The problem with small sketchbooks

June 5, 2024 | 70 Comments

… is that I go through them too quickly! 🙂

I’m currently using the square Alpha softcover sketchbooks by Stillman and Birn and while I love the smaller size and how light it is to carry around (compared with the A4 hardcover!) I’m completing them in less than in 2 or 3 weeks! That’s too fast! One teacup a page means that I fill pages really easily.

I love flipping through other people’s sketchbooks that span a long period of time (maybe a few years!), but that is not something that ever happens to me. A long time frame would be 6 weeks even when I’m using a large A4 sketchbook.

Out of curiosity, I created this page to record my usage—documenting the number of double-page spreads per day. It took me 17 days (2.5 weeks) to finish the first book and 25 days (3.5 weeks) for the second sketchbook.

I actually want to move to a slightly smaller size (A5 portrait or landscape), but worried about whether they will only last me a week! 🙂

What sketchbook are you currently using? When did you start it, and how long do you think it will take you to finish it?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below as I think it would be great to get a range of responses. It would also be a way of letting me know that you enjoy reading my blogposts regularly (it can be a bit lonely blogging these days!)

(If you are reading this via email, please click on the article title link below and add a comment on my blog. Thanks!)


  • Francisca Pérez says:

    Do not feel lonely, please! It’s the first time I write a comment but I’ve been reading yor blog for five or six years… and I love it. So, plase, keep in mind that we are here even if we are too shy to post.
    By the way, I’m Francisca, from Spain.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi francisca! Thanks for leaving a comment and so nice to met you! Made my day to read this!!!thanks!

  • Tina Koyama says:

    For the past year, I’ve been using softcover A6 size sketchbooks containing 48 pages, and I fill one in about 3 weeks. I don’t find it a problem to go through them quickly… I like seeing all the filled books stacked up in my bookcase!

  • Monica Mitchel says:

    Hello Liz!

    Along with owning all your classes, I too check your blog everyday! I so appreciate all that you post. Please do not feel lonely.
    (I am a bit shy, and do not post very often)

    I have some smaller books to make it easer to when traveling or when I am out and about. It is a trade off having a smaller sketch book vs a larger one. I imagine that if I had to choose, I would opt for the larger. It gives me more options, That said, I bike to the train, and then train to work. I keep small sketchbook (to save space) and kit with me to sketch while waiting for the train or on the train to work.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Monica thanks so much for commenting- really appreciate it!!!! Yes smaller sketchbooks are so much easier!

  • Seawhite do a chunky small hardback sketchbook that’ll take a few more cups to fill…
    Size: 140 x 140mm
    190 pages/95 sheets

    Ridiculously long weblink:

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks for share Monica. A cool book with lots of pages. I wonder about how I would go with the paper for watercolour 🙂

      • Yvonne Frindle says:

        The 140gsm “all-media” cartridge paper that Seawhite uses in these books is surprisingly watercolour friendly but it does have limitations in terms of any more advanced watercolour techniques. The other thing to be aware of is that they take the “chunky” part of the name seriously. At 190pp (95 sheets) they are VERY thick and can be quite heavy and unwieldy (at least that was my experience with the 25x25cm one; the 14×14 and 19.5×19.5 versions might be better).

  • Martine says:

    First of all, I always love reading your blog posts. And I would really love to see more of your new studio (no envy at all, ahem;-)) . About sketchbooks, I keep 2 at the moment. My ‘normal’sketchbook is a stillman and birn alpha on A5. It takes me about 4 or 5 months to fill as I don’t sketch daily. And I have a seperate sketchbook for the trips I am doing this year. We are not going on a long holiday, but on a few short trips. And as I do not have much sketching time on the trips I bough a smaller 15×15 cm paint-on sketchbook by Claire Fontaine. It’s mixed media paper, but pretty good for watercolor as well. Paper is a bit thicker than the alpha book, but I find it quite similar behaving to alpha. But that small book fills up quicker (and might have less pages, but will have to do some research. Oh, and I actually have a third sketchbook, a tiny A6 S&B that I am filling with small whippet portraits:-) for practice.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Marine. I don’t know the CF range so thanks for sharing. My studio is a long way from being fully sorted. So for now it’s just a few sneak peeks 🙂

  • Au says:

    I used to get thick wirebound sketchbooks (usually Seawhite) that lasted me for months or a year. But now I bind my own thin ones which are smaller, easier to carry around, easier to store when they are done, etc; A6 or A5 and they last me a month or two. I like that each one ends up being full of mostly a certain medium and/or topic.

  • Julia says:

    Hi Liz, I know how weird it can feel to write into a void. I always love reading what you’re up to and I’m glad you still write blog posts so regularly!

    I currently use a 19x24cm sketchbook. I’m not a fast sketcher, so it takes a while to go through it.
    But – I’d love to go even larger, my pages often feel a bit too cramped and I love to have lots of space. Since I’m not sketching a lot on location right now, I might just get away with A4 (or even larger). 😉

  • Gillian Shakespeare says:

    Hi Liz, I’ve been following your blog for several years and always read your posts. I love seeing your way of working with different sizes of sketchbook and media and I find your posts inspirational to carry on and improve.

