Field Notes Workman’s Companion Edition

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.

2015-06-24FN01I 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.

2015-06-24FN02No special tests here but I was drawing with my Namiki Falcon and De Atramentis Document Black and again, there was no bleedthrough and ghosting was hard to see.

2015-06-24FN03I 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.



A Great Day At Trait Carre

Quebec City is a mosaic of small enclaves, one of which is Trait Carre, an area filled with big, beautiful elms and maples that surround beautiful old homes, some of which have become art galleries.  There’s a library with grass on its roof, a large dual-steeple cathedral and an ambiance of a very rural community, though it sits in the middle of the hustle and bustle of our city.

The sketchcrawl was coordinated by Daniel Chagnon and was part of the schedule of activities organized by Le Collectif (  We weren’t a large group this day but, in a way, that’s what made it fun.  I got a chance to chat a bit with Lucien and Diane, who do most of the organizing for the group.  My French is very poor and I get lost when there are a lot of people speaking French simultaneously so the low turnout this day was a bonus for me.

Daniel knows the area well and we got a tour of the area before we each headed off in our own directions to sketch.  I decided to sketch this house and did it in a small format (3×5).


Moleskine watercolor notebook (3×5), Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon ink, Daniel Smith watercolors

We met for lunch, chatted about upcoming events, fountain pens and ink and we shared the sketches we’d done thus far.  We decided to get back to sketching and I headed to a scene I wanted to sketch.  It called for a larger format and the largest book I had with me was a Stillman & Birn Beta (6×8) so I decided to do a two-page spread.  I spent nearly two hours on this one and thoroughly enjoyed the time spent and the conversation I had with a young guy who was interested in my work.  Hope you like it too.

Stillman & Birn Beta (6x8), Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon ink, Daniel Smith watercolors

Stillman & Birn Beta (6×8), Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon ink, Daniel Smith watercolors

We Continue The Statue Quest

We gathered at Quebec’s Place d’Armes to sketch the large fountain, or at least the statue that stands atop it.  For some reason I just wasn’t in the mood.  I’m not sure if it had to do with the subject or my new obsession of sketching in these small, mustache notebooks and their toned paper.

In either case, I decided to continue experimentation with that book, trying different approaches.  I turned my attention to one of the buildings.  I had luck adding a bit of color previously so I thought I’d see if I could use my waterbrush with dilute ink in it.  It worked better than I thought and I’ll use this technique again.  No ghosting or bleedthrough on the back side.



2015-06-04PlaceDArmes02At this point the sun left us and I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt.  I’ve been amazed at how much being cold has a similar effect on my desire to sketch.  What happens is that my attention span goes to near zero so I cope by doing a lot of really quick-sketches, just trying to grab proportions of the people walking around.  I won’t bore you with a bunch of scribbles but here’s an example of people walking across a street.

2015-06-04PlaceDArmes03I’ll include this one too as it’s an example of what happens when you decide to draw a guy standing, while talking to a couple people sitting on a bench. I was a minute into this sketch when the people stood up and the three of them walked away (grin).  It was time to turn the page and I did.

Once the statue sketchers had finished, it was decided that we’d head to another location to sketch the bust of another guy.  At least the sun had returned.

2015-06-04Dauteui01lI still wasn’t excited about sculpture sketching and I continued to work in tiny format.  It was an opportunity to try red lead in a Pentel Kerry 0.5mm pencil.  I did the sculpture sketch quicker than I should have and I generated a head that was too tall, but it gave me time to do a second sketch of a hotel entry on the other side of the street.  It was fun and, once again we had a great time.



Spur Of The Moment Road Trip To Ottawa

One of the fundamental skills learned while pursuing a university education is how to dodge and weave through the ever-changing bureaucracy of university administration.  My daughter found herself trying to straighten out a registration problem via email. We decided that a trip to Ottawa would go a long way to cutting through the red tape so we piled into the car and headed west.

Cheap notebook, Platinum Carbon Pen, Platinum Carbon Black ink

Cheap notebook, Platinum Carbon Pen, Platinum Carbon Black ink

First stop was administration, where we were handed a number and told to wait.  Better organized than when I spent many an hour standing in lines waiting for similar things but still, we got to sit around for an hour waiting for our number to be called.  I exercised my mustache notebook and the paper in this $2 sketchbook continues to amaze.  I even got brave and put a bit of color on this quick sketch of a couple people, equally bored, who were watching something on their cell phone.  No show through, not buckling, no nothing.


Surprisingly, once our number came up, everything was resolved in a matter of minutes and we were off to have fun in Ottawa.  We ended up at the natural history museum where this guy posed for me.  He seemed as curious about me as I was about him.

Moleskine watercolor notebook (3x5), Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Moleskine watercolor notebook (3×5), Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

I couldn’t pass up the chance to draw some bones and so I chose the head of this monster.  As I was drawing I had a nice conversation with a young girl who had more questions than I had answers.  She was an absolute delight, though, and interactions like this is one of the reasons I love location sketching.

We were sitting in a park just west of the US Embassy, enjoying manga bubble tea.  I decided to quickly capture this view through the trees and I spent a leisurely 15-20 minutes or so doing that.  I generally use these small notebooks for really quick sketches but I really found it fun to do a few more precise sketches in them.  I think I’ll do more of it.

Moleskine watercolor notebook, Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black ink

Moleskine watercolor notebook, Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black ink


Why Is Confuscius In Quebec City

Quebec City is a great place for sketchers as we have a lot of stuff to draw.  It’s the same stuff that tourists point their cameras at, snapping endless photos, hardly taking the time to actually “look” at anything.

One thing that has always baffled me about Quebec City, however, are the statues.  We have statues of EVERYBODY.  Gandhi, Churchill, Japanese Emperors, what seems to be every South American general that ever lived – EVERYBODY.  Why this is I can’t fathom a guess.  More odd is that there are many prominent Canadian and Quebec historical figures who don’t have a statue.  Go figure.

Anyways, the members of our group decided we were going to draw Confuscius.  Yep, we’ve got a statue of him.  When we showed up, it was decided that it would be best to wait an hour or so for the sun to move and maybe, just maybe, we could get some contrasting shadows.  As it turned out, we didn’t have enough sun to make a difference but that’s how street sketching goes sometimes.

20150525_LeGangThe group decided to draw De Gaulle (yep…got a statue of him too) but I wasn’t interested.  Instead, I wandered around the area and never did get inspired, probably because all my buddies were huddled around the De Gaulle statue.

2015-05-25doodlesUltimately I returned to find them about half done with their sketches so I sat down, got out my doodle book and started drawing his hand, which I did poorly.  Then I started drawing a lamp and did so until everyone was ready to move on.

These doodles were done with a Pentel Kerry 0.5mm pencil with Faber-Castell red lead.  This lead is less pink than most others I’ve tried and I really like how it looks.  The brown paper is in the cheap ‘mustache’ books I talked about recently.  I’m really enjoying those but have only found them in one of our dollar stores.  Not sure what’s up with that but I now own a dozen of them.  I’m a shameful notebook hoarder.  Oh…sorry about those black marks.  I guess I was testing a pen or something as those marks were there before I started drawing on the page.  These are doodles, after all.

On to Confucius.  Surprisingly, he was waiting for us, with the same pose as when we left him.  Statues are like that.  We all set up on the sidewalk across the street from him and started making marks.  Sketchers always have the same pose too.  This was my effort.  Thanks to Confucius for standing still so long.

Stillman & Birn Beta (9x12), Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Beta (9×12), Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black