In Context: Looking at the Arteza Watercolor Book

June 3, 2019
First page spread in the Arteza Watercolor Journal. Brush pen and watercolor, with a Montana Marker background. I’m using the large journal that’s 8.3 x 11.7 inches.

A short while ago I started testing the Arteza Watercolor Journal. Amazon recommended it to me because of something else I had purchased. 

I’m giving you a link to Amazon above because it’s the only place I know to get it. I’m not connected to Amazon in anyway except as a customer, so buy it wherever you find it if you want to try it. BUT WAIT.

I don’t have time do to a written review of this journal, and I’m still working my way through it. I wanted you to be aware of this book.

I recommend that you wait until I have posted all parts of my review. Right now I think there will be about 6 parts. The book has good and bad attributes. 

Then decide whether or not it’s something that you want to try.

You can view the journal at the Amazon link I gave you above. You will see it looks similar to the Hand•Book Watercolor Journal. I’m rather a sucker for PORTRAIT orientation in journals. I purchased the ones that were 8.3 x 11.7 inches. Remember they come in a two pack when comparing prices.

Working monochromatically in the Arteza Watercolor Journal.

Think of this commercially bound journal review as a series of “In Context” posts. You know, those posts I do where I simply show you my journal spread and let you figure it all out, unedited.

Click on the pages and they will enlarge and you will be able to read my thoughts just as I  jotted them down.

Going forward in the coming weeks, with a couple breaks for other posts, I’ll have about 6 or so of these related review posts for the Arteza Watercolor Book letting you know what my experience using these books has been. 

I’m doing it this way because otherwise it would be months before I reviewed this commercially bound journal. This way you don’t have to wait months.

Key Points So Far

OK, I’m going to depart a little from the “In Context” format as there are some key things you shouldn’t miss and you might not be able to read my handwriting.

Paper Surface Matching Across the Spread?

The paper is collated to have matching surfaces across most spreads, but in this book there is at least one where they aren’t matched. I don’t know if this is an oddity or what…

Despite what their advertising copy says there is a distinct difference from the front of the sheet (slight cold press texture) and the back of the sheet (smoother). They need to be matched across the spread so you can work consistently across the spread—it’s why we work in books with sewn signatures!

Paper Grain Direction

The paper is folded AGAINST the grain. This is a no-no in bookbinding. 

You want to fold your pages so that the fold is parallel to the spine. This is because that’s the way the book opens and closes and where all the movement, wear, and stress occurs. 

If you fold the paper with the grain it’s less likely that your papers will crack and fall out of the book, even in a sewn construction. (And this is a sewn book.)

Also, when you fold with the grain and you wet the paper any curling you get will happen to run vertically.

But when you fold the paper against the grain any curling you get will run horizontally. What does that mean for the book?

It means that on a page heavily worked with watercolor the top right corner and bottom right corner on a recto page will try to curl into each other, up and down. (And the left top and bottom corners of the verso page will try to do the same thing.) This means the corners will pull AWAY from the spine’s head and tail, causing stress at the head and tail of the spine—stressing any gluing you have in your construction, or any sewing you have in your construction.

It also will make the book less easy to close. (You’ll be always tucking your pages in so you don’t close the book and fold them oddly.)

But most important is the fact that you are folding the paper against the grain so you’re breaking the grain of the paper and the individual paper fibers that are aligned in that grain direction are literally BROKEN. And eventually your pages fall out. Sometimes they fall out before the book succumbs to the forces of pull and stress it is being subjected to; sometimes after that.

Deal Breakers?

If I were making a book both of these situations would never happen. I care too much about how I want my books to be and how I want them to last.

If a student of mine did either of these things when making a book they would hear from me about how disappointed I am in them. (Oddly my students actually care about my good opinion so we know that NONE of my students would ever do either of these things.)

Should you avoid buying this book because of either or both of these things? That’s for you to decide. I didn’t know they’d been bound in this way when I purchased them. And after I did know I bought a couple more, because they are so inexpensive.

Sometimes you make decisions based budget. Or curiosity. (I want to know how they will last when worked by me and a friend I sent one to.)

I will have more examples, and a lot less text, about this commercially bound book in the next two weeks.

    • Stephen Rogers
    • June 3, 2019

    Roz I’ve been meaning to ask, do you write your notes in brush pen as well? It certainly looks like it. If so, I’m amazed at how legible your PPBP script is!

    1. Reply

      Stephen I do tend to write notes with whatever pen I have in hand while sketching, it just saves time. HOWEVER, I need to point out that on this particular spread I was using the Sakura Pigma FB Brush Pen, not the PPBP, so it has a much smaller tip, and is a solid tip. And easier to write with regardless of how sloppy I want to be.

      This sketch was made with the Pentel Brush pen and I wrote my text with that same pen right beside it. I’m sorry the image in that post doesn’t blow up when clicked because it’s pre-2017, but you can see it large enough to see that I’m getting away with writing in that pen because I am writing larger letters (that’s an 11 inch tall book).

      Another example in a large almost 11 inch tall book

      Here I’m writing smaller with the Pentel brush pen

      It’s a smaller page (about 8.5 inches tall).

      So I guess, yes I do that more often than not.

