For a long time I would use the basic and functional hardbacked A5 sketchbooks you’d typically find in art shops. I ended up getting a few spiral bound ones, which became annoying when storing my completed sketchbooks as they wouldn’t quite ‘stack’. Lesson learned.
At some point I got taken by the idea that I wanted the ‘tools of my trade’ to be nicer, slightly more deluxe items, since I used them regularly, and so I moved onto the popular Moleskine sketchbooks. Most of the time my sketches are really messy, ugly little scratchy things, just enough to record an idea and some notes to help me decipher it – it’s been a while since I actually illustrated anything nicely in a sketchbook. Because of this, I failed to notice that despite their popularity, Moleskine sketchbooks aren’t all that great for drawing – the paper is certainly heavyweight enough but it’s yellow and has a slightly waxy coating to it which doesn’t always make for the best lines.
Then the great Moleskine Spec Work Scandal of 2011 occurred. I wasn’t really impressed with how they responded and handled the whole thing, and so I knew that I’d bought my last Moleskine.
I was purchased an EcoSystem sketchbook as an xmas gift, which is very similar to a Moleskine but with a refreshingly green ethos – each book is 100% recycled and has it’s own special ID number. Great! The only problem is that the paper isn’t quite heavy enough, and I was getting a lot of bleedthrough into multiple pages, especially when using my Pentel Pocket Brush.
The other issue is the number of pages – I can’t seem to find a page-count, but there are a lot. Easily a couple of hundred I think. Why should that be a problem? Well, for two reasons: firstly, I actually quite like the ‘clean slate’ feeling that comes with starting a brand new sketchbook, and find it a good excuse to set goals, or try and sketch every day (at least for a little while); a sketchbook with a huge page count simply means it’ll be longer before I get that new sketchbook feeling.
The second reason was the amount of work/ideas which would be lost if I misplaced the sketchbook – the more a sketchbook is filled the more valuable it becomes as a personal resource, and I didn’t like the idea of potentially losing easily a couple of years’ worth of content in one fell swoop. On a more practical level, it also makes it more difficult to find and refer back to older sketches and notes. Ah, EcoSystem, you were close but still not the one..
After asking for recommendations on Twitter, I was contacted by John Rainsford of The Bleed Edge, who very kindly sent me a couple of his SKTCHBKS brand books to try out, and the gridded green book quickly became my go-to book for writing notes and lists. I actually found I preferred the ‘slim’ thickness to the typical hardback A5 books I was used to and it also solved the issue of minimising the lost resources if it was misplaced or lost. However, while perfect for notes and writing, the paper just didn’t quite have the weight I needed for sketching and drawing…
Then I came across the really basic A5 sketchbooks made by Seawhite in Brighton. The paper is exactly what I was after, the right weight and thickness, un-coated, and a pleasing amount of tooth to the texture. All my drawing implements take to the paper perfectly, and to top it off they are very afford-ably priced. I promptly bought some in bulk!
These are the sketchbooks I now use and am happy with. I created a cover for my own book and liked the way they looked so created a few more to put up in the AoC Shop. The books are very cheap to purchase from the many Seawhite stockists but if you’re interested in picking up one with a unique and hand printed cover, swing by the shop and have a look.
What’s your favourite sketchbook brand, and do you over-analyse these things as much as I do?!