Is it possible I’ve discovered the “grail” of pocket notebooks?
No. But pretty dang close.
When I realized that the latest Field Notes Workshop Companion edition contains paper that’s sketching-friendly (as defined by me, this means not just fountain-pen friendly but also able to withstand a light waterbrush wash without bleeding), I rejoiced – with two caveats: The paper has a (tolerably pale) dot grid, and the books are a limited edition, so they won’t be available indefinitely. Still, the sketching-friendly paper is certainly reason enough to rejoice, and I did – by buying more.
Two weeks later, I was reading the Pen Addict’s blog, where the Calepino notebook was reviewed. Although the paper is 60-pound weight (compared to Field Notes’ 70 pound), reviewer Jeff Abbott had nothing but good things to say about its fountain-pen-friendliness. Of course, he didn’t test it for sketching friendliness, so I didn’t wet my pants over the review, but here’s the sentence that made me bounce a few times on the couch: The notebook “comes in a nice variety of paper markings, from lined, blank, dot grid, and graph.”
While pocket notebooks in this form factor are a dime a dozen, finding one with blank paper is nearly impossible (the only one I know of that is ubiquitously available is the Moleskine Cahier, but don’t get me started on the paper in it!). I immediately ordered a three-pack from CW Pencil (which seems to be one of very few US retailers carrying the French-made Calepino).
|Reverse side of sketch shown at left.|
I took the Calepino out this week, and my very first test (shown at right) got a frowny face. Although the paper is sufficiently opaque that there’s minimal (acceptable) ghosting, the back side of the sheet revealed small dots of water-soluble ink bleeding through where my fude fountain pen had paused momentarily. I made a heavy scribble at the bottom of the sketch, and when I washed it with a waterbrush, some of it bled through also. Washing other sketched lines did not bleed. But then a couple of pages later (below), I used another fude fountain pen containing a different water-soluble ink, and this time almost no bleeding was evident, even with washing. (Perhaps my hand was moving more continuously and fluidly on that sketch.)
|Reverse side of sketches shown at left.|
My juicy Kuretake brush pen containing Platinum Carbon Black ink was surprisingly delightful to use on the Calepino – no bleeding at all, and the surface is smooth enough that the brush moved easily (below).
Although I typically wouldn’t use anything but a fountain pen in this type of notebook, I wanted to give it thorough testing. The other day I pulled out the entire mixed-media arsenal in my bag (except watercolor, which I wouldn’t expect any writing notebook to be able to take): waterproof Platinum Carbon Black ink in a fude fountain pen; water-soluble ink in a fude fountain pen; inks applied with waterbrushes; Zig marker; water-soluble colored pencils; light washing of the ink and colored pencils with a waterbrush (sketch shown at end of post). The fountain pen containing Platinum Carbon left a few telltale pen points on the reverse side, but none of the other media bled. Inks applied with waterbrushes buckled only minimally. All the media I tested passed acceptably. (Incidentally, since I rarely sketch with graphite, I didn’t test it, but the paper has just enough tooth that graphite would probably be as pleasant to use as colored pencils are.)
|8/3/15 Kuretake brush pen|
If it wasn’t for that minimal pen-point bleeding, the paper would be flawless. On the other hand, that completely blank page counts for a lot, as does the fact that the notebook is apparently available indefinitely. It’s not the grail, but it’s definitely a keeper.
(Now if only Field Notes would come out with a standard edition containing 70-pound, blank paper, or if Calepino upgraded to a slightly heavier stock, my life would be perfect. But since neither scenario is likely, I’ll relax and sketch on the notebooks I now have. After all, perfection is boring.)
|8/4/15 inks, water-soluble colored pencils, Zig marker|
|Reverse sides of sketch above.|
|My order of Calepino notebooks from CW Pencil Enterprise|
came wrapped in bright yellow paper tied with string and this
personal note -- a nice touch.