A custom-made sketcher holster

(cliquem aqui para a versão em Português)

Fellow sketcher and frequent workshop student Zé Resende has many talents. Working with leather is one that she acquired while on the Riga 2019 Winter Sketching School, in a workshop by Liene Ligere. When she started posting her excellent designs, I knew I had to have one! She made mine according to precise measurements and functionality indications and combined them into a sleek look and feel that feels natural to wear.

The design is a simple combination of two strips of leather, stitched into a vertical pouch, fitting around 7 to 8 art tools – pens, pencils, brushes, water spray – deep enough to hold them in place, but shallow enough to access all tools in an instant. The largest strip folds over the top of the tool pouch, covering the tools, and locks in place, sliding into a small band, attached to the pouch by two small bronze rivets. There’s two smaller pouches – one in the front, for paper tissues, and one in the back, for business cards. Two clips hang out from the top corners, where the main leather strip folds, to hang the pouch from the waist belt loops. The touch of luxury: Zé stamped my initials to the cover!

The handiwork is precise and robust, and it performs very well. Takes away the issues about carrying around your art stuff. It’s always accessible, and at height of the hand, just like a wild west revolver holster. With it on my waist, I feel like I can draw faster (pun intended!) than anyone else west of the Tejo! This clipping method allows for crouching or sitting without flipping the pouch, and potentially spilling all the sketching tools on the ground.

This is the work of a proper artisan! It’s a well crafted, stylish item that compels you to cherish it throughout a lifetime. It suits all kinds of occasions – I use it for my work in the Wedding Sketchers, but also for informal sketch meetings and travels. Its sensorial appeal – the looks, the color, the texture, even the faint smell of the locally bought Moroccan leather – as well as its usefulness, have the potential of turning this noble leather pouch into a lifelong artist’s tool and companion.

Many thanks for your art and your craft ! Also thank you to photographer Patrícia Canastreiro for this photoshoot.

 

Um coldre de desenhador personalizado

(click here for the English review)

A companheira de desenhos e aluna frequente nas minhas oficinas Zé Resende tem muitos talentos. Trabalhar cabedal foi um dos que ela adquiriu na Winter Sketching School 2019 em Riga, numa oficina da Liene Ligere. Quando ela começou a publicar os seus designs incríveis de bolsas, soube que tinha de ter uma! Ela fez a minha de acordo com medidas e funcionalidades precisas, e combinou-as num design e aspecto coerente que flui bem.

O design é uma combinação simples de duas tiras de cabedal, cosidas à forma de uma bolsa vertical, onde cabem 7 a 8 canetas, lápis, pincéis ou spray – profunda o suficiente para os conter, mas não tanto que não se consiga pegar numa caneta sem dificuldade. A tira mais comprida dobra sobre o topo das ferramentas de desenho, protegendo-as e trancando-se ao deslizar por baixo de uma tira rebitada. Tem duas bolsas mais pequenas – uma na frente, para guardanapos de papel, e outra na parte de trás, para cartões de visita. Dois grampos estão fixos aos cantos superiores, onde a tira principal dobra, para fixar a bolsa às presilhas das calças. O toque de luxo: a Zé estampou as minhas iniciais na parte da frente!

O trabalho está incrivelmente preciso e robusto, e desempenha muito bem. Acaba com as confusões de andar com a tralha de material de desenho atrás. Está sempre acessível, e à altura da mão, mesmo como aqueles coldres de revólver do velho oeste. Com a bolsa à minha cintura, sinto que consigo desenhar mais rápido que a própria sombra! Este método de fixação às calças permite agachar e sentar sem que a bolsa incline e espalhe os pincéis pelo chão.

É um verdadeiro trabalho de artesã! A bolsa é um objecto bem trabalhado, com estilo e que nos leva a acarinhá-lo ao longo de uma vida de desenhos. Adapta-se a muitas ocasiões – eu uso-o no meu trabalho com os Wedding Sketchers, mas também para encontros de desenho e viagens. O seu apelo sensorial – o aspecto, a cor, a textura, mesmo o ligeiro cheiro do cabedal Marroquino – bem como a sua utilidade, têm o potencial de tornar esta nobre bolsa de couro numa ferramenta e companheira de vida de um artista.

Muito obrigado pela tua arte e talento ! Obrigado também à Patrícia Canastreiro pelas fotografias.

