Some know Field Notes as a company that produces thin, 3.5×5.5 notepads in a series of ‘themes.’ Most of the time these notebooks come with lines, graph or dot-grid paper but once in a while they produce a series with blank pages and these are great for use as small quick-sketch notebooks. Most famous, thanks to Tina Koyama, is the Sweet Tooth series that had blank pages and came in red, yellow and blue paper books. Tina has done, by my count, a zillion or so sketches in the red ones.
A recent release by Field Notes may be the most useful notebook yet for sketchers. No, they won’t replace my Stillman & Birn books but for quick-sketches they’re just dandy. The release is called the Dime Novel Edition and reflects the format (4.25 x 6.5) of dime novels of the early 1900s. The paper is blank, except for a small page number in the upper right corner.
Instead of their typical staple-bound 48-page form, this book has three signatures (72pages) that are sewn together and then wrapped with a heavy cardboard cover. To sweeten the pot, Field Notes uses really nice 70# paper that has just enough tooth to make it nice for drawing pencils and great for fountain pen. I’ve only done a bit of testing but I saw no evidence of bleedthrough with this paper though there is a bit of ghosting.
I find the size ideal, mostly because it’s very thin – about 1/4″ thick, light and yet large enough that if you draw across the gutter you have a 6,5 x 8.5 page to work on. Oh…and if you go through it, pressing each page open (the book handles this quite easily), it will also lay flat.
The 70# paper does limit what you can do with water, but if you don’t slop on too much water, you can use watercolor as well. Watercolor pencils seem to work particularly well, but again, you need to keep the water applications light or you’ll get some buckling of the paper.
The books are sold as a 2-pack for $12.95. Page count here exceeds the total pages contained in the 3-packs of the 3×5 Moleskine books that many use for this purpose and the paper here is far superior so if you carry such a notebook with you, give these a look.