      I think it is because I love the way the brush pen feels on the paper. Writing with the pen is almost as fun as the sketching esp. on those lined smooth papers!

      OK, here’s one with the Pentel brush pen that you can blow up. The ink looks a little dull as it soaked into the painted textures.

      Even right now looking at it I can remember how fun it was to write it. The pen feels so good on that paper. I think it is something about the way it goes thick and then thin. I think I have to go write with the PPBP on some Nostalgie paper right now!

        • Stephen Rogers
        • June 3, 2019

        Thanks for the whirlwind guided tour! I must say one of the most appealing (of many) features of your journal pages is your lettering – you and Danny G have the most appealing sketchbook lettering I know of.

    • Kathleen Michael
    • June 4, 2019

    Glad for the post Roz. Have been wondering about Arteza paper. It has come up on the ads in some of my social media pages. Thanks for the review and the information on the importance of grain.

    1. Reply

      More to come so stay tuned. Thanks for checking in.

    • Dana Burrell
    • June 4, 2019

    I can’t wait for the all the installments Roz… just to see if our assessments match. I bought a pair of each of the sizes and have just started using the pocket landscape book… direct watercolor so far. I can verify Arteza mostly matched paper textures across the spread except for one… the join of the first signature to the second. And even in this tiny book the paper is folded against the grain. Very odd on both accounts. I’m only three spreads into it so I’m withholding full judgement but it looks promising. Not much buckling and nice blending and granulation on the cold press side. The price certainly is attractive.

    1. Reply

      The price is what attracted me. I’ve been able to do some fun things on this paper so I think the whole series of posts will point to where is each individual’s trade off point. I could see grabbing one of these to go away for a weekend when I know I coming to be doing a lot of sketching and studies and using watercolor. Finish up in a 2-day period and it isn’t going to have a lot of wear and tear. Whereas If I take a book I’ve bound I might not fill it up in a weekend. (Of course I’ve also bound some thinner books, but still, I guess what I’m saying is the price makes it seem pretty easy to just grab and the trade-offs?)

        • Dana Burrell
        • June 7, 2019

        I bought them specifically to test and for the small pocket landscape book. I mostly carry A5 size portrait books but have been thinking it would be great to have a tiny watercolor book to carry when I need to keep it minimal. I like binding my own but I prefer to expend my energy binding larger books. The paper in the small landscape Moleskine doesn’t do it for me. This seems better but it’s a much thicker book… 80 pages… it’s 3/4 in. … a little too thick to much in a pocket but does fit in my hip bag.

        1. Reply

          I’ve only used the large portrait size in the studio and frankly the fabric is fraying in some spots without a lot of use, so I’m not sure how well it will hold up running around with it.

          Have you tried the smallest Hahnemühle Watercolor Journal/Sketchbook? It’s tiny and fits well into pockets and small bags. I like the paper a whole lot more than this paper too.

          I can’t use Moleskines—their papers even the watercolor paper (but especially the yellow paper that’s in the art journal version or whatever they are called, and I know they have a new book now in portrait and I got one of those and it was smelly too) all smell chemically to me, dry or wet. So much so I get a headache in under 10 minutes if it is within 5 feet of me. Too bad. I do like how they are bound.

            • Dana Burrell
            • June 10, 2019

            Ordered the Hahnemühle… thanks!

    • Dana Burrell
    • June 5, 2019

    I’ve been thinking about the mismatched spread. I think they meant to match all the spreads but then the first folded sheet was loaded into the printer backwards when they printed the lines for the contact info (‘If lost, please return to… etc.”) Tossing that sheet wasn’t an option so we end up with the first sig not matching the second.

    I also may be reading too much into their thought process.

    1. Reply

      My open book has just the one mis-matched spread and I can’t think how it happened only there, and how they set up their production line to have this happen. But it’s in yours too so it is part of their process. I’ll have to open the extras I bought.

        • Dana Burrell
        • June 7, 2019

        I opened all of mine… they’re all mismatched on the first/second signature spread and one of the large portraits had an additional mismatch where the last signature meets the previous. One more thing, it’s interesting that all three sizes have different page counts… the pocket landscape has 80, the A5 landscape has 76 and the large portrait has 64.

        1. Reply

          I think the different page count is due to a paper wastage issue—i.e., they don’t want to waste paper so whatever size their parent sheet is they work out their production to be the most efficient, least waste of paper. It’s one of the reasons we have the standard page sizes in the first place.

          It’s not unlike what I do when I take a bunch of 22 x 30 inch sheets and decide on a certain size and say have a 5 inch tall waste strip and so I have to tear down X number of the larger to get enough of the smaller to make a decent size book. But in my case I’m willing to have wastage in the first place. I don’t think the manufacturers are.

          Bottom line, they need their resources to come out evenly.

          I still haven’t worked out why they have that one spread with non-matching surfaces across the spread at the first signature join.

          And then you found they did this again elsewhere in a similar situation. I think that sounds like a manufacturing issue that went awry, or can do, every so often.

          But as Hawkeye said, ‘Chingachgook told me, “Do not try to understand them and do not try to make them understand you, for they are a breed apart and make no sense.”‘

          Because I could make myself crazy trying to understand why they cut the paper to fold against the grain!!!!!!!!!!

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