A simple request, right?
Well, here is a photo of the sketch books I've acquired over quite a few years:
And here's why they don't fit my requirements:
Number 1 is a Robert Bateman sketch pad intended for pencil and pen work only, for which it works splendidly -- but it won't take watercolor pencils or paint, it's too big, and has the evil spiral binding.
Spiral bindings are good for one thing only -- they let the paper lie flat. But they are UGLY and due to the heavy use I put them to, the binding eventually comes apart. Plus you can't do a two-page spread that looks nice.
Number 2 is a Canson sketch book in a sturdier cover and a smaller size, but again, it can't take water media.
And there's that incredibly unattractive binding. The same is true of number 3, another Canson pad that is too flimsy overall, though it does take ink well:
Number four is a very spiffy handmade journal by a woman who frequents the local art fairs and calls her business Four Corners Design. Her specialty is taking ephemera and creating collage work of various kinds, in this case making journals from old library books. It's fabulous, but the paper is very thin.
Now we come to, with number five, a sketch book that is much closer to what I want. It has paper that can handle watercolor, it doesn't have a spiral binding yet it does lay flat when opened, and I've used it a lot and been pretty happy overall.
It's made by a company called Hand Book, and has a nice sturdy cover -- which sadly makes it a tad heavy to haul around, and it also runs $20 for a journal with maybe 25 sheets.
Sketch books six and seven are both Moleskine watercolor journals, nice and small in landscape sizes. They are fine for small landscapes....
...or for those moments when you are bored and want to entertain yourself with a quick sketch or two:
However, they won't do for major sketch outings when one typically likes to do larger drawings. I do like the absence of a spiral binding and they do come in larger sizes -- rather pricey larger sizes.
Next up, number eight, the Pentalic multimedia Nature Sketch book, was a favorite for a long time, despite the evil binding. The paper was great for pen and watercolor pencils or paint, it didn't weigh much but was sturdy, and it had lots and lots of paper for a reasonable price. I did plenty of good work in this sketch book...until the evil binding came apart and the entire back fell off.
Now if I take it out and about, the metal coils get snagged on stuff or poke into stuff and it's just no fun to use anymore. Sigh.
Number nine is a Stillman & Birn multimedia sketch book that I liked for its unusual square size. It's a bit smaller and more portable, but the paper, while called "multimedia" and making claims for good watercolor use, did not stand up to the test. Too thin and not enough "tooth" for water media -- the paint lays down very flat and dries far too quickly.
Sketch book number ten is for dry media only, and was an experiment in using toned paper. It turns out that I don't particularly excel at using toned paper.
Finally, we have number eleven -- this is a Strathmore multimedia journal that I bought last week. It is very lightweight, yet the paper is sturdy enough for at least watercolor pencils (I haven't tried paint yet). No spiral binding, yet when opened to any place, the pages lie flat. At 8x10 inches, it is neither too large nor too small. And it was only $12 at the Artist & Craftsman supply store in the U District.
But it will just have to do for now!