Tag: art supplies

15 Things to Do with An Empty Sketchbook

I got to thinking, with Inktober here and a whole pile of empty sketchbooks staring at me, I thought I’d compile a list of ideas to help you fill up one or more of those many empty sketchbooks you might have as well.


I wrote about important people in my life and drew their shoes for Uppercase Magazine! So much fun.

A photo posted by juliarothman (@juliarothman) on

  • Illustrate your favorite recipes (inspired by They Draw And Cook)
  • Draw your outfit, maybe what you’re wearing today, or your favorite outfit or what your kids are wearing. Document your shoe, bag or jewelry collection with notes about the who, whats and whys of the items. (Originally inspired by Julia Rothman’s Kind Soles piece that appeared in Uppercase Magazine #16)
  • Are you an avid reader or music collector? Draw the covers of your favorite books or albums or illustrate scenes based on the stories or lyrics. (inspired by the book, My Ideal Bookshelf)
  • Alphabet project: “A is for ….” This is another idea inspired by Uppercase Magazine. Each issue they do a themed alphabet around their issue theme and provide a word for each letter of the alphabet to that theme, like ceramics, stitchery, pattern & decoration and so forth. Then they provide a definition or visual representation of each term in the alphabet. For example in the Pattern & Decoration issue #21, “C is for Calico” and “W is for William Morris”. For whatever subject you have a particular interest in, you could do an alphabet project and try to think up terms, people or elements and illustrate each of them. In some cases you might have many to choose from and could do more than one.
  • Speaking of pattern: why not turn a sketchbook into a pattern book? Geometrics, repeating, linear, nonlinear, one-color, multi-color, representational, natural, textural… so many to choose from! Check out Uppercase Magazine Issue #21 (now sold out but the Surface Design Guide will be included in the upcoming issue #32), or artists like Lotta Jansdotter, Orla Kiely, Marimekko to get started with pattern design.
  • Attend figure drawing events, or other activities that allow you the opportunity to regularly draw from life be it your local coffee shop, your kids’ playground playdate or your long-suffering partner, pet or child enduring being the subject of yet another portrait drawing. Dedicate one sketchbook or notebook for this purpose. (Inspired by Ladies Drawing Night, Hallmark’s Noon Sketch Group and Roz Stendahl)
  • Collage. If the paper in a particular sketchbook or noteook is not sturdy enough for your favorite drawing or painting materials, use the book to collage in scraps of found materials like labels, stickers, menus, ticket stubs and other ephemera. Gesso the pages to add strength and let the book become a waffle-paged beast. Create an artist’s journal that documents your life events through drawings, photos and ephemera. (Inspired by Make Your Own Ideabook with Arne & Carlos: Create Handmade Art Journals and Bound Keepsakes to Store Inspiration and Memories)
  • Draw your breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner. Or coffee. (inspired by Danny Gregory and Liz Steel)
  • Lettering practice. Sounds simple but using one book for a 15-minute-a-day practice doing lettering drills, writing a quote, the #rockyourhandwritingchallenge or some other specific task will help improve your lettering skills.
  • Dedicate one sketchbook to be your color key. Use this book to test, document and list all the pens, pencils, paints, inks and other art materials your own. Figure out which colors and brands you like, you think mix or blend well and keep them all in one book to use as your giant reference guide. Be sure this book is one with your favorite type of paper and has lots of pages as you will want to continue to update and reference it. A good rule of thumb is to use one side of the book to do swatch tests and then the other side to do a drawing with the materials to see how they perform in “real world” tests. (inspired by Jane Davenport)
  • Draw from old photographs. Go through your family photos or visit the local antique shops or thrift stores and use the old photos as points of reference for your drawings. (inspired by Maira Kalman’s book Girls Standing on Lawns)
  • Draw what you’re watching on television. Or YouTube. If you can’t get out to draw from life, draw the folks on TV. They can be just as interesting. And you can pause them mid-expression. Or rewind. Talking heads from newscast, vlogs or political debates are great for this.
  • While we are on the subject of television, why not draw some of your favorite characters from your favorite shows or movies? There have been lots of wonderful fan art circulating recently from Netflix’s Stranger Things and there’s always a plethora of Star Wars fan art. Embrace your inner geek and draw your favorite scenes from your favorite shows or movies, or create new scenarios. Didn’t like the ending of LOST, fix it. What’ really happened at the end of X-Files? You can draw it.
  • Document the news in illustrations. Be it good or bad, use your drawing skills to capture the moments in time.
  • Collaborative Sketchbook: You can create a shared sketchbook between a friend or loved one be it one other person or a group of people or a whole heap of strangers. (inspired by 3191milesapart.com , Dana Barbieri and Anne Butera from Uppercase Magazine #29 and 1000journals.com)

