What About Sketchbooks?

A Watercolor Sketch Near the Walloon Boat Ramp
In the previous post I talked about watercolor paper  -  answering some questions that had come up in class.  In the same class, we also talked about different kinds of sketchbooks suitable for watercolor.  Just as the quality of watercolor paper depends on the sizing, or finish, the same is true for sketchbooks.

For many years I used Aquaee sketchbooks as my watercolor journals.  The paper is pretty light weight, but I like the way it takes the color.  Pigments stay bright and it doesn't buckle too much with the application of a little water.  All of the paintings in my Petoskey Watercolor Journal were done in Aquabee sketchbooks.  What I really like about them, especially for beginners in watercolor journaling, is the fact that you can't play around too much with watercolor technique  -  you have to get in and get out.  The paper isn't tough enough to keep trying for perfection  -  put it on and call it quits.

I became interested in different kinds of journals because I wanted something pretty and bright (sorry Aquabee, but you are not pretty and bright) and wanted to try out some different paper.  That, of course, led to making my own.  I started out having various papers spiral bound at the copy shop.  Then I started binding my own hand stitched round back spine books.

My favorite paper for books is Strathmore Aquarius II  -  it folds and stitches easily, and doesn't buckle with the application of watercolor.  I also like to throw in some drawing paper, some colorful mi tientes (pastel paper), nideggen (light brown), and anything else I might want to try.  That's the fun of binding your own books  -  anything goes.  And I love being able to paint right across the two facing pages as if they were one  -  no spiral.

Does anyone really read a blog post that is this long? Does this sound like a sketchbook lecture?  Don't we want to just look at the pictures  -  or is that just me? The main thing is  -  find paper that you like for your style of painting and sketching.

Have a great weekend  -  it's a long one for us here in the USA.   Take your sketchbook wherever you go.


Unknown said...

Hi, I like your post! Actually I like to try some new paper or colors (etc.), because somebody made a good experience with it. I have found a lot of good stuff for me this way. I think this is very useful, because it is impossible to buy and to try everything what art-shop´s are selling. So thank you and please write something about watercolor! What are you using? I have Schmincke-Horadam - what is in Europe probably the best choose, but how is it in USA?

MyLittleBlueDog said...

Yes I certainly do read to the end of blog posts, regardless of the length. Thanks for the great post, just reafirming that I need to use better quality paper.

Emie58 said...

I've started making my own journals now too... I like the versatility it gives me....

Sand Hill Art said...

Have you mentioned this to AquaBee? I'm sure they would like input. Just saying.

Roxanne said...

I've been experimenting with different papers too and putting my favorites into my own sketchbooks sounds like a great idea. See...I've been reading your blog whether it's lengthy or not. How can anything about art be lengthy? :)

Marj said...

Read it all! I like the aquarius ll also for binding my own books...but I do have "several" Aquabees full of sketches/watercolors. Your paintings are always so colorful.

RoseAnn Hayes said...

Are you kidding, Catherine? I read every word of every one of your posts! You have one of the most informative blogs on the web. I have never done sketchbooks yet, but that's one of the first things I plan to try in a few months when I retire from my full-time job and begin painting full-time. Can't wait, and I just wish I lived close enough to attend one of your classes.

Catherine said...

Ooops - I have neglected to reply to these comments!

Sonja - thanks! I use Daniel Smith watercolors. Daniel Smith is a mail order catalog - also on line. I like the consistency of the paint and the colors are strong.

My Little Blue Dog - Thanks for reading. Good materials make all the difference. Painting with watercolor is all about what the watercolor "does", and it does it best with top quality materials.

emie58 - making your own journals is addictive, isn't it?!

Sand Hill Art - no, I haven't - good thought.

Thanks Roxanne - it's nice to have your favorite papers handy in one place, isn't it?

Thanks Marj - I was perfectly happy with the aquabee until I started to make my own. As you know, it is hard to use anything else after you make your own.

RoseAnn - Thanks so much! You must be very excited about getting the opportunity to paint full time - and make journals!

Vicky L. Williamson said...

Yes, we DO read these long posts!

I love binding my own sketchbooks too, especially mixing favorite papers. My faves include Fabriano soft press, Niddegan, and Mi-Tientes. My journals' covers aren't always perfectly made, but they always contain papers I love to work on.

Catherine said...

Vicky - thanks for reading! There is really something very special about our hand bound books. I haven't tried Fabriano soft press - is it like cold press?

Margaret said...

ngBYup, I read ALL of it if it interests me. And yours does! ;) Hi, Catherine. Hope all is well with you. I haven't painted or sketched in quite a while, but I have set my area up again and plan on carving out time.

I have been perusing through your posts and find them VERY inspiring! I will be trying a few.

Vicky L. Williamson said...

Sorry -- I didn't see your comment and question right away. I've been out of town, away from a computer.

Fabriano soft press is smoother than their cold press, making it easier to use a pen on. But it has a bit of texture, unlike their hot press -- watercolor doesn't just sit on the surface, it acts more like on cold press. Cathy "Kate" Johnson tells me it is similar to what the company's older cold press was like, before they changed the formula.

Catherine said...

Hi Margaret! Everything is great here, thanks. Hope all is well with you and yours. It is sometimes hard to carve out the time to paint, but as long as you keep the creative juices flowing in some way, you'll be okay - and I know you manage to do that. Nice to hear from you!

Thanks Vicky - I know that a lot of artists use Fabriano, but I have never really had the properties of it explained to me. I just might have to try some next time I order paper.

Unknown said...

I would love to get started, but thinking about paper makes my head puffy! I notice many of your pages have deckled edges--love! Are you finding papers with the deckled edge all 'round in smaller than full sheet sizes to bind into your books, or are you cutting papers to fit?

I wish I was closer to you so that I could take a class. Does your book show how to create a book & bind it?

Catherine said...

Hi Hellen - The paper I use is Strathmore Aquarius II. It is soft enough to hold up to folding and stitching and has something synthetic in it that keeps it from buckling when wet. It comes in 22" X 30" sheets with two slightly deckled edges. I tear all of my pages to size, so all the edges are a little raggedy.

No, my book doesn't show how to bind a sketchbook. At the time I wrote the book I was using Aquabee sketchbooks. Now I am hooked on designing and creating my own, and I really like the Aquarius paper for the books.

We learned to make the books at Hollanders in Ann Arbor, MI. Their Rounded Back Instruction Booklet is what I use for reference: http://www.hollanders.com/books/ViewProduct.aspx?ProductID=d67aa860-5679-4b1e-8650-643a9a37d799&CategoryID=738ec9fe-812a-4bb8-a2cb-e9707d2ded69

Once you start making them, you'll be hooked!

Unknown said...

Dear Catherine,

Thank you many times over--one for making this delightful blog; it looks like a tremendous amount of dedication, love and work! work! work! And another thank you for getting back to me regarding the book fabrication; I've spent a number of hours searching this subject.

In 1995 I read "The Artist's Way" and thought it might help me get into the habit of painting; unfortunately, I got into the habit of writing/journaling. I recently took up sketching again and came across your wonderful blog (what a funny name for such a lovely endeavor!), an artist's journal seems just the ticket!

Heartfelt blessings your way!