A Notebook Book

I’ve enjoyed planning out one or two projects using notebooks and thought it would be quite fun to try to design a notebook that I can use to project plan.

Now I prefer to use A5 notebooks that i can carry around in my bag and I also prefer to have all the pages numbered, so that I can refer to a specific page for a specific element of the project. So, I knew I wanted at least those elements present.

But my approach has been a little topsy-turvy; rather than simply designing a notebook cover and then selecting a style of line for the interior pages, I instead opted for a fish-mash of different paper styles for the interior pages.

So each left-hand page is roughly blank, or at least doesn’t really have lined paper, and the right-hand pages have a selection of different lined papers. But the whole thing is presented as if you’ve already collected this diverse range of different papers and stuffed them into a notebook.

So here on the pages 32-33 spread you’ve got boxes which echo Instant Camera photos and a page from a diary with a bunch of page markers.


and on the pages 62-63 spread you’ve got the back of an envelope and a different diary page, with what looks like some kind of grocery list page.


So, every page is a different selection of hand-drawn papers for you to collect your thoughts on.

All the pages are numbered and the first page can be used as a contents page should you so wish.

It’s like some crazy scrapbook of a notebook – that seems to encourage sticking in of found articles and scrapes of additional paper.


The watercolours I use are a mixture of Winsor and Newton and Schminke. Mostly it’s by accident, rather than design. There’s only the screamingly pink Opera Rose by Winsor and Newton that I am faithful to.


A lovely transparent yellow/green – great for light glazes
Raw Sienna

Yellow Ochre

My two go-to colours for painting browns in food
Translucent Orange – Schminke

I love this vibrant orange/red
Opera Rose – Winsor and Newton

Another one of my must-have’s – purely because it’s so eye-popping – great for the full range of pinks and purples.
May Green – Schminke

Permanent Sap Green – Winsor and newton

– My stand-by green’s for salads

(You’d think that my portable set and the home/studio set would be the same, wouldn’t you!)


Portable set

Some full pans, but mostly half-pans

Palette - PortablePalette – Portable

208 Aureolin Schminke

215 Lemon Yellow Schminke

225 Cadmium Yellow Middle Schminke

218 Translucent Orange Schminke

363 Scarlet Red Schminke

Opera Rose winsor & newton

Cobalt Blue winsor & newton

Cerulean Blue winsor & newton

660 Raw Sienna Schminke

Naples Yellow Deep winsor & newton

Venetian Red winsor & newton

Paynes Grey winsor & newton

783 Payne’s Grey Schminke

509 Cobalt Turquoise Schminke

Permanent Sap Green winsor & newton

524 May Green Schminke

534 Permanent Green Olive Schminke

512 Chromium Oxide Green Schminke

648 Translucent Brown Schminke

668 Burnt Umber Schminke

661 Burnt Sienna Schminke

669 Vandyke Brown Schminke

Palette – Home

This is made up wholly of full pans

Palette - Home

Aureolin winsor & newton

215 Lemon Yellow Schminke

New Gamboge winsor & newton

Cadmium Orange winsor & newton

670 Madder Brown Schminke

Cadmium Red Deep winsor & newton

Opera Rose winsor & newton

Winsor Green winsor & newton

Permanent Sap Green winsor & newton

Hookers Green winsor & newton

524 May Green Schminke

487 Cobalt Blue Light Schminke

Cerulean Blue winsor & newton

783 Payne’s Grey Schminke

Naples Yellow Deep winsor & newton

660 Raw Sienna Schminke

655 Yellow Ochre Schminke

Burnt Sienna winsor & newton

Burnt Umber winsor & newton

669 Vandyke Brown Schminke


Y’know, I don’t feel qualified to talk about the quality of watercolour brushes; with Watercolour I always feel like a humble student – constantly striving to control chaos.

Paintbrushes smHow and why specific brushes help me do that is a bit of a mystery to me. I know I need small brushes to do small jobs and big brushes to do big jobs, but as far as the delicacies of riggers and flats. I don’t tend to use those. Yes, I’ve got them – because that’s what all the books on watercoloring – which one reads when one is just starting out – say that you need. I’ll probably use them at some point, I guess. But my current style doesn’t work that way.

Watercolour can be a tricky blighter, but I can tell that the older brushes I have, do seem to be a bit ‘blunter’ or ‘duller’ than the newer brushes. Which with the smaller brushes is certainly an issue.

I don’t tend to use the wateriness in my studio, but the paints I use are still in pans.

Each to their own, eh? I’m just used to using paints in pans. I like the immediacy of flicking my brush from one pan to another to blend colours together. (I can’t be bothered even with the idea of having to pick up a tube and unscrew/screw the lid on in order to squeeze out some paint)

After 6 years of using watercolours I feel that I still have so much to learn.

Watercolour is a terrifically tricky medium to master. And painting itself is not something that can be learnt from reading about it. Or even carrying out a series of masterclass ‘how to’s’, or practical lessons from a book.

Like everything else, you’re only going to master watercolour by … erm … painting with watercolour.

In one of my favourite guidebooks, “Watercolor Essentials”by Birgit O’Connor, she writes;

Watercolour moves like no there medium. Just add water, and the pigment takes on a life of its own.


