I came home a week ago and found on my doorstep a package. I was pretty surprised to have gotten a package since I had no recollection of ordering anything. Instead I’d been sent a box of Stillman and Birn sketchbooks for my use. I considered secretly hoarding these away and not telling anyone anything about them, I reconsidered and decided to make my gain yours as well by reviewing each and every sketchbook. I know, tough job, but someone needs to do it. (Please imagine me acting faint with my hand to my forehead for added drama.)
I’m reviewing the case bound Gamma series and I’m not going to mince words here, these are the best sketchbooks I’ve ever used. The paper is a heavy 100lb and ivory in color with a slight texture. The sleeve states it can take “light washes” of watercolor and is good for a variety of materials. I found all that to be true, plus it handled heavy applications of watercolor like a champ. The covers of the case bound gamma are super tough and very sturdy. They hold up well to sketching in the hand while standing. Though it’s humid here they remain flat. The binding is perfect. I can find no flaws with it. The thread matches the paper color so blends in well and is not noticeable. The stitching is the same sort of binding that Moleskine sketchbooks use, smythe sewing. This also with some work allows this sketchbook to sit VERY flat. It does take some work to get it to open perfectly flat. That work is as simple as opening the sketch book up over and over again and touching the 2 covers to one another. Easy. What I really like is how good everything looks on the paper. The warm color really shows off earthy colors and tones down bright colors. Watercolor layers on this paper wonderfully. It also lifts well. Nothing soaks through
It’s really nice to work in a sketchbook where I’m not constantly battling the paper with either my ink or watercolor. It’s nice to lay down a wash and KNOW how it will respond to either more color or to water being used to lift that color. I know that if I add more lines to the page how that ink will respond. While I adore my cheapo canson blue book for hashing out ideas and mind mapping, using paper I don’t have to fight with is the whole reason i got into bookbinding so many years ago. If Stillman and Birn had been around in 1998 I never would have started making books.
You can get them at EuropeanPaper.com Not sponsored just a happy winner of a sketchbook from them.
I was given another glimpse into just how powerful art journaling can be last night. I had an idea for Put it on Paper, something that I had rolled around in my brain once before and pushed off as not possible and not a very good idea at the time, but I’d made note of it in my art journals, made some doodles and wrote it down.
I quickly flipped through the last 2 journals where I knew the info to be, tabbed those pages with a little Post it flag, and then used my iPoo Touch to snap some pics, shelved the books and took the info with me, in my pocket. I sketched out a quick idea in my art journal of what I thought this idea could look like and emailed it to Jane. As I relaxed into bed, I reviewed the pages on my iPoo and made some fresh notes and doodles about the content of the proposal.
How amazing is it that I can carry 4 journal’s worth of info in my pocket? I read somewhere that someone scanned their notebook pages into their computer and used a specific program to make them searchable. How cool is that?
If you have an art only journal consider carrying an everything art journal with you everywhere, it will prove itself to be indispensible in short order. (Check out a variety of pockete sized notebooks for this, or make your own pockeet noteboook using my tutorial here.)
The Space Pen is a standby pen for me. I love its compact shape that extends to a full sized pen when used. Similar in size to the old school joy that is a Parker Jotter its just comfortable to use. I’ve got 2, a brushed chrome version and a stealthy matte black, the chrome with black ink and the black with red. My go to ballpoint pens when a ball point must be used.
I used them religiously for my GTD system back in the day. Black was for regular entries- to do stuff things that needed managing. I had a lot to manage 6 years ago, as the manager and buyer for a busy floral department. My GTD system is well documented here. It was a simply take off of PigPog’s system of a simple line on the outer side of a moleskine Volant or cahier, blank pages please. I’d enter a date and action item, then as it was finished cross it off the list. Items that were desperately urgent were marked or boxed with red ink.
And this is where things get interesting. I was going through a notebook and I noticed that the red ink had ghosted through the page and in some cases ghosted onto the facing page. in some cases this is no problem, I doodle, a lot and obviously ghosting of doodles wasn’t much of an issue, BUT when I had take notes in the red ink, it made the next page of notes hard to read.
I noticed this about a year after I had initially taken the notes. It hasn’t gotten any worse over the years but it is interesting. It occurred on ALL the papers I’ve taken notes with- old issue Moleskine Volants (w/ the GOOD paper), Wausau Ivory paper 24lb, Staples/ hammermill ivory 24lb, and various other papers. It also only occurred with the red SpacePen ink, not the black or blue.
Making your own pocket sized notebooks is ridiculously easy. Once your materials are gathered it really takes about 15 minutes to sew up 3 or 4 of these. If you've been buying Field Notes or Moleskine Cahiers you will save $9.99.
