Hahnemühle Watercolor Book review

(cliquem aqui para a versão em Português da avaliação)

Oh boy, I feel like a kid about to tell someone else about his favorite toy! Where to start? Maybe by saying Hahnemühle‘s Watercolor Book (HWB) is one of my favorite sketchbooks ever!

It comes in three sizes: portrait and landscape A5 and A6, plus a bulky landscape A4. This review is about the A5 landscape, which retails at 12.83€ at my local art supply store.

 

Outside

The hard cover is furbished in a dark grey synthetic fabric that has a slightly rough texture, which is quite practical, as it reduces the chance of the sketchbook slipping from your hand, while sketching or transporting it. It has a black elastic band that keeps it closed, the customary red ribbon page marker, and features the Hahnemühle’s rooster logo embossed in the back cover, center bottom.

The corners of both the cover and the paper are rounded, to prevent wear, and the paper sets back from the edge of the cover around 3-4mm, which grants additional protection to the paper edges. The whole sketchbook is quite robust. I’ve used a HWB for as long as six months, carrying it around in the backpack, without a hint of wear on either cover or paper.

Paper

Inside, 40 bound sheets of excellent 200gsm, fine grain, watercolor paper, await your scribbles. The endsheets are in the same kind of paper, so you can actually start sketching right from the back of the cover – I use the endpaper to write down my name and contacts, in case of loss.

One thing that stands out immediately is that the HWB lays completely flat when open. There’s no better way, aside from quality paper, to entice a sketcher to use a sketchbook than a fully openable spread of paper!

The paper is quite robust, and can withstand serious water. I use both wet-on-dry and wet-on-wet watercolor techniques, and this paper holds its ground quite competently, allowing layering as well as color mixing. It sucks up the water moderately fast, just long enough to mix colors and lead the pigment where you want it.

Using quality watercolors on this paper really pays off, as it preserves all the glow, intensity and transparency that you’d get in higher grade paper. It’s still cellulose paper, so don’t expect the same behavior as in cotton rag (i.e. no more than two to three layers). It wrinkles ever so slightly with the excess water, but nothing that would hamper the quality of your work.

Accessories

The elastic band is always useful as it keeps the book from opening inside the backpack, and. I also use it to attach a pen temporarily, so that I don’t have to put everything away when I’m carrying the book in the hand while walking just for a few minutes, or to fasten the pages in a windy day. Its elasticity lasts for three years and counting (that’s the age of my first ever HWB)

 

The red ribbon is pretty much useless to me, as the slight wrinkling the water causes on the paper usually shows me which page was last used. Nevertheless, the ribbon is so slim that I hardly ever notice it.

Pros final count
  • Perfectly balanced paper for casual indoor and outdoor sketching and watercoloring. Also used it for a few pro gigs quite satisfactorily.
  • Its cover material should be the benchmark for all sketchbooks around.
  • Portable, lightweight, resistant.
  • Excellent value for money
  • Opens flat
Cons final count
  • None I can think of
Final veredict

This sketchbook is a blast! A true piece of German engineering. It’s a deluxe canvas for your best sketches – I refrain from using it for experimental sketches, since I want to make each page count – and, if well used, makes your watercolor work pop right out of the pages! If there were to be a 100% cotton HWB in the future, I would definitely buy it.

 

Avaliando o Hahnemühle Watercolor Book

(click here for the English review)

Poças! Sinto-me como um miúdo prestes a falar a alguém sobre o seu brinquedo favorito! Onde começar? Talvez dizendo que o Hahnemühle Watercolor Book (HWB) é um dos meus cadernos favoritos de sempre!

É vendido em três tamanhos: A5 e A6 ao alto e ao baixo, e um volumoso A4 ao baixo. Esta avaliação é sobre o A5 ao baixo, vendido a 12.83€ na minha loja de artes local.

 

Exterior

A capa dura é revestida num tecido sintético cinzento escuro, que tem uma textura rugosa bastante prática, porque reduz a possibilidade do caderno escorregar das mãos durante um desenho ou ao transportá-lo. Tem um elástico preto que o mantém fechado, a fita marcadora vermelha do costume, e o logo do galo da Hahnemühle em relevo no verso, ao centro e abaixo.

