Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Product review: Artcoe - Bluebell panoramic drawing book

Product: Blue Bell Spiral Bound - Panoramic Drawing Book
Manufacturer / Distributor: Artcoe.
Technical Details:
  • panoramic sketchbook - 152mm x 430mm (very nearly 6" x 17")
  • 200 gsm cartridge paper. Distributor states cartridge paper is acid free
  • long side spiral bound
  • wide range of sizes of drawing books with different paper weights (1650gsm or 200gsm) and spiral binding options (long or short side)
  • competitively priced
Summary: A panoramic sketchbook suitable for sketching using pencils, coloured pencils, pen and ink and (probably) light watercolour washes. Helps you break out of conventional formats for sketching.
Who should buy this?:
  • Suitable for the art, craft and student market
Who should not buy this?
  • Anybody wanting a proper watercolour paper (but the same company market sketchbooks filled with Saunders Waterford or Bockingford paper)
  • the panoramic sketchbook is great for getting you to look at scenes with a fresh eye
  • enables you to sketch scenes which 'go off the paper' in most sketchbooks
  • good price for work which you're not planning to sell
  • solid front and back boards provide goos support for sketching
Think Again?
  • It's cartridge paper. Meaning it's OK for pen and ink work and coloured pencils but it it's still cartridge paper and some papers suit pen and ink and CP better
  • not archival.
Suppliers: Available from Artcoe who Artcoe supply over 20,000 products to the art, craft and graphics trade. Stockists in the UK listed on website.
I got mine at the SAA Art Event at Islington however a review of their online catalogue this morning suggests this panoramic sketchbook is not listed - although other sizes are. Very limited references on the internet suggesting this is a product supplied trade only to independent distributors.

The Serpentine Bridge
17" x 6"
pen and sepia ink and and coloured pencil in panoramic Artcoe Bluebell sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Last week I acquired a Blue Bell Spiral Bound Drawing Books. I've never seen them before but they appear to be very competitively priced.

The range of drawing books covers a wide range of sizes with most being from A3 to A5. Most have either 30 sheets of 200gsm cartridge paper or 40 sheets of 150gsm paper. The Jumobo version coimes with 100 sheets. Some are spiral bound on the short edge while others are spuiral bound on the long edge

What marks them out for me is that they also a have a panoramic sketchbook measuring 430x152mm in either 150 gsm or 200 gsm. I got the 200 gsm panoramic sketchbook (code 31042006) for £4.49 - and then couldn't wait to try it out on my sketching trip on Sunday!

I found it was OK for coloured pencils. It tends to be difficult to get a good depth of colour on cartridge paper due to the surface (HP smooth surfaces tend to work best for pigment rich colour).

The surface was however smooth enough for pen and ink work to be easy. It also blots nicely when you ink gets wet because it's raining!

I tried some pencil drawings of the geese and my guess is this is the sort of sketchbook which is probably best suited to graphite where you can vary the softness of the pencil to get changes in values while sketching.

The weight of the paper - 200 gsm - does mean that you can't see a sketch done on one side of the paper on the other side

I haven't yet tried it for watercolour - but I'd never recommend cartridge for watercolour work when there are sketchbooks with watercolour paper which work so much better!

The front and back boards provided a very solid support for sketching which is an especial concern when working in such an unusual format.

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