|Red-tailed hawk drying his wings. Watercolor and ink on Aquarius II paper.|
Get two sketch artists together, and usually sooner rather than later, the subject of the perfect sketchbook comes up. The answer is simple:
There is no perfect sketchbook!
But we keep trying to find it.
For many years I did most of my field sketching in hard bound plain paper blank journals. My drawings hardly showed through onto the backside of the page and the paper didn’t buckle very much when I got wet and juicy. I’m now in Volume 41. As the years have gone by I realize the paper used to be better in these journals, plus I’ve developed a taste for even better paper. I’ve been trying other sketchbooks quite a bit during the past couple of years. I try to have both my journal and a good sketchbook in the car ... but which sketchbook?
There is a variety of sketchbooks with lovely paper -- many with paper far too nice for scribbled notes. Most of these sketchbooks are rather expensive. Stillman & Birn is putting out a deluxe series of sketchbooks; Aquabee almost marries price with good paper, but still seems spendy to write copious notes on; Strathmore has some nice sketchbooks.... and many others. On all of these I get intimidated when the sheet of whiteness in front of me costs somewhere around a dollar a sheet and and tearing one out seems sacrilegious. Suddenly I worry about messing up a page; I don’t want to start something I might not have time to finish; I don’t want to write herky, jerky notes on that good paper. Trying to reinvent myself as neat and tidy was an exercise in how to ruin spontaneity. My field journaling is all about trying to capture the moment, both in words and with sketches. “Bless this Mess” is a good motto for my journal. For more on my thoughts on journaling, please go to my post:, “Thoughts on Keeping a Journal” Feb 2011.
and “Warts and all” March 2012.
|Plein-air sketches on index.|
A few weeks ago I suddenly had an a new idea on how to handle my conundrum. I still plan to keep a plain paper, hard bound journal for most of my writing and lots of sketches; but I also plan to keep a “Inspiral Info-Bind” binder filled with my choice of paper. (www.Komtrak.com).
Years ago I bought a Komtrack Inspiral Info-Bind binder and promptly shelved it because refill paper is so expensive. My recent brainstorm is that I can cut up large sheets of paper and punch my own refills .. and pick any type of paper I want. Every so often I can take out finished pages and insert new ones. I had to buy a hold punch -- that cost me $50. It’ll be a bit of a bother to cut, punch, and insert the pages; but right now I’m excited to have a variety of paper under one cover: I currently have five types of paper in my binder: Strathmore’s Aquarius II for watercolor, Strathmore’s high surface bristol for fine pen and ink work, some cheap index for just sketching, some typing paper for notes, and even some ‘write-in-the-rain” paper.
|Wren Tit found along the Oregon coast. Watercolor and ink on Aquarius II paper.|
Another advantage of the Inspiral Info-Bind coil is that I can fold the book all the way around, i.e. I don’t have to work with it wide open. I often sketch in our little car where space is limited.
I have another Komtrak binder, one with a smooth back, but it doesn’t fold back. I see they also offer a simpler binder which might work just as well.
I haven’t lived with my new system long enough to know whether it will stick as long as filling one hard bound journal after another has -- gee I’d have to live another 37 years for that. I doubt I’ll be so lucky.