  • I love your blogs, Liz, and read every word. I save some for future reference and send some to friends. I use many sketchbooks at home but I am currently using a chunky little square sketchbook, 4.7×4.7 inches for out and about . It fits easily in my bag and should last me most of the summer. When I travel I assign so many pages a day to fit one trip into one sketchbook.

  • Marie says:

    Hey Liz, Thank you for your steadfast diligence in delivering us such useful information on such a regular basis. Like others have said, I never comment, but love your blog (via email). I get lots of help from you, and appreciate your time and information.
    I’m a bit of a sketchbookaholic :0). I started with the sketch everyday book. It taught me discipline but the daily sections are cut into half pages and it wasn’t great for watercolor. I have every size/brand but I prefer 5×8 or smaller to carry around easier. I actually like the visual journal, 5.5×8 spiral. Because it’s cheap, I’m more free to using it and not afraid to mess it up. With some of the expensive ones, like Etsy handmades, etc.. they tend to sit on my shelf because I feel I’m not good enough to waste them. I’m working on that! Take Care!

  • Marie says:

    Oops, forgot, your specific questions … I aim for a page a day, when I’m doing good, so depending on how many pages it has is how long it takes. Currently have a variety of books started with one subject for each. Depending on my mood for subject is the book I’ll pick for that day. :0)

  • Christien van Driel says:

    Hi Liz, I love your blogs and read your posts always. For our last travel I used a new square watercolor sketchbook 24×21 cm, about 64 pages. This size takes a long time to fill up all the pages. But when we are on the road I took a A6 book, for the “quickies” and for this moment I prefer this size. Maybe I go to A5 landscape.

  • Elaine mcGann says:

    You are so graceful to share your life, your art, your teaching, your faith. Yes I read all the scriptures you record in your drawing books. I also have purchased all your classes. Today, I am hoping to get faster, better internet so that I can enjoy your teaching. You are a witness to our faithful, creative God. I am certsin God is pleased that you use your gifts for good. Blessings! (PS hopefully it is all right to thank you for your faith)

  • Rosamond Jourdan says:

    Hi Liz,
    I use a variety of journals and my square S and B watercolour sketchbook is one of them. I don’t use it as often as you do so mine will last awhile. I love reading your blogs. I also have a portrait size S and B watercolour sketchbook that I use for ideas and trying out different paints and “playing”. I am still keen to do your Sketchbook Design course. I haven’t decided which is my favourite size yet.

  • Jennifer Bergstresser says:

    I love small A5 sketchbooks for portability. I dislike the landscape ones. I have Hahnemuhle 6″ tall by 8″ wide. It is hard to get a teacup to fit with this aspect ratio and the shadow has to hang off the page. I like the paper and they do make a portrait A5 but they seem to be hard to find in the US. I have the new square cotton Hahnemuhle and this seems to be perfect but they are pricey. My solution, for now, is to keep an S&B alpha 8×10 going at the same time. That way I can put ink only and larger sketches in it and not feel wasteful. I have recently found the alpha paper to be good for watercolor. I used to be frustrated with the thin paper but I have gotten better control of how much water is in my brush and the paper is actually fine. I also like the covers and binding. They are rugged and I can add stickers which is fun!

  • Suzanne Ward-Close says:

    I’m from England and just starting out on my sketching journey. I have found your web site, blog and videos so very helpful, so thank you for getting me started on this fabulous pastime (obsession!).
    I am using Seawhite watercolour sketchbooks, these are made in the UK. They are good value for money and available in a variety of sizes and bindings. Lovely NOT paper that takes the watercolour well.
    As a beginner I find the smaller sizes less intimidating so I’ve got A5 landscape for everyday use and A6 landscape for my travelling sketching set.

  • Pam Upton says:

    I use Hahnemuhle cotton landscape 4” x 6” watercolor journals when I travel. Small enough to carry wherever I go and the perfect amount of pages to fill in a 2-week trip. At home I use journals I’ve bought in the past but don’t want to use on my trips, a 6 x 8” at the moment. I wouldn’t go bigger.
    Watercolor journal choices are very personal….what’s right for one may not be right for another.

  • London Yazgan says:

    Hi there Liz,

    Please don’t feel lonely! 🙂 All of us appreciate your posts so much. I’ve been reading your blog for years. Whenever I’m overwhelmed at work, I check to see if you have any new posts available. It always cheers me up to see a new one. In fact, I wish that more artists would keep blogs like yours. There can never be too much art content! 🙂

    My husband and I are still getting established, so I’m in a very busy season with little extra funds for sketchbooks. Thus I’ve ended up with a variety of sketchbooks — whatever is on clearance or gifted to me by a friend. Currently, I’m working in a little A6 softcover by Master’s Touch, a budget brand here in the U.S. The paper tends to feather and bleed, but it doesn’t warp much and can handle several washes before it starts pilling. I keep that sketchbook in a little kit inside my purse. My lunch break is my main sketching time, so keeping a tiny sketchbook that I can take everywhere works well for me. 🙂

    I’m also currently challenging myself with an A5 Strathmore in toned gray! The size is a little intimidating for me and the paper is way too thin to handle any washes. I love toned paper, though, so it has been fun to experiment with dry media there.

