A Look at the Kilimanjaro Sketchbook from Cheap Joe’s

March 2, 2016

Readers of the blog will know that I did not take a Kilimanjaro Journal to the 2015 Minnesota State Fair.

I finished using my tester journal at the end of 2015 and will repeat what I said in that initial post on the sketchbook—if you like cold press watercolor paper the Kilimanjaro paper is delightful. It comes in the original bright white and also a "natural" white. (I used the original bright white though some of my scans were made on a dying scanner and not flattened properly so there is shadow on the pages—it is a bright white paper.)

In my testing I found that many pens worked great on this paper.

For this monochromatic sketch to test laying in shadows I used the Platinum Carbon Black Fiber-tipped brush pen (which is a pretty stuff fiber tip that’s more like a felt tip marker than a brush pen). The ink dried well on the paper and I was able to add watercolors immediately.

Click on any image to view an enlargement.

Below: All sketches are from a 9 x 12 inch portrait style journal (it’s also available in landscape). Left: ink and watercolor, Right: direct brush painting. Both sketches were made while I was watching a discussion panel made up of the people responsible for the TV show “Justified.”

150824_B-OliphantPen-and-washKilimanjaroTest 150824_C-ElmoreLeonardDirectBrushKilimanjaroTest











Below: Sketches made while watching, “The Detectorists.” I was trying to ascertain how quickly I could mix and blend watercolor on the paper. (Left with the Sakura Pigment Sensei pen and right, direct brush.)














Below: Experimenting with the Platinum Carbon Black Fiber-tipped brush pen  and gouache to see if I wanted to take gouache (most of the ink has been covered.



Below: Left with the Sakura Pigment Sensei pen and watercolors, with red gouache in the background. Right with the same pen and 30 second or less sketches of people moving on TV. This sheet is one of the “drawing paper sheets” that is interleaved between the watercolor paper in this journal. It’s a nice paper, but pretty thin and “vanilla” It takes pencil but pen shows through and wet media seeps through (top).

150825_A-ManBluewatercolorRedBack-KilimanjaroTestBR 150825_B-QuickSketchesDrawPaperin-KilimanjaroTest












Below: Left, the drawing paper again, here you can see the ink show through from the previous page. I’m working with purple color pencil to see if I want to work with color pencil and watercolor at the Fair—so quick gesture sketches of people walking around. Right, color pencil (Dark grape) and watercolor test on the cold press watercolor paper. (Quick sketches from TV.)

150825_C-QuickSketchesDrawPaperin-KilimanjaroTest 150825_D-QuickSketchesDrawPaperin-KilimanjaroTest












Below: I had already decided not to use this sketchbook for the Fair, but I wanted to continue to work through its pages and test other materials. Here is a sketch from TV (stopped) using the Sakura Pigment Sensei pen .6 with watercolors. On the right I’ve taped out an area, toned it with acrylics and used the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen to sketch Stephen Fry on a Gear and Tech show he did. I used Nichiban artist’s masking tape. It removed easily from this paper.

150924_SeanEvans-GreenKilimanjaroTestBR 151215_A-StephenFryKilimanjaroTest












Below: I repeated the taping experiment (Nichiban tape was left on for up to 2 weeks without difficulty on this paper). Besides sketching a character actor using the PPBP I colored over the toned background with Montana Acrylic Marker. And Right, I prepainted the background with acrylic paint, let it dry, and then taped a window area, into which I then did a sketch of Dick from life using the PPBP and then went in with gouache.

151216_Actor-on-texture-KilimanjaroTestBR 151225-B-Dick-Gouache-on-texture-KilimanjaroTestBR











Construction of the Kilimanjaro sketchbook is the only thing I didn’t like about it.

I could deal with the light weight drawing paper, but the covers and coil binding of the Kilimanjaro Sketchbook weren't quality.

There is a thick but dull and unappealing back cover of some sort of pressed cardboard. The front of the journal is a thin label sheet on card stock which has the details about the product. Beneath that sheet (which is meant to be torn away) you have a sheet of 300 lb. Kilimanjaro. The idea is that you will paint your own cover.

