The start of my Food Diary and first thoughts about ThePerfectSketchbook

January 31, 2015 | Leave your thoughts

Finally as promised here are the first few pages of my Food Diary in ThePerfectSketchbook. I want to do a more formal review of the paper but here are some initial thoughts.

In the first place the size and feel of the book is great. It is a pocket size sketchbook very comparable in size to the pocket watercolour moleskine but just slightly larger and quite a bit thicker.

You can see it in comparison to the moleskine pocket, a standard A6 book and the Stillman &Birn 5.5 x 8.5 (A5) size sketchbook.

I really love the dimensions of the book. It contains 72 pages of 190gsm 100% cotton cold press paper. The overall quality and build of the book is great and the book opens flat which is a must for a sketchbook. The inside cover has the nice feature of a value chart and 50% grey inner sheets. So all good!

But what about the paper? – this is the burning question!

Well, the paper is BEAUTIFUL. It is easy to use with ink and gives mooth washes of watercolour. It has a good tooth for pencil(I have liked the feel of using watercolour pencil) The colour of the paint on the paper looks good. It is a very forgiving paper, you are able to lift colour off (refer to the Thurs 29 Jan page where I was able to lift a lot of colour off in the grey shadow area). The paper holds water well and there is minimal buckling – although it is hard to test this fully in a small page size.

In summary I believe this paper would be a joy to use for most people who paint with watercolour. Great for beginners as it makes your washes look good!

Now, does that sound as if it is a general review and not my own personal experience of using the paper? Yes, in a way it is. But before I start to share with you what has happened when I have sketched on this paper, I need to explain a few things about the way I work.

I cut my teeth as a watercolourist using Daler Rowney Ebony books which contain 150gsm cartridge paper ie. not watercolour paper. So my style of painting has developed using ‘bad’ paper which is ‘hard’ to use and gives all the ‘undesirable’ effects compared with traditional watercolour paper. Instead of ‘perfect’ washes I try to create splotchy ones, instead of soft edges I like hard ones. I love backruns and crazy textures.  I prefer hot press to cold press. I dislike Arches paper! In the Stillman & Birn range I much prefer Alpha and Zeta, to Beta (the cold press watercolour paper in their range which is loved by many in the sketching world). I love the pigment and water sitting on the page so I can do stuff with it – moving it around. I love working wet in wet and living dangerously. I work really fast and never (well hardly ever) wait for a wash to dry. Although I love permanent ink, lately I have been drawing into wet paint so that the permanent ink bleeds! Getting the picture now?

So, my first attempt at using the lovely 100% cotton paper in ThePerfectSketchbook was naturally a teacup and I was a little surprised by the result. The wet in wet shadow area of the cup merged into a even grey wash (A), lovely but taking away all my earlier brushstrokes in this area. On my second attempt I managed to get some variation (B) and on my third go, finally got some interesting effects. “Quite different from what I am used to…this is going to be a fun challenge!” I thought to myself. The really interesting thing is that when I distanced myself from the detail of pigment on page, the overall teacup sketches were fine – good values and 3d form were achieved even though the washes blended together more than I had hoped!

Just for a comparison here is a very quick sketch I did of that same pink cup in my daily sketchbook- Stillman & Birn Alpha. You can see lots of brushstrokes (particularly in the blue shadow area) and despite dropping in the shadow onto the left side of the saucer while the first washes were still wet, there is still some definition of those initial brush strokes. This is what I am used to.

Day 1 Sketching Diet – I got some nice mixed effects in the morning (D) although the washed blended together more than I am used to. However at lunch (E) I completely lost all my brushstrokes which would normally have added important texture to this kind of food sketch. So I am now exploring working drier than my normal way (F) – even using more dry brush technique!

I am finding the paint sinks into the paper quicker than I am used to and the dampness is in the paper rather than water on the surface. This means that I am getting bleeding from the De Atramentis ink because of the crazy way that I am drawing into the paint with it. I am not minding the results at all, but it is very different from what I am used to.

I really like ThePerfectSketchbook and totally LOVE the fact that its beautiful paper is different from what I am used to and creating a great challenge for me. It will be really good for my watercolour skills to test out different approaches.

It is important to note also that I am making it hard for myself! A Sketching Diet is an extreme form of sketching, these sketches are mainly done in under 3 minutes before I start eating.  I think this paper would be more suitable to a more normal (measured) watercolour approach than my crazy approach… but I am putting this theory to the test!

Anyway, my Sketching Diet in ThePerfectSketchbook is already getting me buzzing and is shaping up for an exciting adventure. Not only am I trying to enjoy a diet and lose some weight, I am pushing the limits of my hunger by forcing myself to sketch before I eat. I am changing my palette and am using different paper. Am I going “outside my comfort zone?” Sigh, I dislike that phrase because I love pushing myself into the unknowns! For me, comfort is boring, risk taking is where it all happens.

So it seems that this is indeed the perfect project for my use of ThePerfectSketchbook. Stay tuned for more soon!

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