    Anyway, thank you so much for sharing your art and little glimpses of your life. 🙂 I’m sure this blog takes a lot of work to maintain. Thank you for being so generous with your time! <3

  • Deanna Glendenning says:

    Hi Liz! Like many others, I read and enjoy your emails, but rarely comment. I never realized the importance of letting you know we are out here! I have a couple of your classes.
    I collect supplies and books, many of which I select the paper and bind myself. I like small books mostly, 3 x 3 inches. Ideas swirl around in my head, lists are made, but I don’t sketch daily. Fear of the blank page?
    Thank you for your enthusiasm and sharing your knowledge.
    Thank you

  • Deanna Glendenning says:

    Hi Liz! Like many others, I read and enjoy your emails, but rarely comment. I never realized the importance of letting you know we are out here! I have a couple of your classes.
    I collect supplies and books, many of which I select the paper and bind myself. I like small books mostly, 3 x 3 inches. Ideas swirl around in my head, lists are made, but I don’t sketch daily. Fear of the blank page?
    Thank you for your enthusiasm and sharing your knowledge.

  • Starr Mifsud says:

    Hey Liz, I, too throughly enjoy and read your blogs, regularly. Your blogs have motivated me to do a sketch a day. ?
    I am using A5 Stillman & Birn, Beta Series sketchbooks., for travel sketching – one sketch per day ( on a 45 day road trip through National Parks in USA. ).
    When home, I also use hardback A4s, for working through your courses.

  • Sonja EZ says:

    Hi Liz, I religiously follow your blog, but also felt too shy to comment :-).

    I have a 19x19cm square book from Hahnemühle, which I finish in a couple o weeks. For me, it would be terrifying to work longer on a sketchbook, like you mentioned some people do. What if I lose it?!

    Interestingly, though, I am thinking of switching to a smaller book because I want to “force” myself to work smaller. I would like to combine various sketches on a double page, like I have learned in your sketchbook design course. But with the square book, my sketches get too big. Maybe a smaller book might help me? Also to become faster because I can´t incorporate so many details?

    Looking forward to your future blog post!

    Greetings from Munich, Germany!


  • Barbara Ross says:

    Hi Liz … Canada reads your blogposts every week – both current and archived – at least my corner does. And I am grateful for your perennial spirit of exploration: it has helped me re-establish a steady sketchbook practice, and changed both the way I approach said practice AND how I talk about it (all for the better, naturally). Your ongoing experiments encourage me – often – to act on that small voice inside that asks a question or has a faint itch to try something new. What blessings!

    I’m just now finishing up two books and opening two new ones. After four years of trying all manner of books and combos, it’s working for me right now to keep two going at the same time. One MUST be the kind that gives me zero pause – regardless of my general state of mind – and it MUST fit it my small shoulder bag (S&B square, max.). I filled an A5 Hahnemuhle Academie (200 gsm, not all cotton, 30 spreads) and an A4 Moleskine in the last five months. For the winter (just passed), the smaller was only for outings, and the larger for all other explorations done in-studio. (I like the A4 landscape, but haven’t gotten comfortable with it, out on location.) For the summer to come, I’m opening an A5 S&B Alpha (as my grab-it-and-just-do-a-sketch-of-whatever) and a square Hahnemuhle with true watercolour paper (for when I’m warmed up, and/or needing serious play with paint). On a road trip, I’ll carry both. When the Alpha is full, I’ll switch the Hahnemuhle Academie back in – fewer pages, but a little heavier, and consistent surface quality. I expect the combos will vary as time goes on, and I like the idea of not getting too “locked in”. S&B Beta will come back, too, at some point … btw, I love-love-love the square format – last summer filled an Alpha in three months and then a Beta in the following two months – two all-time record highs for my rate of production. And those teacups looked awfully pretty one-per-square page…
    Now, have I thanked you lately for all you do? (… have done, will yet do …)
    Abundant thank you, dear teacher …/BR

    • Elaine Magliacane says:

      I guess I’m the exact opposite I have tiny.. 3″x 5 “sketch book that took me 5 years to fill… I hated that little book. I got it by not paying attention when I ordered it from Amazon… but since it was my own fault I kept it and would from time to time pick it up and doodle in it and even did a few colored pencil drawings… the paper was too thin for much else. I usually use Global arts watercolor books, square 8″ x 8″ or their large 10 1/2″ x 8” watercolor book. I buy them on sale when possible… takes me around 3 or 4 months to fill one, depending on how many breaks I take from sketching.

  • Elaine Magliacane says:

    I guess I’m the exact opposite I have tiny.. 3?x 5 “sketch book that took me 5 years to fill… I hated that little book. I got it by not paying attention when I ordered it from Amazon… but since it was my own fault I kept it and would from time to time pick it up and doodle in it and even did a few colored pencil drawings… the paper was too thin for much else. I usually use Global arts watercolor books, square 8? x 8? or their large 10 1/2? x 8” watercolor book. I buy them on sale when possible… takes me around 3 or 4 months to fill one, depending on how many breaks I take from sketching. whoops..I posted this as a reply to someone else’s comment…sorry about that.

