I have quite a stash of sketchbooks but so far have not managed to find “the one”. I have a couple that are close to what I want but none that are exactly so. It’s either the size or the paper or both that I’m not mad for.
For everyday doodling and playing around the 6″ x 8″ spiral bound Stillman and Birn Alpha books are nice. I also like the Hahnemühle 6″x 6″ book. In both cases the 150 gsm paper isn’t robust enough for serious watercolour. It will take a light wash which is fine for regular daily practice but I’d prefer better quality paper for travel journals or work where I want to develop my watercolour skills.
At the moment I’m using a Daler Rowney 10″ x 7″ mixed media travel book with 200gsm paper. The paper is very nice but it doesn’t seem to have a lot of sizing which makes using watercolour trickier. I like the format of this book a lot. It has a two tone cover with a magnetic closure. The trouble is, it’s only available from America. I managed to get hold of a watercolour paper version in England in 2013 but that seems to have been discontinued. A nice book with 300gsm watercolour paper is the Arches Field Journal. Once again, this is only available from America. I can get an Arches pad here but it has a floppy front cover which is simply not sturdy enough for travel journaling or urban sketching. The Moleskine watercolour paper is very nice to use but I don’t like the size of the journals.
This is where bookbinding comes in. I spent a recent weekend doing a beginner’s course on the craft at a book bindery in Sydney. I made a fully bound book with a wrap around case to put it in. It turned out quite well but wouldn’t win first prize at the Royal Easter Show. There are a few little errors within its covers.Having hands on experience was invaluable. I now have sufficient knowledge to make my own watercolour journals with the paper of my choice which at the moment would be Saunders Waterford 190gsm by St Cuthbert’s Mill. I am allowed to use the bindery’s book press so will be able to create a fully bound, hand sewn book. Alternatively, I may make a wire bound version like the Daler Rowney books if I can find a commercial bindery prepared to do a very small run.