Review: Daler Rowney Ivory Artist’s Sketchbook

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I purchased this sketchbook at Lee’s Art Shop in NYC (which is always worth a visit if you’re in town). I was attracted by the size and shape, as you don’t see that many slim softcover sketchbooks that are truly pocketable. This one certainly is– it’s flexible enough to keep in a back pocket but the covers seem substantial enough not to get too beat up. It could be described as looking like a thicker version of a Moleskine Volant. Shown below next to a pocket hardcover Moleskine for comparison– it’s a bit smaller and thinner.

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It’s very basic– no elastic, no pocket, no ribbon marker. Once you peel the sticker off the front cover (which seems like it will peel cleanly), it is plain black and free of any branding inside or out, except for the gold-stamped brand on the back cover (which looks a bit cheap, somehow).

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Inside the paper is smooth and creamy– not so different from Moleskine paper in feel, though it is said to be 90 GSM. All the pages are perforated, but the notebook really doesn’t open flat. I guess it’s no loss, in a way, as you won’t want to draw into the gutter when the pages are perforated.

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The smooth paper feels great with fine point pens, and fountain pens work nicely except for taking a bit longer to dry (still smearing at about 10-15 seconds). But show-through and bleed-through performance was not so great.

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So I’m left wondering who this sketchbook is for? If you want to just scribble some little sketches on the go with fine pens or pencils and then tear them out to use elsewhere, I guess this will fit the bill. But otherwise, I’m not sure it really provides any advantages over other notebooks and sketchbooks on the market. The list price for this sketchbook is $10.90, and I think that is about what I paid at Lee’s. Blick has it for $6.99, which seems like a better value. Other sizes are also available.

Daler-Rowney Ivory Artist’s Sketchbooks

Daler-Rowney Ivory Artist's Sketchbooks

Moleskine Monday: New Products

It’s always interesting to see what new products pop up on Amazon for the coming year. There are quite a few “Chapters Journals” in various colors and sizes– unusual ones for Moleskine, such as 3.75 x7,” 3 x 5.5,” and 4.5 x 8.25.” The colors include “old rose,” “tawny olive,” and “plum purple.”  There are no photos yet, and no descriptive info. The format says “diary,” but they don’t seem to be dated. All are soft cover, and page format options seem to just be dotted and ruled. Will these be something book-related? Intriguing…

There are also new collections of notebooks with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Batman themes.
I was thinking that what Moleskine really should create is a daily planner specifically for art journalers. The Hobonichi Techo shows there’s a demand for a daily planner with a more free-form page. Moleskine’s own daily planner in the extra-small size comes with unlined pages, making it perfect for daily drawings, but a bit small. I was all excited when I first saw that, as I thought they’d changed the design of all the daily planners to having unlined pages, but it’s only that size– I guess they thought the lines made the extra small page too busy. If they made a pocket size and large size daily planner with unlined pages and slightly heavier paper that doesn’t bleed as much, I think a lot of people would embrace them for daily art journaling. People like Kathrin Jebsen-Marwedel have made a name for themselves doing daily artwork in Moleskine planners over many years, but lately she’s been complaining about the severe decline in paper quality. She points out that she’s never expected Moleskine paper to be perfect for all media, but their planners used to be able to hold up to watercolor and now they don’t:

moleskine planner paper qualityI don’t know if the lines bother her, but I think a plain, unlined day-per-page art journal would be a widely popular product if the paper was either the heavier weight sketchbook paper, or at least a version of their thin paper that was more in line with the quality of prior years. Would you buy one? Do you know of other planners with an unlined daily page layout?

Notebook Addict of the Week: Tracey

This week’s addict is on Twitter as @Thriftygal, but it doesn’t look like she’s all that thrifty when it comes to buying notebooks! Look at this glorious mess! I spy a Star Wars Moleskine and a Penguin notebook and lots of other unidentified notebooks. I love the way they’ve taken over her entire table!

Thanks for sharing your addiction, Tracey!

Hermès Notebook

I guess I’m lucky that my notebook addiction has never tended to focus itself too much on truly high-end, luxury notebooks like this gorgeous Hermès notebook cover made of ostrich leather. I’ve occasionally coveted such things, and who wouldn’t! But at $1,000 new, or $100-200 used (if you’re lucky enough to find one), plus the cost of refills at $35 each, an addiction to this kind of notebook could bankrupt most people pretty quickly! I wouldn’t mind having one of these, though– the system for attaching the notebook to the cover is rather clever, and the leather must feel great.

From what I can see on the Hermes website, they don’t sell this kind of notebook cover anymore, and the notebooks they offer now, while “only” about $500 and up, don’t tempt me at all! They still sell the refills for this notebook, though.

Read more at Hermès Ostrich GM Notebook Cover Review | THE UNROYAL WARRANT.

Review: Sketch & Draw Sketchbook

The Sketch & Draw notebook is another Art Alternatives product that I picked up at Blick. These are inexpensive sketchbooks with toothier paper, similar to what’s found in the Hahnemuhle and HandBook sketchbooks, but not quite as thick.

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The first thing that really sticks out about this brand is the placement of the elastic closure, which is tucked rather jauntily around the upper right corner on the diagonal. It’s not something you see on many other notebooks, and I think people’s opinions will be divided on it. I fall in the camp of not liking it, ultimately. It looks kind of nice from the front, but the back of the notebook looks kind of weird. It also seems as though it may twist the notebook a bit, so it’s not quite square. I do like the lime green color they picked, and the matching ribbon marker is a nice touch. Overall, it’s almost exactly the same size as a pocket Moleskine, but slightly thicker.