But really though, what about Barb? . . . . . . #strangerthings #barb #illustration

A photo posted by Mariya Pilipenko (@mariya.pilipenko) on

Need more ideas? Check out the book Playing With Sketches: 50 Creative Exercises for Designers and Artists.

Do you have ideas for things to do with sketchbooks that are piling up? Please leave your ideas in the comments!


Review: Denik Sketchbooks & Notebooks

Denik Notebooks 2

Denik Notebooks 1

Denik Love Sketchbook Denik Love Sketchbook inside


Denik is an artist-designed notebook company that’s mission is to change the world with art. It’s doing this by contributing part of their profits to education and by paying the artists that create the cover designs a royalty fee for their designs.

Last year, they helped to build the Denik Middle School in Zambougou, Mali. They are currently working on funding a school in Laos and are working with Pencils of Promise, to build a school in Guatemala which will start in the Spring of 2017.

In their spirit of generosity, they sent me a huge stack of notebooks to review. So many, that I enlisted the help of friends in order to test all the notebooks in a timely fashion. Jordan, Marcos, Allyson, Kim, Terence, Bob, and Meshelle all pitched in to provide feedback and assistance in reviewing these notebooks and sketchbooks. For all of them, it was their first outings reviewing a notebook so I’m pooling their comments and opinions to streamline this review. Otherwise this would have had to be an ebook.

The notebooks that we had to review are:

  • Plaid Classic (5.25″ x 8.25″, hardcover with flannel fabric over board, 60 heavyweight pages, blank) $24.95
  • Granite Softcover (5.25″ x 8.25″ 150 pages acid-free, 75% recycled paper, lined) $11.95
  • Drawing Mountains (5.25″ x 8.25″ 150 pages acid-free, 75% recycled paper, blank) $11.95
  • Margerita Illustrated by Lisa Congdon (5.25″ x 8.25″ 150 pages acid-free, 75% recycled paper, blank) $11.95
  • Hideaway (5.25″ x 8.25″ 150 pages acid-free, 75% recycled paper, lined) $11.95
  • Floral Beauty (5.25″ x 8.25″ 150 pages acid-free, 75% recycled paper, blank) $11.95
  • Floral Love Sketchbook (8″ x 10.5″ 150 pages of acid free, 75% recycled paper, blank) $10.95
  • Crazy Ideas Sketchbook (9″ x 11″ 77# natural, 150 pages of acid free, 75% recycled paper, perforated) $14.95

The Plain Paper Notebooks:

For efficiency, I’m going to group all the plain paper notebooks together. These are the books that Bob, Marcos, and I tested. It includes the 150-page, 5.25″ x 8.5″ “Hideaway,” “Floral Beauty,” Margerita,’ “Drawing Mountains,” and the larger 8″ x 10.5″ “Floral Love” Sketchbook.

All the books have a “soft-touch” cover, rounded corners and a perfect bound spine. The sketchbook in the exception in that is has square corners.

