Friday, February 28, 2014

Frustration Breeds Inspiration

Warning: this starts off as a mini rant/product review, but becomes more positive. I promise.

After debating for a while, I decided to try a Moleskine sketchbook (I know, I know - where have I been). With beautiful hardbound covers, perfect on the go size, and stitch binding (which allows the book to open flat), excitement didn't begin to cover things. But once it came in I was ridiculously underwhelmed. 

Watercolor paint literally beaded up on the page; it took scrubbing it in to get it to stick to the page. When the paint dried, there was an odd granulation effect that was not attractive. Ink was smearing like crazy. Everything I used showed through on the next page. The pages seem to have some kind of coating; they feel so smooth but I guess the slickness isn't good for media adhering properly. Even washi tape wasn't sticking right.

After asking several art groups (to see if perhaps I got a dud), Tammy over at Daisy Yellow was kind enough to direct me to a post of hers, which featured a review on Moleskines. Her post also shared a great article by Russell Stutler, who touches on some of the problems he had with the sketchbook as well. 

I was very disappointed - the results I had seemed to just be how the paper behaved. However I have an thing about needing to finish a sketchbook once I start drawing in it. Time to start playing. I figured since I hadn't make any pages I like yet, there was no risk of "ruining" the book.

With continued experimentation, I found the Faber Castell Gelatos work pretty well along with watercolor pencils (I really like Derwent's Inktense line). Not quite the same and getting to use paints, but they allow me to use my brush and have a similar watery effect. A little color pencil on top and I was able to get some shading and depth.

Being unable to control what the watercolor was doing as it dried, I was able to play a bit more with expressive backgrounds. With a wonky layer of paint down,  I found the pens had something to adhere to, enabling me to doodle over the top.

The granulation I couldn't stand at first made for some fun, whimsical texture.

I even worked in some old fashion collage. 

While I'm not sure if I would purchase a Moleskine again, I'm glad I tried it and that it helped me loosen up and play a bit more. Some times art really is about the process, not the end result. 

Note: this was the basic Moleskine sketchbook, not the watercolor sketchbook, so maybe I would have had better success with that one. However, every other basic sketchbook I've tried has taken light watercolor washed just fine, so this was a very unexpected result for me. 

Originally, I debated between Stillman and Birn's Epsilon and the Moleskine sketchbook, so I think I'm committed to try the Epsilon now. I don't like to spend a ton on my everyday art supplies but I've heard nothing but positive reviews on Stillman and Birn products to I'm anxious to try them!


  1. Great post, Melissa. I like the idea of pushing yourself to get through a creative hurdle {like uncooperative paper}.

    1. Thanks Tammy. You and the group really helped me push through this one! Its so hard getting over the hump but the view's not too bad once you're there!