Os cantos das capas e do papel são arredondados, para prevenir o desgaste, e o limite do papel está recuado entre 3-4mm em relação ao limite da capa, que garante protecção adicional às bordas do papel. O caderno é bastante robusto. Já usei um HWB durante seis meses, carregando-o na mochila, sem sombra de desgaste quer na capa, quer no papel.

Papel

No interior, 40 folhas cosidas de excelente papel de aguarela, de 200g/m2, grão fino, esperam os vossos desenhos. As folhas de forra são do mesmo tipo de papel, assim é possível começar logo a desenhar no verso da capa – Costumo usar o papel de forra para escrever o meu nome e contactos, em caso de perda.

Uma coisa que salta logo à vista é que a espinha do HWB abre completamente. Não há melhor maneira, salvo a qualidade do papel, para aliciar um desenhador a usar um caderno que um spread completamente plano!

O papel é bastante robusto, e consegue aguentar água à séria. Costumo usar técnicas de aguarela molhado sobre molhado e molhado sobre seco, e este papel aguenta-se competentemente, permitindo várias camadas e mistura de cores. Abosrve a água moderadamente rápido, mas é suficiente para permitir trabalhar as cores e levar o pigmento onde se quer.

Usar aguarelas de qualidade neste papel é recompensante, uma vez que ele preserva todo o brilho, intensidade e transparência que se esperaria em papel de maior calibre. Apesar de tudo, continua a ser papel de celulose, portanto não se pode esperar o mesmo comportamento que no papel de algodão (isto é, não mais do que duas a três camadas). O papel enruga um pouco com a água em excesso, mas nada que seja determinante na qualidade do trabalho final.

Acessórios

O elástico é sempre útil, já que mantém o caderno fechado dentro da mochila. Também o uso para prender a caneta temporariamente, para não ter de guardar tudo no sítio enquanto caminho durante alguns minutos em busca de outro desenho, ou para prender as páginas num dia ventoso. A sua elasticidade dura pelo menos há três anos (a idade do meu primeiro HWB). A fita marcadora vermelha é-me um pouco inútil, uma vez que o ligeiro enrugamento do papel me diz, de forma mais prática e directa, qual a última página usada. Mas a fita é tão fina e discreta que nem dou por ela.

Contagem final dos prós
  • Papel perfeitamente equilibrado para desenhos e aguarelas descontraidos de interior ou exterior. Também já usei satisfatoriamente o HWB para alguns trabalhos profissionais.
  • O revestimento da capa devia ser o padrão para todos os cadernos por aí!
  • Portátil, leve, resistente.
  • Excelente valor monetário.
  • Abre na totalidade.
Contagem final dos contras
  • Não me ocorre nada
Veredicto final

Este caderno é um espectáculo! Um verdadeiro produto de engenharia Alemã. É uma tela de luxo para os vossos melhores desenhos – evito usá-lo para desenhos de teste ou experimentação, porque quero que cada página conte – e, se for bem usado, faz as aguarelas saltar fora das páginas! Se houvesse um HWB de papel 100% algodão, iria definitivamente comprá-lo.

 

Journals in the north

Nós e os Cadernos 2, an event in 2017 about sketchbooks organized by Tiago Cruz, was set in the beautiful surroundings of the Parque Natural do Litoral Norte, a natural reserve around the mouth of the Cávado river.

Nós e os Cadernos 2, um evento sobre cadernos, organizado pelo Tiago Cruz em 2017, teve como cenário a bela envolvente do Parque Natural do Litoral Norte, uma reserva natural em torno da foz do rio Cávado.

A handful of small historical towns pepper the area, and the participants benefited from a two-day tour, visiting three of them, all with different characters.

A região é polvilhada por pequenas vilas históricas, e os participantes do evento beneficiaram de visitas a três delas, todas com atmosferas diferentes.

Fão is a small medieval town just next to the last bridge over the Cávado. Many people that emigrated to the former colony in Brazil, ended up building a home here upon their return. There’s plenty of quality public spaces by the river shore, all lined and furbished in granite, which, for a southerner like me, is the first feature that stands out.

Fão é uma pequena vila medieval mesmo ao lado da última ponte sobre o Cávado. Muitas pessoas que emigraram para a antiga colónia do Brasil acabaram por construir a sua casa aqui, após o seu regresso. Abundam os espaços públicos à beira do rio, revestidos e ladeados em granito, que, para alguém natural do sul como eu, é a primeira característica a destacar-se.

