Monday, May 8, 2023

A6 Hahnemühle is a Win


My first A6 Hahnemuhle sketchbook is full!

On Feb. 9, I began using a fresh Hahnemühle sketchbook as a test of a new form factor for me: the A6 size. I already knew I appreciated its 100-percent cotton paper from the 5 ½-inch-square Hahnemühle that I had used previously, but I was hoping the A6 size would become an easy daily-carry format. I finished filling its 60 pages on May 2. Was I happy with it? On May 3, I immediately ripped the wrapper off a new A6 Hahnemühle and made the first sketch in it: Definitely my daily-carry going forward!

The first sketch on Feb. 9. . . 

Fitting nicely in my smaller, lighter
 Rickshaw mini-size Zero Messenger Bag (which began as my pandemic fitness-walking bag and eventually became my daily-carry), the A6 Hahnemühle gives me the option to use full color and wet media whenever I want. While I also carry a brightly colored Uglybook regularly for certain types of sketches, I have been able to use color much more often because the A6 Hahnemühle is always by my side. That’s a huge win! Any tool or material that encourages sketching is better than one that doesn’t.

In his workshops, Gabi Campanario always talks about the ease and portability of a pocket-size sketchbook, which I concur with completely.

At Urban Sketchers outings or any other time I anticipated wanting a larger page format, I took my larger bag so that I could carry an A5 Hahnemühle. During that same time period of Feb. 9 through May 2, I filled only eight pages in the A5. That means the A6 size meets my needs almost all the time. Indeed, it’s easy enough to simply sketch across a full page spread in the A6 when I need a larger page, and I did that nine times in the A6 book.

The only thing I don’t like about using page spreads is the distracting gutter through the center, which is unattractive if I decide to reproduce a sketch as a postcard or for some other use. But seeing the physical attributes of a sketchbook is part of what it means to be a sketchbook artist, and I’m good with that.

. . . and the last sketch on May 2. I love seeing how the seasons
changed from bleak winter to colorful spring as I filled this sketchbook.

A major benefit of using an A6 is that size is not just a matter of portability; it’s also about composition – and smaller is easier. Unlike many artists who start small and go larger and larger as their experience and skills increase, I seem to be going the other way. Making compositional studies is always done small because it’s faster and easier, but so is making a final sketch

When Parka recently chatted with him during the Auckland symposium, Mário Linhares said, “The size of the page has something to teach us.” In his case, he was talking about going larger, not smaller, but his comment still holds true. The size of the page makes me think about composition in different ways, and often I think more effectively on a smaller page.

All of these benefits are related to the A6 size, but Hahnemühle’s 100-percent cotton paper is also a major asset. I used to think that only watercolor painters could fully benefit from the highest-quality papers, and that it wouldn’t make much difference with the materials and techniques I use. However, I have been able to spritz the paper heavily and use dry-into-wet watercolor pencils much more aggressively than I have with other watercolor sketchbooks because I know this Hahnemühle paper can take it. As I mentioned in this post about technique, the paper’s sizing, texture and weight all support techniques I love to use that I had to be more tentative with on lower-quality papers.

If I have anything to complain about, it would be the thickness and the hardcovers. If it were thinner and had softcovers like Stillman & Birn’s smallest format, the A6 Hahnemühle book would be perfect (one more thing to add to my annual wishlist of products that do not yet exist). But even in its current state, I’m more than happy with it.

Hopefully this label will save me heartache if I ever lose my sketchbook.

While I talk about fresh sketchbooks would be a good time for my occasional but important PSA: Whenever you begin a sketchbook, even if you think you’ll never take it out of the house, the first thing you must do is put your contact info in it. Print a sheet of labels, and it will be a quick and easy task – one that might save you much heartache if you misplace the book someday. I have heard many sad stories about lost sketchbooks. I have heard far fewer happy endings when the sketchbooks were returned, thanks to contact info provided in the book. Do it!


  1. I'm glad you are enjoying the book and the size. I think it would be a bit small for me, but I can see it being a great size for someone who stands and sketches. I smiled at your PSA. I don't always remember to do that and it is very important. I left my sketchbook behind at the hospital when I had my hip replacement surgery. Luckily I had my name and info in it. They called me to tell me they had it and my SIL picked it up.

    1. Glad to hear that your sketchbook ID came to your rescue!


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