Here are the materials you'll need:
Awl/push pin blunt needle with a large eye thread- you can use Linen or Embrodery floss, or any thin sturdy thread made of a natural material bee's wax, a block or candle ruler paper that you'd like inside cut to the size you'll need cardstock for the cover
To figure out how wide to cut the width of your pages and cover use this simple formula final (folded) width multiplied by 2 plus 1/4 inch So if I want my page to be 3.5 inches the formula works out as follows: 3.5×2+.25=7.25inches. You trim off the last .25 inch when the notebook is finished.
Thisis Moleskine #4 I filled it up while I was in Buffalo, NY attending a funeral for a family member and shortly after. A visit to Buffalo is always interesting.
Anyway, the idiots have been thumbing down my videos again. It's driving me nuts. It just reminds me of the need to thumb OTHER people's videos up. If I like a video I always thumb it up. I figure it does something to restore some balance to the positivity of the world.
Anyway, go check out my vids and give them some love.
I was looking through one of my older moleskine sketchbooks specifically the one I started writing in then I first moved to Massachusetts. One of the thigns that I wrote about a lot was simplicity. I had lived in a small 3-ish room apartment in the woods of Maine. My apartment was essentially 1 large L-shaped room, a half wall divided the kitchen from the living “room” and a wall with a doorway divided the kitchen from the bedroom. There was no door on the bedroom. The only room that had a door was the bathroom, which housed a shower stall, toilet, sink and a bunch of shelves. Total square feet of the apartment was maybe 600sq ft. If the walls had not been vaulted it would have been awesome.
When I moved to Mass the apartment I moved into wasn’t much larger. Over the years we moved from about 600sq ft to about 700 sq ft and now we are in a 1200 sq ft house, we’ve got about 300 to 500 sq ft we don’t use all that often. Sometimes I feel like it’s too much space and other times I feel like it’s not enough. I am really thankful we’ve got a garage and a basement, both of which feel decadent after years of living without a space to work on bikes, engines and greasy things that don’t belong on kitchen or coffee tables.
I feel like I need to revisit this simplicity concept . It’s not like we live extravagantly, simplicity is something I strive for, but sometimes I get caught up in ridiculousness and making things more complex than they need to be. I need to cut that out.
I tend to think of simplicity as going hand-in-hand with organization. As I look around my office I think perhaps I should start here and work my way out.
On a side note anytime I think of simplicity I have to think of my art and what materials I would work in if I could only chose a few supplies to keep with me. I have to say I’d probably go with pen and ink with watercolor. It gives me color and the ability to draw.
If you could only pick 3 art materials to use for the next 6 months what would you use?
This sketchbook contains 80 roughly 110lb plain cream colored pages. They are contained within plastic covered hard black covers. The plastic is imprinted to look like leather. This sketchbook is very often suggested for people started out in art journaling.
The paper is stiff and smooth. It’s good for writing and drawing. I find that the paper has a coating that repels wet media like watercolors, which it absorbs but gives a blotchy appearance. It does the same with some inks. It can be quite a pain in the rear. I’ve found that if I got through my sketchbook and spritz the pages with a little water so they are evenly damp and then allow them to dry before working in watercolor or ink the blotchiness is minimized.
The paper responds favorably to pitt and zig pens. They remain perfectly black and don’t show any blotchiness. The paper is also heavy enough to support many layers of collage and acrylic paint. When working with wet media it’s best to be aware that the paper will cockle and remain wavy even after it dries. I like the wavy paper but most don’t.
The heavy weight paper does not show strike nor bleed through except when using sharpies and copic markers. Fountain pens do just fine on this paper. Some fountain pen inks get blotchy.
The sketchbook has a great form factor with its smooth hard black covers, pocket in the back and elastic closure. I can’t say that the paper would be a reason to recommend it. The pages can take abuse but if you erase too much or scrub the pages with a brush you’ll end up will pilling of the top of the paper. I’ve read reports of the spine breaking on these sketchbooks but I’ve abused the heck out of mine and never had a broken or damaged spine, and I’m not gentle with my sketchbooks and journals. The price however is quite prohibitive at $18 for 80 pages.
If you are looking for a sketchbook that handles a variety of media relatively well, with a nice hard cover, at a ridiculously high price this is a good sketchbook. There are others similarly shaped and sized that will work as well at a lower price.
INterested in purchasing a moleskine sketchbook? Follow this link, it was the best price I could find on them:
About a month ago I was contacted by Chronicle Books about hosting a give away on my blog of products from the new Moleskine line of products. Unable to say NO to anything free, I accepted. I expected a small amount of products, one or 2 sets of books. Instead I received, via Fedex, a large box. In it were several colors and sets of the 5×8 Volants, a set of the pocket sized volants, a desk calendar and the hottest thing in there, several Color A Month Planners.