On Thursday of last week I began cleaning and putting my studio back together after borrowing the portable table I use as my studio work table for a garage sale. Rather than put the removable table back into my studio and potentailly have to repeat the putting it all together again process (as I have done before - a removable table is too useful), I began to look for an inexpensive and easy way to create new permanent tables for my studio space.
I decided that flush doors and some cheap assemble-it-yourself bookcases might just be the ticket. I measured for height and length, priced out book cases, and went shopping for doors on Friday. I scored doors for super cheap ($2) and the bookcases were on sale, let the remodel begin.
Studio before picture.
On Sunday my hubby helped out and we decided that two tables, one desk height (built with 2x4s), and the other counter height (on the bookcases), along with a new eight foot natural daylight flurescent fixture (previously had a bare 100 watt bulb) rounded out the room nicely.
Studio after picture.
So, after one day shopping (total remodel under $100), one day emptying, one day building, and one day reorganizing and putting things away, I have a new studio space to work in.
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.
Over the course of the last two years I have made a concentrated effort to be more consistent with my own art making. As a part of that effort I began using a sketchbook/visual journal. I have always used a journal/sketchbook for work (art teacher), it has helped me keep track of ideas for new projects, make lists that I can find later, and contained the occasional sketch or doodle from meetings or down time. For these books I have always used a 5x7 spiral bound sketchbook containing lightweight drawing paper. I have never been fussy about brand, just the size and that the paper had no lines. In the last couple of years I have gone through several of these books, some with no brand indicator, my most recent was a Canson.
Journal on the left from 2008 unknown type;
most recent journal from 2010 on the right
Don't get me wrong, I love these books, they are inexpensive, readily available, and very portable. But in January 2010 I began attending the MCBA Visual Journal Collective. I started to go to these monthly meetings to meet other artists and to help me jump start the effort I was making to make more personal artwork and I was inspired.
I was inspired by the fabulous and varied approaches to keeping a sketchbook/journal but I was also inspired to begin using color. I have always preferred to draw directly with pen, less thought about right (erasing), equals more drawing, which tends to yield better drawings. But color was a new idea for my sketchbook, one I had never really explored. Oh, I have colorful pages in my early journals, done with markers, or with colored pencils or occasionally with collage, but it was never anything I used regularly. So the idea of adding color was a fresh one.
Journal image from 2008 using marker (above)
Journal image from 2010 (below) in colored pencil
I tried a couple of pages at home after those first couple of meetings using colored pencils. I loved the results, but the time it took and the need to try and hold multiple pencils, a sharpener, and a sketchbook meant that a table was needed and when I wanted to be able to add color on the go, colored pencils just did not seem practical.
Journal image from 2010 colored pencil
notice the buckling from the glue used to add image to the page;
it's from a painting on the other side and the glue.
Next I tried watercolor. Ah-ha! I loved this method of including color. A quick wash could be laid down before or after a drawing, and it could be drawn over again with pen for more details. Perfect, easy to do and fast. Problem . . . the paper in my sketchbook is not designed to hold water. The pages buckle and the paint pools causing pages to take forever to dry and leaving unpredictable results. These problems send me out looking for a new sketchbook for the first time in years.
As I start my search I know a couple of things already. One: I like a spiral binding. It lays flat, expands easily with collage materials, and doesn't usually come unbound. Two: I need a paper that will hold up to wet media with no bleed through and to collage without a lot of buckle. Three: I want a little bit bigger size than the one I have been using without losing easy portability.
So, it is off to Wet Paint to look for sketchbooks (I have already been to Michael's but we know how well that goes), not only is this the store everyone talks about, but I have no proper art store in the North Metro (see previous comment). After some agonizing and much looking at available books and debating on paper weight and characteristics, I choose the 9x9 Aquabee Super Deluxe.
Of course I get it home and am terrified of ruining it and I continue to try and use my other journal, unhappily. I do slowly begin to work in the book, for some reason I skip the first page (it is still blank), like that makes it better to begin. (first completed page) But at first this book feels serious to me, like I can only do "real" sketches inside of it, like it is too nice for notes or doodles or "bad" drawings. It helps when I take it to a Visual Journal Collective meeting. I take notes on the speaker; I sketch the botanicals (that night's theme). These pages are just as "real"as a "good" sketch. So my new sketchbook is broken in and I am using it and really liking the paper and gradually getting used to having more space. I am beginning to gain confidence and a willingness to experiment rather than having all my pages look perfect. This is my sketchbook after-all, the place to play and experiment and record my life on paper, for me not for anyone else.
The book is now full and I am two journals past it (both different types), but I am nearly ready for another new sketchbook and I am thinking I'll be going out to get a new Aquabee. I really liked the paper, the size, and how it handled both wet media and collage. I am preparing a review of the book, but thinking about a review made me think about why I bought it, and it felt like my review needed a precursor.
Tune in tomorrow - I give my thoughts on the book and compare it it the others I have used this year.