“One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, ‘What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?’”–Rachel Carson
Collecting journals is a hobby of mine, as well as making handmade journals! I have made many leather journals for gifts and these are fun to personalize for each recipient. Upon looking at my bookshelf, I realized … I have a lot of journals! So, how many is too many and which is the best one for nature journaling or art journaling or simply writing?!
Here are a few of my observations on sketchbooks and journals that I’ve tested.
Handmade Journals: These are some of the leather journals I have made and used for art journaling. The process of cutting out the leather cover, dyeing and protecting it, then creating the binding is a really enjoyable multi-step process! I also make the signatures (paper booklets) to fit inside, attached with an elastic binding so that when the booklet is full, you can easily slide it out and slide in another. I have used these mostly for art journaling special quotes and inspiring messages from books that I have read (Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert). The paper inside is sketch paper and can be used with pencil, pen, colored pencils, brush pen water based markers and light watercolor!
I have been experimenting with a few different types of journals for nature journaling and Skillshare classes. Since I do a combination of pencil, colored pencil, brush pen markers and watercolor, I have been trying to find one that will work for all of those mediums.
These are the sketchbooks that I have tried and really like:
- Strathmore Visual Journal, Mixed Media: the paper in this journal handles all of the mediums I use very nicely! And, I really like the spiral binding so I can fold over the pages. The thick, stiff cover provides a strong base for sketching. This is my favorite! (30 sheets, 5.5 x 8 in.)
- Stillman & Birn Beta, Heavyweight: this is a popular choice for nature journalers and the most expensive in my list. It has thick paper that works very well with watercolor. Since the binding is stitched, it is easy to do a 2-page spread without interruption in the sketch. The cover is hard and makes a sturdy base for sketching in the field. I don’t do too many 2-page spreads, so this wasn’t an important feature for me and I prefer to fold the cover back which can’t be done with the stitch binding. (26 sheets, 5.5 x 8.5 in.)
- Canson XL Series Mix Media Pad: the paper in this sketchbook is a little thinner than all of the other books I use. It seems fine for writing and taking notes with pencil, marker or colored pencils, but the pages ripple with watercolor which makes it less desirable for me. For this reason, this is my least favorite journal, but the price is reasonable for the number of pages (60 pages, 5.5 x 8.5 in.)
- Leather Journal Vintage Writing Notebook: I love the rustic look of this journal with the leather strap closure and rough paper! This paper can handle all the mediums that I use and there are a lot of pages, so it will last a long time! (120 pages, 6 x 8 in.)
- Inspired by Nature: This was a gift from a dear friend, and it’s a very special journal! The artist’s beautiful nature sketches are sprinkled throughout the book with plenty of blank space for creating your own drawings. Her sketches are so inspiring and are great examples of nature subjects with her notes and observations. These pages can handle anything from pencil to watercolor! (192 pages, 6.8 x 8.8 in.)
On my Wish List!
I recently purchased an enchanting journal, Secrets of a Devon Wood by Jo Brown! The pages in this book are an exact replica of those in her original journal that document the small wonders of the wood behind her home in Devon, England. I love the scientific look of the page header where you can choose the weather symbol, day of the week, memo no. and date. I think the ruled lines of the page would be helpful as a guide for not only the sketch, but making notes and observations that look neat and tidy alongside the drawing.
- Leather Journal Thick Writing Notebook: I found a lined journal similar to Secrets of a Devon Wood that I plan to try next! (360 pages, 5.7 x 8.42 in.)
Any of these journals would be wonderful for nature or art journaling! I find I switch from journal to journal, depending on what I am sketching or painting, if I need heavier paper for watercolor, or if I am just pencil sketching. There are so many journals to choose from in the store, it is easy to get overwhelmed with questions! Hopefully, my reviews will help you narrow down a few journals to try and test.
Have you found a great sketchbook for nature journaling? Share your favorite journal in the comments – whether you use it for sketching, watercolor painting or writing!
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