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The exterior of the notebook is otherwise pretty typical– plain black, slight faux-leather texture, and brand name stamped on the bottom of the back cover. The cover overhang is a little more than I’d prefer. The spine has headbands at the top and bottom, but they are a bit too short to cover the whole spine width. Not sure why they bothered with this purely decorative detail without making them fit a little better! One other thing I noticed is that the spine feels a bit loose, which could be good for those who like to paste a lot into their sketchbooks– there’s some space to expand.

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Inside the notebook there is no branding, just plain white endpapers. The pages lie nicely flat. There is an expanding pocket in the back with cloth sides.

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The paper in this notebook, as noted already, is a bit rougher in texture, with a tooth that gives a nice feel to pencil or charcoal drawings. The packaging indicates that it is 110 GSM, but it feels lighter, somehow. Show-through and bleed-through were worse than I expected for this paper weight. The tooth makes it a bit rough for fine point pens, and my Zebra extra-fine brush pen really felt dry and scratchy on this paper. Pencil, charcoal, and thicker pens and markers are more the way to go in this sketchbook. Watercolor also seemed to work fine, without too much buckling or deterioration of the paper from light washes. The colors look flat and even but bright.

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The show-through in the paper and the angled elastic make this a less than ideal sketchbook for me, but I think I could happily dedicate it to pencil drawings and collages, so it’s in my “to use someday” pile despite those complaints. These are available in portrait and landscape formats, and a couple of different colors for the elastic and ribbon. They’re $7.49 at Blick, which seems like a good value for a well-made little sketchbook, even if the paper isn’t perfect.

Art Alternatives Sketch & Draw Books

Art Alternatives Sketch & Draw Books

Like These Notebooks? You Can’t Have Them!

How frustrating! I found this link to Avalanche Print via a Google alert and loved the look of the notebooks, but they are no longer for sale! It sounds like it was a small company who didn’t have the resources to continue, but I hope they’ll resurrect it someday!

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See more at Avalanche Print.


Moleskine Monday: Evernote Expansion

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Moleskine’s Evernote collection keeps growing, as they now offer various options in pocket and large size, including squared, lined and plain pages, as well as the heavier-weight sketchbook pages, softcover journals, and a planner. Presumably this means the products have been successful, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone using one. I occasionally use the basic version of Evernote on my phone, usually when I photograph a bottle of wine I’ve enjoyed in a restaurant and want to remember for later. I also use other forms of electronic list-keeping, and I’d be lost without my electronic address book and having all my appointments in an electronic calendar. I love paper, but I long ago discovered that certain things worked better for me digitally. So although I have my feet firmly planted in both worlds, I can’t get my head around the idea of combining them with a notebook like this. It seems overly complicated to write things in a notebook, tag them with stickers, and then photograph them to upload them to Evernote. But maybe that’s just me… How about you? Does anyone have any success stories about how they use Moleskine’s Evernote products?

Notebook Addict of the Week: Tina

This week’s addict is a blogger and urban sketcher who also hand-binds her own notebooks. Here’s some of her hand-bound books:

She’s also used a Rhodiarama notebook as a travel journal:

And I love this shot of her travel sketching kit!

You can read more on her blog about the handbound sketchbooks and how she used the Rhodia journal, and much more! Lots of great drawings and reviews of materials.

Thank you for sharing your addiction, Tina!

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil

I came across this book recently and fell in love with it for so many reasons. For one, the title is just brilliant. The art is brilliant. And then a few pages in, a bonus! The main character does a lot of drawings in notebooks. What’s not to love!?!

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The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil

Review: Pen & Ink Squared Notebook

I’ve reviewed and mentioned the Pen & Ink brand sketchbooks several times on this site (see here, here, here, and here.) They are the closest substitute for a Moleskine sketchbook with the heavy-weight card stock paper, and they’re affordable and well-made. But I’ve never reviewed their other notebooks with standard weight paper. Squared notebooks are my other favorite go-to for everyday use, so how does the Pen & Ink squared version hold up? Let’s take a look.


The exterior is what you’d expect– same cover that feels slightly thicker and almost padded. Not too much cover overhang. You get the standard back pocket and a ribbon marker. Pretty much the same size as a pocket Moleskine, but a little chunkier, and as with the sketchbook, it feels well-made and solid and just nice.


But when I opened the notebook for the first time and saw the pages, I was very disappointed. I think I physically recoiled at those glaringly dark lines! The paper itself is a bit brighter white than the creamy Moleskine paper, and the graph lines are very thick, so it is a really distracting combination. I like to use fine point pens and I’m not sure I could get used to the lines on the paper competing so much with my small handwriting in thin ink lines. Other than that, show-through and bleed-through are about average, and fountain pens work pretty well. I bought a second notebook like this some months later in hopes that I might have gotten one from a bad batch, but the dark lines were the same, so I guess it is deliberate and unlikely to change unless someone at Art Alternatives gets enough complaints! Rather than use this as an everyday notebook for lists and things, I may end up using it for collages or drawing and painting with bolder, opaque colors that can stand up to the dark lines.


Pen & Ink notebooks are available on Amazon, Blick, or at JetPens.

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