  • Laverna says:

    Hi Liz
    I too am guilty of reading your posts and never commenting. I use different sketchbooks all the time. Usually a small S and B in my handbag. I carry very few supplies as I’m nervous about painting in public and usually only do so from the comfort of my car or if I’m somewhere private. I have taken several of your classes and have loved them all. Sketchbook design has really helped with the way I think about each page and has made me feel so much happier with my sketching results. I do journal everyday and sketch in it. I’m always surprised how the “Dingbat” journals hold up to a light wash but are also wonderful for fountain pen.
    Please keep blogging. We are definitely out here enjoying your posts and being inspired. Thank you for everything you do for the sketching community.

  • I too am one of your “silent” admirers, having taken many of your courses over the years without group participation or making myself known. Also, I read your blogs every week and watch most of the videos. The reason? Work and projects both here in Ecuador and in the U.S. – I live in each country six months every year for the past 20 years. But always, always, I have a daily practice of drawing in my sketchbooks. For the past few years I use…Strahtmore 500 series, mixed media paper. 7.5 x 10.5 inches. Perfect for my purposes, as I also insert photos. It takes me about 6 months to fill a sketchbook, unless we travel. I’ve been keeping sketchbooks for about 20 years now.

  • Page White says:

    I’m currently using an A5 Moleskine. I go through one in about two months. I love your blogs, thank you for writing them.

  • Judith Sopher says:

    I have been using the soft cover Alpha series sketchbook that is 6 1/2 by 5 1/2 ever since I took a course from you. I also try other sketchbooks but always come back to the alpha series. I am now trying the hard cover spiral bound Alpha series 8X6.

    It takes me a lot longer than you wrote to fill a book. I am 84 and don’t get around as much as I’d like. So I enjoyed your teacup class which has encouraged me to paint at home.


  • Sandy Zern says:

    Hello! Don’t want you to be feeling lonely, Liz! I usually work in 2 different sketchbooks at the same time, both Stillman and Birns softcover – an A5 as well as a 3.5 inch by 5.5 inch. Unfortunately, I don’t sketch every day although I try. I take care of my toddler grandchildren who keep me busy while their parents are at work – and I love it! Many if my sketches are of them playing or swinging or of toys we’ve played with. My A5 usually stays at home while my smaller book travels with me and I use it while “waiting” – for kids to wake up, for various appointments or meetings. It generally takes me 4-6 months to fill my A5 and up to a year to fill my smaller one. If I cared more about page layout it would probably take me a month or two less than that.
    I so enjoy reading your posts! Thank you!

  • Siobhan says:

    I only started regularly sketching earlier last year and I’m still deciding what size and paper qualities I prefer. So I keep buying different sketchbooks. And I move between books depending on media and subject and where I am, which I think suits me better than sticking to one book and then finishing it. I do like spiral bound books and Like Judy above I also like the Strathmore mixed media book because you can use every type of medium in them and they don’t feel too precious to experiment or just play with marks in.

  • Tyra Gilb says:

    I go around and around on sizes, and have multiples on the go at all times. I love the soft cover 8×10 Stillman&Birn ones, but find them a tad heavy/large when I’m walking a lot. So I downsized to the soft cover 8×8, but I’m not sure if I really love that dimension. And it STILL can feel too large when I’m trying to be truly lightweight. So I have a couple hardcover Moleskine 3×5 ones, and they feel lightweight, and like tiny gems, but they restrict me more than I’d prefer, and I don’t like how that paper has changed since what it was years ago. I love the 8×5 sketchbooks by various suppliers, but they all tend to be hardcover (at least the ones with good paper), so that makes them way too heavy for me to comfortably carry when hiking all day. The sketchbook struggle is REAL!!!

  • Lois Courtright says:

    Your sketches, scripture notes, and posts are a blessing and inspiration!
    A joyous and favorite part of my day!
    So grateful for all you do!

    Most of my building sketches are on loose sheets of paper, approximately 8 x 10”:
    Stillman & Birn Alpha,
    Canson Classic Cream Drawing.

    My teacup and miniature landscape sketches, used for greeting cards, are usually on 4 x 5” hand torn pieces of Arches Rives BFK.

    Sketching more because I see how you do it!
    Thank you, Liz!

  • Carol Hole says:

    Thank you for all your blog posts, I look forward to them and also learn a lot and get lots of ideas, but haven’t been responding because I feel a bit shy doing so when so many more knowledgeable people comment, but please know that you never have to feel lonely because there must be lots of people like me who hang out for your next post!
    I tend to use an A5 book with paper that will take watercolour for sketching around home, but take an A4 watercolour book if I’m on holiday.

  • Suzie Sherwin says:

    Hi Liz!
    Relish all of your posts… your on-going curiosity… willingness to try new materials and techniques… and desire to share with others! Thank you for your generous spirit and then some!

    I have enjoyed hard using cover Hahnemühle Watercolor Books A5 landscape 5.8”x8.3”. The landscape allows me to mock up interesting arrangements connecting these elongated pages. The thicker paper often holds pigment parties readily. The black-cloth hardcover is a portable size and offers a beautiful finished “container” for my treasures memories.

    Currently, I have 3 sketchbooks on different subjects: France ??, Encinitas, CA, and MotorHome Travels.
    I tend to work slowly thru the books, as is my style.

