Tag Team: Assorted Brush Pens & Slow-Moving Paper

7 09 2020

The interesting problem with self-made notebooks is that you actually have to make them. Yourself! It sounds all well and good until you’re actually kneeling on the garage floor, cutting paper with your little old X-acto knife because for some reason you wanted the notebook to be smaller than the paper folded in half, but bigger than the paper folded into quarters, sloppily stitching notebook signatures together in accordance with the best tutorials a quick internet search could find. And perhaps your supplies of cheap typing paper are running low, so as you get to the end of your last handmade notebook you think to yourself, “I’ll just use one of the dozens of blank sketchbooks I have. No big deal.”


Why someone like myself would give so little consideration to the actual paper in the sketchbook I chose remains a mystery. Perhaps I had the misapprehension that pencils just write on anything, and there’s nothing that drastically different about the paper involved.


Obviously that right there is some amateur hour thinking. I’d love to tell you more details about this sketchbook model, the paper weights, and so on but I peeled off the sticker and helpfully THREW IT AWAY. After leaving the peeled sticker on my desk for weeks in which I could have potentially referenced the information on said sticker. So, it’s a Monologue brand hardcover sketchbook with 64 perforated pages and textured mystery weight paper, that’s what I remember.

and that’s all you need

Oh fine. A bit of Googling tells me this is a Basics Monologue with 148 gsm Italian heavyweight acid free drawing paper, and in all likelihood this was sent to me by Grandluxe to review……..many many years ago.

I’m so sorry

The important thing is I quickly discovered that the textured surface of this paper pumped the brakes hard on my fast and loose Col-Erase-based sketching style. I’m sure if I wanted to do proper pencil drawings with nice shading and blending it would be great. But that’s not what my heart desires right now. I want to have a cursed thought and have it drawn before my friends can even begin to threaten to have my imagination taken away.

I’ve made literally hundreds of drawings in quarantimes, and so few are actually suitable for public consumption

And not only do the pencils go slow on this paper, but it takes up seemingly a lot more lead. I probably struggled through about ten pages of pencil drawings before accepting that I needed to find a better sketch combo to use. You might look at the double bookcase crammed half-full of mostly or totally empty notebooks and sketchbooks and think, just. Just use a different sketchbook. You have so many jus-JUST USE A DIFFERENT SKETCHBOOK????

You fool. You absolute fool

No, friend. I am committed to finishing what I’ve started here. And besides, this presented me with a challenge to find writing implements that would replicate the quick sketching experience I’d fallen in love with using my previously blogged about tag team combo. Enter the brush pens and other assorted pastel felt tips:

They are my children and I love them all equally. Just kidding, some children are better than others

The number one spot goes to a combo so great, it’s going to get its own review: the Akashiya bamboo brush pen loaded with J. Herbin Diabolo Menthe ink. This is the perfect stand in for a light blue sketch pencil, except for the part where I can’t erase anything and have to live with my horrible mistakes forever. If I’m feeling lazy, I can stop the sketch there, in shades of blue, or pick out another brush pen to lay down some lineart on top of it. For working big and fast, I favor the Akashiya bamboo brush pen, Faber-Castell PITT artist brush pens, or Koi coloring brush pens, with guest appearances by the Pentel brush pen.

For a more detailed or fine-lined sketch, I grab either Marvy Le Pen Flex pens or Sharpie Pens, both in soft pastel colors.

If I weren’t lazy, I’d ink over the pastels with a dark lineart. But that’s not the life I’m living right now

Are these combos perfect? No. This paper likes to fuzz and feather, look close at this Pentel brush pen inking:


Nevertheless, I persist in this sketchbook. Only about 15 pages left, and I’ve learned a valuable lesson about what kind of paper I prefer to sketch on and why. Plus, mixing things up with color is fun. I miss erasing, but I like the way I’ve been forced to experiment with my writing implements to find something I like sketching with here.

I have nothing witty left. Take these sketches and run off into the sunset, friends

Monologue Soft Sketch Book A6

29 12 2013
Bear with me kids; I'm still getting the hang of this picture editor. On the plus side, since it doesn't do resizing by percentages, every picture is now maximum of 1000 pixels.

Bear with me kids; I’m still getting the hang of this picture editor. On the plus side, since it doesn’t do resizing by percentages, every picture is now maximum of 1000 pixels.

Allegedly, this is a soft sketch book, and technically speaking yes, this is a soft, not hard cover on this book, but you will not find a stiffer notebook for your dollar without falling down a rabbit hole of double entendres. How am I supposed to use a notebook I can barely even open? Step one, crack this book like a winter walnut.

With great force comes great flatness

With great force comes great flatness

I like the texture of this cover, and the size of the notebook. I’m a fan of small portable notebooks for my doodles.

This is a very thick elastic band. Like possibly would double a headband if you pulled it free. And had a small circumference head

This is a very thick elastic band. Like possibly would double a headband if you pulled it free. And had a small circumference head

I’m not, however, a big fan of horizontal elastic closures, but this one seems to get out of the way pretty easily. That’s just a general preference issue on my part.

Maybe I should have just scanned these. Not that it really lays flat enough for that. Oh well.

Maybe I should have just scanned these. Not that it really lays flat enough for that. Oh well.

The paper is the same good heavy-duty paper as found in the Monologue Orange Sketch Pad, meaning it’s great general use art paper. And once you go through and crack the spine it isn’t so bad. It works for me because I can rest my hand on the left side of the pages to draw, and it keeps the book open. It still doesn’t want to lay remotely flat on its own, instead choosing to settle itself into something like an acute angle.

