The saying goes that the best sketchbook is the one you have with you and, of course, that is true. A simple pencil used on cheap paper can capture scenes and thoughts in the hands of a master. For the rest of us however, finding the ‘perfect’ one that suits your style and material preferences can become a bit like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Too big, too small, not the right paper...
Here’s my journey through sketchbookland with accompanying images:
College ones – I’m not sure who makes these ones and I couldn’t track them down online. I bought them (quite a while ago) from supply stores when studying at art college. Good general quality, good for collage.
Daler Rowney spiral ones - Good for drawing and inks
Daler Rowney A5 cream paper - Good for pen line and collage
Bushey large cartridge paper ones – Good for drawing. Took some light watercolour washes. They came in really large sizes and I don’t think they are made any more.
Square Goldline ones from stationers – okay for pen line and some watercolour. The paper quality seemed to change a few years ago for the worst.
Moleskine small A5 watercolour sketchbook - Good for watercolour. Can use both sides. Folds out flat for scanning.
Moleskine A4 landscape watercolour - One of my favourites! Takes pen line and good for watercolour. Able to use both sides for watercolour. Not so good for coloured pencil because of the texture. Folds out flat for scanning. Only problem is that the landscape book tends to dictate the composition. If only they made it in an A4 portrait size...
Seawhite of Brighton Eco and Black A4 soft cover - Good for line, light washes and collage. Lightweight so handy to pop in a bag and not be weighed down. Not so good for scanning because of the gutter.
Stillman and Birn Beta soft cover 8 x 10 inches - Great for watercolour, pen line, coloured pencil and collage. Paper is thick, a bit like card but takes watercolour on both sides. The gutter sometimes gets in the way as although the books are sewn, they also have used a glue which can leave uneven marks on the gutter area when you lay the books flat.
Cromede Art - I was sent two of their sample sketchbooks last year. Good quality paper but the spiral binding is not my favourite.
Leuchtturm1917 - I received one of these in my ‘Goody Bag’ at the USK Symposium. The A5 size is handy but doesn’t take watercolour well. Nice for drawing on though.
Hahnemuhle pocket soft backed sketchbook - great for carrying around in a small bag or pocket.
STOP PRESS! I’ve seen that Liz Steel USk instructor and illustrator Ohn Mar Win are using Moleskine A4 Portrait Watercolour Sketchbooks! I will track one down and see if that will be just right!