    I have learned so much from your classes Liz! You are an outstanding teacher…always giving more! With heart! Thank you for inspirations…

  • Mayela says:

    Hi Liz: I am not very disciplined so I don’t sketch everyday. But now I am going on two trips, one will be 3 weeks long and the other will be 2 months long. So I have told myself that I will do at least one sketch a day. Hopefully I will be able to fill out my sketchbook, which is the Stillman and Birn, Alpha soft cover, 10×8 inches. I use both sides of the page.

  • Yvonne Frindle says:

    I’m wondering if it’s not so much the problem with small sketchbooks so much as the problem with small _square_ sketchbooks. Unlike rectangular formats, square books do tend to encourage one subject per page. So you might find an A5 not quite so bad.

    That said, it might be worth revisiting the Kunst & Papier watercolour sketchbooks, sold with Jackson’s branding in black covers. The 160gsm paper is actual watercolour paper and the books have lots of pages. Also, a big plus in my book, you’re not stuck with the “office paper” dimensions of A5 etc. (great for letters and documents, not so lovely for compositions, or Instagram). In the smaller sizes, I particularly love the 17×15.6cm (~7×6″) landscape sketchbook. It has more height for its width than an A5 landscape and is a joy to work in.

  • Yvonne Frindle says:

    To answer your question… my current EDC (everyday carry) sketchbook is the A6 Hahnemühle Nostalgie, which suits my preference for ink drawing and also copes with water media surprisingly well. But on days when I leave my home only for exercising or to walk to the supermarket, it doesn’t get used, so it typically lasts me 8–12 weeks.

    I have larger sketchbooks that I take on dedicated sketching excursions – these obviously last a lot longer.

    And then various books associated with classes or projects, or for technical practice.

  • Jamie C says:

    Oh! Lots of comments on this one! I’ll have to return and read everyone’s comments! I like to comment, so you know I’m a regular reader and poster. I love your blog. Though it does seem the popularity of them is waning lately. I miss many former bloggers, especially the artists! I admit I don’t tend to comment when I’m reading back entries of your blog. I certainly can if you’d like! I’m planning a reread soon, actually!

    As for my own sketchbook… my current one is a Stillman and Birn A4 Hardcover Alpha. I started it in mid-July last year! Coincidentally when Foundations started. This is my 14th sketchbook, and all others were filled in a couple months, so having one on the go for so long is unusua for me. It reflects my struggles with sketching these past 12 months (lots of external issues like illness and recovery.) I ended up doing just strings of dates and now that I’m nearing the end of the book (only 6 pages to go! ) it has ended up being an incredible record of a struggle of a time. Even the absences of sketches, when I just put the date and the weather in a line representing weeks at a time, is turning out to be an amazing capture of life.

    In this book are most of my exercises in your classes, too. Though I did the watercolor course on loose sheets of various types of watercolor paper and those are in a presentation book. There is something amazing in seeing the evolution across a full year in one book! However, I’d much rather capture more everyday, and go through books faster. Otherwise I’d have to keep multiple books, where one is a slower progression. Like you, I want the daily, the everyday—ordinary objects, scenes, events.

    As much as I’ve been hard on myself for not sketching more, not finishing classes, having this unique book of an accurate time, still bears witness to what has been, even in just the absences. I must also note, contrarily, my skills seemed to have mysteriously leveled up, and I’ve got that watershed in this volume too. So that’s pretty cool!

    I’m eager for a smaller book next, lighter, faster, less “how can I even fill this page on a bad day” and more “just one sketch will do it.” Though I’ve gotten used to having plenty of room, so adjusting after a year in one size will no doubt feel odd!

    • Katie Kruger says:

      This is so beautifully said, Jamie. I loved reading your perspective. It’s been a hard season for many… and for me too. It’s taken a toll on my art, but Liz’s work has been something that has helped me not give up. Also wonderful fellow travellers such as yourself. <3

    • Ginie Udy says:

      I found your contribution to this conversation quite moving Jamie. I often see your name, face, comments and work in Liz’s classes and on her blogs, and you are unfailingly positive and thoughtful. Your sharing of your own life’s journey and the role a sketchbook or illustrated journal can play in that journey was heart warming to read. And quite an important observation on the contribution that daily creative practices, no matter how minor, can make to the richness of life. Thank you for sharing your reflections with us.

    • Ionne says:

      So well said Jamie. I agree- two of the best gifts that Liz has steered us towards is the evolution of our art and the encouragment to keep going. 🙂

    • Susan King says:

      I loved reading this alternate/different viewpoint too. Thank you so much for being vulnerable and sharing it. I’m going through a dry period, with not much sketching at all. I’m doing more writing at the moment, and that’s OK.

  • Katie Kruger says:

    Can’t wait to go back through and read all the comments! Please don’t feel lonely while blogging Liz, your blog was the entry for me (and many many others) to so many wonderful learning experiences. It’s a been a treasure trove for years. You are so appreciated for all the time you spend on informing your students/fans of your thinking and working processes and amazing tips to help others. You are a blessing, and are outstanding in your vocation. Well done, good and faithful online friend.

