Posts Tagged 'Sketchbook'

Softcover Leather Sketchbook from ToBoldlyFold

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a paper or pen object!

Behold— the Softcover Golden Brown Leather Sketchbook from Etsy bookbinder ToBoldlyFold.

Handwritten thank-you notes and homemade packaging: the perks of buying handmade.

I haven’t had the time to bind my own books lately, but buying someone else’s handmade book is the next best thing. I put in some long research hours on Etsy, the handmade equivalent of ebay, before settling on this beautiful leather book from ToBoldlyFold’s Cyprus collection. Alas, if you do decide to shop Etsy for a journal or sketchbook, keep in mind that most Etsy bookbinders don’t provide detailed information on the type of paper that they use– for these sellers, I recommend messaging them to ask about their paper.

I’ve been dreaming of a leather sketchbook for a few months now. Not one of those Wiccan-looking leather sketchbooks (although they are friggin’ works of art) or one of those fake-wilderness, rugged-leather-but-I-really-live-in-downtown-LA sketchbooks. Just a simple, well-made, hand-bound leather book.

Oh, and I need the paper to take both watercolor and fountain pens (which, as it turns out, is no easy task).

A handmade leather sketchbook on Etsy is going to run you anywhere from $25 to $90, depending on the dimensions (and quality) of the book. Tiny books make my hands cramp so I ruled those out, but there’s no way that I can drop $70 for one of the beautiful journals from Moonbindery. But! Huzzah! ToBoldlyFold announced a birthday sale, which dropped her (already mid-price) books to an “Affordable Splurge” level for me.

So that’s the tale of how I found my newest book. But, as with any journal, the search is only half the battle. So let’s talk specs— and please feel free to ooh and ahh over this sumptuous piece of work.

I was hoping for a warm brown leather cover, but I was intrigued by the 170g “artists” paper, which only available with golden brown leather.

Ain’t no tragedy. The golden leather with turquoise stitching makes a stunning combination.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about the button at first (I preferred the look of a wrap-cord), but it’s definitely growing on me. It reminds me of an old-fashioned pair of good leather boots, or a briefcase. It also reminds me of this adorable art print from Etsy seller Eva Juliet.

Many bloggers in the journaling/fountain pen community tend to dislike bulky covers, or covers that overhang the pages (check out this comparison from Notebook Stories). This is definitely not an issue with this book: the covers are cut square with the paper. The downside of this is that it doesn’t offer much protection– but leather sketchbooks are meant to be worn in, so maybe it’s okay if the edges of your pages get dirty.

Journal: unwrapped and exposed

When unwrapped, the soft pages easily fold under for compact writing, or spread out in an artsy fashion on a table. If this were bound with a thin paper, the soft leather cover wouldn’t provide enough support for writing– but the thick paper and sturdy long-stitch binding make it easy to write on laps or in trains. (Doesn’t it seem like one should be traveling on a sepia-tinted train when writing in this book?).

(The long stitch also means that every page lays perfectly flat. No exaggeration.)

But let's talk about the paper. 'Cause, uh, damn. That's some nice paper.

As it turns out, ToBoldlyFold mainly uses two papers in her books: 115g Rives BFK Lightweight paper, or another paper that she only describes as “High-quality, acid-free 170g artists paper.” I know from experience that the Rives paper is excellent, but I was intrigued by the heavier 170g paper, and hoped it would hold watercolor.

I still don’t know who makes this paper– I’m going to ask the seller and I’ll get back to you all with her answer. We know at least that it is cream-colored and 175 g/m². I tried to convert that to lb paper weight, but the internet is telling me that it translates to only 65lb, which seems awfully thin. This paper is definitely thick, creamy, and hand-torn for fashionably rugged edges.

Like all good handcrafts, this one is stamped by the maker.

two different italic/stub nibs

I did worry that the paper might be too porous for fountain pens and water-based inks. A quick test of all my fountain pens did show some feathering, but far less than I expected. In fact, dry-writing nibs performed pretty swell on this paper. The sample above compares my Pilot 78G italic nib (filled with J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche) with my Parker 45 stub nib (filled with J. Herbin Lierre Sauvage). The dryer combination of the 78G/Bleu Pervenche definitely out-performed the wetter Parker/Lierre Sauvage.