I kept the cover sheet on until I finished the journal (in fact it’s still on) and recommend you too keep the label sheet on until you are through working in the book. In fact I would recommend you wrap the label sheet and 300 lb. watercolor "cover"  together in clean newsprint to keep them clean and unharmed as you work in the book. The back cover, with very little use got exceedingly dog eared and it looks very cheap and tacky. You might wrap that while working in the book too.

The coil binding is of the type that is comprised of loops that don’t lock, but simply circle into the pages and bend towards each other. The problem with this type of coiling is that if it isn’t applied correctly the pages “leak out” where the opening is, as it runs the length of the coil. This is unfortunate because the pages shift to those openings every time you fold them back on each other (the point of a coil binding) or sometimes just open the book. I purchased 5 of these books and they were all like this. Other sketchbooks purchased long ago from different vendors using this type of coiling positioned the ends differently to avoid this problem. Maybe the folks at Cheap Joe's were just having a bad day at the factory? But all my American Journey Watercolor journals came with the coiling also poorly applied (I bought 5 of those too, all bad).

This defect can be remedied by doing the following:

Take a piece of stout string or waxed linen cord (I used 3 ply) and knot to the wire at the base end of the coil. You will then lace the thread through the loops made by the coil so that you are weaving in and out from male loop to female loop, tightening to leave no gaps. Knot on the wire at the head of the coil and trim your thread.

This kept the pages of the two American Journey journals I took to the Fair together without incident. When the Fair was over I simply numbered the pages, cut the cord, slipped out the coil (which didn’t argue or put up a fuss) and put the pages of two and a half sketchbooks in one stack, with one set of covers. (The American Journey Watercolor Journal Line has lovely hard board covers with a tough covering. They are marred only by a debossed logo on the cover—I like my commercially bound journals naked.) Using a large diameter plastic coil I purchased for about 30 cents from what was Kinko’s (I don’t know what they are called now), I then threaded the coil through the holes in the stack of covers and pages, and cranked the coil end tips over at about 1/4 inch from the end with a fine-tipped pliers (it stops them from unwinding backwards through the holes). The Fair journal was complete, no problem. (OK, I did cut down into the cover board and lift out the American Journey logo and lay in a laminated print of my spin art.)

I did the same re-coiling procedures on the Kilimanjaro book, substituting a new coil after its pages had been filled, and then scanned. No problem.

I will happily use the American Journey Journal line again as I like the stiff covers. If I use the Kilimanjaro again I will create different covers for it and have them punched at Kinko’s.

So there you have it—the Kilimanjaro paper will delight any traditional watercolorist. The issues with the construction of the sketchbook can be handled as discussed.

    • Carol
    • March 2, 2016

    The Detectorists!!! I so love that show and recommend it to everyone. (I’ve even found and watched the second season online.) Everyone in it is so good and the humor so subtle and fun…and the music is great, too! I could go on and on 🙂

  1. Reply

    Where did you find season 2? I saw it on Acorn and now I believe it’s on Netflix but I think it’s only season one. I should check again. I just love everyone on the show!

  2. Reply

    Margaret, thanks for telling me they make them in-house. I will send them a note. I’ve always had great products from them. And I’ve been a customer since forever. More than the coil issues (Which I think are fixable as described in my post, I really wish they put different covers on the Kilimanjaro).

    • Carol
    • March 3, 2016

    I found Season 2 online at – it’s a site where people post TV shows (Shh…I’m not sure how this kind of thing works – not sure it’s kosher). Anyway, I watched the videos posted by “couchtripper” – Season 2 would be labeled 201, 202, etc. I’ve heard that 2 is out in the UK on DVD, so it shouldn’t be too long until it gets here … I’m getting it!

  3. Reply

    I’ll look around. I notice it’s on Netflix now (season 1) and I think it’s still on Acorn so I hope one of them will bring it up.

    • Adrianne
    • March 17, 2016

    All of your paintings are wonderful, and I particularly like the green and gold man. Thanks for the review of the journals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close Cookmode

Pin It on Pinterest