REVIEW: Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor Sketchbook

I’ve been on the lookout for a new watercolor sketchbook as I’m nearing the final pages of my three-year-old Moleskine. The Monologue sketchbooks have been getting quite a buzz from local watercolor hobbyists primarily because of its price point: a notebook is half or even a third of a price of a Moleskine.

So I got myself two – a small one to lug around and a bigger one for portraits, like so:

Monologue
Drawing on Monologue Sketchbook (Feb 2016)

I was a little satisfied with it, but I’ve noticed inconsistency in terms of quality. Some areas have trouble absorbing the paint; it’s like there’s some waxy layer. And to be honest, I wasn’t really happy with its texture that reminded me of snake skin or burned chicken skin.  Eventually, I shelved these sketchbooks and went back to the Moleskine.

A friend visited Japan last year, and he offered to get me art materials (THANK YOU!). I remember including the Strathmore and/or Watsons journal in my list, but unfortunately, these weren’t available when he dropped by Tokyu Hands. I forgot about these brands eventually. The search, however, continued.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend recommended getting the Strathmore sketchbook, which was available at local art supplies store, Deovir. I dropped by last Friday and got the Strathmore Art Journal 400 Series 300gsm/140lb Cold Press for Php1,290 (or USD 27.73).

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The next day, I was able to squeeze in a test in between chores and errands. So I said “See you later,” to my pots and pans and waved “Hello!” to my paints and paper.

Here’s the drawing with the first washes:

Photo 18-06-2016, 6 39 26 PMPlease take note that I use a lot of water for the first washes, and I like to layer in color.

I had to wrap up the exercise as this slave was summoned to the kitchen once more haha. At least I was able to finish the face.

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The morning after, I had time to finish the rest and add more shadows. I’m not a fan of using black; I prefer mixing colors to create grays or use Neutral Tint or Payne’s Gray.

For this particular drawing I used Neutral Tint, Indigo, French Ultramarine, Mineral Violet, Burnt Umber, and even Sap Green to create the background and shadows.

Layer, layer, pants on fire

And finally, before being summoned to the kitchen to help my brother cook lunch, I was able to finish the drawing and take an obligatory flatlay. Haha!

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I use a lot of layers when I do portraits, and I’m happy to report that this sketchbook handled them well. Probably because it’s 300gsm (although there’s no assurance that if it’s 300gsm, it will perform well).

I also did some lifting and scrubbing, and the paper’s fibers didn’t come off.

Photo 20-06-2016, 8 08 02 AM

I also love that it’s Smyth-sewn bound, which allows the book to be laid flat. If I’m drawing on small paper (like a postcard), I lay it flat on the table. Otherwise, I use a bookstand or an easel to draw because I hate straining my neck and back. I use a binder clip to hold the other page.

Bless this mess

So yes, I’m pretty happy with this purchase! Woohoo! And yes, I definitely would recommend this sketchbook as well, most especially if you work with multiple layers and do a lot of lifting and scrubbing. I hope a smaller one will be on stock soon!

Here’s another close-up of the star of the movie Closer to end this little review. Cheers!

Photo 20-06-2016, 8 08 41 AM

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