Lamy Safari EF with Aurora Black ink

By far, the best combination of Pen&Ink on this paper was my Lamy Safari (EF nib) filled with Aurora Black (at the top). This is kinda interesting because Aurora Black is a super wet ink, compared to Bleu Pervenche, which is quite dry but performed the second-best on this paper. It’s well known that Aurora Black is a super-lubricated ink, though, and I wonder if the greater surface tension kept the ink from soaking in and feathering on the paper. I’ll have to try some other lubricated inks and see if it’s a pattern.

In general though, this is a paper for dry nibs and inks. The good news is that this doesn’t mean you have to stick to fine nibs– one can still use a dry-writing italic nib with great results. Check the image below for other pen and ink combinations, with varying degrees of feathering.

Oh hey there, messy handwriting.

Of course, if fountain pens aren’t the biggest priority in your life (let’s hope not; they’re just pens, after all), then this is a fantastic paper for basically every other type of pen, as well as both wet and dry media.

watercolors and Pitt artists pens

Although this seems to be a fairly porous paper (i.e., it’s not coated like Rhodia/Clairefontaine papers), it’s definitely not fibrous. It won’t catch on your nibs or disintegrate with wet media. You can see in the above image that Pitt artists pens didn’t feather at all, and watercolors also performed well.

Watercolors did absorb into the paper almost immediately, so you won’t be able to blend anything on the page itself. This is a paper more suited to glazing techniques.

Overall, this paper seems like it would make a perfect art journal: lays perfectly flat, strong enough to stand up to acrylics and pastels, sturdy enough for watercolors, and smooth enough for pens and fine nibs. Combined with a beautiful leather cover and beautiful stitching, this is a killer book and I’m excited to keep y’all updated on how I use it.

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Artist/Writer Stranded Without A Book

I’ve written before about the importance of journals, art journals– whatever you want to call the Blank Book that causes you to stop, reflect, and articulate. Art journalers may not use text the way that a ‘traditional’ journaler does, but art journals still offer the same benefit; instead of articulating in words, the journaler is visually articulating his or her experiences, thoughts, feelings. The important thing is the reflection and processing of the, um, ‘external’ world.

So basically, I’m Without A Book.

Right now.

–> Look, no panic mode! (Okay, maybe a little panic mode). I finished a wonderful Fabriano Venezia art journal right before leaving on my road trip. (For the record, the Venezia journal was reviewed by Biffybeans as “glorious,” and I have to agree). But now it has been three weeks, and I’m still without a Book.

It turns out that this is quite the interesting experiment for an artist and writer. I’ve found that all my journaling energy has been redirected onto many different projects. Not only have I been using several different sketchbooks, but I’ve also begun some large-scale paintings, which I don’t do very often. As for writing, I’ve been directing a lot of that energy into poems, which I’m mostly composing on half-empty Rhodia pads around the apartment.

In general, it feels a lot more productive. Maybe it has been valuable to let go of my perfectionist tendencies and just CREATE, no matter the surface and no matter the medium.

But, I do have a fancypants new journal in the mail, so look for an upcoming review.

In the meantime, here are some sketches: (as always, click for full view)

A picnic lunch at Manitou Springs

10 minute sketch of our tent, just as it got too dark to draw.

An Assorted (Yet Cohesive!) Paper Review

In this post, I outlined my initial impressions of four different Clairefontaine papers, which I received generously from Exaclair and bound into a short-term, multi-purpose book (what some people call a “journal”). I used this book during the last weeks of classes, as well as through the madness of Senior Week, and Graduation itself.

And it felt good (really good) to put this book aside after graduation– to start brand new, on a blank page. (What a handy metaphor, no?)

As it turns out, my blank page was on the other side of the country. But now I’m here in Colorado, and yes, I promised fuller reviews. So here we go.

Digital Color Printing Paper

Pentel Pocket Pen and ink on DCP Paper

First, to clarify: this paper isn’t meant for traditional writing and media. It’s for machines, and I’m sure it works superbly that way. But I’m not interested in machines (except, maybe, Leo Marx’s). I wanted to test a loose-leaf Clairefontaine paper– one that could be used for bookbinding!

This has perhaps been one of the few drawbacks to Clairefontaine products– they’re more like, well, office supplies than art supplies. So I really appreciate trying out some loose-leaf paper, which can be used as a raw material for a variety of art projects. The DCP paper is also available in a variety of weights (90 to 350 gsm), which allows for even more customization.

