Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Sketchbook Story - Part Two: The Review

In April of 2010 I purchased and began to use a Aquabee Super Deluxe sketchbook for the first time. The reasons behind this purchase and decision factors that lead to the purchase of this book you can see my post here.
The book itself is a 9x9 inch square, spiral bound with 60 sheets of 93 lb. (150 gsm) smooth, white paper. It has a heavy board back and a lighter weight burgundy, sort of faux leather texture, front cover. The cover has held up very well, it has not ripped at the binding wire and it hasn't lost it's color or gotten overly damaged over the course of filling the book. I have had some sketchbooks loose the cover piece fairly quick as it has not been a very sturdy sheet of paper. This cover is sort of coated and shiny and has lasted well, although it would not be easy to personalize because of the plastic coating and embossed lettering of the label.
The square shape available through Aquabee was one of the reasons I looked at this book in the first place. I really like square books, and the 9 inch size seemed big enough in terms of page size but still small enough to fit into a reasonably sized bag for on the go sketching. Because I had always used smaller books (5x7), this book seemed very large to me in terms of page acreage at first. It did get used the the size and in fact miss it a bit after moving back to a smaller journal.
An end view, there is some bulging
at the edge when compared to
a journal with no wet media used, but not a ton.

The paper was another factor in choosing this book. The paper is advertised on the cover of the book as being "heavyweight drawing paper, for use with wet & dry media" with a "classic natural white sheet and textured surface with excellent tooth". I was looking for a book that could handle wet media and collage without bleed through or a lot of buckle, so the advertised paper seemed perfect for my sketching needs.
A view of some show through on a page,
if you look closely you can se a pair of peppers above the pairs.

I would describe this paper as being fairly smooth, with nearly no texture on the surface of the paper. The front side of the sheets does have a subtle tooth when compared to the back side of the sheet which is very smooth. When working in the book the front to back difference in texture was unnoticeable, I am only noticing now because I am looking for tiny details. The paper was as advertised, good for both wet and dry media.
Above - sketch with a Pentel brush pen.
Below - sketch with a Sharpie pen and added
watercolor pencil wash to outer edge.
Over the course of filling this journal I used: pen (usually Sharpie pen but occasionally a micron or brush pen), markers, watercolor, acrylic, collage (with gluestick, PVA, and gel medium), colored pencil, watercolor pencil, and Chartpak marker transfer.
All sketching on this page done with Pitt
artist pen brush tipped markers.
I never used any of these mediums and said to myself, "Wow, that was bad on this paper". The paper held up, with very little buckle, with no bleed through (I always used both sides of the sheet) and only the rare instance of show through (se image of the pears above), which again is only really noticeable because I am being hyper aware of characteristics.

An example of the heavy nature of the paper.
These pages are back to back, tomato on one side of the page,
my internal critic on the other. Even though both pages
are very saturated with watercolor, there is no
indication of the image on the other side with either image.
While working on pages I typically sketch in pen and then go back when the sketch is complete and add watercolor. The ink dried quickly on this paper and I never experienced any sort of pen bleed when the ink was exposed to the water and brush of the paint.
On occasion I did scrub with my brush a bit on the page, to lift color or just as a part of the process of adding one wet wash over the next fairly quickly while adding color. The paper does not pill or scrub apart like some papers can under that type of use.
A page that has Golden liquid acrylic background painting,
gel medium collage, and glued in elements.
The only buckle comes from the marbled paper scraps on the right,
mostly due to the heavier weight of the paper scraps.
The paper also held up well to different types of collage, without buckling the page or altering the journal too much. The addition of collage materials, a couple of now double pages, one extra page, and two added pockets may actually explain the slight bulging at the fore edge of the completed journal (image of bulged edge earlier in post).
Above - text is transferred in using Chartpak marker,
remainder of the page uses both Golden liquid acrylics
and regular acrylic paints.
Below - image began as a watercolor sketch but the paint was
beading up where the paper had been touched by my
freshly lotioned hands (not good for painting). I then tried
to save the page by finishing the image using colored pencils.
All in all the Aquabee Super Deluxe is a sturdy sketchbook with a nice heavy duty paper that held up to everything I could think to put between it's covers and on it's pages. I have no complaints and had no problems with the book or the paper it contained.
I would buy this sketchbook again (am planning on it actually) and recommend the book to anyone looking for a sturdy, medium flexible sketchbook or journal.


  1. Thank you so much for this review of the Aquabee Super Deluxe Sketchbook! I have been considering this sketchbook as I am almost finished with all the pages in my Strathmore Visual Journal(90lb Watercolor, 5.5x8, 68 pages/34 sheets). I would like a sketch book that handles water media, pen & ink, gouache and watercolor, watersoluble ink, and watercolor pencil, but one that also has a few more pages and is a bit bigger. This Aquabee sounds like it could be it with its double sized 93lb paper, 9x6 size and 60 sheets/120 pages! Of course my dream sketchbook journal would have all this PLUS a stitched binding. Maybe some day...