Tag Archives: sketch & draw

Art Alternatives Pen & Ink Sketchbooks: They’ve Changed!

I have mentioned the Pen & Ink Sketchbooks from Art Alternatives many times on this blog. Their pocket size sketchbook with the heavyweight paper is the closest alternative I’ve found to a Moleskine Sketchbook, for those who prefer creamy smooth paper, as opposed to the brighter white, toothier paper found in many other competitors’ pocket sketchbooks (such as Hahnemuhle, HandBook Artist Journals, Leuchtturm, and Art Alternatives’ Sketch & Draw). Check out my “Four Notebooks Reviewed” series from several years ago for a detailed comparison.

I’ve used a few of the Pen & Ink sketchbooks over the years and they never seemed to change much– even their packaging was the same… until now. While trying to meet a minimum for free shipping at Blick, I decided to throw in a couple of these sketchbooks, but I got a bit of a surprise!

Here’s the image for what I ordered:

 

But here’s what I got:

I couldn’t care less if they change the design of the paper band, and in fact the new branding is quite attractive, but I was horrified to see that they’ve changed the construction of the notebook itself to the diagonal elastic that Art Alternatives has used on their Sketch & Draw line for a while. (See my Sketch & Draw review).

I didn’t like the diagonal elastic on the Sketch & Draw, and I don’t like it on the Pen & Ink. Very disappointing update– I wonder if they’ve changed anything else about the notebook, but I haven’t even taken the shrinkwrap off to investigate.

Jet Pens has updated their product image, so they are selling the new version. Amazon still has the product images with the orange bands, but like Blick, they may actually have stock with the new design, since the UPC codes are the same. If you order from them, you’re taking your chances, but since the listing says there are only a few units left, maybe it’s from older stock with the orange band and vertical elastic? (The product descriptions have been wonky on Amazon for years– there is a disconnect between the image and the actual paper weight. This listing seems to be the medium weight sketchbook with 192 pages of 54lb paper– don’t buy it unless you want the lighter weight paper comparable to a regular Moleskine. This listing has the same product image, and references 54lb paper, but the title says “heavy weight” and the customer Q&A indicates that the description is wrong and the product is actually 92 pages of 110 lb paper, similar to the Moleskine Sketchbook paper weight.)

The price on these at Blick is just fantastic– currently $5.69 for the pocket size sketchbook. And their customer service department was great about resolving my issue of not wanting this version of the product. It’s not like I desperately need more sketchbooks anyway, but I can’t help being sad that they changed these! I’ve ordered one on eBay that seems to be the old design, just because, well, you know…

Let us know in the comments if you’ve recently seen stock of the old design, or if you’ve tried the new ones!

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