I do a lot of sketching in tiny, inexpensive sketchbooks and ever since Marc Taro Holmes suggested using a Moleskine staple-bound notebook, I’ve been trying different notebooks in this 3×5 format. I was very displeased by the Moleskines as ink bleeds through their thin paper. So far, every book I’ve tried has that problem. I’m not talking about ghosting, where you can see the sketch on the backside but ink that actually shows up on the back of the page. While ghosting is also a problem in most of the notebooks, I’m more tolerant of that as my goal with these books isn’t high-quality sketches.
But FINALLY, I’ve found what I’ve been looking for and it comes in the form of the new Field Notes Workshop Companion issue. Field Notes are fun because they’re sold in a variety of cover formats. The problem with them is that they typically use 50lb, inexpensive paper and they’re just not fountain pen friendly. If you draw with ballpoint pens, they’re fine and very convenient. But I’m a fountain pen addict and it’s a no go as a sketching substrate.
The Workshop Companion books are different. They come with a new, 70lb paper that’s a higher quality than even the couple issues they’ve produced with 70lb paper in the past. I find I can force ghosting to the point of being annoying but it requires that I really dump a lot of ink on the page. So far I’ve yet to get any bleedthrough, even with brush pens. I’ve even applied bits of watercolor to the paper and even that works pretty well.
My first test was a simple outline image, done with a Platinum Carbon Pen and Platinum Carbon ink. This was a ‘soft’ test as most of these kinds of notebooks will handle this combination, though in this case there was no ghosting whatever, which was an improvement.
I went out sketching and did these quick sketches. My goal was to try adding some dark shading to see what happens. This is where most books in this format fail, with both bleedthrough and ghosting. Here there still wasn’t any bleedthrough and you had to look hard to see ghosting. Scanning didn’t pick up any of the ghosting.
I was doodling while watching a baseball game and dragged this image up from my imagination. It’s got enough darks in it to really test for bleedthrough and ghosting. Ghosting can be seen but again, it’s minimal.
I thought I’d do the acid test. I was watching some guys playing soccer and started drawing this building that was at one end of the soccer pitch. I added some darks with a Kuretake #33 brush pen and then added some color. Still no bleed through. Ghosting is a bit worse but everything’s relative as the ghosting doesn’t get picked up when scanning the backside of this sketch.
In conclusion, I’m a happy camper and I’ll be ordered some more of these Workshop Companion books. They’re wonderful. I can shove them in a shirt pocket if I want but more often I have it in a front pouch in my sketching bag so it’s immediately available.
While I can sketch in these books fine, when sketching a 2-page spread it’s nice to have something to hold the book open and flat without having to fiddle around. I solved that by cutting a small piece of Fomecore, which weighs nothing and I clip the book to this backing board. It works surprisingly well and really makes holding the book a lot easier.
This is what it looks like when clipped to the board. It becomes a single unit where you don’t have to worry about keeping the paper flat.