Apúlia has been known as a beach resort for decades, and before that as a capture point for sargasso. Its most distinct feature is the sequence of windmills on the dune, which are now converted to touristic lodgings. But again, what stands out to my southerner eyes are the hut-like structures that shield the beach-goers from the harsh crisp wind, which aren’t definitely a feature on the south coast beaches.

A Apúlia é conhecida como uma estância balnear há décadas, e antes disso como uma área da apanha do sargaço. A sua característica mais marcante é a sequência de moinhos sobre as dunas, que agora estão convertidos em alojamento turístico. Mas, mais uma vez, o que se destaca aos meus olhos do sul são as pequenas barracas que polvilham a praia e abrigam os banhistas do vento ríspido. Estas não são definitivamente uma característica das praias da costa sul.

Then, there’s Esposende itself, the helm of the municipality that supported the event and our tours. Besides being a historical town worth visiting, the coastal landscape, the nature reserve around it and the myriad of interesting destinations in a reasonable distance make it a perfect home base to relax in the north of Portugal.

Depois, há a cidade de Esposende, a sede do concelho que apoiou o evento e os nossos passeios para desenhar. Para além de ser uma cidade histórica que vale a visita, a paisagem costeira, a reserva natural envolvente e a miríade de destinos interessantes a uma distância razoável, tornam-na o quartel-general perfeito para relaxar no norte de Portugal.

Nós e os Cadernos 2

In the summer of 2017, Tiago Cruz, researcher at CIAC, invited ten sketchbook lovers to Esposende, for a weekend of talks and sketchwalks in the Minho shores, in an event titled Nós e os Cadernos 2. I was honored to be included in the rooster of speakers, alongside Alexandra Belo, António Jorge Gonçalves, Eduardo Salavisa, Manuel João Ramos, Manuel San Payo, Marco Costa, Rosário Félix and Vítor Mingacho.

The event, supported by the Esposende Municipality, was all about the sketchbook – this magical object that artists, illustrators, architects, social scientists and many others use regularly. Some use it for practice, others as a study journal or as a final piece of art, some may use it instead of a confession booth or therapist’s couch, some even use it merely out of comfort and habit.

Regardless of individual perspectives on it, the sketchbook is a fundamental object for many people, and serious research studies about it are scarce. Tiago strives to turn it into a valuable object of research, and Nós e os Cadernos is the annual manifestation of that effort. The talks of the speakers during the event were just now published in ebook which can be downloaded here for free (Portuguese only).

Action-to-action transition and aspect-to-aspect transition, according to Scott McLoud (1993)
Action-to-action transition and aspect-to-aspect transition, according to Scott McCloud (1993)

My own talk – Caneta Cinematográfica – had to do about the similarities of experiencing a sketchbook and cinema, and was heavily inspired in Nerdwriter‘s excellent video essay Ghost in the Shell: Identity in Space.

Stills of the boat scene in Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Stills of the boat scene in Ghost in the Shell (1995)

No verão de 2017, o Tiago Cruz, investigador no CIAC, convidou dez amantes de diários gráficos a Esposende, para um fim-de-semana de palestras e saídas de desenho no litoral Minhoto, a que chamou Nós e os Cadernos 2. Tive a honra de ser incluído no plantel de palestrantes, ao lado de Alexandra Belo, António Jorge Gonçalves, Eduardo Salavisa, Manuel João Ramos, Manuel San Payo, Marco Costa, Rosário Félix e Vítor Mingacho.

O evento, apoiado pelo município de Esposende, foi inteiramente dedicado aos diários gráficos – esse objecto mágico que artistas, ilustradores, arquitectos, cientistas sociais e muitos outros profissionais ou amadores usam regularmente. Alguns usam-no para praticar, outros como um caderno de campo ou ainda como uma peça de arte final, pode ser usado como confessionário ou sofá de terapeuta, ou ainda por hábito ou conforto.

Independentemente das abordagens individuais, o diário gráfico é um objecto fundamental para muitos, e ainda são parcas as investigações sérias sobre o assunto. O Tiago faz por torná-lo um tema de investigação válido, e o Nós e os Cadernos é a manifestação anual desse esforço. As palestras do evento estão agora publicadas num ebook que pode ser descarregado gratuitamente aqui.