The short version: Use your fountain pens, markers, brush pens, and crayons on this paper; leave the paint and wet media alone. Water-soluble pencils/crayons/pastels have the potential to work well (perhaps if they’re more oil-based) but don’t overdo the water. Stephanie at Biffybeans did a review of this paper, and had similar findings.

Also, this is the time to experiment with bright colors. So channel your inner pop artist.

However, for whatever reason, I found that I did less art on this kind of paper. When I did draw, I used my Pentel Pocket Pen, which left beautiful, clean, high-contrast lines. Writing (in ink) on this paper was pleasurable, but the paper was too glossy to use a pencil, and the thinness also encouraged more minimalist approach.

Stamped! Notice the wet spot to the left; that's bleed-through from the drawing posted above

Continue reading ‘An Assorted (Yet Cohesive!) Paper Review’

Kunst & Papier Sketchbooks

Have I mentioned that I’ve been working in a new book? After two Exacompta sketchbooks, I wanted to try something slightly bigger with a sturdier cover. So I ended up purchasing two Kunst & Papier sketchbooks from my local art supply store– a grey hardbound 6×7″ and a black softcover that I actually can’t quite identify on their site, but I photographed the labels below.

The Look. I was drawn immediately to the stunning textures of the covers. The hardcover is a synthetic linen,  They’re simple but tactile, and (my favorite part) completely free of logos or designs. I prefer my sketchbooks and journals to advertise nothing but myself. And although sometimes a blank cover just begs to be decorated, I think these look classiest when left alone.

The Binding. The hardcover sketchbook has a sewn binding while the softcover is glued. Actually, the K&P site tells me that the hardcover is “smyth sewn and gauze spliced bindings” –which sounds very fancy even if I have no idea what it means. Both, however, open beautifully, marvelously, flat.

The Paper. Both books are fountain pen friendly, but in different ways.  The K&P website says that the hardcover book contains acid-free alpha cellulose paper, but it also mentions chlorine-free “pH buffered lignen” –and if I’m not mistaken, cellulose and lignen are two different plant-derived materials. Hmm. In any case, the paper in the hardcover book is thinner and smoother, while the paper in the softcover book is a heavier weight (120g, versus 100g in the hardcover), but also rougher/more porous. So actually, even though the paper in the softcover book is heavier, it was more difficult to write on, and there was a bit of bleedthrough when I used a flex nib. Below is an example of writing with the same pen (a Pilot 78G with an italic nib) on the two different papers.


You can see on the first image that the “P” is uneven and jagged, while it’s much smoother on the second image (in the hardcover sketchbook).

In any case, I’ve been using the hardcover book for my last semester of college, and I’ve been extremely pleased with it. After the Exacompta sketchbook, I had to adjust to seeing my writing through the pages, but I’ve never had any bleedthrough so it doesn’t bother me anymore. I would also warn against using too much wet media, although I’ve used acrylic paint with some success. But in general, this is an excellent book for fountain pens and dry media, and the hardcover provides more sturdy protection than the Exacompta.

Finishing My Second Exacompta Sketchbook

a filled Exacompta

*EDITED: I decided to include the images that I had previously posted, just to keep it all in one place. Enjoy!*

I purchased my first Exacompta sketchbook, and won my second from a Rhodia Drive raffle giveaway. (Remember how cute they were together?) I admit I had my doubts about using the same book twice… I tend to get a little claustrophobic with my art supplies if I’m not head-over-heels in love with them… and I did have few frustrations with the way that some of my more delicate nibs would catch on the Exacompta’s laid paper.

But now that I’ve finished that second book, I’d have to say it’s one of the best all-purpose books I’ve used thus far. In fact, I’m having a lot of trouble finding a replacement. I want many of the same characteristics: thick, unlined paper, a nondescript cover, and medium size. I’d like to have smoother paper this time around, though. And apparently, those requirements don’t come together too often in one book. I need to gather up the energy to bind one for myself again.

Here’s the visual summary:

ink therapy 🙂

testing Caran D'ache Museum leads

More Pages from the Exacompta

Page 2page 3 copypage 4page 6Page 7page 7 copy2

Art Therapy in an Exacompta

Page 1 copy

A few weeks ago I had a crisis involving Very Big Questions (you know, the kinds about Life and Love and The Future). I spent some time in ink therapy and came out with this.

This was in my 2nd Exacompta journal. I’ve found that I’m doing far more art than I did in my first one, which is good.


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