SM.LT Art Layflat Stonebook review

(cliquem aqui para a versão em Português da avaliação)

SM.LT‘s Layflat watercolor stonebook is a fun surprise to pull out of your backpack. The stone cover is a neat, whimsical feature that garners attention, but the true value of this sketchbook is in the fine watercolor paper inside. The Lithuanian manufacturer generously sent me one to try out last year, after their collaboration in mine and Pedro Alves’ workshop in Barcelona, and I’m finally ready to publish some results.

Outside

The feature that gives the name to the sketchbook is its real stone cover. It’s actually a thin slice of dark slate stone glued on a hard cardboard panel, both in the front and the back cover. The slate feels uncanny, in a fun sort of way. Like you’re carrying around a slab of stone to chisel a landscape from it. Also, this makes every sketchbook unique, as the texture and pattern of the slate is never the same.

Both paper and cover are cut together to the size of 195 x 195mm, in angled corners, with no cover overlap, which makes the sketchbook a bit fragile to carry around in a bag or backpack for long.

Its weakest spot is definitely in the spine: the seams are showing, covered and held together only by a layer of transparent glue. With time and use, the glue starts peeling away as a whole – in my case, after a month of use – exposing the seams to wear and tear.

Paper

Despite the unusual cover feature, the strongest feature of this sketchbook is inside, in the paper. 32 sheets of quality 300gsm watercolor cotton paper, with a slightly coarse texture – just the way I like it – but soft enough for a nib pen to glide over it acceptably. The texture works wonders with dry watercolor brushing. Wet-on-wet techniques also handle very well, although drying is quicker than in professional watercolor papers.

The water absorption capacity is pretty good. My sketches usually take between one and three layers of watercolor, and the white of the paper still shines through in the latter case.

The endsheets are the same kind of paper, so your sketches can go end-to-end in the page flow.

Pros final count

  • Affordable cotton paper sketchbook, for your watercolor dailies, or for making watercolor tests for later serious paintings.
  • Stone cover gives it a unique look and feel.
  • Square formats are usually very flexible.
  • Just small enough to carry around, but big enough to paint a large scene.
  • Opens flat.
  • Robust stitching

Cons final count

  • Spine protection subject to tearing away with transport and use.
  • Fragile angled corners.

Final veredict

The SM.LT Layflat Stonebook is a good introduction to heavy duty cotton paper sketchbooks. Although better cotton paper sketchbooks might be available in the market, the Layflat is still a very affordable one, and finds its niche between sketching and watercoloring. The titular stone feature just makes it a bit more appealing.

Avaliando o SM.LT Art Layflat Stonebook

(click here for the English review)

Layflat watercolor stonebook da SM.LT é uma surpresa engraçada para tirar da mochila. A capa de pedra é uma extravagância com piada que chama a atenção, mas o verdadeiro valor deste caderno está no no interior, no seu excelente papel de aguarela. O fabricante Lituano graciosamente, enviou-me um exemplar para experimentar, depois da sua colaboração comigo e com o Pedro Alves, na nossa oficina em Barcelona, e estou finalmente pronto para publicar alguns resultados.

Exterior

A característica que dá o nome ao caderno é a sua capa em pedra autêntica. É, na realidade, uma folha fina de ardósia escura colada numa placa de cartão cinzento, quer na capa quer na contracapa. A ardósia parece estranha, de uma forma engraçada. Como se estivessemos a carregar uma placa de pedra, para gravar uma paisagem nela. Isto também faz com que cada caderno seja único, já que a textura e o padrão da ardósia nunca é o mesmo.

O papel e a capa são cortados juntos, à dimensão de 195 x 195mm, em cantos rectos, sem sobreposição da capa, o que fragiliza o caderno, se o tivermos na mochila ou mala durante muito tempo.

O seu ponto mais fraco é, sem dúvida, a espinha: as costuras estão à mostra, cobertas e seguras por uma camada de cola transparente. Com tempo e uso, a cola começa a separar-se do caderno por inteiro – no meu caso, depois de um mês de uso – expondo as costuras.

Papel

Apesar da singular capa, a característica mais forte desde caderno está no interior, no papel. 32 folhas de papel de algodão com 300g/m2, com uma textura ligeiramente rugosa – mesmo como eu gosto – mas macia o suficiente para que canetas de aparo deslizem aceitavelmente. A textura faz maravilhas com pinceladas de aguarela seca. Molhado sobre molhado também tem um bom comportamento, apesar de o tempo de seca ser mais breve que papel de aguarela profissional.

