Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

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Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby Russ » Mon Jul 02, 2012 10:44 am

I've had this long standing love-hate relationship with my Moleskine watercolour sketchbook. The paper is perfect for my brush pen and Platinum Carbon ink plus watercolors, but the horizontal format is still awkward. The Handbook journal has a nice format but the paper feathers horribly with the ink. Some pages are OK and other pages look like a black fireworks display or fighting spiders. So I keep wavering between the two sketchbooks.

I'm curious if any sketchbook maker has stepped up to fill in the gap by making a nice paper for ink and watercolor but in a vertical format hard bound book. I have heard there are a bunch of new offerings out there but I haven't tried them. If I could learn to love Microns or pencils, I wouldn't have this problem since they don't seem to feather in the Handbook. But I'm hopelessly enslaved to brush and ink and I can't escape for very long until it finds me and yanks me back :)
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby nelchee » Mon Jul 02, 2012 11:32 am

Did you try the Derwent Journal? I never used it, but I've learned about it on this review and I'm definitely interested in trying it out: http://www.notebookstories.com/2008/11/ ... ed-part-2/
Another review: http://www.biffybeans.com/2008/10/revie ... -book.html
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby Russ » Mon Jul 02, 2012 12:53 pm

The Derwent and the Pen & Ink are two of the ones I've heard about, so I'm glad you brought them up. Based on one of the reviews, it looks like the Derwent has feathering problems as well.

Here is what has been happening in my Handbook:
handbook_feathering.JPG
Feathering of Platinum Carbon ink in Handbook Journal
handbook_feathering.JPG (267.25 KiB) Viewed 35439 times


Here it is up close:

feathering_detail.png
feathering detail
feathering_detail.png (1.3 MiB) Viewed 35439 times


Too bad since I really liked these (bought 6 of them at a time!)
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby gpathy » Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:14 pm

Hate to see those Awesome strokes turn Awful with the bad paper!
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby nelchee » Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:30 pm

Bummer :( this happens in my cheapo Lega-lega notebook too because the paper has sort of velvety texture, so I usually avoid using brush pen in it. I thought Handbook and Derwent were better in this respect, I'm disappointed to hear they're not.
So, the quest for the perfect sketchbook continues... :?
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby Studio-1-f » Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:50 pm

Stillman & Birn, either the Alpha or the wonderful ivory Gamma paper: http://www.stillmanandbirn.com/paper.html

I just tried the Platinum Carbon using a dip pen, very wet, and no feathering. I would be happy to take a closeup pic and post it if that would help. Let me know.

The S&B folks do send paper samples, though maybe not to Japan.

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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby Russ » Mon Jul 02, 2012 2:45 pm

I had not heard of Stillman & Birn, but it sounds intriguing. They have a few Facebook pages with lots of art samples, including some by esteemed members of this forum!

http://www.facebook.com/Stillmanandbirn

http://www.facebook.com/Stillmanandbirn?sk=wall&filter=2

There are several blogs that really go into detailed reviews:

http://www.inknouveau.com/2012/05/stillman-birn-sketchbooks-overview.html

I'm still trying to figure out the difference between the different types, and which would be best suited for brush and ink plus watercolor. I wonder which is closest to the Moleskine watercolor notebook, which I love. I'll need to do my homework!

I'd love to see that closeup pic!
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby Urbanspinner » Mon Jul 02, 2012 7:11 pm

A nearby art store has carried the Stillman & Birn books for a while, and I've been working with a few of them. The names of the paper still get me mixed up, but basically there's three types:

-Medium weight drawing paper in white (alpha) or ivory (gamma)
-Heavy weight drawing paper in white (beta) or ivory (delta)
-Plate finish, medium weight paper for pen and ink (epsilon)

Both medium weight and heavy weight papers are good for pen and watercolor sketching, but I think the heavy weight paper is closer to the Moleskinne paper in weight and texture. Neither of them feathers, even when using very wet fountain pens or brush pens. In fact, the edges are crisp and hard -- just perfect. The hardbound books are particularly well done, and they lie flat when opened. (The manufacturer encourages you to bend the binding back nearly 360 degrees every few pages, to loosen up the spine, when you first get the book. It looks horribly destructive as you're doing it, but when you're done, the books are limber and relaxed.)

(Close up of the alpha here http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanspinner/7488465854/ )
(Close up of the beta here http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanspinner/7488577006/ )

The heavy weight paper right now only comes in the spiral bindings, but in the next few weeks S&B is supposed to release a new set of hardbound books in this weight, in response to customers' pleas. Personally, I can't wait.

