Saturday, April 15, 2023

Field Notes Consultant at Your Service


The latest Field Notes edition has coloring-book covers. This was my first attempt at coloring since I was probably 8 years old! (Blackwing Colors colored pencils and Marvy LePen Flex brush pen)

Caran d'Ache Museum Aqurelle pencil

Field Notes Brand’s latest limited-edition release is Streetscapes, a sketchbook with covers meant to be colored. A sketchbook? From my favorite pocket-notebook maker? I would have been interested in any case, but it had my full attention for other reasons, too. (Before continuing, go read my review at the Well-Appointed Desk. Go ahead – I’ll wait. And by the way, unlike most products I review at the Desk, I subscribe to Field Notes, so I paid for these books myself.)

Back in January, I received an email from Bryan Bedell – not the owner of Field Notes but certainly someone who knows what’s going on over there. After swearing me to secrecy, he asked my opinion on types of paper that would be appropriate for sketching, especially with colored pencils. Of course, I was thrilled and tickled to pieces – I could now add “Consultant to Field Notes” to my resume! – and many opinions were shared. (I have to thank Ana for the honor . . . he also contacted her, and I’m pretty sure she had something to do with Bryan contacting me.)

4/3/23 Sailor fude fountain pen, Platinum Carbon Black ink
and colored pencil

Without revealing details, he said that the release would have a “coloring-book-ish” concept, which intrigued me mightily! I couldn’t quite imagine Field Notes publishing an entire coloring book – after all, it is primarily a pocket-size notebook maker with a diverse audience – but I thought maybe the sketchbook would include a couple of pages to color. Indeed, the edition’s colorable covers are an even better idea than a few pages.

As popular as adult coloring books are, and as much as I am always looking for ways to use my – ahem – significant supply of colored pencils, I have never gotten into using coloring books. Coloring these covers was a first for me. Although I still don’t see myself filling lots of coloring pages, now I understand the appeal as a relaxing activity. It’s not mindless – it still requires planning and thinking about colors – and it’s also satisfying to see a line drawing transform into a color picture.

4/3/23 Marvy LePen Flex brush pen 
(Earthsworld reference photo; right-handed sketch)

The only thing that would have made the release of Streetscapes better is if they had followed my suggestion. Bryan had told me that Field Notes was planning to stock Blackwing Colors in support of this edition. They should co-brand a limited-edition set of Blackwing Colors, I suggested! Field Notes fans and Blackwing fans alike would grab them, and certainly I would have had to buy them (to complete my collection, of course). Pity – they didn’t bite.

The full review is at the Well-Appointed Desk, but I wanted to put all the test sketches here on my blog, too.

4/3/23 Uni Pin brush pen, Uni Posca and Pentel Milky paint markers

4/5/23 Blackwing graphite pencil 
(reference photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash)

4/6/23 Prismacolor colored pencils
(reference photo by Raymond Eichelberger on Unsplash)

4/7/23 Bic ballpoint pen
(reference photo by Pete Nuij on Unsplash)


  1. Ok, I am dying to know what Blackwing pencils would you recommend for these books? Sounds like something I would like to do right now!

  2. Ok, I forgot to add my name….. Cathy I

  3. Checked out Field Notes, they have a “Line & Color” set with these books included. It’s tempting………😄
    Cathy I

    1. I know, I was tempted, too.... except I already have all the parts in the set except the pencil case!! But I love that it's all put together into a nice set! ;-)

  4. Any Blackwings (or other soft graphite) would be great on this paper!

  5. Replies
    1. If only all art material companies would consult with me... I have many opinions about everything! ;-)

  6. Tina, the look of that squirrel is fantastic!! It has such a charming face. Glad to see field notes in the sketchbook market--and taking your advice too!

    1. Thanks -- I'm glad you like my squirrel! You may recall that we've been having a huge problem with squirrels living under our roof... this sketch was my way of trying to make peace with our enemy. ;-)

  7. So now I know that you are absolutely the right person to answer the question that is burning in my mind. My favorite Field Notes is the "Harvest" version, which I use for my quick, backyard, nature journal. They are out of stock, and nothing has the same accounting style gridwork. I noticed that the "Streetscapes", the "Signature, the "Maggie Rogers" and the "Signs of Spring" all have 70# paper. I am hesitant to get versions with 60# paper because for juicy pens, brushpens, and water brush washes that seems too light. My question is, are all the 70# papers the same as to bleed through or texture? Is the paper in the "Streetscapes" comparable to the "Signature", (which is no longer available, but I know you have used it)? As a Field Notes guru and consultant I know you can tell me;-) Anne HwH

    1. What a great question! I agree -- stay away from 60# or lighter. And indeed, the 70# papers are NOT all the same, though all are decent in terms of fountain pen use (for writing, not necessarily for sketching if you use a broad, juicy nib). Signs of Spring has a strong "linen" texture that easily shows through pencil shading. As much as I like the covers, I couldn't use them because of that distracting texture. The Signature/Maggie Rogers paper is very good (for a notebook) and is comparable to Streetscapes in performance with all the media I tried. Unfortunately, Maggie has a stiff perfect binding that will not fold back at all (Signature was much looser and could be folded back), which is a deal-breaker for me. If you don't mind that kind of binding, I'd say the Maggie edition is the best choice for editions currently available. My all-time favorite FN paper was Workshop Companion, and I would dearly love to see that 70# paper again. Yes, I did implore this when I had Bryan's ear! We'll see if anyone is listening. ;-)

    2. Awesome reply! I do love the Maggie book, but I noticed the stiffness of the cover/binding. I also like the 72 page format better than the 48 page and my books are usually in a pencil case/cover. I got a three pack of Spring and liked the paper but the linen weave (reminds me of my grandmother's letter writing stationary!) looked like it might be a bit much for pencils. Since I'm using ballpoint for my mini nature journals, it might work. At any rate, I got three more 3 packs while they were on sale! It was the only sale offer with 70# paper. Of course, I had to get the 5 pack Great Lakes edition that I have been drooling over to make free shipping. What's a Michigander to do? And it also has 70# paper.
      ;-) Anne

    3. Glad to hear you took advantage of their fantastic sale! Great Lakes is beautiful! I'm up to my ears in Field Notes, so I managed to resist the sale! ;-)


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