The best sketchbook

baby by Myfanwy Tristram

For years I used to carry tiny sketchbooks around with me – A6, they were. Fine for drawing a surreptitious portrait of another passenger on the train, and great for fitting into any bag or pocket, but there’s no denying they were limiting in some ways.

I do tend to draw tight, but there’s nothing like a tiny page to make sure you never challenge your own boundaries, say, by sweeping an ink-laden brush with great abandon.

buffy sketches by Myfanwy Tristram

A few months ago, I picked up an 8″ square sketchbook from Paperchase. Actually, I don’t think it’s even branded a sketchbook; they call it a notebook. The inner pages are cream, with a bonus centre section of several unbleached brown kraft paper. I’ve been back for several since, and I’m now in that precarious position of someone who has a favourite sketchbook and fears the manufacturer will discontinue it one day.

It’s not exactly enormous, but one way or another it has vastly multiplied the amount of sketchbook work I now do. (Also, it still fits perfectly well into my bag; I’ve never been one for dainty clutches).

I don’t know why this sketchbook has been the one to change my habits – I have plenty of one-off books in all shapes and sizes where I’ve only drawn a few pages. Maybe it just happened to coincide with an upturn in my drawing; maybe it’s just uninitimidating: I didn’t buy it, as I sometimes do, because it’s so beautiful and perfect and OMG I can never sully its pages what if my drawing goes wrong. Nope, it’s easy to pick up and start drawing in this workaday book.

crouching by Myfanwy Tristram

These days, it’s my go-to for trying things out. It’s never going to be one of those sketchbooks that you proudly show round, or god forbid, publish in a book form. There’s lots of failed drawings in there – if they really start to irk me, I stick something over the top or draw right over it.

Faces by Myfanwy Nixon

plastic in the tree by Myfanwy Tristram

The paper is smooth. It takes pen fine (my habitual drawing pen is a Unipin, although a recent post by Dan Berry is making me think about that (qf reference to tightness above).

It’s not as brilliant for brush and ink, though it will take it – the ink sits on top and slides around a bit rather than sinking in. The brown pages are better because they have some tooth.
baby by Myfanwy Tristram

pleats  by Myfanwy Tristram
portrait by Myfanwy Tristram

When you run out of space, you can even draw on the back cover.
backcover by Myfanwy Tristram

So – that’s my sketchbook these days. If you: draw in pen a lot; find Moleskinnes too expensive, too thin-paged or too intimidating; want a good chunky book that will last a while but will still fit nicely into a medium-sized bag, I recommend it.

But just in case they *do* stop making them, I’d be interested to hear what your favourite is.

Published by Myfanwy Tristram

I am an illustrator, situated in Brighton on the south coast of England, and with a special interest in comics and graphic memoir. I also work for a non-profit which encourages people to be active in democracy and to exercise rights such as the right to information through FOIA.

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