Denik Tamale Illo 1

I used my Cross Century II with blue felt tip refill and colored pencils for my first page. I got some show through and a little bleed through where I had the most color coverage with the felt tip ink.

Denik Red pen test

Marco used a red felt tip pen with similar results to my page above. I think it was the Pentel Sign Pen or similar which would be similar to a Micron or a Multiliner. He got a bit a show through but no actual bleed through.

Denik Tamale illo 2

More tamale art with colored pencils, felt tip and a little bit of alcohol marker as well.

Denik microns

Bob did a light bit of sketching with a Copic Multiliner and there’s some evidence of the show through on the reverse side of his page. So we all got similar results and we all love to use felt tips!

Denik collage

Marco did some collage work with ink, and pasted papers which I absolutely love. He used foil papers, kraft, and card stocks. The glue caused the paper to buckle a little bit but the collage looks so cool, who cares?

Denik brush pen

More of Marco’s drawings, this time with a brush pen.

Denik Sakura Identipen

The Sakura IdentiPen is similar to a traditional Sharpie permanent marker so it had plenty of show through and some bleed through but the paper held up fine for doodling. You can also see some of the showthrough from the Pentel Finito Xtra Fine page on the lefthand side.

Denik Pentel finito Denik Sharpie

Sharpie permanent markers, like other alcohol-based markers bleed through the paper a lot and even on to the next page so if you’re planning to do note taking with a Sharpie, you may want to put a piece of cardstock under your page or a pencil board to protect the sheets below. Still looks pretty cool in Marco’s capable hands. (If he keeps this up, I might be out of a job!)

Denik Copic Fountain Pen

This page is a mix of Copic Drawing Fountain Pen and alcohol marker for the gray shading. The fountain pen has a little show through but not much bleed through. As you’ll see further down, Copics and other alcohol markers bleed through quite a lot.

Denik Colored Pencils 2

Bob sketched with colored pencils and liked the way the paper kept his colors bright and true on the crisp white paper. The smoothness was a plus too.

Denik Colored Pencils

Bob also experimented with laying down a thick layer of color to get a solid build up of pigment to see how the paper handled it. He was pleased with the results.

Denik Erasable Colored Pencils

I tested the paper with pencils and a much lighter hand with my sketch of 11 from Stranger Things. I used the Pilot Color Eno Neox erasable leads in my Cross Century. I agreed that the smooth paper was a good match for colored pencils.

Denik Gouache

I also tried some gouache on the paper. I got a little bit of buckling as the paper is not really designed to handle wet media but not so much that for a small sketch it would bother me. I wouldn’t recommend full on watercolor work though.

Denik Notebooks Copics

Denik Copic pen 3

Then we have our Copic and alcohol-marker tests. Both Marco and I had the same results. The colors bled to the back and some colors bled all the way to the next page and to the back side of that. Dark colors bled even further. So, proceed with caution, use a slip sheet or skip the Copics with the blank notebooks.

The Lined Notebook:

The Hideaway and Granite notebooks are both lined and feature softcovers  and the same paper, page count and general configuration as the blank notebooks. They have the same rounded corners and soft touch covers as well. Allyson’s big complaint was that she was not a fan of the soft touch covers. They reminded her of nails on a chalkboard sensations. It is definitely not a sensation for everyone.

Denik Lined

The ruling inside is 7mm and the lines are a dark gray. There is additional space at the top of each space for a title. The lines could be a wee bit thinner or lighter for my taste but no one else complained about them so maybe I’m just super picky. Meshelle, Terence and Allyson were all under tight deadlines this past week so their comments were limited so I did standard pen tests on the lined notebooks. Felt tips pens and darker, juicier fountain pens left some dot bleed through. Rollerballs, like the Regal Alice, and particularly wet fountain pens like the Karas Kustoms with super-saturated Robert Oster Blue Sea ink (also the blob of ink in the top corner) left its mark on the reverse of the paper which you can see in the photo below. Overall, the results in the lined notebooks are consistent with the blank notebooks which lead me to believe its probably the same paper.