A absorção de água é bastante boa. Os meus desenhos costumam levar entre uma e três camadas de aguarela, e o branco do papel ainda brilha através das três.

As folhas de forra das capas são o mesmo papel. Assim é possível desenhar de uma ponta à outra do caderno.

Contagem final dos prós:

  • Caderno de papel de algodão acessível, para a vossa aguarela diária, ou para testes de aguarelas mais sérias.
  • A capa de ardósia dá-lhe um aspecto e toque únicos.
  • O formato quadrado é muito prático e adaptável.
  • Pequeno o suficiente para transportar, mas grande o suficiente para pintar cenários maiores.
  • Abre por completo.
  • Costuras robustas.

Contagem final dos contras

  • Protecção da espinha frágil e sujeita a desgaste rápido.
  • Cantos fragilizados pelo corte.

Veredicto final

O Layflat Stonebook é um bom caderno introdutório aos papeis de aguarela mais espessos. Apesar de haver melhores cadernos de papel de aguarela no mercado, o Layflat beneficia por ter um excelente equilíbrio qualidade-preço, e encontra o seu nicho entre o desenho e a aguarela. A característica titular da capa de pedra apenas o torna um bocadinho mais apetecível.

SM.LT Art Authenticbook review

(cliquem aqui para a versão em Português da avaliação)

It has been more than a year since Lithuanian manufacturer SM.LT Art were kind enough to sponsor mine and Pedro Alves‘ workshops in a sketching weekend in Barcelona, and in the Winter Sketching School in Riga. It’s due time I reviewed one of their awesome products.

SM.LT’s Authentic Albums collection includes the Authentic Watercolor stitched sketchbook. This is a laid back piece of design, perfect for a relaxed sketch, for your daily practice, or for your long weekend away doodles. It’s lightweight, super portable and the A5 format is large enough for your wide angle sketches. In Portugal, it retails online at 4.99€ in Olmar.

Outside

The blue recycled soft cover makes the watercolor paper book stand out from the rest of the Authentic Albums collection.

Being made of cartboard, the cover is of course subject to staining, but that’s ok if, unlike me, you’re careful with your stuff. The good part is that you have a couple of blue extra “pages” for a different kind of art experiment. The soft cover can be challenging if you’re used to sketch standing up or without a hard surface underneath.

The cover and paper are cut simultaneously, so there’s no setback between them. The rounded corners of the sketchbook reduce damage, but the main feature preventing wear is the briefness of the sketchbook – the 24 pages that compose it go by pretty fast! So far, each of the three Authentic books I’ve used lasted only a month each. There’s little chance for any major wear or damage in such a short time.

Paper

The 12 sheets of 280gsm cellulose watercolor paper are bound by a red stitching line, visible in the gutter of the central spread. It’s a cute detail, kind of a red dotted line, letting you know that you’ve used up half of your sketchbook, maybe time to order a new one.

I’ve thrown my best and worse on this sketchbook, and the results are mixed. It’s a very good paper for your watercolor experiments, and you can get some vibrant tones out of it. It has a slightly rough texture – something like a rough pressed down grain – but smooth enough for fine nib pens to glide easily over it.

It opens completely flat, so you get a nice spread for an uninterrupted panoramic sketch. It sucks up the water pretty quickly, so you better be fast with the brush if you want the colors to blend. The use of intense colors causes the paint to transfer from page to page over time. So, be sure to scan your sketches soon after you finish them, as smudges will appear on the opposite pages of the stains.

Pros final count

  • Balanced cellulose paper for your daily fix of sketching and watercoloring.
  • Small enough to be exhausted in a short trip or a weekend event.
  • Portable and lightweight.
  • Very inexpensive.
  • Opens flat.
  • Friendly landscape proportions (taller than other sketchbooks)

Cons final count

  • Transfers intense colors from page to page, over time.
  • Cover subject to wear and tear in prolonged use.

Final veredict

I feel a sense of accomplishment when I manage to compile the sketches of a weekend away from home, or a professional event, into a single sketchbook. The SM.LT Authentic Watercolor Book provides that feeling! It’s a relaxed and brief, but competent watercolor sketchbook, that allows plenty of range in watercolor and sketching experiments. It’s well suited for fast sketchers, as watercolors dry pretty fast. I’ll use more of these in the future, no doubt.