This is as far as it shuts itself. Elastic band required for full closure.

This is as far as it shuts itself. Elastic band required for full closure.

With the elastic band, I’m definitely more comfortable throwing this sketchbook in a bag. And I like the paper. Just get past the stiff spine, and you’ve got a stylish little sketchbook to use.

Thanks to Grandluxe for providing this sample.

Monologue Soft Sketch Book at Grandluxe

Mini Review: Strathmore 400 Series Drawing Pad, 4″ x 6″

4 07 2011

80 lb. paper, 24 sheets per book, acid free, medium surface, "suitable for pen and ink"

Maybe you’ve noticed me mention the Strathmore Drawing paper in some of my recent pen reviews. Perhaps I have used words like “MAGICAL” and “HAPPINESS IN PAPER FORM.” I currently have, let me count, no less than half a dozen of these notebooks, brand new, stockpiled for whenever I need a new one; every time I visit Jerry’s Artarama (it’s a bit of a drive, so I tend to go there infrequently but get a lot at once) I always pick up at least 3 more of these notebooks, because they’re only about $1.50 each. Why is this notebook so great? As I’ve already mentioned, it’s cheap; I can afford to have a lot of them around, so I don’t get paper-fright and freeze up when presented with a blank page. With really expensive papers, I get this sort of stage fright and worry about wasting good paper. This is why I bought more than one Rhodia webbie, so that I wouldn’t be so afraid of screwing up that I’d end up not writing in it. It’s easier to just doodle and not worry when I know I’ve got a lot of this paper kicking around.

At 4″x6″ and 24 pages, this sketchbook is a good, small size to slip into a bag or a back pocket and not worry about it. No excuse for not having drawing paper with me. But at the same time, it’s not so small that the drawing area is rendered almost completely useless. And, being spiral bound, there are no problems with having the sketchbook lay flat (glares pointedly at the likes of the Moleskine Sketchbook); being bound at the top, there is no discrimination against lefties. But at $1.50, I hear you asking, how good can the paper really be??


Ok, so it works so well with fountain pens that surely they must have evolved together in a symbiotic relationship. But surely it will have bled through. This paper can’t be that good for only like $1.50.

Just kidding! It totally can!!!

The only pens that bled through were markers (Ultra Fine Sharpie, Prismacolor Marker, Letraset Promarker, Copic Marker) and a bit of show-through with the darker Sakura Gelly Roll gold-shadow pens (and the faintest shadow of the La Reine Mauve). There’s no reason why, unless you insist on drawing only in heavy markers, that you couldn’t use both sides of this unassuming paper.

I’ve seen far worse so-called “artist’s sketchbooks” charge much more for their product. My only complaint against this little sketchbook is that the rings can sometimes get squished around and make it harder to turn the pages, but come on. You can squish the rings back in place. If you like doodling, especially with fountain pens, this paper should exist in your life.

Strathmore 400 Drawing and Sketch Pads at Jerry’s Artarama

Mini Review: Megabolt Sketchbook

8 05 2011

Blue background not included

I think I found out about the Megabolt Sketchbook through a post at PencilWrap. I’ll let the Megabolt Sketchbook sell itself, quoting Megabolt directly:

“When you buy a sketchbook, you’re not only getting one for yourself, you’re also giving one to a child in a hospital. But we’re not stopping there. Every sketchbook is individually numbered which will allow you to see exactly whom you are giving the book to. Once the child has completed his or her book, their artwork will be uploaded onto Megabolt.org where you will be able to interactively flip through the pages of the book.”

The specs: 3.5 x 5 inch sketchbook by Scout Books, design by Megabolt. Cover is recycled chipboard, sketchbook contains 32 pages.

So, for $7, you’re actually buying two sketchbooks; one gets mailed to you, and the other one (because honestly, when are you going to find the time to do this yourself) Megabolt gives to a kid in a hospital. Megabolt puts in all the effort a charitable act requires, and you get a sketchbook AND to feel good about yourself. Winning all around! Seriously though, I love efforts to get kids (anyone, really) to do art and be creative; I am all in for anything that supports that kind of initiative. Even if the sketchbook turned out crappy, I’d consider it money well spent.

Good news, everyone! This sketchbook does NOT suck!

I tried out a range of my typical doodling implements. Pencil and ballpoint pen, as should be expected, have no problems on this paper, which is pretty standard sketchbook smooth (not Clairefontaine smooth, but like say Strathmore drawing smooth or so. Not much, if any, tooth to the paper).  I got a little bit of fuzzing using (I think it was) the Pilot Fineliner in the bottom left corner, and even less (a minute amount) with the Pentel Tradio (the face that isn’t finished above eyebrow level toward the bottom right). What I was most impressed with was how the paper handled fountain pens. We’ve got, in blue, a Pelikano with Pelikan blue ink, and a Lamy EF nib with Lamy blue ink; in Noodler’s Violet, the Pilot Plumix; and the eye at the bottom is a Sailor Ink Bar. The lines have a bit of character from the texture of the paper, but the ink doesn’t seem to fuzz or feather. And you can still use the back of the paper!! It’s not one hundred percent no-show-through; there are a couple small dots where an ink almost bled through, but take a look, that’s pretty darn good.

Also, this is a cool cover design. And a great color. Goes well with turquoise and sunny yellows, if you like to coordinate your notebooks with your clothing.

Good notebook, good cause; why haven’t you bought one yet? If you have bought one, good job; go make someone else buy one. If you still haven’t bought one, stop reading my blog and go be helpful! Promote art! GO!
Megabolt Sketchbook at Megabolt