With gel pens like the Pilot Hi-Tec C, there was no show through or bleed though issue so that’s good. And pencils performed just fine. I particularly liked the  Mitsubishi Prussian Blue/Vermillion pencil. It was lush and dark on the paper.

I wish that Denik was less obscure with the actual weight of the paper in the notebooks. Its a very Moleskine-y thing to do. Denik is specific with the sketchbook paper weight, why not be specific with the notebooks too?

Denik Lined

The Sketchbook:

Denik Sketchbook

The Crazy Ideas Sketchbook  is a classic wire bound sketchbook and exactly the kind of sketchbook that Bob would gravitate towards. The large format 9″ x 11″ size and wire binding is his go-to format. The paper is a little lighter weight than his favored Canson XL Mix Media but its a little larger in size and the perforation means its a little cleaner and easier to remove pages for sharing and scanning.

Denik Sketchbook drawing tools 1

None of Bob’s regular drawing tools like felt tips, rollerballs, pencils or gel pens had any show through or bleed through and he liked the light tooth and weight of the paper. The paper was thick enough to feel substantial but not so thick as too take itself TOO seriously. He could doodle, sketch or take notes at will and not feel too precious about the paper. That’s just how he likes his sketchbooks.

Denik Sketchbook drawing tools 2

When it got into more marker territory, there was definite show through with those pesky Copics but not as bad as there was with the notebook paper and it certainly didn’t bleed to the next page. This is much better for drawing purposes. With watercolor brush markers, there was no show through at all. Even adding water to spread the color, there is only a little buckling. This is not really watercolor paper though. I did find that this paper was okay for a bit of gouache as well but again, it did pucker a bit. So, I’d rate it “light wash” and ink only and not full-on watercolor or wet media. It would do in a pinch but would cause some weird pooling due to the paper buckling.

Denik Sketchbook Fountain pens

As for fountain pens, I had really good luck with no feathering and little show through. I’d actually use it for calligraphy practice since the sheets are large, easy to remove and fairly smooth.

The Hardcover Notebook:

The hardcover notebook had a woolly flannel plaid cover with a leather tag debossed with the Denik logo on it. Very subtle. On the inside covers was a black and white mottled print that reminds me of a composition book. And the whole book reminded me of something Jordan would love and I was right. There is also a red satin ribbon bookmark inside this book. I wish the ribbon had been finished on the end to keep it from fraying but  some white glue or a FrayCheck should stop it. A flame might work as well but since I am letting Jordan keep this book since she tested it, I’m not going to set it on fire, just in case.

Denik Pencil and Sharpie

Jordan used some colored pencils and a Sharpie permanent marker too. We Hallmarkers are nothing if not consistent. She was overall really happy with the thicker paper though the Sharpie permanent markers did still bleed through. You can see the Sharpie show through on the photo below.

Denik Ink and more

Jordan found that pen and ink and felt tip was awesome on this smooth paper and had little to no issue with bleed through because it was thicker. The ink washes did not cause any warping or buckling. Jordan was able to get a range of blacks and grays which made for a happy lettering artist.

Denik Watercolor

Jordan also experimented with her Koi watercolors. She got some warping of the paper but was still able to produce some good color range. Once the paper was dry, the weight of the book itself flattened the paper back out to create satisfactory results for sketching and experimentation.

The Verdict:

I really like the cover designs of the notebooks and sketchbooks. The artwork is very cool and there are lots of options to choose from, designs ranging from inspirational quotes to textural patterns. Some covers even feature gold foil stamping for extra zing.

I thought I was going to love the softcover notebooks but I find that they don’t lay flat enough for me and I really have to work them to keep them open or roll the covers back on themselves. The fact the covers are fexible enough to fold back on themselves is a plus for some though. In general though, I’m more inclined to use the softcover notebooks for notetaking rather than art-making. The lined versions would be good for general writing, list-making, journaling and the like and the 7mm ruling is in that sweet spot of ruling being neither too wide nor too narrow.

