I do a lot of sketching in tiny, inexpensive sketchbooks and ever since Marc Taro Holmes suggested using a Moleskine staple-bound notebook, I’ve been trying different notebooks in this 3×5 format. I was very displeased by the Moleskines as ink bleeds through their thin paper. So far, every book I’ve tried has that problem. I’m not talking about ghosting, where you can see the sketch on the backside but ink that actually shows up on the back of the page. While ghosting is also a problem in most of the notebooks, I’m more tolerant of that as my goal with these books isn’t high-quality sketches.
But FINALLY, I’ve found what I’ve been looking for and it comes in the form of the new Field Notes Workshop Companion issue. Field Notes are fun because they’re sold in a variety of cover formats. The problem with them is that they typically use 50lb, inexpensive paper and they’re just not fountain pen friendly. If you draw with ballpoint pens, they’re fine and very convenient. But I’m a fountain pen addict and it’s a no go as a sketching substrate.
The Workshop Companion books are different. They come with a new, 70lb paper that’s a higher quality than even the couple issues they’ve produced with 70lb paper in the past. I find I can force ghosting to the point of being annoying but it requires that I really dump a lot of ink on the page. So far I’ve yet to get any bleedthrough, even with brush pens. I’ve even applied bits of watercolor to the paper and even that works pretty well.
My first test was a simple outline image, done with a Platinum Carbon Pen and Platinum Carbon ink. This was a ‘soft’ test as most of these kinds of notebooks will handle this combination, though in this case there was no ghosting whatever, which was an improvement.
I went out sketching and did these quick sketches. My goal was to try adding some dark shading to see what happens. This is where most books in this format fail, with both bleedthrough and ghosting. Here there still wasn’t any bleedthrough and you had to look hard to see ghosting. Scanning didn’t pick up any of the ghosting.
No special tests here but I was drawing with my Namiki Falcon and De Atramentis Document Black and again, there was no bleedthrough and ghosting was hard to see.
I was doodling while watching a baseball game and dragged this image up from my imagination. It’s got enough darks in it to really test for bleedthrough and ghosting. Ghosting can be seen but again, it’s minimal.
I thought I’d do the acid test. I was watching some guys playing soccer and started drawing this building that was at one end of the soccer pitch. I added some darks with a Kuretake #33 brush pen and then added some color. Still no bleed through. Ghosting is a bit worse but everything’s relative as the ghosting doesn’t get picked up when scanning the backside of this sketch.
In conclusion, I’m a happy camper and I’ll be ordered some more of these Workshop Companion books. They’re wonderful. I can shove them in a shirt pocket if I want but more often I have it in a front pouch in my sketching bag so it’s immediately available.
While I can sketch in these books fine, when sketching a 2-page spread it’s nice to have something to hold the book open and flat without having to fiddle around. I solved that by cutting a small piece of Fomecore, which weighs nothing and I clip the book to this backing board. It works surprisingly well and really makes holding the book a lot easier.
This is what it looks like when clipped to the board. It becomes a single unit where you don’t have to worry about keeping the paper flat.
Wow! Those are good looking sketches! And even watercolor. I’m going to order some, just in case. I wonder how long Field Notes will keep this version?
Kate, I do these sketches by the dozens, mostly as a way to feed my ‘I gotta draw something’ need but also as part of my attempt to learn how to draw, how to see and all that stuff. Unless I’m talking about the notebook they’re in, I rarely post any of them.
This version of Field Notes will exist until their typical printing (about 40,000) sells out. As you have to buy these 6 at a time rather than the normal 3, the timing might be different (faster? slower?) but the spring edition is already sold out. I’m hoping that FN will see how pleased some of us are with having decent paper in their little books and create a permanent edition that’s fountain pen friendly. Then again, there have been some (few?) who have complained that these books are a bit thicker than their normal issues. Thicker paper has a way of doing that 🙂
Cheers — Larry
Hey, that’s amazing! I guess all our whining was finally effective! 🙂 Thanks for the thorough review, Larry. I’be been disappointed so often by Field Notes that I was waiting to hear from a reliable FP sketcher before buying any. I’d say you are that.
You may be right. I hope so as it would mean we have gotten their attention on the problem. After using these new books, it’s clear that they are trying to address the fountain pen friendly aspect as they could have just gone with their old 70# paper if thickness was the only goal. This stuff is different. Some say it’s “rougher” and I suppose it is but it’s certainly not rough by any definition that affects pen people.
These aren’t the be all and end all, of course. If you need/want solid watercolor performance, you need to opt for something like the Moleskine watercolor notebook or a Koyama Limited Edition notebook, but if you want a ‘scribbler’ as a cheap substrate for no-investment sketching, these work really well. I’ve filled one already and have been very pleased with the performance. I’ll be ordering more before they sell out.
Cheers — Larry
Oh, one thing I should mention is that Ed Jelley did a review in which he claimed that there is some bleedthrough. He tested half a dozen pens and shows the backside of the page. The only bleedthrough I can see was when he used a Sharpie Pen. But it’s likely that any of the solvent-based markers will bleedthrough on this new Field Notes paper. I tested a black Tombow (water-based) marker and a Pitt brush pen in addition to my Kuretake brush pen and there was no bleedthrough. The ghosting becomes a bit worse though because of mass and density of the ink.
Cheers — Larry
Pingback: Astronauts landed at Seattle Center | Red Harp Arts
Pingback: Quick-Sketching On The Bounding Main | Larry D. Marshall