I changed my sketchbook again - back to Alpha

August 28, 2020 | 13 Comments

As mentioned in Monday’s article, I’ve decided to go back to a Stillman and Birn softcover Alpha book. So today I want to share my pages so far. I’m doing so much sketching at the moment that this is going to be another article with lots of sketchbook pages. And then I will be up to date!

Even though I absolutely loved using a A4 Watercolour Moleskine I wanted to go back to more casual paper so that I would start taking risks again. Alpha paper it’s not true watercolour paper so it doesn’t generate a lot of granulation and it buckles. But there is no doubt that it’s the paper which I feel most comfortable using for my everyday sketching. I actually don’t mind a bit of buckling as I love how it feels well used and lived in. It feels great to be using Alpha again!

Part of the reason for using the larger Hahnemuehle and Moleskine sketchbooks recently was to help me take my sketching more seriously and I feel as if that goal has been achieved. I definitely see a difference between the pages below and the ones that I was doing in June when I was last using an Alpha sketchbook. I’m taking more time for my sketches on location and my page design.

The pages in this article contain a lot of experiments doing more traditional skies (with lots of water) which I did for the Watercolour On Location Group Run-through. (If you are doing the course check out the replay for Livestream 7 where I talk through many of these sketches.) You will also see a few sketches from a visit to Milsons Point on an extremely windy day!

Anyway… here are most of the pages I’ve done in the last week and a bit!

There is no doubt that I feel a lot of freedom when using the Alpha paper.

Is this an important consideration when you are choosing a sketchbook?


  • bebna says:

    Never understood how you could work in the moleskines. I always had problems and even got bleedthru to another page with just a #6 round fake squirrel.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Really? – that sounds strange! Love that we all have didn’t preferences 🙂

      • bebna says:

        I don’t wanna judge any choices, it is up to each one personally what they want. I just mean that I don’t understand how you _use_ it. (Perhaps there is a difference between production charge and selling region, not uncommon for moleskine.)

        I didn’t do much to work thru the paper. The only thing I can think of is that you’re really very very careful with each stroke, but that sounds unrealistic and more like a chore to me.

        Personally I gave up on sketchbooks for watercolor and just use blocks instead that I fold and put in reusable notebook covers. Notebooks I already bought will now be used with pencils or ink.

    • Kate Powell says:

      I also had trouble with Moleskins and Fabriano… both watercolor journals had occasional bleedthrough. But with Hahnemuhle Watercolor papers I’ve not had bleedthrough with watercolors.

  • Kate Powell says:

    Liz second sentence second paragraph doesn’t make sense…
    “Alpha paper it’s no true watercolour paper so it doesn’t generate a lot of granulation and it buckles.”
    Do you mean it is not true watercolor paper?

    Anyhow, I am switching to watercolor paper and finding it is totally worth it. This week being back in the Hahnemuhle Watercolor Journal my watercolors are much better, wether fast or slower and more thoughtful. My problem is that I write so much in my art journals and it feels that writing on watercolor paper is a waste… The writing on pages is what is inhibiting.

    • Kate Powell says:

      PS To answer your question, is has been the reason I chose the Hahnemuhle Nostalgie Sketchbook (more like the Alpha, not watercolor paper.), but after doing a month or two in the watercolor sketchbooks I am determined not to let the few dollars difference run my choice.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Sorry Kate – typo is now fixed.
      And yes writing on watercolour paper is a consideration

      • Cynthia Lynn Salaski says:

        I really love the paper in the Alpha 8 X 10″ and was surprised it took watercolor so well. But sketching and painting on the left-hand side is not easy for me using the softcover.

        I live in the USA and have searched on Amazon and several online art suppliers and cannot find the Alpha 8 x 10″ in hardcover.

        Where in the world can I find one?

        Thanking you in advance for any help you can give me.

      • Liz Steel says:

        Hi Cynthia- sadly some of the softcover formats are not available in hardcover!

      • Cynthia Lynn Salaski says:

        Thanks for letting me know, Liz.

        I did buy a 5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ Alpha and Beta hardcover on Amazon a few weeks ago. I just like that 8 x 10 format best.

      • Liz Steel says:

        Yes I agree – that 8×10 in hardback would be amazing!

  • Tina Koyama says:

    Yes, it’s definitely an important consideration — maybe the most important. I think everything I use for sketching — paper, pencils, even sharpener or waterbrush — must make it easier to sketch. If anything impedes my sketching in some way, then it’s not the right choice.

  • Jan FOUGERE says:

    I have tried all of the sketchbooks, Moleskine, Global Arts and the Hahnemuhle and I keep going back the the Stillman and Birn alpha sketchbook. It suites my style and does not feel so precious. I agree, I wish they would make an 8 x 10 hardcover version.

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