Monday, March 23, 2015

Product Review: Moleskine Art Plus Sketch Album

3/22/15 Private Reserve Velvet Black ink, Pilot Petit1 fountain pen, Moleskine
Art Plus Sketch Album (sketched from Smithsonian magazine photo)
The University Bookstore (one of Seattle’s endangered breed of independent booksellers) probably has the largest brick-and-mortar Moleskine collection in the city. Back when I was using Moleskines regularly for journals and planners, it was great to have such a broad selection there. It’s been a long time since I’ve used or cared about anything with the Moleskine name, but I was at the store recently, so I thought I’d take a look.

Moleskine Art Plus Sketch Album label
I spotted Moleskine’s relatively new “Art Plus” line, which includes a watercolor sketchbook that Liz Steel and other sketchers have already panned, so I didn’t even look at it. But a pocket-size softcover book called an Art Plus Sketch Album caught my eye. Its paper cover makes it very thin (1/4 inch) and lightweight. I’m not crazy about the landscape format, but it’s not available in the portrait format that I prefer. (I rarely sketch a double spread horizontally, and the format is awkward to hold in either direction when it’s bound on the short side.) Another anomaly is that every page is perforated. (I guess if I particularly liked a sketch or someone else did, I could tear it out easily and frame it or give it away! Not likely.) Though my expectations of its paper were very low, I thought its size and thin profile might have possibilities as an everyday-carry sketchbooklet.
Reverse side of sketch at top of page. The fountain pen ink
bled wherever I touched it with a waterbrush.

At least the paper met my expectations. It’s the typical Moleskine ivory color, blank and 81 pound in weight – definitely heavier than the stuff that’s in Moleskine’s traditional (non-art) notebooks and planners, but also much lighter than the weird, manila-folder-like stuff that’s in the classic “sketchbook” (which has been rebranded to be part of the Art Plus line). The smooth surface isn’t bad with a fountain pen – no bleeding or feathering evident. But as soon as I touched it with a waterbrush, the ink sank straight into the paper, leaving strange blotches (see top of page) instead of blurring into a pleasing wash. (The label says, “Ideal for pencils, pastels, charcoal, fountain pens, markers” – nothing about a wash or liquid – so I can’t accuse them of false advertising.) Wherever I put water on the ink, it bled through to the other side (see above).
3/23/15 Zebra brush pen (sketched from
Smithsonian magazine photo)

With a Zebra brush pen (sketch at right), which contains waterproof ink, it bled through slightly even without putting water on it (although that degree of bleeding is probably acceptable for the casual sketches I’d be likely to put in this sketchbook).

One positive thing I can say is that the paper is sufficiently opaque that there’s very little ghosting (in the image below, I’ve circled a spot where I can barely see the sketch on the next page showing through). It’s definitely acceptable for drawing on both sides – as long as I use dry media or ink without washing it. If I could simply get over my preference for shading ink drawings with a wash, or if I switch to pencil, this (and many other) pocket notebooks would easily meet my needs. Alas. . . .

If you look carefully inside the circle, you can barely see
ghosting from the sketch on the following page showing through.

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