While I was initially hesitant about the spiral bound sketchbooks, I have been won over to them. The paper is good quality for drawing, pen and ink and most markers as well as light gouache and water media making it good as a daily sketchbook. Having used the spiral bound for a couple weeks, I have been won over to the idea of a wirebound sketchbook in general. I like the lay-flat-ability and the perforation makes it easy to remove pages for scanning and other digital capture.

The Plaid Classic hardcover with the extra-heavyweight pages was also a huge hit and I hope that Denik will continue to produce this particular configuration because it was a clear winner. Jordan handed it over to me with a sheepish “I’m gonna get this back, right?”  look in her eye. It is being returned to her today as are all the other books that were tested as thanks to everyone who helped out on this epic notebook and sketchbook testing project.

For more information about Denik you can follow them on Instagram, Twitter or on Facebook

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Denik for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Fashionable Friday: Inktober


This week, though I am a day or two late, I wanted to use the Inktober theme for Fashionable Friday. And why am I late? Because I am also participating in Inktober, of course so I am spending my spare minutes actually drawing instead of dawdling on the computer!

The goal of Inktober is to develop a positive drawing habit and challenge oneself to use ink — which, to me, means making a commitment to your drawing. We all doodle in pencil but there is a certain level of commitment to your drawing if you apply ink to it, be it ballpoint, fountain pen, rollerball, gel, marker, dip pen, brush pen, whatever… seeing those solid inked lines means committing to that drawing in some way.

I’ve included some of my favorite inky supplies as well as some tools I am dreaming of adding to my collection (I’m looking at you, Lamy Accent Brilliant with the gold nib!). If you are just getting started with drawing and Inktober is your jump start, I definitely recommend having good drawing paper like the Stillman & Birn Epsilon which feature smooth paper versus the Alpha series that has a bit more tooth. You’ll want to have good graphite pencils like the TWSBI mechanical pencil in 0.7mm as well as a wood-cased pencil like the Prismacolor Col-Erase in Vermillion (or Light Blue) which does not smudge and is good for roughing out your drawing before inking it up. If you plan on inking with permanent inks like Liquitex Acrylic inks or PlatinumCarbon Black, you might want to invest in a good nib holder and nibs like the e + m holder shown. If you’re doing your Inktober challenge with more of a calligraphy focus, the nib holder might be a good option as well as the Lamy Joy with a calligraphy nib or the Pilot Parallel modified with the folded nib tip.

Or maybe you prefer inking with a simple fountain pen like a Lamy Joy or just a trusty gel pen like the Pilot Hi-Tec C? Or using a paint brush like the Princeton synthetic squirrel watercolor brushes that are both reasonably priced and well-crafted?

Just because the challenge is called “Inktober” does not mean you can’t also add color so why not try out some of those Copic Sketch Markers, watercolor brush markers or add some color with colored pencils or watercolors? You can add in highlights with the Uni-Ball Signo Angelic White Gel pen too.

The goal is to challenge yourself… are you afraid to add ink, color, go big, add detail, draw outside, show your friends or the world that you draw?Whatever it is, its time to get out of our comfort zone. Now go forth! Draw! We will all have our good days and our bad days and we will cheer each other on through all of it.