  • Brooke Hollingsworth says:

    I currently have 5 sketchbooks going. This was not my intention!

    I started in art practice a little over a year ago, and I bought a large sketchbook. My plan was to divide each page into 6 squares and draw something in a square everyday. But by the time I got to it, I didn’t like the paper and it was too big. It’s good for gouache, though, so I’m slowly filling it up.

    I bought a sketchbook on sale with paper that is unsuitable for water media, so I sketch something in it when my coffee is brewing every morning. Either ink or pencil, and I still get bleed through, but it works for a quick morning sketch.

    I started Foundations in December, so I bought an S&B Alpha. I didn’t finished Foundations because the live Watercolor class started, and for that I bought an S&B Beta. Both are A5, and both have some Teacuos in them now…I’m hoping to finish the Alpha working through the Foundations group class starting soon.

    If you’re counting, that’s 4. I’m traveling this summer, and I wanted a fresh sketchbook for that, so I bought an off brand watercolor sketchbook that is A5 landscape to see how landscape worked for me. So 5 in all, and through all this experimentation I know that I’ve discovered that I’d like to have 1 sketchbook at a time that records my life and art practice.

    Today in the last Teacups livestream, Liz mentioned that there will be a Sketchbook Design class at the end of the year. So now I have a goal: finish all of these so I can start a new one for Sketchbook Design!

    • Susan King says:

      Oh yeah, I resemble that remark. I had 35 on the go once, managed to finish them all, pledged to work in one at a time, but now I’m up to a dozen again. Sigh.

  • Ginie Udy says:

    Hi Liz, your posts are always engaging, and as I’ve said previously amazingly timely for me personally it often seems!

    This post is another example of that…I had just been thinking to myself…is Liz still using that same softcover square Alpha? It’s lasted a long time! And here’s the answer…no you’ve used a couple of them!

    As to answering your question: I’m so proud of myself for sketching everyday since 13th October 2023 and in that time I have churned through a number of books. Like you Liz some days I’ll do a number of pages! I like to have an Everday Life (EDL) book on the go, and then Lesson/Course books. My EDLs were initially very small, very thin paper but very cute covered Paperblanks books. Then I started this year with a Handbook Travelogue A5, then a Hardcover A5 Alpha, then a softcover A5 Gamma, then back to a lovely bigger sized Paperblanks book. It was 7x 9 inches, (not standard A5 or A4) and I loved the bigger spread, and the almost square pages. It had 70 sheets. But again very thin paper. I knew I needed better paper. I wanted the Alpha weight but in a bigger book and a hard cover.

    I’ve started to love big spreads (bring on Sketchbook Design) and I also found I was doing quite a few sketches each day so decided I could go bigger. After much searching on line, and reading Liz’s reviews of all sketchbooks she’s tried (Thank you Liz!) I came across the Jackson’s branded Kunst and Papier 21x24cm (8.5×9.5 inch) hardcover book with 60 sheets. 160gsm.

    I ordered one and am loving it! I started it June 1st and my only ‘complaint’ would be as you Liz identified in your review of the Kunst and Papier book it does buckle a bit more than Alpha but I can live with that. It provides such nice big open spreads and I am aiming to do one spread each day. So at my current rate it will last me 2 months.

    I’m very happy!

  • Stacey Vadaj says:

    Liz, I’ve followed and read your blog for many years now, have taken some of your classes and am currently (slowly) enjoying teacups. I also am a quiet observer in classes so don’t post comments a lot. I have many different sketchbooks going at a time and take years to finish. I am fortunate enough to have a small art room (my kid’s bedroom now that they’ve grown up and moved out) that I can leave as is and art when I have a couple minutes or when my grandkids want to splash paint. I use Handbooks of all sizes and less expensive multi media ones. Right now (and for the last year) I use a handmade journal from Peg and Awl in Pennsylvania USA, 4 x 6 inches, 180 pages that I keep in my purse so I can sketch while at work or waiting. Please don’t feel alone…there’s so many of us enjoying your words and art. I also am waiting to see your new space (but no pressure) and connect to your faithfulness. Thank you for taking the time to post so much helpful information.

  • Prashanta Bhat says:

    These blogs are pure gold. They are inspiration. Please keep them coming!

  • Marilyn McPheron says:

    Hi Liz—I started following you during the pandemic and read your blogs regularly. I have learnt a lot from you. I usually have several sketch books going at once in several different sizes. I tend to make my water color sketch books myself. I generally have 2 watercolor sketch books of different sizes, a gel stick sketch book and a just drawing sketchbook going. Currently, I have 3 drawing ones—one of them is only architecture, one is only watches and the third misc. I love tea cups though my collection is not as impressive as yours. I recently bought a smaller sketch book which I intend to fill with teacups and I’ve been thinking about a sketch book of just shoes!

  • Ionne says:

    Hi Liz, like many others- I too am guilty of not commenting often, please don’t feel lonely- your blog posts are so much appreciated by many- I look forward to reading them and go back into the back issues often to research little things. So I have learned so much from these and also from your fabulous courses.
    Sketchbooks- I am afraid I always seem to keep several going at once- there is always a small (A6) or 140 cm square in my purse with a small palette and brush and in my sketching bag often two or more larger ones- up to A4 – one dedicated to people sketches. So consequently it takes a while to fill them all- but I guess it’s maybe 3 or 4 a year.
    Funny thing- I just looked up sketchbook sizes- I can never keep it striaght A6- A4??? and the first hit came up on your blog- so see?? 🙂 Keep up the great work! Please!