Funny enough I don't care for the epsilon at all -- the paper has poor opacity and inks take ages to dry. And inks smear readily even when they seem dry. (My waterproof black inks included.) It might be better for markers or technical pens like the Sakura Micron.
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby Russ » Mon Jul 02, 2012 10:25 pm

I'm starting to drool!

Regarding the need for bending back the covers, I recall when I was younger that we were taught in school how to prepare a new book by flattening out pages a few at a time beginning at both ends and working towards the center. Maybe quality sewn book binding was the norm back then.
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby Zoe » Tue Jul 03, 2012 1:19 am

I'll second or third the Stillman & Birn. I tested all the papers with good results. The Epsilon is recommended for pen and ink, exclusively, but I've found the Alpha and Gamma remarkably receptive.

If you can't get samples in Japan, let us know (or me) as I could send you a few sheets to test for yourself. There is nothing like a personal test as although we trust in our on line buddies tastes do differ.

Best wishes,

Zoe
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby LarryMarshall » Tue Jul 03, 2012 2:42 am

Once I discovered Stillman & BIrn I stopped looking at other sketchbooks. I use Alpha series books for the most part but their Beta series has really heavy paper if you prefer that. I find the Alphas are sufficient for even light wet-wet applications. I've done a couple blog posts about them here:

http://www.larrydmarshall.com/stillman- ... execution/
http://www.larrydmarshall.com/stillman- ... ketchbook/
Cheers --- Larry Marshall
http://www.larrydmarshall.com
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby RajeshS » Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:44 am

Hi Russ - nice to see your work. Wonderful expressive lines! I wish we could see your work more often :(

The feathering looks terrible! And a sketch once done is done - you can't recreate it. Good or bad you got to take it - so I hope you find a solution.

This S&B looks great.

I am satisfied with Handbook Journals I use and I had stocked 12 :) I am only on my 4th! But it is working for me - and the portrait format is really nice and convinient - I had picked all this on your online book and everything just fell into place!

rajesh
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby Russ » Tue Jul 03, 2012 10:32 am

Thanks, the Handbook was working well for me until I hit several pages in a row pages that feathered like the example above. Other pages seem OK, but you never know when you are going to hit one. The Handbook was great with pencil and Microns, but since I always come back home to brush and ink, I suppose it could be compared to playing football in a mine field: Who would want to try it for very long?

I'm amazed that so many of you are sold on the Stillman & Birn sketchbooks! I didn't even know they existed (I guess I haven't been paying attention during all my lurking here).

I think the Alpha or Beta would be my preference since I love the pure white pages of the Moleskine watercolour notebook. I just wonder if I should try the lighter or heavier paper. I usually only add a layer or two of watercolor, and don't try anything ambitious. But I do sketch on both sides of a page. Maybe Beta is the way to go then. What great timing since the Beta is coming out in hardbound form in a matter of weeks. I have time to use up my current Moleskine so I can say good bye and good riddance. It's nice to see a Sketchbook maker that puts an artist's needs first.

BTW my sketches lately have been the same old "same old" (people absorbed in their phones on the train). I enjoy making them but I suspect it might be less than exciting to look at them. :) Still, I may scan or snap a photo one of these days to upload here.
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby Mostho » Tue Jul 03, 2012 2:26 pm

I'm the last one that can talk here but I can share two or three suggestions.
First of all I place my Fabriano Venezia books. They are not that common (even in Italy.. grin... and it's an italian brand...) probably they are on the pricey side but they are heavy and made with excellent paper.
A similar choice is to make a journal with Favini paper. Favini is another italian brand name that makes excellent papers, like fabriano.

After that, but only for the hair I place all the Moleskine Journals and books for watercolors. They are simply just fine if you like them.

Third place, but risign up, there are a brand that I discovered to be reasonable priced and worth to mention: SeaWhite of Brighton.
An english brand, and my current personal journal, it's lovely. At the same level, a german brand, Hahnemuhle artist's travel journal. It's really good.

Also one of my love is the Canson paper, especially the Dessing 180gr rough. Worth to try any Canson products.

Cheers!
Everything is worth to be sketched
http://www.broworkshop.com/sketching/
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby Studio-1-f » Tue Jul 03, 2012 2:31 pm

Go for the Beta. For sure. (But that ivory Ganma is so beautiful! Very subtle.) Did you ask the S&B guys if they'd send samples to Japan?

Here is the close up : https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/JsC-AGaYJYlYISEMJa71ytMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=directlink

Platinum Carbon ink using a wet dip nib.

So close you can practically see the paper texture in the upper left hand corner. I am sorry it doesn't convey the ivory color very well.

Hope this helps!

EDIT----> Stillman & Birn Gamma Series: Moleskine killer: http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/index.php?/topic/224650-stillman-and-birn-gamma-series/

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