Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sketchbook Connoisseur

I have this problem and I don't think I'm alone here...

I love sketchbooks.

I do.

I love the look of them, the idea of them, the designs, the feel, the everything. I love sketchbooks so much that I buy them even though I have other ones that are only half-used, barely used or not even used up at all because I bought them and then forgot about them entirely.

I have Moleskines (Limited Editions, ruled, plain, sketchbook, watercolour, folio etc), Cachet, Strathmore, Canson, Bateman, Ecosystem, SRK, Fabriano, and most recently Copic and Mix Media (Canson) sketchbooks.

I've even HAND-BOUND my own book using custom sizing, custom cut choice Stonehenge paper, Vellum and tracing with fancy decorative paper on the outside.

It's like having a personal collection of different books with different personalities that reflect different stages within my life as a human and an artist.

I swear I go in waves. I don't even sketch as much as I should really. I've become more slack in that sadly, since I've been out of school for over a year. It was easy to sketch and draw during lectures where I could listen and doodle and take notes on the side.

My sketchbook collection over the past 5 years.

While I was going through my sketchbook collection I realized that I have become this uptight, overly-critical sketchbook critic that can't be happy with just ONE kind of sketchbook. I can always find great things about them, but then I find all the things I don't like about them and then take forever in the store mulling over the different reasons why I should or shouldn't buy a sketchbook.

Price is always a factor and now that I am trying NOT to carry too much on my back at all times I find that weight and size has become an important factor when choosing the right sketchbook.

I have my pros and cons with each sketchbook as I have yet to find the right sketchbook that is the ultimate in perfection for me so It's become this quest to find the One Sketchbook To Rule Them All.

It's frustrating really because it totally takes away the entire point of having a sketchbook in the first place: A mobile, bound collection of paper to keep rough sketches in. Thanks to consumerism and having like MILLIONS of sketchbooks (that may be exaggerating a bit) to choose from - one can't help but seek to be successful in finding the RIGHT sketchbook for travel, ease of use blah blah blah. I even have a sketchbook that I covered with art from artists whom I love that Fabriano used to make with rainbow-coloured paper inside! Then I find the colours to not be of my liking and can also change the effect of what and how I draw in it due to dark and light colouring.


Ahhh...but then you have to factor in some things before you get started like paperweight, tooth and size.

If you intend to ink your drawings then it's best to go with heavy weight paper with a smooth surface that won't bleed (Ink Paper or Multimedia).

I personally like a paper with tooth that drags my pencil and gives me nice ease of line-making and also has a bit of texture when shading. Sometimes with my purple COLOR ENO (My ultimate pencil) I like to use a smoother paper for smooth strokes but not all the time. (Sketchbook A.D.D.)

If you aren't using heavyweight paper, watercolour paper or multimedia paper - then what's the point? You're going to make a mess, the paper will be wrinkled and bleed right through to the next one. Not rocket-science.


I used to work in an artists supply store so i've had the pleasure to use, be informed of and experience some pretty awesome sketchbooks. My knowledge is about 4 years old now and there have been some exciting and awesome new books that have come out by popular brands that I just can't even keep up with. I just can't! Cannot!

I figure that a sketchbook is like a cup of tea. Every one is a different flavor that will suit a need (at the time) and just pick one up and use the damned thing. I'm not sure when I started to become so particular with my sketchbooks but it could have been from my prior job at the art store because when you have such a range of media at your fingertips at all times - you kind of go from one thing to the other really quickly and get bored fast. Too many choices.

My TOP Sketchbook favorites list: 

1. Ecosystem Sketchbooks (Large Hardcover Blank Journal)

Why I love them:

  • Perfect size (wider width than a Moleskine and still compact)
  • Smooth off-white heavyweight paper for easy inking, detail work and fine pencil lines
  • No ink bleed
  • Erases really nicely (using Vinyl erasers like Staedtlers usually available at any local office or art supply stores)
  • VERY eco-friendly and environment conscious regarding paper, process and carbon footprint
  • Comes in purple and other stylish colours
  • Reasonably priced ($20-ish CAD)
  • Inner-envelope pocket storage, bookmark and elastic closure
  • Not readily available in local art supply stores (near me)

2. Copic Marker Sketchbooks (9x12 spiral bound)

Why I love them:

  • Great for lefties or righties you can start from either end based on portrait or landscape style and the rings won't get in the way of real estate space or your drawing hand
  • Small ring binding (Large rings are cumbersome and ruin easily)
  • Smooth white heavyweight paper for easy inking, detail work and fine pencil lines
  • Made for Copic products (I use Copic Multiliners and it's beautiful)
  • No ink bleed
  • Erases really nicely (using Vinyl erasers like Staedtlers usually available at any local office or art supply stores)
  • Reasonably priced ($18ish CAD)
  • Found at local art supply stores or online
  • A talented artist friend and certified COPIC demonstrator loved it and gave it a great review: Marker-Guru at Guru Kitty Studios and
  • No elastic closure to protect page corners from bending/getting damaged *I use a hair band-elastic (yes, purple) and it fits perfectly around the book without bending and keeps pages protected during transport*

3. Moleskine Sketchbooks (Folio A3, Blank Journal and Watercolour)

Why I love them: 
  • Comes in a wide range of sizes, shapes, colours, vocations etc.
  • Available at local independent or commercial bookstores, art/office supply stores as well as online
  • Folio is a great size with off-white paper (none of that yucky yellow paper), no ink bleed, erases really nicely (using Vinyl erasers like Staedtlers usually available at any local office or art supply stores)
  • Watercolour (landscape) has great heavy paper for watercolour or multimedia, nice tooth to paper, holds paint without bleeding
  • Trademark inner-envelope, bookmark and elastic closure
  • Price $25-$45ish CAD
  • Not reasonably priced in my opinion when there are many other similar types of sketchbooks available now that are better priced and some with better functionality

Right now i'm rocking the COPIC Marker sketchbook and finally using up the Eco-system sketchbook. If I'm feeling slightly sketchy i'll bring out my small Moleskine Limited Edition Lord of the Rings sketchbook for it's light weight and thinner pages for light sketching.

So that's my current view on sketchbooks based on my own personal experience so far. I'm sure there are many other amazing sketchbooks out there so please DO INFORM and leave me a comment or a note as to where I can find prized sketchbook.

Until then, good luck on your quest for own perfect Sketchbook(s) to Rule them All and above all:

-J xo

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