  • TWSBI Precision RT Pipe Pencil 0.7mm Matte Silver $25 (via Anderson Pens)
  • Lamy Joy Calligraphy Fountain Pen $28 (via Pen Chalet)
  • Trusco Trunk Medium Tool Box $15 (via Fresh Stock Japan)
  • Liquitex Professional Acrylic Ink 35 colors available, starting at $5.03 per bottle (via Dick Blick)
  • Palomino Blackwing Long Point Sharpener $7.40 (via Anderson Pens)
  • e + m Artist Nib Penholder in Black $9.50 nibs are also available (via Anderson Pens)
  • Princeton Neptune Synthetic Squirrel Brushes starting at $3.65 (via Dick Blick)
  • Lamy Accent Brilliant fountain pen € 195 (via Fontoplumo)
  • Render K Mini in Black Anodized starting at $60 (via Karas Kustoms)
  • Pilot Hi-Tec-C Slim Knock Gel Pen – 0.3 mm in black $3.30 (via JetPens)
  • Pilot Hi-Tec-C Slim Knock Gel Pen – 0.4 mm in black $3.30 (via JetPens)
  • Sakura Foam Eraser W 100 $1.65 (via JetPens)
  • Stillman & Birn Epsilon Hardbound Sketchbook (5.5″ x 8.5″) $18.50 (via JetPens)
  • Prismacolor Col-Erase Colored Pencil in Vermillion $1.10 (via JetPens)
  • Platinum Carbon Black Ink (60ml Bottle) $20 (via Anderson Pens)
  • Uni-ball Signo Angelic White Gel Pen in 0.7 mm $2 (via JetPens)
  • Pilot Parallel 6.0mm Modified Folded Nib Fountain Pen $24.95 (via Goldspot Pens)

If you need inspiration to motivate you, here are the official prompts for this year’s Inktober as well as the hastags to use on social media.

If you want more prompt ideas, these are the recommended prompts from Ink Journal which you could use instead of, or interchangeably with, the official Inktober prompts. And, of course, you can make up your own themes, prompts or ideas for the month of October.

And, if you want to play along with Art Supply Posse Inktoberists, add the hashtag #ASPink to your images as well on Instagram.

Art Supply Posse Ep 17: Falling for Joey Feldman

Joey Feldman Pearl Jam Art

This week on Art Supply Posse, artist and pen enthusiast, Joey Feldman shares his origin story, how he met his mentor and what’s on his utility belt. Batteries to power, turbines to speed… ready to move out! We also talk about the Dallas Pen Show and, of course, favorite art supplies!


Review: Kaweco Special Dip Pen

Sometimes the right tool shows up at just the right time and your whole work process just falls into step. For me, that tool was the new Kaweco Special Dip Pen.  This elevates the dip pen out of the realm of old school or art school into a classic, modern tool for the modern calligrapher. The material for the Kaweco Special line is a matte black, faceted, anodized aluminum that has a nice weight to it. At the end, where the nib is inserted, there is a nice shiny bit of chrome giving the pen a polished look. It’s a lengthy tool, like a paint brush for a bit of an artsy look.

The pen comes with a fairly flexible nib (totally unlabelled so I have no idea what it is) but it will hold any standard nib so you can replace it with your favorite nib like a Zebra G, Nikko G or anything else, vintage or modern.  I do recommend scrubbing the nib with standard white toothpaste to remove the oil from it in order get inks to adhere to it before using it. Lindsay over at The Postman’s Knock has several other tips for removing oil residue but toothpaste has become my recommended method.

I used the Kaweco Special Dip Pen to annotate all my new ink swatches from all the pen shows I’ve gone to this summer. I also used my favorite paintbrush for the ink swashes. It’s a Silver Black Velvet #6 round watercolor brush and the swatches are done on the last of my Maruman Mnemosyne Word Book cards. I don’t know what I will do when I run out of these cards.

Overall, the Kaweco Special Dip Pen is more expensive than a Speedball plastic nib holder but I think its worth it. If you’re the kind of person who would drop $100+ on a fountain pen than $36 on a dip pen nib holder probably doesn’t seem crazy. The Kaweco Special Dip Nib Holder feels nicer and weightier in the hand and looks much better too than a cheap $7 plastic one. If you know someone who uses a dip pen, it would make a good gift too.

The Kaweco Special Dip Pen is available from JetPens.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Kaweco for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.