanks for writing.

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