Moving back to an A4 hardcover sketchbook

November 1, 2023 | 10 Comments

After a few months of using smaller sketchbooks, I’ve recently moved back to an A4 hardcover book and it feels really good!

When I was busy with family outings back in July, it was wonderful to downsize to a square softcover Alpha sketchbook by Stillman and Birn (see more here). Last month, however, it suddenly felt too small. So I moved to a 8×10″ softcover Alpha book. This format used to be my favourite book, and I really enjoyed using it during my recent Road Trip. But for some reason, it didn’t feel right for my everyday sketching during September.

When it comes to my everyday sketching I go through periods when I’m quite focused on it (trying new things, sketching a lot, and spending time designing my pages). I also have periods when my sketching is more in maintenance mode (still sketching regularly but not having the time for more serious sketches or much effort designing my pages). The last few months have been the latter, and I’ve felt a little detached from my sketchbooks.

But last week when I started a brand new A4 hardcover I suddenly felt more connected to my sketchbook again. I think it’s the combination of the hardcover book and the larger pages. I still haven’t found any dedicated time for some serious sketching, but I’m definitely enjoying filling the pages of this book more. And yeah, I know – this book is much heavier than the square softcover but I think it’s worth it!

Note 1: This book is actually the 8.5 x 11″ version (US Letter) so not technically the A4 book. But the size and feel are the same so I’m generalising. 🙂  I actually prefer the 8.5 x 11″ but the A4 is generally easier to source here in Australia.

Note 2: This size book suits me perfectly at the moment but I’m not at all recommending people blindly copy me. I suspect that it is too heavy, too big and has too many pages for most of you.

Okay… time to share a few of my recent pages. There are no masterpieces but I’m just having fun sketching the same old stuff and playing with colour and texture. It has also been good to do the Buildings exercises at a larger size than normal. 🙂

Changing sketchbook size is always a good thing for me to do as it makes me change how I approach my sketches. Is it something that you do? Let me know in the comment section below.

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  • Julie Marckel says:

    Hi Liz,

    Can you share how you set up your blue guidelines for writing text in your sketchbooks?

  • Patricia Wafer says:

    I like that size a lot too especially for landscape sketching which I do quite a bit. If I’m going to take watercolor paints also I put it in a super lightweight backpack I have because I sit down to paint then anyway so it’s no hassle to take the backpack off. In a backpack the weight of that Sketchbook doesn’t matter as much as it does if you’re carrying it in a shoulder bag.

  • Ginie Udy says:

    Hi Liz, I love the variety in the topics you cover in your blog posts. You are very clever at keeping them interesting in the middle of all the other work you are doing!

    Thank you for sharing some of your recent page spreads.

    One thing I read in your text box for Monday 23rd October spread was a comment about the paper feeling different.

    I’m wondering if that’s still what you think.

    I experienced a change in the texture of the Alpha paper in the last Alpha book I bought back in September. There was a short discussion on your blog about it, because one other person had thought that there was a change too.

    I ended up checking it out with Jenn from Larry Post in Brookvale. She hadn’t been aware and there was nothing from S&B about it.

    I’m still intrigued but not super worried at this stage!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Ginie – the paper feels a bit different but still behaving the same (and the same on both sides) – I’ve had this book for at least 12 months so it might be old stock and not part of the issue you and others have experienced.

  • Gayle Coward says:

    Hi Liz, I usually sketch in A4 or 8 x 10 but I’ve been watching Niaz Hannan on You Tube using a 12 cm x 12 cm Royal Talens sketchbook and thought I’d give it a try. I love it, it’s teaching me to minimise the detail and just capture the essence because there’s no room to do anything else. Not giving up my A4 though. ?

  • Jamie C says:

    I’ve found myself a bit disconnected from my sketchbook lately, too! I’ve been in the A4;for awhile and suddenly it feels too big and too heavy. However, I want to finish it before changing, yet I’m not sketching because it’s too big! lol! The quandaries of sketching life!

    • Ginie Udy says:

      Hi Jamie, I’ve found that my little Paperblanks unlined paper journal (9x14cm, slightly smaller than A6) is ideal to have with me at all times. I was away with my sister and did so many little sketches because I could get it out so easily and it was very unobtrusive.

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