New Sketchbook from Palma Rea

One of the constant curses/delights of this sketching hobby is the fun of finding, and trying out, new materials; whether it be pens, sketchbooks or paints. It’s always fun to something new. And there always seems to be something new, waiting to be discovered too.

A cyber-friend on Facebook, Palma Rea, makes and sells handmade sketchbooks on her Etsy site.

How could I resist!

I ordered one a short ago …

Yesterday Palma messaged me, asking whether it had arrived yet.

It hadn’t.

But it arrived today. All neatly wrapped in vivid blue tissue paper.

Palma Rea parcel smWith a lovely little thank you card and a couple of extra goodies; a nice, grippy HB pencil and a Faber Castell waterproof gel pen.

My sketchbook is a bright red faux leather (which is why I used acrylics to paint it up).

Palma Rea sketchbook smIt has a couple of handy plastic pockets inside and 300gsm fabriano paper.

From Palma’s Etsy site:

The corners are protected and embellished with 2 ornate metal corners in antique silver colour.
The cover has been lined to add support and its thickness is approx 5 mm. It is soft to touch and the surface can be easily wiped clean with a damp cloth.
There is an added pocket folder with a closure is handy for containing charts, ephemera , notes, pens etc

Measurements of journal : 8.5 inches x 6.5 inches

This journal is a comfortable size to take anywhere and fits easily into most bags for outdoor sketching. It contains heavy weight paper that you can also use for other mediums such as pen, ink, graphite, acrylic etc The pages do NOT curl!

I’m looking forward to starting it tomorrow.

Sketchbooks – Moleskine

Sketchbooks, much like other materials that I use, came about as favourites purely by trial and error.
Well, actually I have to admit, not entirely.
I realise that many people prefer spiral bound sketchbooks, but I prefer hard bound. Which, unfortunately, makes finding a decent sketchbook Materials - Sketchbooks - Moleskine sm(which can lie flat whilst open) nigh on impossible.

Moleskine produces a Watercolour Notebook, which has 72 pages of archive quality (fairly) stiff paper. But only comes in landscape format. Goodness only knows why this is so, there certainly seems to be enough of a market for a portrait version of this notebook. But I fear that it is merely to distinguish this notebook from the Sketch Notebook (Which conversely, only comes in portrait, but which has smooth, ivory pages – rather too smooth to take watercolour)

The paper takes paint well and has a nice tooth for pen work.
I particularly like the versatility of the Watercolour Notebook which, when opened fully, gives a possible canvas of 41cm x 13cm (Actually I’ve recently been adapting the pages to add an extra fold out leaf to give me a 61cm width!)
It’s also fairly easy to turn 90 to work in portrait. (Although a portrait-orientated Notebook could give a canvas size of 20cm x 26cm – which would be fun)

Liz Steel recently road tested Moleskine’s newer model of their Watercolour Notebook
Read her review Here.

This is the third part of my travels through my sketching kit. Read about the other bits at these links:

Part 1: Pens

Part2: Waterbrushes

or read the whole lot, so far, on my Materials page.


These certainly are a valuable addition to any painters outdoor kit. Eliminating the need for cumbersome and fiddly pots of water whilst working out of studio.

Materials - Brushes - waterbrush smThey provide convenience and ease; only requiring a slight squeeze of the handle to express water from the bristles.
Cleaning the brushes is just as easy – squeezing the reservoir and wiping the brush head with a tissue.

Many companies produce these handy devices now, but I would recommend finding ones with a filter behind the nib – to stop colour washing back into the reservoir (Although i know of some artists who actually prefer the colour to wash back into the reservoir!)

The brand I currently use is by Kuretake.

They are available in Fine, Medium, Large and Broad heads and being fairly cheap it’s useful to have all four types.

One thing that I find particularly useful is that, carrying all four water brushes means that should you empty one water brush reservoir it’s fairly strait forward to swap reservoirs with one of the others.


This is the second part of my review of my Sketchkit materials.

Read about my Pens here.

Uni Pin fine line pens

After much trial and error I discovered Uni Pin fine liner pens. These are produced by Mitsubishi.
These are the ones that I use the most. I do use other pens for more specific tasks, But Uni Pin are the ones I prefer for both studio work and urban sketching.
I tend to favour    0.05    0.1    0.2    0.3    0.8             But 0.4 and 0.5 are also available. As well as all 7 nib sizes being available in Black, Red and Blue.

Materials - Pens - Unipin smLines are consistent. And there are no problems with ink flow.
The ink dries very quickly on contact with a suitable surface, which needs to be porous, but not on waxed or plasticised surfaces.
The pens work well on the paper of both the Moleskine watercolour and sketch books.
The ink is waterproof, after a second or two, and doesn’t show any bleeding when washed with watercolour

I would say that the lifespan of the pens is fairly lengthy; allowing for pretty much heavy use over about three weeks. But, of course this will vary with the amount of pen work that you do.
As the pen nears it’s, fairly lengthy, lifespan, and the ink begins to run out, lines and ink flow become less defined and the pens can be used for lighter shading work.

They can be bought individually and in packs of five (0.1,   0.2,   0.3,   0.5,  0.8)

At the moment I tend to use specific sizes of pen for specific jobs.

0.8 – For initial outlining
0.3 – For titles
0.2 – For general writing
0.1 – For internal lines and hatching and shading
0.05 – For additional hatching and shading; usually over the top of water colouring.


This post is part of a longer series about the materials that I use.