  • Sophie Vancaillie says:

    I also read each and every blog post, I really appreciate them, love how you keep challenging yourself and that gives me ideas to try, encourages me to challenge myself. I’m maybe an odd user of your courses, I find your techniques so useful even though I am not a sketch my life or urban sketcher at all. And I really appreciate your group run throughs, it encourages me to visit the material again and again. At home I tend to use loose sheets of paper. I do love to take a sketchbook on my hikes, in Winter an A4 Pink Pig with the pages halved, one end of the book into A5 and the other panorama. It means I can still hold it easily enough with gloves on and allows for a small, quick sketch. In summer I may go for something bigger, at present their larger landscape book but I also have a square one. They have cartridge paper in them but it takes a few washes, I tend to work quite dry because it is too inconvenient to have to wait for it to dry, I often put a loose sheet of paper in so I can close the book when still wet, I don’t mind how that affects the sketch. I live very small (motorhome) so can’t keep any of the books, they can take up to a year to fill, once full they go into the recycling (as happened today, this one was started in Feb), I do take photos of some of the sketches as a reference.

  • Liz Steel says:

    Oh wow! thanks for all the comments everyone. I appreciate it so much!
    I will reply to all comments…but it might take me a while 🙂

  • MARIE-LAURE says:

    Hello Liz, I am one of your many fans who view your blog without intervening (I am French and not comfortable with English). I have been following you for 4 or 5 years, and I appreciate your energy, your questioning and the efforts you make to share your research. I often come back to articles based on my current questions (pigments, pen, notebook, etc.).
    To answer your question, I rather use small A5 notebooks, either portrait but also landscape (Leuchtturm 1917), several at the same time: one for my travels which lasts around a year, one for my daily exterior drawings (around 2 years), and some dedicated to internships. I started with a 21X21 square format notebook which allows me more freedom in layout. I entrust the translation to Google, I hope it will be our friend!Bonjour Liz, je fais partie de tes nombreux fans qui visionnent ton blog sans intervenir ( Je ne suis francaise et pas à l’aise avec l’anglais). Je te suis depuis 4 ou 5 ans, et j’apprécie ton énergie , tes remises en questions et les efforts que tu fais pour partager tes recherches. Je reviens souvent sur des articles en fonction de mes interrogations du moment ( pigments, stylo, carnet …).
    Pour répondre à ta question, j’utilise plutôt des petits carnets A5 soit portrait mais aussi paysage (Leuchtturm 1917) , plusieurs en même temps: un pour mes voyages qui dure une année environ, un pour mes dessins quotidiens extérieurs 2 ans environ), et certains dédiés à des stages. J’ai débuté un carnet format carré 21X21 qui me permet plus de liberté dans la mise en page. Je confie la traduction à Google, j’espère qu’il sera notre ami!

  • Lisa says:

    Greetings from Salt Spring Island (west coast of Canada), First thing after I make my morning pot of tea, I Google your blog. I’ve been doing this for about 3 years now and have joined the local sketchers group. I’m working on loosening up and SIMPLIFYING my sketches. I love throwing colour onto them, and just recently have finally absorbed the concept of Juicy Washes. Thanks to you!
    Just finished an inexpensive sketchbook and started my Stilman and Birn Alpha (I’ve owned for ages) and LOVE the difference better paper makes! Thanks for your blog, Liz!

  • Misty says:

    Liz, I always enjoy reading your blog! I think you’re more of a one-sketchbook-at-a-time kind of artist, so you might be scandalized to hear that I have multiple books going from a few different brands in several sizes! ?

    I have 3 Hahnemühle Akademie Aquarell: an A5 Landscape that I mostly use for food and teacups, an A5 Portrait that I use at home or sketching outdoors, and a small square that I’ve dedicated to the 30×30 Direct watercolor challenge this month and I’m using it to learn to paint trees on location.

    I also have a softcover A5 Alpha Landscape for quick sketching with my waterbrush & ArtToolKit palette and a Moleskin A5 Portrait that I’m just messing around in. My favorite currently is the Hahnemühle and I can’t quite decide how I feel about the Moleskine yet.

  • Linda Hackett says:

    Hi Liz, believe me you are followed by grateful multitudes!
    I have been sketching with you since 2018 and have filled 24 sketchbooks, A4s and A5s from different manufacturers. I do like the Alpha soft square ( 7X7) the best followed by the square Hahnemuhle 100% watercolor. I have several Moleskine from early days and 2 small A6 for doodling with Bics or for thumbnails and sketching people on the bus in NYC. I Currently have 16 unfinished books that I fill with sketches randomly. This is horrible for identifying years and genres on the shelves , but I don’t like waste. Sometimes a certain paper will speak to me depending on location or subject, and I will go with it!

