Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Searching for the Perfect Sketchbook

In 2008 I purchased my first Moleskine and took it home. In the pouch pocket I found a pamphlet that spoke of Europe and a history with Van Gogh, Picasso, Hemingway… I liked the idea of working in a sketchbook that had a history built on tradition. I was under the assumption it was made in Italy. Imagine my surprise when I took off the colored band and found very small type that said "Designed by Moleskine in Italy - Manufactured in China”.

First of all I use Moleskines because the
book feels of quality, pages lay flat with stitch binding, cover is study (protects artwork inside), travel friendly…Some of my greatest travel adventures and sketches are contained in the pages of these books. For years I used the “sketchbook” for my travel journals. The pages are crème colored and slick, perfect for pen work but watercolor slides off. They only make the watercolor sketchbook in a landscape format. It is either too small or too big. I became determined to have the watercolor book in the normal format and size (8.25x 5.0 inches open to 8.25x 10.) which would fit into my travel purse. What I did was the unthinkable...I purchased the large watercolor sketchbook and took the band-saw to it. What I ended up with is the perfect sketchbook! I wish the company would make the book with watercolor paper and in the normal format (not landscape) and a decent size....but in the mean time, a girl must do what a girl must do...BZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
And by the way, the book I cut in half is the one I took to Italy last summer. So I can honestly say “Made in Italy”.

I am constantly searching for the perfect sketchbook to use as my travel journal. Recently I have been in contact with a new company and they are sending me a book to try. I won’t mention any names at this point but if I like it I’ll surely let you know.

Update: Since the writing of this post I've been introduced to the Stillman & Birn, sketchbook company. I am greatly impressed with their Beta Series, stitched bound books. Please read my blog review on these books, here
Happy Sketching!
Brenda



25 comments:

  1. Oh yes, please do let us know! What a creative way to get a custom made book! Did you re-bind the cover of the one you sawed?? My 1st Moleskin sketchbook came on my 1st trip to France,2003. It's still one of my favorite journals. I like the heavy weight pages & cream color. Lately I'm needing 9X12. Have you tried the Moleskin accordion books? I posted photos of a small one I filled in August in 1 of my blog posts. As always, thank you for your tips!

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  2. I rebound the left over section with a spiral binding. I also like having a larger sketchbook that is spiral bound 10x11. I use regular watercolor paper of assortments along with a few pieces of tinted paper. I haven't tried the accordion book...yet. I'll check your blog for yours.
    I am returning to Southern France this summer to teach a two week workshop...can't wait!

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  3. Maybe you should send a web-shot of this to the Moleskine company? There are SO MANY of us who would rather have watercolor paper in the normal format, many of whom have tried telling the company. The basic design is great; the paper stinks!

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  4. Great idea to make your own, I would love to know more about this.

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  5. jpr, Good idea. I've been making my own sketch book for years. I'll do that soon!

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  6. What a fun post - to read about your adventures with different journals and your bravery to actually take a saw to one! Amazing!! I have done most of my sketches in the Moleskine watercolor journals too. I guess the normal size is now my comfort zone, but I'd like to try different sizes/shapes for variety. Maybe that can be a stretch direction for me this year. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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  7. Claire,It's always a good idea to go beyond our comfort zone...exciting things happen then. The main problem I have with the large Moleskine is I can't hold it in my left hand and sketch with my right...it's just to big.

    My husband has a great wood shop. I know my way around...a little. But even my husband was surprised with what I did!

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  8. I love it! Think I'll get out the saw and do some surgery to mine! Great idea! Anxiously waiting your new review;-)

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  9. Stillman & Birn makes fabulous sketchbooks. The delta, for instance, is 170lb paper.

    studiosakivi.blogspot.com

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  10. Brenda, would you mind telling me what the black cse is by your sketchbook? Is it made for art, or is it something you happened onto?
    i have several sketchbooks that i love. they are made by an artist from LA. they do have a plastic spiral though. Dont know how long they would hold up, now that I think about it. I have never used the moleskin, but should try one. love the idea of sawing up your book!