A minha palestra – Caneta Cinematográfica – tem a ver com os paralelismos na experimentação de um diário gráfico e de cinema, e foi fortemente inspirado no excelente ensaio em video Ghost in the Shell: Identity in Space, de Nerdwriter.

Hahnemühle Grey Book review

(Cliquem aqui para a versão em Português da avaliação)

For the second year in a row, I embraced the Inktober challenge. It was the perfect chance to test drive my brand new Grey Book by German manufacturer Hahnemühle. It’s a handy A5 portrait bounded sketchbook, with 40 sheets of light gray 120gsm paper. Closed, it measures 15.5cm by 21.7cm, making it easy to carry in a large jacket pocket, or a small bag or backpack. Open, it offers a surface of 29.7cm by 21cm (exactly an A4 sheet) to sketch upon. It comes with the usual Hahnemühle marking red ribbon attached to the spine, which I actually end up never using, but gives it a charming appearance to the sketchbook.

The beautiful dark grey dyed cover with sharp edged corners, mimics the texture of timber and it’s very lightweight, making the Grey Book easy to carry around. Hahnemühle’s logo is stamped in bas relief on the back cover, bottom center. Although my book passed the test of wear with flying colors (it was used intensively for a month and a half), the cover of one of my fellow sketchers Grey Book saw intense wear on the surface. It probably shouldn’t be your sketchbook of choice if you go on a rough ride, but it’s perfect to carry it around in your day-to-day life.

I didn’t treat it very nicely in the first few dates. To create a sense of contrasting light, shadow and deepness that my theme of choice – Game of Thrones – required, I aimed to get deeply inked pages in black (Platinum Carbon), white (correction fluid) and blue (Sennelier Indigo ink). This rough treatment took the paper to the limit. After the first few pages, it shouted the safe word “Bleed!” The heavily wet media, eventually bleeds to the next page, rendering another shade of grey to it (I knew I couldn’t write my way around this!) I had to forsake brushes and correction fluid and go for softer ink usage. Worth the try though.

I learned my lesson, and throughout most of the sketchbook, I used softer tools and techniques – a Pilot Parallel pen loaded with Platinum Carbon ink, a Kuretake Bimoji brush pen, a red Pilot V-Sign pen and a white Uni Posca, both brush and felt tip. All worked beautifully! No bleeds. No smears or smudges. Quick to dry. The artwork – line or stain – remained crisp and clear.

The Grey Book is an excellent training tool for working on the spectrum of light, midtones and shadows, because it puts you in the unusual place of having to work the extremities of this spectrum, while carefully preserving the grey background. I can easily see the Grey Book appealing to both beginners who will find it challenging and unusual but enticing, and experienced artists who will use it to test light and shadow in preparation of a larger work.

The paper texture is generally smooth, but with enough grain not to feel like satin and to make the user feel some friction and texture when sketching, which appeals to most casual sketchers, and also provides a competent surface for experienced artists to test new techniques and concepts. Be careful with the fingers though. I’ve stained almost every page just by gripping the sketchbook a bit too hard.

One feature that took me by surprise is the fact that the grey paper easily acquires the tint of the surrounding light. Depending on where you’re sketching or leafing through the pages, the atmosphere around the paper optically affects it in a very noticeable way. You can be sketching on a yellowish warmer grey paper, or a blueish, almost violet cool grey. That makes for an unusual but very gratifying sketching experience!

A downside of the Grey Book is that it doesn’t open to a completely flat surface along the spine, unlike the Watercolor Book, which kind of hampers sketching across the seam. Still, it’s flatter than most hardbound sketchbooks I’ve used before.

Pros final count:

  • Awesome texture and paper
  • Awesome cover look and feel
  • Powerful light-shadow training and experimentation tool
  • Chameleonic gray paper
  • Portable, lightweight, resistant

Cons count:

  • Bleeds when wet media is heavily applied
  • Stains easily from gripping fingers
  • Open spread isn’t completely flat in the gutter

Final veredict:

Christmas is coming! The Grey Book makes for a great and affordable gift (8.34€ in my local art supply store) for either an experienced artist who can test future works based on midtones or just wants to try out a different surface to work on, or a beginner sketcher, who can benefit a lot from the educational potential of playing with the midtones, highlights and shadows.