  • Barbara L Stumpf says:

    Dear Liz, I’m yet another fan who’s taken all your courses and considers your blogs a joyous and essential part of my days. I imagine posting your thoughts must sometimes feel like sending a message to sea in a bottle, but I hope you’ve found that there are lots of us who value your work so very much.
    Your question about the appropriate journal is one I’ve struggled with for a long time. I am a piano-teacher/retired pastor who sketches in my daily all-purpose journal, which I’ve kept for almost thirty years. It is primarily a place for prayer, spiritual growth, teaching and nature notes, and especially, a “safe place” for me to discern and to examine my life. Therefore, fostering a sense of spontaneity and welcome on my pages is priority number one. I want the unconscious stuff to be able to flow unconstrained.
    That said, my best sketchbook solution so far is the Aquabee SuperDeluxe 6″x9″ spiral-bound. It is 93 lb. (150 g/m2) with 60 sheets. It is a handy book-size, which I love. It takes ink and mixed media beautifully, light washes are good — I like the little buckling, too. It makes me feel like I’m making progress! My sketches are a hodgepodge of illustrations of my day, my garden, homework assignments from online courses, color swatches, whatever. I generally fit about 3 months into each book, which gives me a sense of continuity in what’s going on. An index would be helpful, as would a cross reference to other, bigger sketchbooks I may use, but so far I haven’t done that. Always good to keep something on the horizon, yes?
    Again, you and your work are loved.
    Thank you for sharing your amazing knowledge, enthusiasm, compassion for self, and joy in learning.

  • Maria says:

    I have found that making my own very low key books work best for me.

    Currently I fold a half piece of A3 into thirds, with a little tab at the end and glue these together to make concertina books. I can easily add to them, or I can work through several ‘volumes’ one at a time so they are easy to carry around, and then join them up as I finish them.
    The concertina style does take some getting used to though.

    Prior to this I used my sewing machine to stitch signatures of three stacked pieces of paper, and then did a Midori Travellers Journal type thing, using some sort of thick cover, and holding the signatures in place with elastic or ribbon. This approach allows for some pages in the signature to be made of longer pieces so they can be folded into the book.

  • Linda Arthur says:

    Hi Liz, as everyone says please don’t feel lonely. I love reading your blog and looking to see your latest watercolour pallet, your brushes and sketch books.
    My go to sketchbooks are Seawhite. I use an A4 and an A5. It used to be Pink Pig but for some reason my local hobby craft shop no longer stocks the brand. I tend to use the A5 for doodle sketches and then if I want to get serious use the A4. However I’m starting to realise that I do feel overwhelmed when faced with a large page. But that is the one I use when doing your courses. Maybe I need to switch…
    However the Seawhite is not that great if you want to use a lot of pigment and water.
    I’ve decided after reading these comments that I’m going to try the Hanamuhele. It sounds a though it’s far superior for paint.

  • David Campbell says:

    I’m a regular reader but for whatever reason I don’t comment very often. That is no reflection on the value I get from this blog, which in a word is ‘tremendous’. I could go on and on, and the many comments show I am not alone in feeling this way. Keep it coming!!

    I have so many different new sketchbooks to try out, and the majority are still pristine. Many will probably remain untouched until after I retire (I keep saying) and I know better than to forecast when and “who” will be the next book that I finish. Still optimistic it could happen for one book in 2024. For my active books, I mostly use two kinds in a couple different sizes. I like the Aquabee Super Deluxe 8×8 and 6×9, and the Strathmore Visual Journal Mixed Media in 9×12 and 8×5.5. Also a couple S&B alpha 5.5×8.5 — the portrait one is my Sketchbook Design reference book and I am working on a little project for that!

  • Kate says:

    Hey Liz,
    I’m one of your silent readers. I’ve discovered your blog around a year ago and fell in love. I check regularly for updates and you inspire me so much! Funny enough, I LOVE looking at urban sketching but I don’t enjoy when I try it myself. I’m extremely anxious to paint in public for some reason. But I absolutely adore portraits in watercolor and gouache and that’s what I usually do. You inspire me in so many ways, I love your colour selection and the way you translate a real life scenery into a beautiful sketch.

    Currently I fell in love with a local sketchbook that I don’t see being mentioned anywhere – Hahnemühle travel booklet (and Hahnemühle travel journal – they share the same paper!). It takes water very well and can handle several washes. I’m having a lot of fun with it! I’d recommend you to try it if you can get your hands on it. I also bought the Stilman&Birn Alpha series sketchbook because you recommended it and it’s great <3

    • Yvonne Frindle says:

      Interesting to see you mention the Hahnemühle Travel Journal/Booklet (which are available in Sydney from LarryPOST and also at Kinokuniya bookshop). These booklets were my mainstay “everyday carry” sketchbooks for a couple of years between 2017 and 2019. Then the paper changed. They remained tolerant enough of water (for a sketchbook that wasn’t intended for that use) but they became much less ink-friendly – lines would feather on the page instead of going down crisply. That was a deal-breaker for me because I make a lot of ink drawings, so at that point I abandoned them. (Nowadays I use the Hahnemühle Nostalgie sketchbook in A6 for my daily sketching – these are a bit more expensive but the smooth, heavy paper is _perfect_ for ink and also takes watercolour happily.) How do you find your Travel Booklets behave with ink?

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