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  11. Suzy, Sorry, I don't understand the question. Can you rephrase it?

    SakiVI, I have heard lots about Stillman & Birn sketchbooks. It is on my list to try!

    Happy Sketching!

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  12. Two new sketchbooks in my bag: Stillman and Birn, Alpha and the Ebony by Daler Rowney. Both A+ and certainly as good and probably in some ways better than the Mole, although I still rely on them as a staple.

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  13. I'll be watching to see what you say about the one your'e trying. I'm always frustrated by the w/c moleskine books--I think they're missing out on a huge number of watercolorists out there who'd buy other size books.

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  14. Brenda what a fun post, followed your link from Facebook's Artist Journal group. I love your bravery. I think Suzy (comment above) is asking if the purse (tote or 'case') in your photograph is made for carrying art supplies or if it's just a 'normal' bag you discovered somewhere. I think she likes it and would probably like to know where it came from. ;)

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  15. Suzy,
    The bag you see is my travel purse. I carry the art supplies you see in the picture, the general girl stuff, money, passport, sunglasses...I purchaed it at www.ebags.com The purse is made by Baggallini and the style is the "Sydney Bagg Silver Hardware".

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  16. So true! I've been looking for a better watercolor journal for the same reasons for years! I agree you should talk to them and let the manufacturer know we want this!

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    1. I think "WE" should "ALL" tell them that we want the watercolor book in the normal format or we might OCCUPY their office (just kidding...). I would much rather sketch and paint than protest. I am the gentle type...I just go to the garage and cut things up instead!

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  17. Hi Brenda, yesterday i bought a Moleskin WC book because of this post. I was surprised that I like the dimensions very much! Being left handed, it gives me a margin to work with! Maybe Moleskin could make another one, but keep this one too...I love learning about materials & tips here, as well as the rest! I got a new Bagallini for my trip: The Run Away, thanks to you sharing your Bagallini...Do you have the larger or the smaller Sydney? Good tip about bringing loose sheets as well as smaller books. That will lighten the load...Thanks!

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  18. I do love Moleskine, just wish they would make a few moew functional sizes for watercolor. Glad it has worked out for you. Baggallini's are wonderful...I have many styles. My favorite for travel is the Sydney. I try to keep my supplies on the smaller side and everything fit into it. I also need to keep supplies light weight.
    Enjoy!

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  19. Hi Brenda. how many pages your sketch books are usually

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  20. Mauro, I like 20 pieces of watercolor with 10 pieces of pastel paper.

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  21. Definitely check out Stillman and Birn - Alpha or Deltas. My current Mole is going to be the last one (except Mole calendar books).

    http://www.benfranklin.com/search.php?c=&t=stillman&page=1

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  22. Jude, The Stillman and Birn company sent me their books to try. I am having fun trying them out. I still love my Moleskines but I'll keep searching for the perfect sketchbook.

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  23. I always carry a small Moleskine. What I do is buy the Moleskine Diary version, a thicker book than the sketchbook version, and cut the book block out of the covers and make a new book block using my favorite 90# watercolor paper. I follow the directions for how to do this as posted in TrumpetVine Travels http://www.trumpetvine.com/moleskine-reloaded/. The resulting book isn't as precisely structured as an off-the-shelf book but to me it's better. I prefer not to use a coil bound book in my handbag but do like the coil binding for larger sketchbooks.

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    1. Jo, I visited your page...the lengths you have gone to make your "perfect sketchbook" is amazing! Your description to each stage is clearly written and images are helpful, too. I'm impressed!

      In recent months I've found a stitched bound book I like very much. I now use the Stillman & Birn, Beta Series. I am sure it's not made with the same love as yours but it quite lovely.

      Happy Sketching!
      Brenda

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