At last, while rummaging around in an art supply coop in Montreal last week, I found a tiny sketchbook that is proving to match, or beat, the Stillman &Birn sketchbook series for on-location watercolor sketching. This is the Pentalic 3.5 by 5.375-Inch watercolor journal, which opens up, as you might figure, to about 10.5 inches. (It has a tiny loop at the top for a tiny paintbrush too.) As someone who has experimented with many papers (including Arches, Bockingford, Saunders, Fabriano, Moleskin, Stillman &Birn, etc.), and continues to do so, this one has been a pleasant surprise relative to all other sketchbooks I’ve tried, including Moleskin and Stillman & Birn. It has 140 lb. cotton rag cold press paper with a nice light texture; really comparable to the big names in the field, so far. It also has a nice quality hard binding, opens flat, and has an elastic band to secure it when closed.
There are huge advantages to going small when sketching, moreover, and–if you’re using water-based media– all kinds of good reasons to choose the best paper (as any serious sketcher will confirm). This is a sketchbook that can literally fit in your pocket or a pocket of briefcase. (You could even take it to a meeting without drawing (oops!) much attention, and sketch the participants as a way to pass the time.)
Illustration: Watercolor and ink sketch, “Market day,” by Black Elephant Blog author
Drawing small sketches can compel you to try to get those shadows on the faces or in the pulled-back hair of a figure with merely a dot of paint. Drawing small leaves you with more energy for the larger pieces done later inside when it’s raining. So far I have three little watercolor sketches in my tiny Pentalic watercolor journal using M. Graham, Daniel Smith, and Yarka paints, as well as ink. (It’s been very hot and humid in this area lately so that people (and animals) are moving slower and generally are easier to sketch.)
Illustration: Watercolor and pen-and-ink by Black Elephant Blog author
The paper handles washes and heavier watercolor applications perfectly, so I thought I’d jot this down here while thinking about it. The sketchbook is only a bit bigger than my small travel palette, which measures 4.75″ x 3.75″. So between the two of them and a paint brush, a bit of paper towel and some water, there’s a complete studio-to-go, unbelievably small and light-weight but with no compromise in quality.
Anyway, a small sketch kit is sure to make those meetings at work more interesting! And hopefully the day is not far away when sketching in meetings will be regarded as a sign that you’re paying appropriate attention to the proceedings. Sketching is a form of seeing, and clearly can enhance our powers of observation and sensitivity which anyone could tell you these days we all could use more of…