For today's Lost Coast Studio, I thought that perhaps it would be informative to detail what kinds of substrates I choose to journal on and why. I literally have dozens of journals and sketchbooks in progress but I look for some very specific things when choosing my journaling foundation. I think you'll see that in spite of the variety, there are several key aspects that all my favorites have in common.
When it comes to sketching and note-taking for projects and products, I rely on Canson's field drawing book in either the large 9 x 12-inch size or the slightly smaller 7 x 10-inch version. The paper is 80-pound and cream-colored instead of white. The weight is very important; I never use anything under 80-lb for my visual journaling. In fact, Canson makes a "field sketchbook" that looks identical to the field drawing book but the paper is much thinner and thus, inferior. Always feel the weight and texture of a journal's paper before purchasing. Lightweight paper is simply a hassle. At my local art store, when considering a new journal, I can request that any plastic wrap be removed prior to buying so I can see the paper's thickness. This ensures that I don't go home with something inappropriate for the type of art that I do.
I also use A LOT of watercolor journals. I look for a spiral binding (lays nice & flat when working) and 140-lb cold press paper. These journals are not only good for watercolor but hold up wonderfully with collage and light applications of acrylics and gesso. With the exception of books for doodling and product testing, I will paint all the pages in advance with a multicolored wash. Then, when I sit down to journal, my background is already prepped and more inspirational than a stark white page.
Like so many others, I am overly fond of Moleskines. I especially like the small version (3.5 by 5.5 inches) and always choose the one with the purple banding. Moleskine paper is cream-colored, smooth and thick like cardstock. It is best for pencil and pen & ink although it will tolerate light washes and work with watercolor pencils. Moleskine also makes sketchbooks with 140-lb watercolor paper and while I do have a couple of those, the landscape format and perforated pages drives me a little crazy. Not all watercolorists paint landscapes...
Last year, I started working this journal handmade in Nepal. It has wonderfully thick, fibrous paper with delicious deckle edges that make me swoon. Handmade paper is very absorbent so I prep its pages with a layer of craft acrylics before beginning any art or writing. After many layers of paint and collage, front & back, the pages become beautifully hefty. Using this journal is a lovely tactile experience.
Sometimes I bind my own journals. Because I am involved in the very genesis of the journal, these books are very personal, colorful, and tactile. I treasure working in them and wish I made my journals from scratch more often. Again, I always use heavy, durable paper. I need my journals to take a lot of abuse.
I have a couple of journals housed in three-ring binders. This gives me the luxury of working on individual pages without a binding to deal with and also allows me to put the pages in any order I please (don't get hung up on the idea that your journal pages should be chronological.) I typically use 140-lb hot press watercolor paper and again, I wash each page in advance with a variety of colors. The white page is my enemy!
Finally, I also use old books as a substrate for journal work. However, I am extremely picky about the books I alter. The paper must be heavy and not slick like magazines. There must not be mold, water damage, or the lingering odor of cigarette smoke. AND the book must be bound old-school: sewn not glued. When I'm in the thrift store and I see a book that might be cool to alter, I check for all those things. My very, very favorite books to alter are old volumes of the Golden Book Encyclopedia. The paper is nice and thick, the imagery is comical, and it is the perfect size. I look everywhere for those things. It has to be books from the older printing though because newer printings have slick covers, thinner paper, and a glued binding. Whenever I find a stack in a thrift store, I buy up every single one that is still in decent condition.
I think you can see that the weight of the paper is a very big deal for me. I loathe sketchbooks with cheap, thin paper! (And there are a lot of crappy sketchbooks out there.) All journal pages will warp with the application of any wet media and I don't mind a little warping in the final product. But I don't want ink to show through to the opposite side and I don't want the paper to become so wrinkled as to distort my work. The best advice I can give is to check out the paper in a journal before you buy and use the best paper you can afford with the most flexible binding. I hope this edition of Lost Coast Studio Saturday is helpful for you in your journaling adventures!